Archive for March, 2008

March 31, 2008

A Coffeehouse Culture: Revisited

I’ve been working on a list of my favorite coffeehouses, and here it is. Note that there is no ranking, it’s ordered more or less by geographical location (west to east), and I’ve tried to explain as best I could how these meet the criteria. Like I mentioned in the comments section of the original post, no coffeehouse has been perfect (perfection as we all know is nearly impossible). Hopefully this will give you a start though, and please feel free to add your own favorites in the comments section below!

March 29, 2008

A Coffeehouse Culture



For Easter I went to Saratoga Springs to visit my 94-year-old grandfather and a sprinkling of my extended and immediate family. Every morning we would go downtown to a café for breakfast. We discovered Uncommon Grounds almost ten years ago on another visit and fell in love with their breakfast bagels and coffee. Now, anyone who reads my blog regularly knows that I love the coffeehouse culture. Over an espresso macchiato during one of our mornings I mused what exactly it is that I like about them. I discovered that I am very particular indeed about what makes a perfect coffeehouse.

March 15, 2008

Beef Chili



I recently got feedback on a paper I wrote for a seasonal dish, in which I had (in my mind) craftily written about the weather’s unpredictability. I was so proud of my kicker: “Like the wind, mists, partial clouds, and barometer swings we’re sure to experience this month, there is a lasagna to get you through every day.” Ingenious! But the feedback, thanks to internet technology, was almost instantaneous. A mere thirty minutes after I clicked “send” it came back to me: “start [by] omitting [the] forecast (so many people use that device this time of year).” My heart sank, but my pen did not. For she’s right: everyone’s writing about the weather.

Instead of moaning about my lack of creativity, I’ve decided to embrace it recently and enjoy this last chance to fire up my oven or make stews before my kitchen gets too hot to even imagine these cooking techniques. Recently I experimented with making chili, arguably America’s #1 stew.

March 9, 2008

Farmer’s Markets



An interesting article was printed in today’s Los Angeles Times about the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market. It’s probably one of the most important community markets in the US, one which many other markets nationwide try to emulate. However, this latest trend doesn’t seem like something that should be emulated. Or should it?

When the market opened in in 1981 it was a lifesaver for small farmers in the area. They were finally able to bring their fresh produce to a centralized place and sell it directly to the consumer, eliminating the middle-man. When chefs caught on with the idea, some home cooks seemed to grumble, saying that the best vegetables were going to those buying large quantities, and they were left with the extras. Over the years the two groups have found a way to coexist, and some even swap recipes and tips on how to serve up all the delicacies like stinging nettles and green garlic that are included in the market’s cornucopia. Now, the chefs have their own competition to contend with.

March 3, 2008

The Atlantic and the American Idea


Image by Michael Hunt

This doesn’t have much to do with food, and for that I apologize. However, food and culture (as I hope you’ve noticed on my blog) go hand in hand. My weekend has been centered around research on meatpacking in Chicago and the German-American subculture in the late 19th century (more on that later), and I’ve realized how much we as Americans look forward, and hardly look back. How many (even highly educated) people on the street could spout out the dates of our Civil War, or our year of independence? Granted, some people may claim these are simply dates, but no matter how much we disagree with current politics, these dates allow us to be who we are today. It allows one of my friends to work in a think tank and travel to China, it allows another friend to go on business trips all over the country, and, the purpose of this post, it allows my friend Heather to live in Germany and get published for writing about her interpretation – even critique – of the American Idea.

Heather and I met last year during our Fulbright year, in the parking lot of a monastery-turned Catholic youth retreat thirty kilometers outside of Cologne.