Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Day 1: Bow Ties and Not So Nice Guys

I have seen so many great shops this morning--and it's not even noon!  Portland truly has a lot of excellent shops, and they are reletively easy to access.  After dropping Andy off at work, I headed off to shop number 1--Coffeehouse Northwest.

Everyone told me that Coffeehouse Northwest brews and pulls Stumptown coffee better than Stumptown itself brews and pulls Stumptown coffee. I can't say weather I agree yet, since my Stumptown visit will probably be tomorrow, but the coffee was incredible.  I walked into the reletively small and homey shop and was greeted by friendly baristi. I told them about my pilgramidge and they were happy to meet me.
I had a shot of the Hairbender (Stumptown's espresso) and it was incredible.  I have never had a shot that was so pleasant and fruity in the finish.  I could have drank 8 ounces of it--luckily I didn't, or I might not be able to control my fingers enough to type this.  I asked where I should visit next, and they told me that their owner had just opened a shop a few blocks away called Sterling Roasters.

Oh my goodness.  This was the coolest coffee "shop" (it was more of a coffee nook) I have ever visited!  Tucked into the entrance of a flower shop, this little shop had it all.  They had a Synesso, pourovers, siphons, the hold kit-n-kaboodle.  But the best part was their roaster.  They roasted all of their coffee right there on a 1 pound Sanfransiscan sample roaster.  Does it get any cooler?  No.  Not only that, but the decor reminded me of Edgar Allen Poe--only not so creepy.  They all had on vests and ties (bow ties!) and there were candles on the walls and all the coffee was in tall skinny glass jars.  They made me a coffee called "The Little Buddy."  It consists of a shot of Rwandan single origin espresso pulled into about 3 ounces of water (like a little stout americano).  Lovely little nook full of friendly people. I like friendly people. Only in Portland!

The next shop I visited was Billy Wilson's "Barista."  This was a very classy place.  Sinatra playing, wood everything, two La Marzoccos, and a row of siphons greeted a constant flow of espresso craving Oregonians.  I talked briefly with the baristas and gave them the coffee I had brought.  They thanked me and made me a beutiful Macchiato also using Hairbender.  This was a cool place, not as hospitable as Coffeehouse Northwest, but the baristi were friendly. Billy Wilson stopped in for a minute, but I didn't get to talk with him since he cut out pretty quickly.  Maybe I will see him at his new Barista II on Alberta street.  This is definitely a shop worth visiting.
Finally, I headed over to a fairly new shop called "Heart Roastery."  This place is really cool inside.  With a huge Probat roaster and custom espresso machines, it was undoubtedly the coolest looking shop I have visisted so far.  I was told not to go their by a friend, because, as he put it, they were snobby.  I figured that he probably came on a bad day.  Well, they were actually snobby.  I didn't recognize the espresso machine (since it had a custom cover), so I had to ask.  This personal ignorance turned out to be the end of my short lived conversation with the barista.  Too bad.  The espresso was not the best (probably tainted by my highly subjective emotional condition and caffienation).  She blamed the fact that it was cloudy. Mmm-hmm. Right.

Well, off to eat lunch with my brotha.  Hooray for Portland!  Hooray for bow ties!  I need a sandwich!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I have arrived at the airport. That train is really fun.
Here comes the train! note: the busses smelled better in LA. 10:52
About to hop on the city bus headed downtown. Let's see how long it takes... 10:30

The Upper Left

In about 6 hours I will be on a plane on my way to Portland, Oregon (technically, I will be flying to Detroit, MI, then to Portland).  I am off to discover the best that the city has to offer: Andy, frozen pizza, hippies, and caffeine.  For the 2.5 of you that actually read this (including myself), be checking as the week progresses.  I will be posting pictures and stories that are sure to keep you up at night with excitement.

Here's to the Upper Left! (Did I mention I shaved my head?  Well, I did.)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Pizza...sort of.

I can't eat gluten.
I admit it.  One of the most wonderful staples of human existence has been removed from my diet.
Some would see this as a curse.  I, however, see it as an evolutionary advantage.  Perhaps sometime in the near future, wheat will be eliminated by the careless act of a genetic scientist.
Then what? I'll tell you what.  I would be happily adjusted to consuming loads of tapioca flour and ground up rice, and the rest of you un-evolved primates would be left hungry.  Who is cursed now?
[End of self-pity induced rant]

One of the things that I was the most saddened by when I learned that I could not eat waves of amber grain was the thought of an existence without pizza.  As they say, necessity is the mother of invention.  Tonight Kristin and I created gluten-free pizza (that actually tasted good!)

Using a recipe for a thin cracker bread made with polenta that I made back in the golden days of kernel consumption, we replaced the wheat flour with rice flour.  I assumed it would taste like eating cheese melted over shredded bills and junk mail.  But, lo and behold, it didn't!  It actually was pretty good.  The crust has fennel seeds and crushed black pepper, so there is a good flavor.  The soft consistency is backed by corn meal, giving the edges a bit of a crunch.  On top we placed artichoke hearts, green olives, and mozzarella cheese.

