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Back Buzz - December 19, 1997

pumping heartvalign=middle> Grateful Bread Baking Company, 425 Queen Anne Avenue North, Lower Queen Anne

When the International House of Pancakes in Lower Queen Anne was remodeled a few years ago and re-opened as a Mexican restaurant, I couldn't resist the temptation to eat enchiladas in an old IHOP, sitting under the distinct arches amidst the gaudy colors in a room with the feel of a drive-in joint gone permanent. But alas: Macheezmo Mouse, Seattle's first "healthy Mexican" chain, was driven out of business by followers of the trend -- with the excellent Taco Del Mar chain emerging as the champion -- and Queen Anne's IHOP lay fallow once again. Just a couple of weeks ago it reopened as the Grateful Bread Baking Company, which offers fresh-baked breads, sandwiches, and espresso drinks. Naturally I had to rush in and experience the second reincarnation.

Actually, this is the second Grateful Bread in Seattle, the first having opened a year or two ago in Ravenna. When a friend told me he'd been hired as a barista at the Ravenna location, I asked if he would be required to wear tie-dyed t-shirts and listen to Jerry Garcia on his shifts. Since his job lasted only one day I never got a reply.

Thus I found myself at the second Grateful Bread, here in the midst of decent-coffeehouse-inundated Lower Queen Anne, just kitty-corner from Dick's Drive-In (with the wonderfully underpunctuated "DICKS" painted across the parking lot entrance). Safely inside Grateful Bread -- and away from the chronic stench of Dick's greasy French fryer -- I ordered a double short dry cappuccino and seated myself at a table under a spotlight so intense I half-expected to be grilled by some hard-boiled detective -- or at least a disgruntled fry cook.

The coffee took me by surprise. It's Kalani, an organic coffee roasted locally. I've been eager to try organic coffee because it's grown in the shade instead of in direct sun like all the high-yield coffee crops. The shade method helps preserve the trees which are routinely cleared away by the larger coffee producers, thereby helping to delay the destruction of the world's rain forests and the extinction of several species. So it's just something more to feel good about -- or one thing less to feel guilty about -- while you're getting your daily buzz. Kalani also makes a variety of black and herbal teas.

But back to that surprise: Kalani coffee is actually quite excellent! My shots were full-bodied, robust, and so fresh they tasted as if the beans had been roasted moments ago. I can almost excuse the lack of a proper demitasse spoon and the tall, skinny coffee cup my short drink was served in, as well as those hideously glaring lights. I would expect Grateful Bread's food to be pretty good, too; a recent test of their Kalamata olive and rosemary loaf proved quite satisfying.

I apologize to all the Deadheads out there, close personal friends included; but I was quite relieved my cappuccino was not accompanied by Grateful Dead music. I can't say much for the music that was playing, however. It seemed to be more of that wallpaper starch, the '90s successor to elevator music -- i.e. lots of irritating stuff mixed with an occasional tolerable song. But considering the close proximity to the Christmas (or Xmess, as I prefer to call it) holiday, I guess I can be thankful it wasn't Christmas music. Did the Grateful Dead ever put out a Christmas album? I know there are Grateful Dead copy bands; what about a Jerry Garcia Christmas Choir? The fine performance by the Seattle Cacophony Society's Bob Dylan Holiday Choir a couple of weeks ago in Westlake Park is still with me: the dulcet tones of an entire chorus of Bob Dylans crooning "Winter Wonderland," "Let It Snow," and "Frosty the Snowman" was just too wonderful for words.

Ah, yes, Xmess music is everywhere now. It brings to mind a carol I penned a year or two ago, as follows (sung to the tune of "Sleighride"):

I hear those trash trucks jangling, jackhammers bang in my head,
Here comes the UPS man with those fruitcakes that we all dread.
And all those postal workers, they snap as they sort through the shelves,
They're gonna shoot co-workers and then turn their guns on themselves.

(whistle the bridge)

And now those Christmas carolers bang, bang, bang on my door
To sing those cheerful carols that we with taste all abhor.
And if I hear that drummer-boy song once more I will scream
And tear my eyeballs out of my head, if you know what I mean...

In the holiday spirit I think I'll leave you with not one but two e-mail exchanges. Every year at this time, in the spirit of the Winter Solstice, I bake up a ton of traditional Winter Solstice Cookies to give to friends. Following is a conversation with one of my Bay Area friends about a problem I ran into last year:

I just finished making my Winter cookies last Sunday. While I was sorting nine different batches of cookies onto plates and into boxes, I was making a new version of these truffles I made last year which were quite good. This year I wanted to somehow incorporate alcohol into the deeply dark chocolate interiors. So I divided the mixture in half; to one half I added several tablespoons of Remy Martin Cognac, and to the other several tablespoons of Myers's Rum. I figured to compensate for the extra liquid I'd simply need to chill the mixture longer.

