Category Archives: Food

Clay the Starbucks Guy Did Not Ruin My Life.

photo courtesy of wikipedia

photo courtesy of wikipedia

I was standing in line at Starbucks yesterday. My mental state was not good. In fact, it was poor. I hadn’t had time to put on deodorant because I was afraid of missing the train. Instead, I shoved it in my bag and then forgot about putting it on anyways. And I’d forgotten to use my ear eczema lotion. And I hadn’t had time to moisturize. So things were not good.

I was wearing uncomfortable shoes and after I caught the train I was afraid of missing, I’d ended up arriving twenty minutes early to my destination. Three miles away from me, on the floor in my room was the cup of coffee I hadn’t had time to drink. Everything was terrible so I decided to take the twenty minutes I had and walk to the Starbucks that I thought was five minutes away.

But it was not five minutes away, it was a ten minutes away. Seven minutes in to the journey, I was starting to sweat and my mental state – already fragile – nose dived (or nose doved – not sure what the correct phrase is here.) I remember speaking out loud, “Please. Please. Please,” willing the Starbucks to appear earlier to relieve my anguish. It was sad. What seemed like hours later, I arrived at the Starbucks, my neurons panting for caffeine.

There was a line. “That’s okay,” I tried to tell myself, “It’ll go fast.” Unfortunately this was not one of those uber-efficient financial district Starbucks, where employees have been choreographed to move through dozens of customers in five minutes with robot-like precision. This was a tourist Starbucks, and people had questions about the menu and time to debate over whether they wanted the pumpkin bread with cream cheese or the pumpkin scone.

There were only two people in front of me but it felt like an entire lifetime passed as they debated endlessly and pathetically over what kind of baked good they wanted to order, who they wanted to be when they grew up, how the family was doing.

Behind them a storm was gathering in my mind. I was summoning all the forces of darkness, all the black magic in the world to will them to finish their order and get their coffee, or perish. My hair grew long and wicked and floated up behind me as I grew fangs and my fingernails became yellow and razor sharp. I was ready to bring the reckoning and I knew who was at fault. It was Clay, the Starbucks employee. If he could just go a little faster then everything would be okay, but he was willfully and defiantly lethargic and the source of all terrible things in the universe and the gross black stuff that grows on my kitchen faucet.

Just as I was getting ready to be rude to him and/or cause him physical harm, I had a moment of clarity.

Wait a second, I thought. It’s not Clay’s fault that I was unprepared for today. It’s not his fault my armpits are stinking and my back is sweating. He didn’t choose the shoes I’m wearing or my career path. In fact, Clay has nothing to do with my anger or my life or my long, dark, wicked hair. He’s just here.

If I were in a better mood, nothing would be wrong. Even the colors would be brighter and the tourists’ inane conversation would be charming, possibly exciting. I am the problem.

Whoahhhhhh.

With that in mind, the voodoo winds died down, my fingernails and teeth changed back to normal, I took a deep breath and forced a smile to my face.

“Medium coffee please – could you put some hot water in the bottom of it and leave room at the top for cream?”

Everything was going to be okay.

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Square Plates Are an Abomination on the Face of a Dying Earth

imageA crises faces this generation. It is the crisis of the square plate, the better-than-you-evenly-sided monstrosity, the good-luck-getting-the-sauce slap in the face which is plaguing our restaurants, our cities, and our dogs.

I am not a foodie. I am not a restauranteur nor a critic nor a connoisseur of anything, not even church bathrooms or peanut butter. I do not claim to possess special knowledge, powers, or high fives and I do not boast exceptional height or good looks.

But I hope you will hear me for my cause, for I am a human. I am a person with almost disposable income, and I believe that I possess the right – nay – I demand the right to eat out of dishes that do not make me feel like a robot or a farm animal. I demand the right to eat out of proper dishes, not some trumped up piece of garbage, some toilet shard that is barely passing for a plate in what is barely passing for a place of hospitality.

This is the struggle of our times. At the very height of human civilization, how is it possible that some have fallen so very low and are wallowing in the dregs of second-rate design, inhaling the exhaust of fads farting their way through existence. It is, to put it bluntly, ugly. It is ugly. Not only is it ugly in form, it is ugly in function, a true Jezebel of the dinner table, an embarrassment in porcelain’s clothing, an emperor wearing no clothes and caught trying to attend a Zumba class.

It’s hard to know what is most terrible about this shameful spit of anti-design malfeasance. Is it how terribly clunky it is, its nightmarish IKEA edges, or its unforgivable flatness and lack of inspiration disguised as modernity? Is it the way it makes you want to smash it on the ground before it sucks any more life out of the world or causes yet another person to question their hopes and dreams? Is it the way that it is somehow smug, like someone who is technically nice but still makes you want to strangle them?  Is it the violence it inspires in everyone who sees it?

