There’s a small, closet-like French place a few blocks from my office. The bus I take stops a few feet away and on lazy mornings, when I don’t make coffee at home, I stop by to get a large cup of “French Roast” or “House Blend.” I put them in quotes because I can’t tell the difference; they are both deafeningly dark, bitter and rich. They each have that French quality of overwhelming you with a single subtle flavor, a sort of excess of pleasantness. What’s more, the women that work there have that French quality of not giving a fuck that you have somewhere else to be. They seldom have change, and even more seldom offer you to just take a cup and pay they next day. They always seem to be stirring something, or slathering something with butter or shaving cheese on something. Massive silver bowls overflow with blueberries, cream, candied, chocolate-covered orange slices and all sorts of coconut infused madelaines. No wonder they overlook the coffee.
So does everyone else downtown though: it’s remarkably hard to get a good cup of coffee around here. For a few months there was an Ad-hoc coffee shop set up in a bar half a block away, a satellite of a great company (who also send their beans to cafes in New York) and for a month or so it seemed to be busy enough for a place that took fifteen minutes to make a cup of drip coffee for people who have ten minute breaks. There are, however, two Starbucks on either side of the block (always full) and a handful of all purpose bakery-cafes (often full) close by. Then again, tucking a coffee shop inside a downtown bar, at the end of a narrow alley and having baristas with obvious cocaine hangovers probably wasn’t the best idea to begin with. Still, the coffee was great, if short lived.
Now I’m back to wrestling with the ham and Gruyere sandwiches and icy glares. Mostly, though, I make coffee at home.