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  • Michael Krakovskiy 10:31 am on May 18, 2005 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Blue Bottle Clown College, , Coffee in Seattle, , , , ,   

    TT: Planetdoes News 

    While buying coffee at hidden Starbucks I browsed through the little pamphlets that they have next to condiments and stirring sticks (did you notice that they have Splenda now?). What have I learned? Firstly, I learned that a Starbucks grunt’s official title is “hourly partner”. Cordwainer Smith’s rhyme comes to mind : “I need a temporary dog / For a temporary job / On a temporary place / Like Earth!” I kind of collect peculiar corporate job titles, as I’ve mentioned at the end of an earlier Thought Tally.

    Secondly I learned that you can come into any Starbucks and ask for complimentary coffee grounds. As it turns out, coffee grounds make an excellent nitrogen fertilizer for your garden. I wonder if Starbucks coffee is a good fertilizer – it sure tastes that way.

    ***

    Why I drink the Starbucks fertilizer? Because my lunch break is short and Joe’s is in the Village. By the way, recently I’ve learned that there’s another good coffee place called Ninth Street Espresso. I need to pay them a visit.

    ***

    I also need to some other coffee and caffeine news. There’s a new trend in espresso making. The innovative barristas started cutting off the bottoms of portafilters. This lets them notice any minute imperfections in packing of grinds and have outstanding quality control of the extraction. It also looks cool as hell. I am thinking about doing the same with one of my spare portafilters.

    I learned this interesting tidbit because these days there are several outstanding blogs kept by super high quality coffee house operators. There’s Victrola Coffee, Blue Bottle Clown College and Tonx Dot Org. I suggest that you subscribe to their feeds unless you can’t stand heartbreakingly beautiful photos of artisanal caffeinated drinks.

    ***

    In other news I seem to be totally addicted to matcha tea. I got some awesome “thick tea” from Japan and it rocks.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 11:54 am on November 12, 2004 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 212-768-8001, Baku, , Coffee in Seattle, , , , Jewelry, , , , Still Round The Corner There May Wait A Restaurant, , West 47th Street   

    Still Round The Corner There May Wait A Restaurant or a Hidden Starbucks 

    Advertising might be the engine of commerce, but there is a surprising number of NYC businesses are hidden inside skyscrapers with almost no indication of them on the outside.

    For instance, me and my co-workers often go to a Starbucks that is located in a lobby of a skyscraper. There is no sign outside, and inside you need to pass a security guy (who surprisingly lets you through) and turn a corner. I could not believe my eyes – you absolutely had to know where that Starbucks was.

    There is nothing special about our hidden Starbucks, except it is the closest one to us and the lines are usually shorter. They do have an old style La Marzocco machine not yet replaced by the new superautomatics, but the barrista has no idea about how to grind the coffee and tamp it properly. I guess they don’t teach that anymore at Starbucks U.

    There is a more interesting hidden place that we frequent. It’s a restaurant called Taam-Tov (46 West 47th Street, 4th floor 212-768-8001) which happens to be located on the fourth floor of a dumpy and decrepit art deco building in the middle of the Jewelry district on 47th street. To be fair I have to mention that there is a little sign on the step of a staircase that can be seen from outside. But you have to climb 8 flights of stairs, past dirty walls, an exposed phone comm. box and frequent full trash bags. There you will see an unmarked closed door and a small open order window.

    Alternatively you can enter a jewelry store on the first floor and take a tiny little elevator, which will deposit you inside the restaurant. I strongly discourage you from using it.

    Once me and three of my co-workers, one of whom is “portlier” than I am (and I am pretty “portly” myself), two have asthma and only one inhaler, despite my reluctance chose to take that tiny elevator. We let a bunch of people go up before us, waited for the elevator to come back and boarded it. Immediately what seemed to me like three shady looking Russian jewelers squeezed in after us. To my horror I noticed that in fact there was a fourth guy with them, just as sweaty and unshaven, but really short and skinny. Of course we got stuck between the floors and it took me and one of the jewelers few very uncomfortable minutes to figure out how to open the doors. Oh, and I forgot to mention – the co-worker who insisted the most on the elevator was not only slightly asthmatic, but a bit claustrophobic as well.

    Anyway, the place is rather unique. The patrons are mostly jewelers – you might see them exchanging large sums of money and gold or diamonds, but there are a lot of programmers from surrounding offices who also found that place somewhere. Since the place was featured in the last issue of Time Out New York dedicated to cheapest restaurants, there the mix will be a bit more eclectic in the future.

    The cuisine can be described as Middle Eastern/Russian, typical of the Baku region. Everything is cooked on site (in fact I’ve witnessed a small kitchen fire once that was quickly taken under control while everyone continued eating), kosher and very tasty. Shish kabobs are excellent (my favorite is rib kabob), so are soups. Just don’t ask for sour cream for your Borscht – and you can be sure that they don’t use Ukrainian pork fat. Other than that it’s very good. There are good salads, golubtsi, pelmeni, shawarma, etc. They even have kompot – Russian fruit punch and green tea served in small “piala” cups with sugar cubes (for drinking “vprikusku”).

    Over the years I had lunch at Taam Tov with my boss, my boss’ bosses there, my co-workers, three different livejournal users and many other people. And until I’ve read Time Out New York article I did not know that one floor below Taam Tov there’s a second hole in the wall restaurant called Sabor Latino.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 1:54 pm on November 11, 2004 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Coffee in Seattle, , experimental high tech bathrooms, , Public toilets, , , , Tower Records, , Urinal   

    Crouching Tourist, Hidden Bathroom 

    One of the most annoying things about New York and many other American cities is the lack of pubic bathrooms. There are no paid privately ran WCs like in Europe, so tourists mostly rely on McDonalds and Starbucks stores for bathroomage (if it’s not a word, we have the technology to make it one).

    There are a few other esoteric choices like subway bathrooms – despite the popular wisdom that there are none, most terminal stations and big hubs have open bathrooms, which are scary and extremely dirty, but are sometimes functioning. In all of my years in NYC I wasn’t brave enough to actually use one. I have seen a few experimental high tech bathrooms, sort of 24th century port-o-johns around the city. The one that I used once had a five minute time limit after which the doors opened and the floor was automatically cleaned.

    But if you are to experience the NYC’s ultimate hidden, but public bathroom, you need to visit the Trump Tower (725 Fifth Avenue at 56th Street ). There is a doorman next to a set of doors that you can see swung open when an unlucky Apprentice is being expelled, but it’s not going to open for you. You need to enter through revolving doors reserved for regular shmoes. But inside you’ll find a huge pink marble lobby housing a public mall, complete with a multistoried lighted waterfall, Starbucks, Tower Records, a small booth hawking “You are fired” t-shirs and mugs, a bunch of luxury stores, a deli counter and – you guessed it – one of New York’s best public restrooms.

    Almost everything in the building is adorned with a “T” or with Turmp’s “family crest”. I was expected to see it on trashcans and urinals, but I guess The Donald did not want to go that far with branding. Men’s bathroom has grey marble surfaces and is well maintained. I expected it to be more lavish, but it is still better than the rest.

     
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