It looks not unlike the decaf soy long macchiato that LLL ordered.
That's right, a decaf soy long macchiato.
The only sane choice for someone who wants coffee without the caffeine, but with soy, and not too much of it.
We spotted (well, we were overwhelmed by it really, it's not hard to spot) an absolutely epic pluralisation failure, as you know doubt would like to hear about, considering its prominence in the subject of this post. Well, strap yourself in. The only thing worse than publishing the word "heros" is publishing it in giant letters on the side of a tram.
I'm hoping for more cheerful messages than this once Myki finally gets underway.
"Thanks for using Myki. Your ticket just paid for approximately one thirteen-millionth of the cost of maintaining Myki for this year alone. If that surprises you, please don't ask about the initial setup costs."
I don't often give Good News Week a chance to prove itself to be funny. I think it jumped the shark about two years before it got axed from the ABC. But I'm glad I tuned in just in time for this gem from Tom Gleeson on Sunday night:
"An iPhone is like a penis: fun to play with when you're on your own, but just bad manners to get out at the dinner table."
I heard somebody call this place "L.A. Cafe" the other day. I always call it "la cafe", which I assume roughly means, "the cafe". It's hard to know who's right when they write the whole thing in capital letters, but I think it has more to do with "the" than it does Los Angeles. Either way, it's a great place to experience the wonders of Israeli cuisine. Take a displaced people who've been in Europe for a while. Move them to the Middle East. The result is schnitzel with hommus. For best results, roll it up in some sort of flatbread with diced tomato and cucumber (a.k.a Israeli salad, but I think it's pretty funny how many other countries have claimed the same ingredients as their national salad) and some chips and you have pretty much what I had for lunch.
The last sentence was a little ambiguous. Were the chips on the inside or the outside of the bread? For clarification: they were on the inside. Chips inside anything is always greater than chips on the outside of the same thing.
This is Outpost. St Ali's new joint within spitting distance of South Yarra station. The dictionary app on my computer defines outpost as a small military camp or position at some distance from the main force, used especially as a guard against surprise attack. Let's take it from the top:small military camp or position - I guess if it has to be one of these it would be a position. Not a sexual position, if that's what you were thinking. More of a strategic position. Anyone who gets off (if you'll pardon the pun) at South Yarra at one of the easternmost platforms will surely be in firing range of wanting a coffee.
at some distance from the main force - St Ali being the main force, this is some distance from it. South Melbourne to South Yarra is not a lot of distance, but it is indeed some distance.
used especially as a guard against surprise attack - the whole thing appears to be made of glass. That's pretty dangerous. Not just in the sense that glass is actually a liquid, and building anything out of it is precarious as a result (the walls may be slightly thicker at the bottom about 2000 years from now), but glass is also dangerous. If there were a surprise attack, the military units stationed at the Outpost could just smash one of their walls, and have thousands of glass shards at their disposal. Or, more simply, the glass walls are so clean that you could deal with surprise attackers by standing on the other side with a sword and waiting until they run into the glass and knock themselves out one by one.
Come to think of it, the place looks a bit like those controversial glass shards that were never built at Federation Square, don't they? But this is how I like my glass shards: huge, hollow, not too pointy, and filled with coffee. There's a vague triangularness to the whole thing too. It's a giant prism. Shine coffee beans in one end, and it splits up into its respective flavours at the other.
Walking in, you are surrounded by coffee equipment. The kind of things you expect to see behind the counter. Essentially, the whole building is behind the counter, which faces outwards to its attackers on Yarra St. This, for me, inspires a mixture of "I'm part of the action", "I've walked in the wrong door", and, "I'm interrupting an important experiment, I should leave." I never quite figured out which was true. There wasn't a staff only sign.
The coffee itself was, well, I never quite decided on that either. Was it excellent, or did it just taste like milk? It sure wasn't strong. I wish I could have compared it with the other guy who ordered a normal-ass latte just before me. I couldn't imagine it being less strong than the one I had.
Or maybe my imagination isn't what it used to be.
P.S. OMFG I just solved something that's been bothering me for ages. I customarily put two spaces between sentences. I'm always shocked when I read back over the blog that most of the time I've only left one space. It turns out I'm not mental: Blogger automatically changes them all to single spaces. Why does it do this?
This was a mighty early time to be getting up and drinking coffee on a Monday.
But we had appointments at the US Consulate.
Those guys don't mess around.
You have to be there 30 minutes before your appointment, which for us was at 8.15am.
But they don't open the doors until 8.00am.
Which left us 15 minutes to sit around and possibly drink coffee.
The coffee in the lobby of the US Consulate looked pretty good. I didn't have one, as I was pretty set on getting some more sleep straight after the interview. But somehow the early morning and the cold weather and the sight of Harry's latte sent me half-delirious.
For me, boiling water poured into an up-ended Aeropress will get down to about 75ºC in roughly the time it takes to grind and get everything else ready.
I'm not sure I have the patience for Mythbusting this against 80ºC and 85ºC. I'll leave that to the Aeropress competitors. But it's a damn nice cup.
(I hope you've noticed that in the nearly 1500 posts on this blog, I've not once followed the word "cup" with "o' joe". Who is this Joe character, and what precisely is he doing in everyone else's cup? I'd rather it just be coffee in there. Leave Joe out of it. He gives me the creeps whenever I see him mentioned on a coffee blog. Agent Cooper can get away with it. But that's about it.)
I often worry about getting a takeaway short mac or espresso in a paper cup on a day this cold and windy. There was a serious danger of it cooling down too much just between the shop and the car.
But a short drink isn't going to sit around long enough to get too cold. One traffic light, and you're done.
And if your cup holders* are as stupidly-placed as mine, that empty cup will get annoying. But you'll have doubts about throwing it in the back seat. That last drop that you couldn't get to roll out of the cup at the end of your sip will inevitably find its way on to something important and not-easily-scrubbed back there.
