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Back Buzz - February 3, 2008

pumping heartEuro Coffee & Häagen-Dazs, Tom Bradley International Terminal, Los Angeles International Airport, California

As you can tell by my last few columns, when I was in America this past summer my friend Mistah Rick and I tasted some decent espressos on our way down the Pacific Coast. When we reached our final destination of Long Beach, California, I was looking forward to checking out the local coffeehouse scene. Sadly, as I spent most of my 2-week visit slaving away in my mother's garage, I never had the chance to go espresso hunting, having to content myself with strong cafetieres of It's A Grind Italian Roast in the comfort of my mother's solarium.

I flew back to the UK from Los Angeles International Airport early on a Wednesday morning. Knowing how bad the coffee was likely to be on my flight, when we arrived at the airport I insisted we kill part of my 3-hour wait over a leisurely espresso.

Having started life in 1928 as a military facility, LAX now consists of nine terminals laid out in a horseshoe pattern with the Tom Bradley International Terminal at the top and 8 car parks in the centre. Ninety airlines fly in and out of this international hub. This is why it was a bit surprising that at 7:30 on a weekday morning both Terminal 3 and the International Terminal were empty, with most of the cafes and concessions closed. As a result the only espresso that was available was from Euro Coffee & Häagen-Dazs , located upstairs in the International Terminal just behind the central lobby.

Considering I had no choice, I would say my medium macchiato was okay but quite acidic, and Ann's tall cappuccino was a bit insipid. But my plain croissant holds the distinction of being the worst plain croissant I have ever experienced in an airport. And that's saying a lot, considering it is my custom to have a croissant with my coffee whenever I'm spending any amount of time at an airport. This "croissant" was rubbery and completely devoid of any trace of flavour. I wondered about the grease on my fingers: it certainly couldn't be butter. Could it be motor oil? Not only was the croissant rubbery but at $2.29 it was robbery as well.

Considering I know I can get a good espresso at many other airports including Gatwick (Costa and Starbucks), Manchester (Costa and Starbucks), Seattle-Tacoma (Starbucks and SBC), San Francisco (Peet's), Chicago (Starbucks), Philadelphia (Quaker, Au Bon Pain, Jazz & Java), Dallas-Fort Worth (Starbucks), and Newark (Caffe Ritazza, Starbucks, Seattle's Best), I am hoping and praying that LAX, gateway to a metropolis with many quality coffeehouses, offers at least one place somewhere in its horseshoe where one can get a decent espresso. All I can say is that Euro Coffee certainly ain't it.

Oh, and one more complaint: as I had to bring my own food on the domestic leg of my flight, I forked out $7.99 for a Euro Coffee tomato mozzarella sandwich. When I consumed it later my whole being became imbued with an ersatz "Mediterranean herb" stench for the remainder of my flight, both stubbornly lodged under my fingernails and belching its way back up my throat.

I will admit we didn't try any of Euro Coffee's ice cream, and I've always enjoyed Häagen-Dazs. Perhaps they should just shorten their name to Häagen-Dazs and abandon everything else...

Speaking of disappointing coffee and food reminds me of a recent short e-mail exchange with a workmate about the New Year:

So it is 2008. It started being 2008 at around midnight the other day, when I helped one of my friends fit a new light and then drank some stout. It was not the wildest ever New Year I've seen in. It was adequate for someone recovering from a bad cold. So it is. 2008.

My New Year's Eve was one of the most uncelebrated I've had since I've been an adult. I went to the pub for a couple of teatime pints. Then home, where I had a small bit of buttered French bread for my evening meal and a glass of wine. Since I didn't feel like partying I fully intended to stay up and see in the New Year with Jools Holland. At approximately 11:50 I ran upstairs and threw up, which is a good thing because then I felt like drinking some of my wine at midnight. Yes, it is 2008. Well, give it another nine days to be completely sure. But yes. It certainly says it is on the calendar. Read backwards it seems to say BOOZ. Dunno if that's an imperative...

Booz. Yes, I noticed that the other night when I lost my balance and fell over onto my head. Does that mean we should be drinking more this year? Read on its side, it appears to read NO ZERO INFINITY. Whatever that might mean.

And we should be drinking more but taking less E, I think.