Being evolutionarily advanced has its perks.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Da nort-land

Yesterday afternoon I decided to go on an impromptu camping trip up to Lake Maria State Park (outside of Monticello, MN).  I packed quickly, grabbed my tent and bag and headed north.  When I got there the office was closed, so I self-registered through the mail slot for a backpack site not too far from a parking space.  Unfortunately, the site was taken.  Reluctantly, I hiked to the north side of the park up Anderson hill to find the next available site.  This was the best mistake I have made in months.  The site was gorgeous--I was up on a hill overlooking one of MN's 10,000 lakes.  An eagle flew over. I didn't have a camera, so I did some quick, photo-realistic sketches.  It looked like this, only less fish like and more majestic:

I set up camp, started a fire, and just hung out.  Usually I try to spiritualize everything by forcing myself to read or journal excessively, but this time I just enjoyed being outdoors.  This was a great idea.  God is actually easier to notice when you don't strain so hard to see Him.

Before I headed to bed, I heard something large trying to walk on the ice by my camp.  It kept breaking through as it walked, so I assume it was not a giant raccoon, or opossum.  Maybe it was a bear, or a disgruntled snowmobiler.  This is what I imagine it looked like:

I slept well, got up at 5:30am, and made coffee in the Mocha Pot (using my new hand grinder!).  It was ideal.  After I packed up my gear and the tent, I headed out as the sun began to rise.  As I crunched through the leaves on the trail, I heard a ton of loud turkeys.  I would assume that turkeys have trouble with self-confidence, but these turkeys were very secure.  It was at this point that I heard an animal scream.  Was it a panther?  I don't know.  Perhaps it was just that eagle, or an enormous fox.  If it was a panther, it probably looked like this:

As I stood on the trail and just listened, I felt as though God was reminding me that I was not the point of creation.  I was a part of it.  I should be happy that He stills loves me, and chose to use me despite my history.  We can't be proud of our accomplishments, because those are His.  Like He said in Luke 17,
"Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, 'Come along now and sit down to eat'? Would he not rather say, 'Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink'? Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.' "
 As a servant, I should be excited that I have someone to serve.  My accomplishments are for His purpose, not my own.  It is easy to feel very large and important when you live indoors.  The world seems to revolve around your wants and efforts.  But reality in God's world is very different.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


I saw two adults fighting by the Light Rail today while I was on a bike ride--physically fighting.

They both looked like big children, the man dangling keys in front of the woman, both of them shoving each other, throwing punches.  Eventually the woman had the man on the ground and was kicking him in the head.  He ran off and I biked up to the woman to see if she was ok.  Flustered, she said she was.  The cops pulled up a minute later.

I hate the world right now.
I don't know how to feel.

What do you pray in moments like this?  "Help.  Please intervene," is all I could get out.  It makes you want to get into your apartment and lock the door and hide.

The world is not how it should be.  There is a lot of darkness.  We have to make a choice--either we can hide, lock ourselves up, and pretend that the world is neat and tidy, or decide that we are going to do what we can in a small way to bring God's kingdom to earth.  I want to choose to bring light, to choose to give hope, to love instead of avoid or hate the world.

Well, maybe right now hating the world sounds like a better option. I'll come around eventually.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Electric "Hand" Grinder

I got a new toy today.  After a few months of deliberation/obsessing/dreaming, I finally bought a new grinder.  It is a Hario (Japanese) skinny hand grinder.  All over the internet are great reviews.  The problem with home grinders is that there isn't a market for grinders that do a good drip grind.  The money all comes from people with $1000 espresso machines, not me.  So finding a quality grinder that can suit a pour over is problematic.  

This Hario grinder does a great job.  It is able to make powder fine enough for espresso (with a lot of laboring), a consistent grind for drip, and an excellent crush for the press.  Here is a picture of its range:
The only problem is that you have to crank it.  Of course, after having it out of the box for only about 12 minutes, I already began thinking of a solution:  

When you take the handle off, there is a convenient hex rod--perfect for my electric drill.  Now I can clamp it on, and barely pull the trigger--simulating the speed I would crank at.  Will I actually use this in the morning routine? No.  But if I didn't try it, it would have swam around in my head until I was attempting it in my sleep.

What could be better?

Today was a wonderful day.  Kristin and I try to be sure that at least one day of the weekend is reserved for rest.  That means no check-lists, no school work, no talking about behavior management strategies (I shouldn't even type those words!).  We just do things that--as stated eloquently by Andy Scott--that feed our souls.  We decided that we would try to ride the bikes to Rustica in Uptown to get coffee.  It was such an awesome ride, Minneapolis is made for long bike rides.

We rode through the ruins of old flour mills:

Over cool bridges:

Through foggy downtown:

And on the incredible Greenway (the bike "highway"):

And we didn't end up hating each other!

Today was great.  It is so needed to be human as often as you can.  So enjoy your life wherever you are.  Those that have tons of free time, don't feel guilty! Take advantage of it, because someday you might not have it.  Those of you with no free time, find it.  If you don't make space in your life for the things that you will remember, they will never happen.