* I'm talking about the cup holders in my car. "Cup holders" is NOT my nickname for my hands. Nor are my hands "stupidly-placed".
A downright painful review of the Kodak digital-pocket-photo-frame thing can be found here.
You don't hear someone say this very often:
It seems like the R&D department was given this simple brief: “Make the customer hate us”.
Man. I think Polaroid used the same brief for their terribly convoluted replacement for the utterly legendary Polaroid instant camera. Somehow I haven't complained about it on this blog yet. Their website just rubs more crap photos into the wounds too. They have the gall to ask, "Remember when you could print your photos instantly?"
The only sane response is, "OF COURSE I DO. If it wasn't for you fuckers we'd still be able to! Don't supersede your legendary product with a crap new one and then try to sell it to us by REMINDING us how bad a move that was!"
They started with a perfectly good instant photo camera that's been iconic for its entire lifespan, and for some reason scrapped it. Then they duct-taped a digital camera to a very small printer. There is no reason why an instant camera needs to be digital. It's like scanning your handwriting and then laser-printing it out onto Post-It notes when all you need to do is pick up a pen. The website says it takes about 40 seconds to print a photo. And you don't even get to shake it. Fail.
I'd love to see these guys reinvent the wheel.
Remember the days when you used to facilitate movement of a load by use of a circular device mounted to an axle?
Not as St Kilda's first premiership since 1966. And there's a good reason for that. It didn't happen. It very nearly did, but it didn't.
What did, in fact, happen, was that Vegemite announced the name of their new as-yet-unnamed product.
Somehow, iSnack 2.0 was the winner.
Nothing has inspired more outrage amongst Australians this year, and it's the kind of outrage that seems to be best vented in blog and/or Twitter form.
I love this tasty little single-serving package of controversy from news.com.au:
“The move is a bid by the food conglomerate to align the new product with a younger market -- and the "cool" credentials of Apple's iPod and iPhone.”
I wonder how Apple feel about that. The article doesn't really make it clear if that "cool" is a direct quote from Kraft or not, but news.com.au really does spin its own specific brand of what I guess you could call journalism if you were really in a hurry. But, as usual, I'm not in a hurry. At first glance at that story, a few things got my attention:
the author's name, allegedly, is staff writers.
the photo is credited to another oddly-named chap called Supplied.
they are so aware that online readers will not read the whole article that they summarise it in three dot points just in case anyone has less than one second to spare.
this awareness of how the online word works is strangely absent when they confuse their blog with their Twitter feed:Blog: Follow our news.com.au/business Twitter blog
they also seem to be have no problem with completely contradicting themselves: "CHECK out this year's winners in our celebration of Australia's unsung environmental heroes."
Can they still be classified as unsung if they are winners of a celebration? Oh Lord.
I particularly enjoyed the quote from the guy who thought of the universally-lauded name: ''It's been difficult to contain my excitement; I actually leapt out of my chair when I heard the news. To think that I could go down in Australia's history is overwhelming."
Interesting choice of words there. He'll "go down" like a sack of yeast extract if he sets foot outside, no doubt blogged upside the head by an angry Vegemite traditionalist.
We're back at Pelican again for breakfast and, of course, more of the muddy smoky goodness that is their coffee. I've gotta say I don't really enjoy it with milk. It was well-made, but I'm not really into it. Dr JMo's long mac was pretty spesh though. I should have those more often.
I again broke my french toast rule (in short: "don't order it, you don't actually like it") again today, but it was excellent. Bananas, maple syrup. It was screaming out for some bacon though.
A word of advice for anyone trying to take an iPhone photo of coffee in a very dimly-lit restaurant, the backlight from a second phone can really shed some light on the subject.
So, here we are again back at Pelican.
Remember the Pelican Effect? That taste in the coffee at Pelican that I wasn't sure if I liked or disliked, but couldn't identify what it was anyway? Well, we've got some guest noses on the panel tonight. My mum and my sister. They've been in the jungles of Sydney tasting pinot all week. Let's see what they thought:
There you have it folks. Smoky woody mud. That's what the coffee here tastes, quite consistently, like. The beans are Romcaffé. I'll have to check them out elsewhere and see if it's muddy across the board.
I cannot stress this enough though: mud is not a bad thing.
So, guess which Neighbours alumnus was sitting at the next table?
Nobody, unfortunately. Damn. There goes my "order a coffee in St Kilda and somebody from Neighbours will magically appear" theory. I used to see Greg Fleet around here a fair bit. Don't forget: he was on Neighbours too.
Mind you, I haven't watched Neighbours much in the last f...th... (unsure how much to give away about my Neighbours-viewing habits here, let's just say...) FEW years. Any of these people might be on there and I wouldn't know.
Coffee: excellent. Breakfast: not so great. Donuts: sublime.
But there was some consolation in the form of the dude who played Joe Scully on Neighbours sitting over there.
Amazing. So we saw Daniel McPherson last night, and Joe Scully today. Is this indicative of how often one can run into ex-Neighbours actors in St Kilda? One actor per coffee? That's pretty high.
I guess it's not so surprising though. Think about how many people have been on Neighbours over the years. Think about how many places there are to get coffee in St Kilda. No wonder it's reached saturation point.
I kind of regret that "banana ice cream on a stick" call I made last week. This place is great. The kind of red-walled frame-lined vaguely Parisian feeling room that makes you want to order another drink and sit around some more. The douchebag set were out in full force, but hey, it's St Kilda. The food looks great too, other than the Barney Allen burger that I ordered. Let me get this straight: it was a great burger. I expected the fries to be a little more adventurous, but all in all it was excellent. But it was too big. I guess I'm not the right person to be ordering an Iain Hewitson-spec burger. He looks like he could eat a whole lot more food than me. Aside from that, I think manageability is disproportionate to size in the realm of handheld foods, and this one tipped the scales way past the point of practicality. A burger is built in layers, and the only way to experience them all at once is biting in from the side. But if it's too big to bite and too unwieldy to pick up, all you're left with is cutlery, and notably CSI-Miamian one-layer-at-a-time method. And who wants to eat the top half of a bun with relish smeared on it? That relish is better used stuck to everything else in the burger. I've since heard that ordering two mini burgers is a better way to go if you want to pick something up and eat it.
