CoffeeBeer >> Double Shot Buzz >> Previous Coffee Columns >> Counter Culture Cafe

Back Buzz - November 6, 1998

Counter Culture Café, 2219 Second Avenue, Belltown

From outside and inside the Counter Culture Café suggests a real neighborhood place. Outside it's situated on one of the more interesting blocks of Belltown, with the Crocodile Cafe and Mama's Mexican Kitchen across the street and some of Seattle's more colorful street people just around the corner. The cafe inside is irresistably neighborly, from the friends of the barista who stop in at regular intervals to the grandmotherly person working in the back, not to mention the wheezing, belching old lady in stocking cap who jiggles her foot nervously while she sips her latte. The cafe is very small inside, a cozy living room with textured yellow walls, a couch and coffee table here, two inviting easy chairs at another coffee table over there, and two more comfy chairs against that wall -- oh yeah, and don't forget the 1950s yellow diner table over on that wall. In the remaining spaces are bookshelves full of books, newspapers and magazines strewn about and, most importantly, a small statue of Rodin's The Thinker watching over everything. (And, like all inviting living rooms, no goddamn TV!) Simple still life paintings hang on the wall, a paper lantern decorates one corner, and everything seems perfectly set in a rough room which looks like somebody's bohemian uncle's combination home and coffeehouse. In fact, there's a door Grandma keeps going in and out of that looks like it leads to where Uncle John must live. (Uncle John was my most Bohemian uncle when I was growing up, but he's gone now, as are all my uncles except for my famous Uncle Tom, the Bay Area's resident globetrotting blacksmithing contra-dancing birdwatching kilt-wearing trainchasing necropolis-roving industrial archaeologist, renegade heating and refrigeration engineer, and accordion aficionado -- in other words, sort of a Harry Tuttle meets John James Audubon with a touch of Casey Jones and John Waters thrown in. But I suppose everybody has an uncle like this, don't they? Well, don't they?)

My double short cappuccino was served in a beautiful shiny black cup, a bit on the large side but so nicely shiny and black I'll excuse the oversize. It was sitting on a matching shiny black saucer and was accompanied by a nice demitasse spoon. Yes, a spoon! So many cafes have been missing this important espresso accessory, I'd almost come to think of it as an expected oversight. So what a pleasure to once again find a place that offers a tiny spoon with one's cappuccino. The dryish bubbly foam looks so intensely white in the black cup, it's as if it were bleached. The espresso itself isn't the best -- strong enough, it seems, but a bit on the sour side. Ah, well, can't have everything. Counter Culture also serves pastries and breakfast along with a few sandwiches. (I couldn't help noticing the grilled cheese sandwich on the menu -- sounds really good right now!)

Ah, I just noticed there, among the floral still lifes on the wall, a painting of a pumpkin -- a small, mysterious pumpkin with an interesting history, a secret, dark past. Do pumpkins have private lives? Do gourds in general? I'll bet a 100-pound acorn squash has a lot of stories to tell...

I can't believe how comfortable and cozy Counter Culture is. On this visit it was a bit overheated; but it was a particular cold day, and I was wearing a lightweight top under a warm coat, so I felt perfect -- in fact, I could have stayed in there forever, sleeping in my soft, comfy easy chair. I liked the barista, too; she put out some leftover Halloween candy and was complaining that she hates chocolate -- "it tastes like crap!" My sentiments exactly in regards to milk chocolate. And then she said she likes only good chocolate, which obviously would be the wonderfully dark, bittersweet stuff. Yes, I agree! (Sorry, you milk chocolate junkies, but I just can't say anything kind about that, um, stuff...)

Sitting in this living room makes me want to go in the kitchen and make myself a snack. How about one of those grilled cheese sandwiches? Or maybe a bowl of cereal? Speaking of which, here's more e-mail from earlier this year about cereal:

A couple weeks ago, in the interest of broadening my cereal horizons, I decided to add a box of Oatios to our morning selection. I went to Rainbow Grocery with the original intention of buying some Kamutios (pronounced, wonderfully enough, Kah-MOOT-eeohs). But when I read the ingredients they sounded like they might be a bit sweet. So I went for the Oatios.

New Morning Oatios come in several different flavors which are advertised on the back of the box. The one which immediately caught my attention is their Certified Organic Whole Grain Chocolate Frosted Oatios. Sounds good, doesn't it? Perhaps we'll start seeing things like Hostess Certified Organic High-Fiber Multi-Grain Twinkies. Or how about Pepsi-Cola, Sweetened with 100% Certified Organic Corn Sugar Syrup? Or Nabisco Ritz Crackers, Made With 100% Certified Organic Miller's Processed Wheat and Free-Range Vegetable Fat?

By the way, the Oatios are fun, but I may try the Kamutios next time.

I have long ignored the toroid cereals--even the organic ones--because I got the impression they were all oversweetened. Do they offer all those exotic grains in o-form? Can we get Speltios, for instance? And Milletios, of course, for those candida sufferers. How about TwelveGrainios? If they flattened and perforated Perky's Nutty Rice, would it be called "Perkios"? Could one make cereal from high protein legumes or nuts? We might see Soyos (good palindrome material, but it might be confused with the Russian space mission). Or perhaps Pignolios.

The English would probably want something a little meatier, like Kidneyios.

But why limit ourselves to just naming cereals for the ingredients? Why not name them for weather patterns in effect when they hit the market, such as El Niñios, or world leaders who prefer them for breakfast, such as Clintonios (fish-flavored, of course, and not to be inhaled) or Yeltsinios (serve with vodka). Those ever-feuding leaders in the Balkans would benefit from having a few vowels appended to their names, but it would still be a challenge to go to the market and ask for Milosevicios, Karadzicios, or Izetbegovicios. And beware if you accidentally pour two different ones in the bowl at the same time!

Fortified cereals could be named for their dominant vitamin or mineral. For instance, a sailor could avoid scurvy while shipboard for long periods by eating a bowl of C-ios. (Although the pronunciation sounds more like power food for top executives.) Those odd people who need to stay alert but don't like the taste of coffee could guzzle Caffeineios. You could get your minute daily dose of arsenic from Arsenios. (Or has that been taken?) The top-selling cure-alls of today could be delivered as echinaceaios or St. John's Wortios. And the Justice Department might be more lenient about letting pot buyer clubs administer medication to their cancer and AIDS patients in the form of Cannabisios.

I have a feeling that we have not yet begun to scratch the surface of possibilities.

Speaking of arsenic, while searching the web for "homeopathic cold remedies" I found the following: "In extremely small, often submolecular doses, arsenic is so safe that the FDA allows such homeopathic doses without a prescription. To benefit from arsenic, you will have a burning, nasal discharge which will tend to irritate the skin under the nose and on the upper lip. Your mouth will be dry accompanied by thirst." But how can one administer a "submolecular dose" of anything -- whether it is a compound or a primary element, like arsenic?

Makes me wonder if you can poison yourself by eating too many isolated electrons or neutrons. There may be a whole world of submolecular pharmacology out there.

Can you become bioluminescent if you eat too many isolated photons? And considering the extremely temporal nature of photons -- what is it, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle? -- would that make your bioluminescence randomly true and false, therefore unable to prove? Would you blink on and off like a defective neon light, only a zillion times faster?

If you overdosed a cat on isolated protons and placed it in a Schroedinger box, just what would this prove?