Only God in God’s infinite wisdom can fathom and place a name on the depth of this plate’s crime against all that is good and holy, for it is an abomination on the face of a dying earth.

I do not know the future and can merely put one step in front of another and take one breath at a time. But I hope and I pray for a day when all humanity will rejoice and join together in song as we dance and dance and dance, trampling the very last square-edged faux-modern plate into dust which will then blow away harmlessly into the boiling seas.

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Hello Styrofoam. I Think You’re Trying to Kill Me but I’ll Still Drink Coffee Out of You.

Styrofoam

Styrofoam

Before I start, let me be clear that I know nothing about styrofoam and its affect on my health. Everything I know about styrofoam comes from whatever liberal pseudo-science they put in the water in San Francisco and something my babysitter said to me when I was in 5th grade about how microwaving styrofoam can give you cancer. Since then, I’ve researched and learned nothing.

That said, styrofoam was a part of my childhood. I ate school lunches off of it, microwaved leftovers on it, and drank all kinds of beverages from it. I once tore up a styrofoam cup and put it in a shoebox for the famed engineering challenge of creating an egg crate that would protect an egg from a 20 foot drop. Styrofoam did not work, but it sure was staticky.

I moved to San Francisco about two years ago and had kind of forgotten about styrofoam. It’s banned from restaurants in San Francisco and styrofoam cups, plates, and trays are a rarity. Through an assimilation process that’s been going on since my arrival, I’ve gradually learned to associate styrofoam with Bible thumping conservatives, anti-education monsters, and death. At no point was any of this directly said to me. It’s just what happens when you’re in San Francisco long enough and drink enough locally roasted coffee (from ceramic cups of course.)

Now that I’m traveling in areas that are not protected from styrofoam, I’ve started using it again. I drink coffee from it and I want to say that everything’s fine, and that nothing has changed and I’m still the same woman from Oklahoma who doesn’t care about cancer caused by heating up styrofoam but I’m not and I do.

I think the styrofoam is probably killing me. I think it makes the coffee taste weird and dissolves into it when the coffee is too hot, and then those styrofoam molecules turn into cancer in my body that can activate at any point. I’m afraid of the styrofoam cup but I’m more afraid of how terrible I’ll feel if I don’t take coffee to go from breakfast. It’s a choice of two evils, and one promises death in the future, and the other promises a nasty headache until dinner.

I think the correct path is clear.

So I’m on to you styrofoam. I know you’re trying to kill me but you won’t get me before I flee back to my Bay Area styrofoam free sanctuary. Until then, I’ll see you for breakfast.

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We Worship Thee Oh Coffee, Sustainer of Life

A coffee cup I drew

A coffee cup I drew

Our Lord and Savior coffee hath provided us with much. Whether it is harsh and bitter, too weak, or absent, it rules our life with a brown fist. We don’t control coffee or where it comes from or where it goes. We accept whatever is in the pot in the kitchen and we drink it down dutifully, faithfully, knowing it will give us magic that will make us successful.

It hath given us many things. Oh coffee, how can I count your blessings. Praise thee, oh coffee, sustainer of my office and personal life.

You are a reason to get up in the morning and sweet relief from my office desk prison. You are proof that I am a grown-up, suffering in rages the caffeine-induced angst that driveth me down the fair I-35 in Edmond, OK.

You bequeath-eth me with the power to leave any conversation, providing I seek only you, and you offereth me omnipotence in claiming incompetence for work done poorly as I cry upon your name, saying, “Wherefore were there only coffee in my blood, this email wouldst not have had the typo.”

You are an eternal and everlasting measure of all things, a way to cast judgement upon others through their tastes in your many shades of brown. Should I speak to one who loveth only Peets, I know they haveth not any taste buds. Were I to happen upon one who claimeth Starbucks to be the fairest in all the land, I knoweth then they are capitalists with a bucket of oil for a heart. And should they only partake of Philz, I know them to be of the wisest and most discerning of all your admirers.

Contained within you is the key to my self-realization and my self-destruction, oh addiction of my heart. How many pictures of you have been posted to Instagram! How many statuses updated with your acidic yet endearing flavors! How many people have met and fallen in love over your warm cup, their hearts quickening as they drink down your everlasting spirit!

You are perfect with milk, a calcium chew, and the darkest of chocolates. Whiskey and biscuits are lucky to call you their friend. Were you to be a bath water alternative, that would be weird but not all together disdained.