The coffee was great. Staff seemed trained within tolerances that won't let a bad espresso slip through.
At the other end of the bar: Daniel McPherson. Kudos. He's probably the only person who's been on both Neighbours and The Bill.
I was about to say, "Remind me that I don't need to order a strong at Vic Lounge," but the fact that "Strong Latte, Victoria Lounge, Richmond" just came up in the auto-complete list for the title of this post points to the fact that I must have had one fairly recently, and should have known better this time.
Aeropress owners: it may come as a surprise that there is such a thing as the World Aeropress Championships.
It may further surprise you that there has been not just an inaugural event, but as of this year a second annual World Aeropress Championships.
It may not surprise you that the WAC was held in Oslo.
They love their coffee over there, and they sure seem to love their Aeropresses too. Here's 2009 WAC champion Lukasz Jura holding aloft his Bronze Piston trophy:
I wonder if that trophy is a fully-functioning Aeropress, and if Lukasz will ever use it?
The Aeropress seems like such a simple invention that calls for such a simple method: grind coffee, add hot water, stir, press. But each one of these steps has countless variables that all have an effect on the final cup. The coffee: what sort of beans? How fine a grind? How big a dose? The water: how hot? How much? How many milligrams of calcium per litre?
If you've got any surprises left, head over to Tim Wendelboe's blog of all things coffee and Nordic and check out the post about Aeropress method used by the top three finalists in the WAC 2009 and see how much variation there can be in the method just among the top three. Wow.
Something I've taken away from that post: they all rinse the paper filter first to get rid of any "paper taste". I never even considered that. And the temperature can work at much lower temperatures. I'm usually happy if it's below 9oºC, but Lukasz stooped to 75º. I'm sure it's worth a try.
Well, I guess it's a little redundant to include the suburb in the title of a post about a café that includes the suburb in its own title. But I have to stick to the formula, I guess. And besides, not many cafés mention their suburb in their name, so this is a first for me. But it is to their detriment. They are missing out on all sorts of suburb name pun opportunities. For example, LLL suggested Elwood Scissorhands as an unbeatable name for a hairdresser in Elwood. East Brunswick presents a nice little shortlist too:The Witches of East Brunswick.
None of which are good names for a café. Brunswick East Project, however, is. It leaves absolutely no doubt which direction you have to drive to find it. The only way they could narrow it down more would be to call the place A Few Doors Up From Hellenic Republic instead. It seems like their name is popping up a lot lately, both on Twitter and in real life, whether the conversation is about coffee or not. I like places that don't do much in the way of food, as it often suggests that they are so serious about their coffee that they don't have time for food, and that seems true for these guys. They roast their own beans under the name Padre on site.
They stock the Aeropress (possibly the easiest way to get one if you live even vaguely in the area), have a variety of beans available, a rotating coffee of the day, and even a TEA OF THE DAY. I've never seen that before. Fine work, BEP.
EDIT: I had the name of this place wrong. It turns out it's "Brunswick East Project", not "East Brunswick Project". Unfortunately, that means they share the same initials as Black Eyed Peas. Let's hope this café doesn't follow the same career trajectory and gradually morph from moderately interesting band to worst shit I've ever heard in my life in two albums. Hmm. No, it's a café, not a band.
In the latest instalment of Wired magazine's long-running "What's Inside a ___?" series, for all those people filling up their car with diesel and drinking a can of Monster and wondering how many common ingredients there are, they explore what's inside a cup of coffee.
Caffeine. Water. Those two are obvious. But it gets more surprising from there on in. Putrescine is one of the few chemicals that really is as disgusting as its name implies. Coffee also contains niacin. Wow. Three espressi, and you're getting close to your RDI (that's Recommended Daily Intake, not Remote Debugging Interface, or Réseau de l'information). Fascinating. Niacin only really gets talked about at length in breakfast cereal advertising, and I always thought your daily bowl of Nutri-Grain was the only way it could get into your body, and therefore must have been invented by Kellogg's. But there you have it. Coffee. Amazing stuff.
One other surprise in that article is the ambiguous wording here led me to believe that coffee makes you immune to water:
"WATER: ...Caffeine is a diuretic, so coffee newbies pee out the water quickly; java junkies build up resistance."
A resistance to water? Spinal Tap were right. Water really is a drug.
This all happened hours after I had that coffee, but it was infinitely more interesting to write about than what I was doing at the time. Actually, I'll let you be the judge. Choose Your Own Adventure. Or Pick-a-Path. Anyone remember those? I think the Choose Your Own Adventure series was more universally recognised, but I read a Pick-a-Path first. I wonder who sued who for those valuable valuable pre-teen book dollars?
If you want to hear about me playing Crash Bandicoot 2 on my PSP, even though the disc was in my PS3 and the whole thing was screen-sharing over the network, but after one level I realised it wasn't worth the effort because the latency made it almost entirely unplayable, well I think I just gave away the punchline.
If you want to hear about the six women at the table next to me at the pub mangling the word "macchiato" through the rusty pencil sharpener of their inner-outer-northern-south-eastern-suburbs accents, read on.
So there I was at the pub. Oh shit, I left the italics on didn't I. I'd best switch them off so you don't think I'm whispering. Ah. That's better. Does it ever annoy you that when people want to italicise something when the whole sentence is already in italics, they just un-italic that word? Me too, but that doesn't explain why I did it in the second sentence of this paragraph. It's just there to illustrate that un-italicising hardly gives you the same effect as italicising. It's as though they just blurted out that word a bit too loudly.
"If you ask me, it was complete bullshit."
