Greek Beginnings

July 18, 2012 § 1 Comment

I’ve started this post over and over again, and each time, I end up stopping because I decide, no, that’s not what I want to talk about here. By all means, it was a very good day. I woke up early and went for a run through the national gardens in the city center, running past the Parliament building, ruins, the first modern Olympic stadium. Later on, I wandered into what was suggested to me as the best bakery in the world, and sampled a variety of goods — homely chocolate chip cookies (with pistachios!), eggy challah dusted with almond slivers, dense balls of coconut flakes, scented with orange and cardamom. I then meandered down to the Acropolis museum, where, in addition to seeing never-ending tributes to the goddess Athena, I enjoyed a Greek café and a tower of cream topped with heavily-sweetened figs on the rooftop terrace, with full view of the Acropolis. I shopped — prices, low to begin with due to the crisis, are now slashed in half for summer sales. I drank iced espresso, perhaps my favorite part of Greece so far. I arranged my yoga schedule for tomorrow. And then I came home and sat down to write.

And that’s when the problem started. I got lonely. I tried putting on soothing, jazzy French music. I tried writing, and stopped, and started again. I tried eating a cookie, and then thought about baking. But, to be honest, all my grand baking plans sort of fell through with the realization that it’s actually 40°C here and the thought of turning on the oven makes me miserable inside. Plus, I don’t exactly fancy buying huge bags of flour and sugar (and that not even counting the baking power that I would have to track down in Greek), only to leave them behind, mostly unused, in less than two weeks. So now I’m back to just sitting, and trying to write.

Normally, traveling alone is my prime writing time. But I think I’m well beyond the point when being alone inspires thoughtful reflections on life and key observations about the new culture, which I am experiencing full-on as I lack the homey distractions of traveling with family or the ruckus of active friends eager to do everything at once. I’m well into I have so much time to think about everything that I’ve thought about everything once or twice or a hundred times and I am so tired of my own thoughts.

So there you go, no profound reflections, just a plea for you to start making your own granola, because it is so much better than the sugary catastrophes that you buy at the grocery store. Just a couple of spoonfuls of honey, a drizzle of olive oil, three handfuls of walnuts, some chopped dried figs, and half a bag of rolled oats.

Definition of hipster

February 5, 2011 § 1 Comment

I can’t say my weekends normally include spending much time in the Tenderloin. That could be because, sitting in a café today, we were all distracted by the guy standing across the street in spandex shorts jacking off, but really that’s not what I’m here to post about. Today I went on the Tenderloin Coffee Crawl and was a “coffee tourist” for an hour or two. Wow, it’s exhausting work. My morning routine of boiling water and letting it seep in the French Press while I shower for approximately five minutes after my run seemed, well, embarrassing when confronted with the masses of San Francisco hipsters who own Chemex filters and use them to extract just the full body of coffee and who can talk for ages about letting coffee oils seep through and shine but not over extracting the grounds. Yes, it’s hard to compete, especially when there are a multitude of cafes who will do it for you.

But I did learn a thing or two about coffee on the crawl, which I think was the point for the non-coffee fanatics. And I mean, you really would have to be a fanatic, because I’m saying they are fanatics and I’m one of those annoying people to dine with who tops-out every meal with an espresso. First, we stopped at Farm: Table, the official organizer of the tour and arguably the first neighborhood small roasters shop in the area. As the brewing demonstration wouldn’t start for another twenty minutes, we enjoyed a free espresso and remarked that while it was refreshing to see sweet treats in the small sizes (the small sticky buns were especially adorable yet priced at $3.50), the prices didn’t seem to have dropped at all. Then we headed over to Little Bird, where De La Paz and Ritual Roasters were hosting a coffee tasting. I tried a little before getting distracted by the amusing hipster who walked down the line, aggressively slurping spoons of coffee and spitting them back into the cup one after another after another.

We might have skipped one or two stops along the way, but we ended the crawl at Hooker’s Sweet Treats, which was holding a 4-way coffee demonstration i.e. demonstrating how to brew Kenyan Kii coffee beans in four different ways — a ground through a B60 filter, a finer ground shaken over ice, a Chemex-filtered brew using a coarser ground to avoid clumping and finally, seeped in a French Press for three minutes. According to the Sightglass Coffee Roasters presenters, the bean in question really shines through the most through the third preparation process. After each demonstration, we passed the coffee around and filled our little espresso cups for tasting.

Though the crawl itself could have used a bit more organization and guidance from one place to the next (perhaps they could take cues from the Dublin Pub Crawl), I’d say it was a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon, off the beaten track in my own city.

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