Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Transportation Fact of the Day - 1/30/08

When you use your FasTrak through any of the state-owned 7 toll bridges in the Bay Area, a screen after the toll plaza says "Valid ETC" which I've always read as "Valid Et Cetera".

It in fact is supposed to mean "Valid Electronic Toll Collection".

And that is your transportation fact of the day.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Cafe of the Bottle that is Blue

This past Saturday morning, after an *excellent* lunch at Vitrine (not Latrine, but Vitrine and also HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) on the fourth floor of the St. Regis Hotel on Third Street, my hot dining companion and I decided to hit up the new Blue Bottle Cafe at the Mint Plaza off of 5th Street near the mall.

I am one of the biggest advocates of Blue Bottle Coffee. The original SF location, located in Linden Alley in Hayes Valley, is exactly 78 steps from my apartment door (I've counted). I trust the baristas there, I have given bags of beans as presents, I live and die by their fresh drip and their espresso. I am acquaintances with the owner, James Freeman, and his wife who owns and oversees the Miette empire. They wave at me occasionally when I walk about the neighborhood. And I know that his passion for coffee is unsurpassed - it really is a calling for him, and he absolutely cares about the end product.

So I line up at Blue Bottle Cafe, which is located just off the new "Italian Piazza"-styled Mint Plaza. "Italian Piazza"-styled is actually marketese - what it really means is, cleaned up so white shoppers who frequent Union Square don't have to look at homeless people. The line is long, but that is expected, because Blue Bottle Cafe is new and I'm sure all the foodie blogs like Chowhound, Eater, Gridskipper, and Tablehopper all alerted the masses to the new Blue Bottle, and like a coffee mafia, they all came in funky hats and bed head hairstyles and messenger bags with anarchist patches. Gourmet in San Francisco is like the new hot ultrabar in Los Angeles - the blogs send out the calling, the masses convene, the first to arrive proclaim they've experienced enlightenment, and within a week the regulars proclaim to be over it and are onto their next gourmet conquest.

It is mother-fucking 9,000 degrees in there. I'm serious. I am sweating fucking bullets and it is like 40 degrees outside. Like Jesus MF Christ, I wanted to hurt myself then and there.

So I finally get to the front of the line. I am sweating bullets. I am dripping on myself.

"Iced nonfat latte please."

"I'm sorry, we don't do that."

"Yes you do. That's my regular order at Linden."

"No, the only iced drinks we make are the New Orleans Iced Coffee or the Kyoto Iced Coffee, and we're out of those."

"Well, I would like an iced nonfat latte."

"I'm sorry, we don't do that."

Um, EX-MOTHA-FUCKING-CUSE ME for ordering what I order EVERY SINGLE DAY at Linden. How dare I descend upon your coffee-enlightened haven and order something as unpure as an iced nonfat latte. How dare I refuse your New Orleans Iced Coffee because I am diabetic and it contains both sugar and hickory. How dare I actually DESIRE WHAT I DESIRE.

"Well, I need an iced nonfat latte. I have my reasons for ordering it."

"We can give you a latte and a cup of ice."

And I knew he was thinking "and an orange mocha frappucino, this isn't Starbucks, asshole."

"Well, if you do give me a cup of ice, can you not steam the milk, since it doesn't make sense to steam the milk of an iced drink."

This is bad when I know more about an espresso drink than my counterpart at one of the snootiest coffee shops in the country.

In the end, my friend was bullied into a fresh drip, and I received three cups - a cup of milk, a shot of espresso (ristretto), and a cup of ice. I.E. EVERY INGREDIENT TO MAKE AN ICED NONFAT LATTE but having to pour it all into the same cup myself.

Oh yeah, it tasted abso-fucking-lutely amazing. Like I knew it would.

Anyways, James, I will still visit your Linden Alley shop. The baristas there know me. They make my order without even asking me. And they don't give me attitude or make me explain the reasons for wanting a beverage that they can make. And the only reason I am glad the Mint location is now open is that people will now descend onto that hellhole of coffee misery, and leave me and my happy alley and my NICE BARISTAS alone.

I never expected Blue Bottle to provide me with the absolute worst experience of my cafe life, but an excellent product can only get you so far when you are hellbent on diminishing the simple needs of your flexible customers.