Bullshit looks louder doesn't it? Maybe we need a new strain of super-slanty italics that are whispered even quieter. Or we could just put them up in the air a bit.
Oh shit, I left the italics on didn't I.
I'm going to do that from now on. Oh. I did it again. Control-i. There we go. Let's get back to the story.
So it was the night of Monday the twenty-first of September. A movie had just started on channel nine. Overseas readers: don't get confused with our channel naming. The existence of channel nine might delude you into thinking we only have nine channels. That's ridiculous, and couldn't be further from the truth. In reality, we only have five. The movie starred John Cusack and Diane Laine. And some dogs. I thought for a second I spotted Jason Alexander, and realised it would be terribly insulting to tell someone you thought they were Jason Alexander, although that in itself would be quite insulting to Jason Alexander too. Sadly, the sound was muted, as is customary with televisions in pubs. I had no idea what the movie was called, or about. I was about to concentrate a bit more on the screen in an attempt to deduce at least one, but preferably two, of these facts, until I realised eavesdropping on strangers is usually infinitely more rewarding.
"So, two espresso, what about you guys?"
They were taking the orders themselves.
"A flat white."
One of them was writing down all their orders, to take up to the bar.
"I'll have an espresso too."
I was thinking of trying the coffee, but it was going to take hours for this order to get filled. They continued their order collecting
"I'll have a macchiato."
The whole table made one of those "oooooh!" sounds, like when somebody snogged on Saved By the Bell.
"What's a macchiato?"
"Froth. No milk."
"FROTH. But no MILK."
"I thought it was COLD milk!"
I'd say they were laughing like a pack of hyenas, because the hyena is the first laughing animal that springs to mind due to its tendency to be likened to groups of laughing humans, but a flock of galahs is probably closer to the truth. I'm not entirely sure if galahs come in a flock or a pack or a deck (incorrect use of collective nouns cracks me up more than almost anything else) or if they even laugh. But their laughing sounded like a galah looks.
A few truths have made themselves apparent in the gaming industry recently:
Bands that were popular decades ago can earn a whole new audience if their songs are used in a music game such as Rock Band or Guitar Hero.
Movie tie-in game releases are usually more appealing if rendered in Lego format, whether or not that movie ever had its own line of real-life Lego. See also: Lego Star Wars, Lego Batman, Lego Indiana Jones.
Later this year we'll see both of those rules put to use in one game, which, as logic would suggest, should be a license to print money. The game is Lego Rock Band. Not only is it a music game, it also looks like Lego. And Iggy Pop is in it too.
The kids are going to go bananas. And those bananas will be banana-shaped cabasas made of yellow Lego. I'm hoping this welcomes some new successful-franchise-remix ideas to the fray. From the creators of Loco Roco and Monopoly: LOCOPOLY ROCOPOLY. Tilt the board to roll your little faux-Japanese-singing character around to the next square. When you pass GO, he multiplies in size two hundredfold. Unfortunately, when you stop on a square that is owned by another player, you have to split up and pay rent for every one of them. Two hundred rooms at the hotel on Mayfair? Yikes.
This was far less disastrous compared to my last visit to Gingerlee. But I did forget to take the camera. This artist's rendition should give you some idea, though:
I finally scratched my bloody mary itch today too. And I think I've figured out why people like them so much for dealing with hangovers: it cleanses your vomit palate. You know that bit of your throat that tastes like vomit for hours after the fact? The bloody mary's combination of tomato juice, vodka and tabasco seems to do a pretty good job of reaching what gargling never could. Not that I'm really into vomiting. I try to keep it down to about one per year.
Speaking of vomiting, remind me that drinking a latte and a bloody mary at the same time is probably not a great idea. Milk and tomato juice? Eurgh. Something tells me they're not going to get along.
What follows is my second-greatest* ever bit of DIY electronic repair.
The DVD player on the left no longer switches on, and when AC power is plugged in, something on the power supply board makes a not-good-sounding humming sound. The DVD player on the right works fine. They are both made by Pioneer (a DV-266 and a DV-676A) and are around the same vintage.
We were willing to kiss player-on-the-left goodbye after its five years of service, but it had disc three of season three of The Office (US) stuck in it, and that tray won't open or release the disc without power. I could dismantle the whole thing, but it would be so much easier if it could just turn back on and open the tray.
So the humming sound indicated there was probably something wrong with the power supply.
The power supplies (circled) of the two machines looked pretty similar, and I figured it would have been in Pioneer's best interests to reuse the same power supply for most of their product line at the time.
"Easy," I thought, "all I have to do is plug the ribbon cable from the busted player into the working player's power supply, and press eject!"
I was right.
But that ribbon cable is only as long as it needs to be. I had to lay one player on top of the other upside down for it to reach.
But I got the disc out.
The memorial service for DV-266 will be held later this evening, whence it shall be fired out of a cannon. Or frisbeed off a bridge, or something.
Not really. I should try to fix it first.
* the greatest was when a similar thing happened to my set top box, and I repaired the power supply based on recommended capacitor values I found on the web.
“Can I get an espresso of...oh what's the Kenyan like?”
“It's, er, great.”
“Sounds good. I'll have one of those.”
Don't let anyone tell you increased coffee consumption encourages inarticulacy.
But, according to Danny Katz a few days ago, it does encourage morning-breath. Has anyone heard of this before? I've never noticed it before. When I wake up I'm usually still too asleep to notice my own breath, and by the time my faculties are back in order it's because I've had my first cup of coffee, which in turn probably dissolved whatever morning-breath I may have had.
Today's JB Hi-Fi visit yielded Liquid Swords for $17.99. I could have got it off iTunes for $10.99. That amounts to a 63% real-copy-on-the-shelf tax. Brutal. Almost as brutal as how far to the left all of the drums are panned in the title track.
A house for sale in Caulfield South (or South Caulfield, if you prefer). That photo turned out horribly blurry. I'll help you out:
“...the dining room, living room, kitchen and casual meals area flow towards the back.”
