Archive for September, 2008

Portland’s own “coffee experience”

September 29, 2008

So, on the recommendation of both locals and online guides, I had to check out Stumptown Coffee Roasters.  Stumptown bills itself as Portland’s answer to Starbucks, a distinctly local, independent-minded coffee chain for the vociferously free-thinking Portlanders.

I stopped by the downtown location at 128 SW 3rd St. for its proximity to Powell’s Books, which I planned on hitting up later in the afternoon.  By coffee shop standards, the place is ginormous.  The front is floor to ceiling windows and the shop extends back in a cavernous expanse of polished concrete floors, exposed brick walls, and 20ft ceilings with open duct work and dangling illuminated globes.  There is a long bar, reminiscent of a mid-century diner (complete with wood veneers and stainless steel top.)  There are actually 7 or 8 bar stools and the staff behind the counter are friendly enough that it would be an acceptable place to enjoy a cup of coffee and conversation on occasion.  Ironically, for such a huge space, there isn’t a ton of seating, just a row of utilitarian tables opposite the bar and two low-slung ikea sofas in the back.  The overall impression is one of excessive amounts of open space, not ugly but somehow underutilized.

Of particular interest to me was a dj booth in the back corner.  There were two turntables and a selection of records on a shelf behind the booth, and I wonder what kind of atmosphere this place has on a Friday or Saturday night.  The shop is only a block and a half off of Stark St, Portland’s center of LGBT life, and I suspect it is a draw for pre-club activities.  Perhaps all the open space is to accommodate larger crowds on the weekends?

The menu here is simple and only slightly pretentious.  Double shots of espresso are served in 8 or 9 different ways, including macchiato, con panna, and free-poured cappucino and lattes.  I witnessed a fair amount of artistry in the free pour; the barista made an effort to “design” hearts or swirls in the foam on his hot drinks.  My request for iced espresso was met with surprise, and there was some question over which type of cup it should be served in.   I realize that iced espresso is a little less than traditional, but it shouldn’t be so foreign as to cause consternation over glassware.  There was also a decent selection of loose leaf teas to choose from, and based on the coffee, I could forsee myself enjoying tea here more often than coffee or espresso.

As for the coffee itself, the espresso was delivered with a very high ratio of crema.  It was so frothy, even iced, that it almost looked like milk had been added.  I am a fan of frothy espresso, so this was a pleasant surprise.  Of course, I think it was also because the barista had a habit of pulling 3/4 shots.  I know that a 3/4 shot is “best” for maintaining the integrity of the espresso flavor, but over the course of four shots, I end up with the equivalent of a triple and not the quad I had ordered.

Besides, this espresso could have used some mellowing.  The flavor was so piquant, it tasted like a lemon had been squeezed into it!  It was beyond the citrus accents of most Latin American coffees; this espresso was downright tangy.  I do like a splash of milk with my espresso to counteract any lingering acidity, but I went for the more heavy-duty cream to bring this roast down to palatable levels.  After my tongue got over the initial shock, I was able to see why this could become an acquired taste.  However, I won’t be doing any acquiring myself.

This is in part because the espresso was not to my taste but more so because Stumptown is a uniquely Portland coffee house, and I just don’t see them expanding far beyond the PDX any time real soon.  Portland is a city that revels in its uniqueness and even demands individuality from both its inhabitants and its businesses.  It’s easy to see why Stumptown has found an audience here: it’s coffee as unusual as the city that drinks it.  However, it may be a little too unusual for the less risque palates of everywhere else.  Besides, if everyone started drinking Stumptown coffee, than it wouldn’t be “Portland’s own” anymore.  Right now, Stumptown is a Portland only creation. . .and that is exactly how Portland likes it.

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Tina Fey does it again!

September 29, 2008

It may not have been quite as brilliant as the first time Tina Fey uttered “Hello, my fellow Americans!” but there are enough laugh-out-loud, satirical zingers to keep me wanting more Tina Fey as Sarah Palin sketches.  In case you didn’t catch it, here is this past Saturday’s opening sketch with Fey reprising her Palin and Amy Poehler filling in as Katie Couric.

Breaking Things

September 26, 2008

Have you ever felt the need for some destruction?  Ever finished off the shiraz and just wanted to hurl the bottle at the nearest brick wall followed by your glass?  Or maybe you just want to hear the crash of the bat against the bathroom mirror (all bad luck aside.)  Check out one woman’s smashing idea to satisfy your need!

This obviously begs the question: will she franchise?  How fun would it be to be a buyer for this store?  I could spend hours scouring flea markets and Pier One clearance sales for “pretty things” that are just begging to be made into smithereens.

I also want to know if she lets you bring your own.  I mean, what could be more therapeutic than smashing the tea rose china your mother-in-law gave you for the wedding?  Especially after the divorce 😉

I mean, I’d happily pay $20 to utilize the space so that I wouldn’t have to clean up or worry about injury, noise, or police intervention.

A fun gallery with pictures, here.

Wall*E wins Palm d’Or at “Cans Film Festival”

September 26, 2008

Today I took an old friend and her five year old daughter, Emma, to see Wall*E at a mall in downtown Portland, OR.  This was especially fun because it was Emma’s first movie in a movie theater!  What an interesting experience!

I had heard that Portland is a very progressive city and full of cool ideas to benefit the greater good.  The movie confirmed the reputation for me: we went because of a promotion called the “Cans Film Festival,” where three canned goods earned you a movie ticket and small popcorn!  The three of us got to see the film and gorge ourselves with popcorn for less than $9.  (Could have been even less, except I splurged and picked up the Kraft Mac & Cheese instead of the store brand.)  This is a brilliant promotion to help the Oregon food bank; they probably should up it to five canned goods, but I’m good with three!  The movie was very fun (I had already seen Wall*E and declared it one of the best of the year) but watching Emma on the edge of her seat for 90 minutes (the edge because she is so short she had to sit there in order to see!) was fascinating.  The mind of a five year old is foreign to an adult.