In the spring I drink of thee. In the summer, I dance in your libations. The autumn calleth me nearer to you, and in the winter, my breath the very clouds of a steamy train, you fill me with your hope.

Oh coffee, oh you berry (delicious drink), oh you natural laxative, you fuelant of revolutionaries and capitalists, of artists and tyrants, you brew not recommended for infants lest their hair curl, oh coffee you are my sustainer and my drink of choice always and always.

You have given us much, and much you have taken away. Your ways are just and your law is a higher law. Though I don’t understand your taste or price, I have faith. I believe that you are perfect and that it is I that must change.  To you, o coffee, be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

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The Weird, Offbeat and Wonderful Breakfasts in San Francisco

I ate breakfast at 78 different places in the Bay Area last year.* I’ve written about the best of them and the worst of them, but there are some that deserve to be mentioned for other reasons, ones with some special sauce. Check it out.

Wolfe's Lunch

Wolfe’s Lunch

Most Surreal

Wolfe’s Lunch – Portrero Hill – $

I ate at Wolfe’s Lunch – a name that sounds like something out of a Grimm fairy tale – on a day when the sky was a gunmetal gray and the restaurant was completely empty. I got my coffee, pancakes, eggs, meat and potatoes for less than $10. When my food was ready, the woman at the counter used a microphone to call me to the counter which was about 10 feet away. I obeyed the voice and retrieved my breakfast, which I ate while staring at the sky and noting that this part of town is very boxy. It was one of those days where reality seemed a little thinner than others.

Best Hidden Treasure
Bechelli’s Flower Market – $$ – SoMa

In this part of SoMa, the streets are lined with old warehouses and car shops. It’s not especially beautiful unless you’re into that sort of thing. I thought Bechelli’s Flower Market was just a cute name to attract patrons in this industrial area of town, but sure enough fresh flowers adorned every table. The food was good and right on par with expectations. On a whim, I exited out the back way and discovered an alley lined with flower shops – pinks and reds and oranges bursting into the street – and the name of the cafe made more sense.

Oldest Head Cook
Olympic Flame Cafe – Tenderloin – $ 

The day I ate here was the day a 90-yr-old Greek man made my breakfast. Despite the terrible reviews on Yelp, I loved this place, which goes to show that most people on the internet don’t know what I like.

Credit: Afar Media

It’s Tops

Most Dream-Like
It’s Tops Coffee Shop – Mission – $$ 

I wandered here in a dense angst haze after barely making it through the Upper Market area alive, assaulted on all sides by the worst of what people can become due to illness, abuse, and life on the streets. I walked into It’s Tops and felt like I was back in a perfect version of my childhood, wood walls and cozy booths and I sat down and ordered a breakfast feast to take away the pain of not knowing what I was doing or where I was going in life or how to get what I wanted. I ordered everything to help that pain go away and sat in a time capsule for a little bit while the world raged on outside. It was delicious.

Best Breakfast for a Sailor
Red’s Java House – Embarcadero / SoMa – $ 

An outpost of a time gone by, built out of cinderblocks and plywood and clinging to the pier while glassy office buildings rise up around it – Red’s is somewhere you can let your hair down and talk shop about how to get them ropes on your ship working properly. I got pancakes and other stuff and sat and looked out at the street and the water. They said I could come back for refills of coffee all day if I wanted to. I didn’t take them up on it, but maybe next time. Maybe next time.

Best story
Toast Eatery – Noe Valley – $ 

The food here was average, but as I was walking to BART after eating I saw two men carrying a mattress. One of them was very tall and this information was filed somewhere in my brain. But mostly I forgot all about this and months later, I’m going to get a drink at an event called Nerd Nite, and I see someone who’s very tall and we make eye contact and he says “You look familiar…” and I say “You look familiar!” And so we dig through our activities and where we live and our connections and he mentions he lives in Noe Valley and then it hits me, “Wait, were you recently moving a mattress on the street?

As it turns out, we didn’t know each other at all but had merely seen one another on the street early on a Friday morning. San Francisco is so small.

bashful-bull-tooMost heart and soul

The Bashful Bull Too – Parkside – $ 

This place is run by people who are not of midwestern descent, but they have made this restaurant into a veritable paragon of everything most midwestern eateries wish they could be. The amount of love they have for Americana of old is enough to grant them the Heart and Soul award plus the fact they have a dish that includes: hashbrowns, eggs, bacon, ham, sausage, biscuits + gravy and pancakes. Amen, hallelujah and praise the Lord.

*Full list here: Breakfasts in the Bay Area

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