“Flow”? What on Earth does that mean? Is the house on an incline, and if so, are those four rooms made of liquid? Or are they soluble, and likely to dissolve and drain out the back door if it rains hard enough? Imagine the cleanup time: separating each of the dissolved rooms into their respective buckets alone would take a whole day, let alone actually wringing out the water and reconstructing them where they used to be.
If you have any questions regarding what exactly constitutes a “casual meal”, do as the article says and “Contact Gary Peer (0413 837 723)”.
Il Fornaio were closed. REALLY closed. It looks like they don't do dinner-like stuff at all now. It's a shame. It was good.
Late-ish night coffee is getting thinner on the ground up this end of Fitzroy St. But the other side of the road looked a lot more promising.
Do Barney Allen's have a coffee machine? I'm not sure. I didn't find out though, I figured Pelican would still be coffeeing, and may be a slightly safer bet. Besides, Barney Allen sounds more like some sort of banana-flavoured ice cream on a stick.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Pelican seemed pretty happy to assign me a seat for the purposes of one coffee only.
I didn't want to hang around too long. Most of the clientele looked like they were about one drink away from transforming from after-work-drinks man to late-night-regrettably-fighty man.
My updating has been a bit sporadic lately. Sorry about that.
You may notice that this trend began pretty much when I got the Playstation3.
It's hard to blog when Motorstorm Pacific Rift is right there.
That should give you an idea of what it's like. I hope that video doesn't turn into hardcore porn or anything halfway through. I didn't watch the whole thing because I realised that my watching-Motorstorm-on-the-web was eating into my actually-playing-Motorstorm time.
Yes, you can really punch other dudes off their bikes.
I think one of the reasons this game is so rad, other than the obvious benefits of punching dudes off moving motorbikes, is because its name is so similar to Bonestorm:
It seems the world really wants me to listen to Wu-Tang Clan at the moment. With Ghostface coming out here a few months ago and GZA touring here right now and Raekwon's new album coming out last week and the will-they-or-won't-they-get-through-customs touring rumours of the whole group, people are partying like it's 1994.
But I keep letting slip to these people that I've never really heard Liquid Swords.
They look at me as if I've just told them I've never seen Ghostbusters.
JB was pretty sus about other tables utilising an open-Google policy.
But we knew that if they did, their faces would light up both from delight of finding the answer, and from their iPhone's backlight.
He regularly walked around the room making sure nobody had their phones out.
I was worried we were getting a bit cocky when we started saying, "We're dominating!" and such after only one round. But time would tell. And it did.
In the final round, we all started saying, "Who's bad?" whenever we got a question correct.
It must have been loud. The quizmaster said over the mic, "Are you guys saying the name of your team every time you get one right?"
Anyway, when the answers get read out, there can usually be heard a barely-stifled "YESSSS!" from all the people who got that one right.
Occasionally there's dead silence, when it's a question that nobody got right.
Even more occasionally, there's dead silence, broken only by the sound of your own voice saying, "YESSSS!" This signifies that you were not only the sole person at your table who knew the answer, but possibly the only person in the room who knew the answer.
My one of those tonight was for: "What was the name of Patrick Swayze's character in Dirty Dancing?"
It's Johnny Castle, of course.
That's even you might think, because we know a guy in real life with the same name.
The prize was a slab.
Of Melbourne Bitter.
The cost of the beer we drank during the trivia meant we didn't even come close to breaking even. But that's not what it's all about. It's about the trivia. It's also, according to Kieran, about, "Let's all go back to my place with the slab and listen to The Faces."
I still haven't. I don't think today's visit counts. I tried to go to Carlton Espresso, but it is "growing up", according to the renovation signs, and has been temporarily moved to their sister store DOC at the opposite corner of the block.
The result is DOC with what looks like a cross between their menu and Carlton Espresso's menu during the day, from 7.00am onwards. No pizza, but plenty of cheese. Then they switch to DOC pizza, mozzarella etc for dinner. The coffee appears to be dealing with the temporary relocation just fine:
One wonders if they should just keep doing this after the other shop opens back up again. It sure is a nice place to sit during the day.
But I'll have to come back here soon for the pizza.
One more word of advice. The warning below is talking about the whole urinal. Somehow, I assumed they were just talking about the flush button. The screwdriver sticking out really should have made me realise the flush wasn't going to work anyway.
As I said on Facebook yesterday, this is the closest I'll get to having a team of flying monkeys like in The Wizard of Oz. Pick, my pretties!
So this coffee really is picked and chewed and spat out by monkeys. In particular, the Rhesus Macaque. These guys:
They were starting to get into trouble on coffee farms in India, eating all the coffee cherries. They spat the beans out, but they were still annoying. So, allegedly, the farmers shot the monkeys. The spat-out beans were still collected, and thrown in with the other beans. So the beans always made it into the mix.
But then somebody had the idea that it might be interesting to see how the monkey-chewed beans actually taste by themselves. They put the guns away, and encouraged the monkeys to do their thing. The results are what is in my cup right now. Here's The Instaurator (if that is indeed your real name) on Canadian TV talking up the monkey coffee:
I've always found abusive YouTube comments fascinating. That anyone has enough time on their hands to log on and pay someone's video out is surprising. That millions of people are doing it is even more bewildering. The comment about the above video needs to be immortalised here:
Leaving aside the vendettas and the hypocrisy (a guy who posts abusive comments on YouTube tells someone else to get a life?) he may have a point. But I'm assuming he hasn't tasted it. These beans are the ones handled by monkeys. They taste amazing. I think that proves something. Mind you, I haven't had any beans from the same farm that weren't picked by monkeys. But these are damn good. And some of them have teeth marks.