Anyway, Wall*E reminded me how exceptionally moving animated movies can be.  I have multiple friends who either refuse to see animated films or dismiss them as child’s fare.  Yes, of course Wall*E is constructed to appeal to children; Pixar knows its core audience, but there is no doubt that the film plays on a deeper, subtler, more complex level than most “grown up” films.  If there is any justice, Wall*E will get a best picture nomination this winter.

But an animated film of such high quality is hardly unusual.  Nor is excellent animation a monopoly of Disney (and Pixar.)  As it turns out, the excellent website http://www.rottentomatoes.com has a compiled list of the fifty best reviewed animated films.  I took a look and it’s really a good list.  Check it out.  As often happens with lists like these, my favorites tend to fall in the 11-20 range as opposed to the top 10.  Where does your favorite land?

Too many secrets. . .

September 21, 2008

So much trouble over a piece of yellowed notebook paper!  What, his secretary couldn’t be bothered to type it up?  This is just like Fermat’s last theorem, except, you know, less intelligent.  Of course, 5.3 billion in sales is nothing to sneeze at; I mean that’s probably the most valuable yellowed paper outside of the Declaration of Independence.

Actually, the most interesting aspect to me is how many people attempt to duplicate the “original” recipe.  As if KFC is so good it needs to be duplicated.  I mean, I like it, sure, but it isn’t exactly the paragon of cuisine.

KFC’s secret recipe comes out of the vault

$50 million is a lot of pennies

September 17, 2008

Alright, do something for me.  I need you to really think about this.  Reach in your pocket, the one where you keep your change–or find your change jar or whatever you use–and fish out a few pennies.  Look at them closely.  What are you planning on doing with them?  Think about what you are saving up for.  And answer honestly, do you really need the penny?

I mean, if you are like me, you collect a few pennies each day when you get change from your coffee, or your lunch, or your newspaper, and at the end of the day you drop the loose coins in a jar (I actually use a small vase that I got with a wedding centerpiece) and one day, months from now, you’ll find yourself with a few hours to waste and you’ll count up all the pennies you have collected. You might even roll them!  And you might even get excited about the $6.53 windfall you’ve come into.  Or maybe you’re not like me and you’ll just head to the coin star machine at the grocery store, which will count your change and then take a chunk right off the top (in this case 58 cents*) and you’ll get excited about your $5.95 windfall.

And who wouldn’t be excited about an extra $6?  That’s a $5 footlong at Subway, plus tax, plus a cookie!  But here’s the thing: that six dollars you just saved cost the US Government ten dollars!  (and we all know where the government gets their money)  It seems because of rising material costs, every penny now costs 1.67 cents to produce.  (Actually that was in 2007, apparently costs have gone down a bit in 2008, but it’s still way above the face value of a penny.)  The US minted 7.4 billion pennies in 2007, and some basic math reveals that that $74 million in pennies cost taxpayers an additional $50 million.  Just so we can all enjoy that pleasant jingle in our pockets and continue to fill up our coin jars.

$50 million isn’t going to solve our national debt, but it will go a long way towards any number of public service projects like schools, homeless shelters, disaster relief, or AIDS/Cancer research.  And why do we continue to waste $50 million every year?  Because our government believes we can’t live without our pennies.

So take a look at that pocket change, and ask yourself, “What has the penny done for me, lately?”

If you want to see where I got my numbers check out this CNN article from last May.

*Coinstar stated fee

“I can see Russia from my house.”

September 15, 2008

Okay, so I didn’t catch the SNL premiere this past Saturday because I was too busy watching highlights of USC’s demolition of Ohio State (Fight On!), but this CNN/AP article reminded me of the “political relevance” of SNL during election campaigns.  The recap of the Palin/Clinton opening sketch featuring Tina Fey was too good to miss, so I looked it up.  It’s even better watching than reading. . .I know, what a shock.

Anyway, this deserves to be seen.  Not only is it good political satire, Fey as Sarah Palin may be the most spot on, creepy impersonation by an SNL cast member. . .ever.

Palin/Clinton SNL

But how will this play to the middle red states?

September 14, 2008

This video really captures the earnest melodrama that has colored Barack’s campaign.  That said. . .it’s still hilarious. . .and hopefully these democrats don’t meet the same fate as the characters they are lip-syncing.

“Because he allowed me a lot to have my own way.”

September 11, 2008

How cute is this couple?  I love how exuberant the husband is when he tells about courting his wife.  I’m not sure if anyone gets married envisioning this much life ahead; that’s a lot of anniversaries to remember.  I suppose that’s why they have their occasional falling out?

Britain’s oldest married couple

And he saved the receipts!

September 10, 2008

Another story that is funny, if not in that haha way. . .

Man eats 23,000 Big Macs

The fact that he keeps an emergency supply in the freezer really gets me.  This reminds me of Lionel Essrog in Jonathan Lethem’s brilliant novel Motherless Brooklyn.  At a point very early in the novel, Lionel compulsively eats fast food burgers to sate his tourette’s syndrome.  Did I mention that Lionel also narrates the novel, verbal tics and all?  Yeah, it’s a must-read.

The movie is “in production” with Edward Norton attached as writer, director, and star.  It sounds like a pet project, but here’s hoping it’s one that comes to fruition and meets its full potential.  Norton should be perfect as Lionel!