Thursday, September 28, 2006

Espresso Love Lost

Six months ago, the unspeakable happened. Our favorite espresso joint got rid of their old-school La Marzocco espresso maker and replaced it with some weenie high-tech low-taste push-button model.

Our lives may never be the same.

Espresso from the old machine was rich, creamy, almost chocolaty in texture and talk about a kick! A triple tall Americano with no room—three shots of espresso and water, black—would launch me from zero to 60 in six sips or less. Espresso (they have the nerve to call it that) from the push-button machine delivers about as much giddyup as an ’85 rusted-out Yugo firing on one-and-a-half cylinders.

Yea, I know what you’re thinking. There’re cleverly named espresso joints on every corner in the Puget Sound area—Coffee Grounds, Espresso Yourself, Brewed Awakening, etc. Espresso stands are about as hard to find around here as tattoos on Railroad Avenue. Can’t twe just go somewhere else?

No. We can’t.

You see, what our formerly favorite espresso place did by switching machines was so much worse than just leave us bereft of good strong morning espresso. They stole our routine. Took our morning ritual and ripped it to shreds.

Our morning ritual was thus: on the way home from her early-morning gym workout, my wife would stop at said emporium and pick up a sesame bagel for her, a poppy seed muffin for me, and two cups of what can only be described as 100 percent pure-grade ambrosia. Triple tall, no-room Americanos. Simple yet sublime.

Many were the nights I put head to pillow, a smile on my face as I imagined the taste bud explosion I’d be greeted with in eight hours. My muffin was a pleasant prologue to the true showstopper, the espresso elixir that would jolt me into consciousness and make all of life seem like one golden opportunity after another.

Now though, we’re spit out of luck.

When the old place first went the push-button route, we felt hurt, as if we’d been dumped by a lover. Our reaction was to deny our reliance on espresso and caffeine. We swore off anything with caffeine in it—not just espresso, but coffee, Coke, chocolate, coffee cake. (That last one probably wasn’t necessary.) Caffeine was a crutch, we realized, and once we’d banished it, our lives were immediately so much richer.

That lasted ‘til about 11:30, maybe 11:35, that first morning.

Next, we found ourselves caught up in a rebound relationship. Someone had turned us on to the wonder that is the espresso peanut butter milkshake and though the purveyor wasn’t exactly conveniently located, we somehow managed to fit it into our morning routine. Two weeks later and 13 and 17 pounds heavier, my wife and I realized that wasn’t a good idea.

Then we got desperate. We shelled out half a grand for a home espresso machine. But it’s not the same. It’s like the home version of Hollywood Squares; it just ain’t as good as the original. Besides, making your own espresso requires—oh, what’s that thing called that I have absolutely no aptitude for early in the morning? oh yeah—effort.

So, here we are most mornings, $500 poorer, yawning as we shuffle along, wandering bleary-eyed from Bend to Bellingham in search of a place with an old-school La Marzocco espresso maker and that fits our morning ritual requirements—muffin, bagel, espresso of the gods.

Always searching … always shuffling … always yawning …

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