A bit over a week ago I mentioned that a banner ad on YouTube nearly convinced me to buy a PS3. Well, today I'm really going to do it. I also might get The Beatles Rock Band on Wii. Yeah, I don't need more guitar controllers in my life, and I'd need to get the whole bundle if I got Beatles on PS3. It's a shame. I'm sure the PS3 version would look a hell of a lot nicer than the Wii version.
I've removed Facebook from my iPhone. Twitter is the next step. This is part of Operation Return to Normal Life.
Remember what life was like before technology took hold? Remember walking outside without instantly checking your email or your news feed? Remember the days before advertising started asking questions like, "How are you going to buy a pint in London if your EFTPOS card doesn't work?" Haven't they heard of this thing called "cash"?
Well, I don't have a problem with Facebook (other than the constant stream of quiz/mafia/event bullshit) or Twitter (other than the constant mention-based-demographic-trawling and "social media experts" peddling their bullshit) or blogging (other than the weird link exchange requests - please don't send me those, the whole point is that I'm linking to blogs that I actually read) but I'm pretty sure I don't need access to them 24 hours a day.
The twelve hours that my computer is turned on should be plenty.
Full doser alert. I'm either noticing, or taking notice of, that more and more. If the doser is full, and it's rush hour and they're making two zillion coffees, it will all get used. But this was not one of those cases. One of the few times where there are not hundreds of people in need of a coffee coming down the escalator. And the doser was full. So: the coffee that was used to make this espresso was at the bottom, generally the stuff that was ground longest ago out of everything in the doser. So how long ago was that? There's no way to know. This wasn't a bad coffee, but I'm sure it could have been better if ground more recently. That "click click click click click" sound - someone grinding and dosing at the same time - is your friend. But still, this was my eighth coffee. So that means, thanks to the loyalty card, it was FREE! I think this is the third loyalty card I've completed with these guys.
It can usually take a while to get served here, but hey, it's a big balcony. We only had one hour before we had to leave town, so it was a bit of a gamble coming here. But it all worked out. Nice work. Everything about my eggs benedict was right on the money too. Asparagus is a welcome addition.
Great coffee too. I'm not sure what the beans are, but there's a La Marzocco somethingorother buried behind the bar back there and being put to good use.
Balcony. Very good. Just try not to visit during rush hour unless you have all day.
This place sure doesn't feel like it's in Byron Bay. It's more like someone peeled off a section of St Kilda and dipped it in Sydney. They use Seven Seeds coffee too, so a bit of Carlton must have found its way in there too.
I think any coffee can be improved by being ground to order rather than sitting around in the doser for an indeterminate amount of time. I didn't hear no grinder. But it's not a thumbs down. Just a raised eyebrow. It was good, but I get the feeling it could be better.
It sure is Byron Bay outside. I walked past Frances O'Connor Real Estate (nothing to do with the actress, I assume), and then a rickshaw came around the corner, laden with three dudes yelling "WOOOO!" one of whom was playing a djembe. Really. A djembe on a rickshaw. I couldn't make this up.
Thank Christ. We're flying Virgin again. I get to visit Able Baker Charlie and these guys:
$4.20 for a small latte with an extra shot takes it well outside the realms of "man, this is pretty cheap considering I'm at an airport", but they actually know what they're doing behind the machine. That's very rare.
It seemed kind of deserted in St Kilda, for a Thursday afternoon.
I'm not saying that I usually expect a Thursday afternoon to be jumpin' jumpin', but I was expecting more people around than this.
Maybe they're all out driving either north or south on King St.
That would explain why it took so long to get down here.
Every time I go to Il Fornaio (which is not very often since I started the blog - I've only had one coffee from here and Spunner bought it for me, I didn't even set foot in the premises - but I used to come here quite a bit when I lived within walking distance) I remind myself that I should do so more often. Coffee? Very good. Ciabatta? Excellent. It made every other ciabatta I've had recently look like a dried-out sponge with too many holes in it. And the donuts?
iMovie 09 is rad. I haven't extensively used any previous version, so I can't say much about how simplified the interface is compared to back in the day, but the Share -> YouTube function is incredibly useful. This is what I used to have to go through to export a movie to YouTube using Adobe Premiere Elements 2.0:
Export the movie to an AVI file in Premiere Elements.
Use some other program to convert that AVI to DIVX.
Login to* YouTube in a web browser.
Upload the DivX file.
Enter all the title/tag/description/etc details.
Now, it's just one click away. Genius. Nice work, Apple.
It's the 9 September 2009. 09/09/09. International Beatles Day.
The whole back catalogue has been remastered, and the Beatles Rock Band game has been released. It all happens today. There were also some rumours about The Beatles being available on iTunes too, but they have since been denied.
I think this will be the ultimate test of whether I give a shit about mastering. After listening, I'll either think, "What, it just sounds like The Beatles," or, "Wow, check out that mastering." Wish me luck.
Contrary to what the forecast had me believe earlier this morning, it started raining. Pretty seriously. I pulled over, not necessarily because of the rain, but rather so I wasn't one of those dudes paying more attention to Google Maps than the road. And then I realised I had parked right outside Sugardough. I figured it was worth trying, and the trying was worth getting rained on for.
Very nice. Not a bank-breaker either, as these groovy postmodern donuts often tend to be.
Cans of coffee from 7-Eleven. It was the only thing that kept me awake in Tokyo when I was there three (crikey, was it really three?) years ago.
"So, they're cold?!"
That was the common reaction from people when I told them that's what my coffee experience was like. This was long before I started the coffee blog, so it's hard to keep track of how many I had, or if I had anything else. But it's funny that people were more surprised that it was cold, than it was in a can, or that it was from 7-Eleven.
Would they have treated a hot can of coffee with as much suspicion? I never found out, as I never bothered to ask whether they serve the cans hot. I speak almost zero Japanese. That could be what held me back.
So imagine my surprise when, right here in Melbourne, I saw this through the window of a convenience store:
HOT CANS. In a pie warmer. WOW.