So I formed the balls and stuck them in the freezer. A little while later I melted the dipping chocolate, took out the rum balls, and dipped them, making perfect little round truffles. Then I took out the cognac balls; for some reason they were a lot softer and runnier, and they would sort of spread out and wander off as I dipped them in the chocolate. When I finished with the dipping I attempted to spot-touch the mangled-looking truffles with a spoon dipped in the chocolate. I ended up with a tray of wildly splattered and misshapen truffles.

I'm calling these truffles my Myers's Rum Truffles and my Exploding Cognac Truffles, made with a rare form of cognac from the Dordogne Region of France which explodes upon contact with infrared rays. Or something. Anyway, that's my story and I'm sticking with it.

Alcohol doesn't freeze. Maybe cognac contains more alcohol than rum. Check the labels and let me know...

The cognac and the rum are both 40 percent alcohol. Could it have something to do with the climate in which they're both distilled? Since the rum is made in sunny warm Jamaica, perhaps its alcohol content has less defense against freezing than the cognac's French alcohol.

A funny theory...

After baking ten batches of cookies and one batch of truffles, my kitchen floor always ends up quite dirty, coated with a fine, slippery layer of flour among other things I'd rather not investigate too closely. On the subject of cleaning floors, here's a more recent exchange with my other Bay Area friend:

This weekend I scrubbed and polished my kitchen floor. I thought it was no longer necessary in this post-Ozzie-and-Harriet age (or even possible with my deteriorated floor); but last week when my friend Walt mentioned the possibility of Mop 'N' Glo to deal with the dull mark left on his floor by a five-gallon bottle of warm beer wort, I was charged with the possibilities.

The result isn't a very even shine, but it is a shine nonetheless. The remaining problem is the areas where chunks of tile have actually broken away.

So did you use Mop 'N' Glo on your floor, or did you use something else?

I used to use Mop 'N' Glo all the time until we moved to Seattle. I'd been perfectly happy with the Mop 'N' Glo; but for some reason I didn't buy anything special for the old tile floors up here and just used a sponge and Simple Green, which dries to a fairly dull finish.

When I was recovering from surgery a few years ago and my mother flew up to take care of me, she went out and bought a rag mop and some Mop 'N' Glo, among a million other household items. Since I was high on Tylox and codeine I didn't pay much attention to what she did around here. When she finally left, though, I kept noticing this faint smell that reminded me of puppy diarrhea. Then when my friend Eileen visited me a couple of weeks later, she insisted on mopping my floors while I took a violet bubble bath. And once again -- after the violets faded -- I noticed the faint smell of puppy diarrhea.

It wasn't until I actually used the Mop 'N' Glo myself (in an attempt to make my floors shiny) that I realized it smelled disgusting, and when the smell faded a bit it smelled just like puppy diarrhea. It never smelled this way when I used it in California. Either they changed the formula somewhere between September 1990 and October 1992, or they market a much more disgusting version of the stuff in the Pacific Northwest.

Do you use the stuff? Does it smell like puppy diarrhea? Or do you use something else? Or what?

No, I forgot to mention, I'm disinclined to purchase any product with the offensive 'N' in its name. When I saw the dull-colored bottle and uninteresting graphics of Mop 'N' Glo, I was immediately lured toward Future acrylic polish in its transparent bottle, whose instructions -- printed on the back of the label and visible through the product -- were basically the same.

When I let loose with the first squirt, I was surprised how strong was the aroma of Future. Fortunately, it did not seem unpleasant to me, but strongly reminiscent of something. Of what? My brain is often at a loss to translate smells into words. It must be a combination of things. Perhaps fresh plum and ethyl ether. That would explain why, as I just went to the kitchen to take a sniff, I had the urge to go on sniffing and sniffing. I thought of Citizen Ruth, spraying compounds into a paper bag and hyperventilating until she was green in the face. (I suppose that was due to the fact that she was inhaling patio sealant, which was green.) Now I have a sudden urge to sleep.

Once the Future dried, it didn't have much of a lingering odor. (But then we know from scratching and sniffing that men don't detect the range of scents that women do.)

You've convinced me: I'll get some Future and spread it on my floors! I love that urge to sniff and sniff and sniff and sniff...it must be related to the urge to scratch and sniff and scratch and sniff, or possibly even to scratch and scratch and scratch and scratch. I guess even if Mop 'N' Glo smelled good the most I could hope for would be to sniff 'n' sniff 'n' sniff 'n' sniff, and there's only so many 'N's one can stuff up one's nose at the same time.