They also seemed to have a decent selection. I've tried various Asian grocery dudes around Melbourne, but this is the first place that stocks a brand I remember from Tokyo. It was getting pretty far past coffee o'clock, but I had to get one. They had the same cans available in the fridge, but since I was there, I knew I had to get one served hot.
This is where it gets difficult: a hot can is hard to pick up at first.
I went for Boss Coffee Rainbow Mountain Blend. It sounds more like it was grown on the slopes of a Mario Kart 64 track, than in real life, but I assume the word "Guatamalan" was featured prominently on the other side for good reason.
It fits somewhere low in the northeast quadrant of the Canned Coffee Taste Compass.
If you want to try the finger-burning logic-defying experience that is hot coffee in a can, it's can be found on La Trobe St, opposite Melbourne Central, somewhere between the Hungry Jack's on the corner and the imaginatively-named Cranbourne Music Centre.
(Yes, I do realise it's a Melbourne branch of the Cranbourne Music Centre in Cranbourne. But if you didn't know that, and you knew where Cranbourne was, you'd be confused. But Melbourne's full of this stuff. Dandenong Discount Computer Centre had a store in Richmond for years before they changed their name. Toorak College is in Mt Eliza. Padua College takes it to a new level though: Mornington is pretty far from Padua.)
Based on the success of my 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 post (you wouldn't believe how many people are finding this blog googling that -- though they're probably just looking for a link to the video) I thought it was worth writing something about that other ad currently doing the rounds on TV that involves rollerskating and a catchy little-known song.
If you're wondering what exactly is the "you got you got you got what I need" song from the Cadbury Boost ad, it's Only You by Teddy Pendergrass. Cue the guy with a video camera and a record player and a YouTube account:
I'd never actually heard the song before, but after seeing the ad I thought it was reasonable to assume it was Teddy Pendergrass based on what I learned from Eddie Murphy:
EDIT: Trying to find this song on iTunes only leads to confusion. None of the versions on there are in the same key as the song on the ad. But that YouTube video of the record with Teddy Pendergrass written on it sounds like it's the one. But I can't find that version on iTunes.
ANOTHER EDIT: It seems like Teddy re-recorded the song down a fourth at some point. Unfortunately, that version isn't nearly as much fun. Even more unfortunately, the original isn't on iTunes. Grr.
I'm already back on the plane, and I didn't drink any coffee while I was in Brisbane. I just didn't apply myself did I?
I got to the hotel at about 3.00pm on Sunday. I had ample time to get coffee. But I fell asleep.
I had vaguely planned to get up early the next morning and cross the bridge and get coffee and non-airport breakfast. But I slept in instead, and had to go straight to the airport. Based on my previous experience with Brisbane Airport's coffee (I had forgotten about this place at the time, it seems) I decided it was worth holding out until the coffee on board my QANTAS flight, and its comfortably predictable okayness.
But a trip to Brisbane with no coffee is a trip wasted.
The eternal struggle between sleep and coffee goes on.
Today's inflight reading: Keyboard magazine's 1982 interview with Wendy Carlos about her work on the Tron soundtrack.
Take-off was pretty boring. Watching Mediawatch was fun, but I needed something else. And then, on the way to the bathrooms (I figured walking to the back of the plane would kill some time), I found it.
The stewardess (is that what they're called?) was just as excited as me.
"Yeah! The strong stuff."
This came back, too. I didn't even need to order a beverage. She just pointed at me and said, "Coffee."
But I would need to fly a lot more often for my reputation to precede me. Imagine that. I have no idea how staff are allocated to flights, and whether they do the same routes every week, but still you would have to have racked up some serious frequent flyer points to be a regular visitor.
The Rancilio Silvia's thermostat light is a pretty good indicator of how hot things are. If the light's on, the thermostat knows it's not hot enough in there, and it's heating up. Logic would dictate that once the light goes off, we're ready for coffee, right?
It's not quite that simple, unfortunately.
The thermostat isn't quite smart enough to know when it's exactly the right temperature. It also doesn't realise that after you turn the heating element off, it will still heat things up a bit more for a few seconds. So if you turn on the pump as soon as the light turns off, you'll hear a hissing sound. That's the water turning into steam. It's too hot. Your beans have travelled thousands of kilometres to be in your machine, and the last thing they want before they finally land in your cup is an unexpected layover in Too Hot City.
Furthermore, that time in between "I've just finished heating up" and "I'm heating up" is separated by minutes of just one thing: the light is not on. The temperature can vary by up to 30 degrees. Not at all the predictable coffee environment with as few variables as possible that we would hope for.
Thankfully, there are hundreds of people on the internet who have been doing experiments towards getting around this temperature problem. One way is to install a PID controller: a microprocessor takes temperature readings and does a very good job of knowing when to turn the heater on and off. Another way, much cheaper and less machine-altering (though not nearly as effective), is through temperature surfing.
Temperature-surfing techniques for the Rancilio Silvia seem to fall into two categories:
Wait a certain amount of time after the light turns off, catching the machine on its way down from the way-too-hot zone, or
Wait a certain amount of time after the light turns on, catching the machine on its way back up from too-cold.
The first method is the one I've been using, mainly because it gives you a lot more time to play with: you've got two minutes after the light goes off. And I'm a bit of a novice with the whole dosing/tamping thing, so I could use that extra time.
Today was my first try with method #2: 45 seconds after the light goes on. That means I have to sort out my grinding first, but at least my tamping is a lot quicker these days.
Well, something unexpected just happened. While writing up this entry I started googling around, trying to find where I read about the two minutes or forty-five seconds thing. And it turns out I can't find it. I'm finding all sort of numbers. Thirty seconds after it goes out? Two seconds of water, then go for it? A whole gaggle of data, with no definite conclusions? I'm not really sure who to believe now. But I know two minutes is too long. I cut that to a minute and a half a while ago, which was a small step in the right direction, but I think it's going to take another giant leap to get some real results. Let's go with thirty. If nothing else, I'll save six minutes of standing around if I make four coffees in a row.
I harped on about a month ago about how I had a brilliant new idea for alternative brewing.
Remember when I tried the coffee-in-a-tea-bag, and how well that turned out?
Well, I was convinced it would work better if the grounds had more room to swim around. My next big idea was to try one of those big tea strainers that takes up the whole cup. You put it in the cup, put in your leaves, add water, than take it out after steeping. Essentially, it's like brewing a pot of loose-leaf tea, in a cup, and removing all the leaves at the end. I thought it could do a similar, if not better, job as the coffee-in-a-tea-bag idea. The main advantage is that you don't have to use a tea bag and throw it out at the end.
I went for the Bodum one. It has a lid. I have no idea why it needs a lid, but it looked like the business. The strainer material also seemed to be a lot finer than any of the metal mesh ones they had, and I wanted to make sure all the bits got strained out okay.
Unfortunately, I didn't look at the bottom. The strainer I bought may have had superfine mesh on the sides, but there were HUGE holes in the bottom. Not big enough for tea leaves, but my coffee grounds found their way through pretty easily.
In the end, I poured the whole lot into a jug, and poured it back into another mug through -- you guessed it -- a tea bag.
In the end, somehow, it was a nice cup.
I'm not sure if there's a non-destructive way to block off those big holes. So my $15.00 useless-for-coffee (unless you grind to about the caliber of a matchhead) tea strainer may have to be dedicated to tea-straining duties from now on. But that's okay. I'm sure it will come in handy. We need plenty of tea strainers in this house. We'll use them all, no matter how many we have.
Off to the footy. Walking to the MCG. From here. The only sane choice in today's weekend footy traffic climate.
Coffeeing up before you get to the ground is another sane choice. The queues at half time were unbelievable. I should have taken photos, but my hands were full of various cups of tea and buckets of chips.
I spent most of the last corner flogging the dead horse that is the cat-vs-dog puns that seem to present themselves at a Cats vs Bulldogs game:
"Well, they're barking up the right tree now."
"The Cat's not quite in the bag yet."
"He's playing like an absolute dog today."
"It's a delicate game of cat and dog."
But unfortunately I forgot a few obvious ones, that LLL pointed out later:
"I guess we now know The Truth About Cats and Dogs."
I'm glad I fitted that dog in the background. He was an awesome dog.
Atomica have table service on weekends now. I'm not sure why. The pay-first-at-the-counter system worked fine, as far as I could see, and switching to table service only gets confusing. We went up to pay our bill.
"Who took your order?"
"Er...that one, who just walked in the back door."
"I have to find out which table she put you under."
Hmm. I would have thought we would be put under the table we were sitting at.
Last Thursday I mentioned the episode of The Wonder Years where Kevin joins a band. I also mentioned that, based on what I could remember from seeing the episode once when it was first on TV, that I wish I was in a band that sounded like that. This afternoon, I did a little bit more research.
So I've finally made it to Auction Rooms after numerous recommendations, and spotting it on many must-visit lists for coffee in Melbourne. It took me a while to get here for a few reasons:
I don't quite get how North Melbourne works, in terms of how it connects with other suburbs, and
The place used to really be auction rooms, and auctions make me nervous.
Standing in a stranger's backyard watching your dreams slip away as other strangers, happy to spend over $100,000 more than you can justify, keep on bidding for twenty minutes after your absolutely-do-not-exceed limit? That's an auction, and they make me nervous. I had a competitive bone in my body once, but I think I must have fractured it pretty badly that time in grade five when I ran into a goal post during circular relay baton-changing practice. Thankfully, the process of ordering coffee at Auction Rooms bears little resemblance to an auction.
You have the opportunity to make this 30ml short black your own today. As you're all aware, and I've seen many of these faces before in the last few months, there's not a lot out there at the moment. I've had so many people come up to me and say, "If only..." Don't be one of those people. Don't walk away with any regrets today. This cup of coffee will go to the highest bidder. Make sure that bidder is you. The vendor bid is set at $2.20. Can I get $2.25? Two twenty-five! Do I hear two thirty? Two thirty! Two thirty-five? Two thirty-five!
You'd just go somewhere else, wouldn't you? Not only was there no bidding involved at Auction Rooms, the experience read like the first half of a How To Impress Ryan With a Café how-to guide.
Service. Not just good service, but adding something to it that I've never seen before.
Coffee. Showing that you really, really, really care about the coffee you're serving.
Improvising. The kind you find in your grandad's shed. Something interesting involving milk crates, or gaffa tape, or both.
Let's start with number one. Getting a glass of water when you sit down, without asking, is common. Getting a small glass of water with your espresso is always welcomed. Getting the latter when the former is already on your table is very rare.
But this is where they kicked it up a notch: the water that accompanied my espresso was sparkling. That is unheard of. Sparkling water is one of the few ways people can easily justify either paying for, or charging for, a glass of water. Getting it for free on the side just doesn't happen. My jaw dropped. It really did.
That brings us to the coffee. With a rotating guest coffee list and a syphon-of-the-day, and a white (!) La Marzocco (which could have been fashioned by Ewoks from stormtrooper helmets), it was clear they meant business. They also roast on site under the name Small Batch.
Sourced from everywhere, roasted over there (just to the right of that poster), prepared right here. I dig it. It's friendly to the beans, if nothing else.
"Look, you guys have travelled a long way already. Stay here for a while. You don't have to go anywhere."
I had the Ethiopia Yirgacheffe in a short black so short and black that light can neither limbo under nor escape its surface. It convinced me to take 250 grams of it with me. Sorry beans, you've got one more journey yet.
This brings us to number three: using what you've got. Not only was the sugar on my table in the kind of jar your dad used to keep nails in (see the first photo), but there are also a few dozen milk crates suspended in mid-air outside:
It's DIY shadecloth made from milk crates. That's impressive.