CoffeeBeer >> Double Shot Buzz >> Previous Coffee Columns >> 2 Cafes in Oregon

Back Buzz - November 16, 2007

pumping heart The Bagel Tree, 228 Northeast Jackson Street, Roseburg, Oregon

pumping heart Water Street Cafe & Espresso Bar and Open Air Dining, 60 North Main, Ashland, Oregon

I start this column with an intense feeling of déjà-vu. I could swear I wrote this column before, some time recently. Is this a result of all the stress I've endured recently? No, actually, I did write this column before. It was just last week, jotted down by hand during my lunch break at work. And then, on the last day of an impressively dreadful week, I discovered I'd lost it, along with the necklace of stones my mama gave me when I was 16. That night Little Buddha, who often hangs from one of my ears opposite his partner Wee Skull, broke.

But enough about my concerns; let's talk about yours. If you read my columns regularly you may be wondering how I managed to jump all the way from Orkney, north of the Scottish mainland, over to the Pacific Coast of America. Or perhaps you're not wondering at all, as you probably have much more important and relevant things to wonder about. In that case, I'll just wonder on my own...

But in case anybody is wondering I'll explain. After a week's holiday in the Orkney Islands I was obliged to attend to my personal effects still in storage in America. So I flew into Seattle where my Bay Area friend Mistah Rick met me. Then we hired a van, loaded up my worldly possessions, and took off on a 3-day 1100-mile road trip down to my mother's house in Southern California. So naturally, because both of us are people who require caffeine and breakfast in the morning, we had a good excuse to try some enroute cafes.

We spent our first night in the town of Roseburg, situated in southwest Oregon on the eastern shore of the Umpqua River. Named after 19th-century settler Aaron Rose, the town was an agricultural centre as well as a terminal on the Portland-to-Sacramento stagecoach line. Coincidentally there is a connection with Orkney in that the Hudson Bay Company, which recruited a large number of Orcadians in the 18th century, came to the Roseburg area for the purpose of trapping fur and trading with the natives.

In the morning before setting off for California we stopped for breakfast at the Bagel Tree. This casual cafe features a wide choice of freshly baked bagels, from traditional onion and cinnamon-raisin to jalapeño cheddar, as well as cream cheeses and fillings. Although the espresso drinks are served in take-away cups only, the manager is very serious about his coffee and the training of his staff. While we were there he showed a young man how to make a proper double macchiato and single short cappuccino, and they were both perfectly done. He told us he was in the process of organising professional training for his staff as well. The beans are from Cafe Ernesto, a small roaster in Eugene formerly called Caffe Bonito. What a surprising find: good espresso in a Southern Oregon town famous for agriculture and stagecoaches. As we were leaving the manager told us the best way to get back onto Interstate 5, cautioning us to watch out for the oily tarmac.

Safely manoeuvring our 16-foot Budget truck onto I-5, we were on our way again. By the time we reached the Rogue Valley at the bottom of Oregon we felt a hankering for a leg stretch and another shot of caffeine. So we pulled off into the town of Ashland. Named in the mid-19th century after Ashland County, Ohio, this town is well known for its annual Shakespeare Festival which has been staged since 1935. It currently runs from March through October each year and features Shakespeare productions at three theatres.

We parked our truck by Ashland Creek and took a stroll, enjoying the scenery and taking in the gorgeous smell of the surrounding evergreen forests. At the corner of Main and Water Street we stopped for coffee at the Water Street Cafe, which is basically an elaborate espresso cart incorporating an open-air bar and an umbrella-tabled patio area off to the side. We ordered dry cappuccinos and sat at the bar enjoying the view of Ashland Creek Bridge and an old faded mural on the side of a building. Linkin Park was blasting from the stereo and the locals were speaking in that subtle Pacific Northwest drawl, which was strange, as the ones who didn't live in nearby Corvallis apparently lived in Phoenix. Ah, of course, they're talking about Phoenix, Oregon, not that other one.

Our cappuccinos, made with Peet's Coffee, were served in what appeared to be Dixie Styrofoam cups but which were actually made out of paper. Very clever idea. Sadly our "dry" cappuccinos had way too much milk in them and they were too hot to drink -- hence the need for the insulated cups. We sat waiting patiently for our drinks to cool, kicking our legs like toddlers because our stools had no footrests. Unfortunately we knew that if our drinks ever cooled down enough to drink they would taste scalded -- if we could still taste anything, that is, after blistering our tongues on our first sip. According to a posted testimonial, domestic goddess and ex-con Martha Stewart had stopped at the cafe a mere two weeks earlier and had enjoyed her cappuccino. Perhaps she has a lead-lined mouth.

Speaking of lead-lined home decor experts brings to mind a recent completely unrelated and somewhat convoluted e-mail conversation with a workmate:

I'd like to talk to you now about industrial solvents, but apparently I'm prohibited from doing this as part of the terms of my current anti-social behaviour order. I'm not really sure why I bought it, now. My old one still had plenty of wear in it. But you know how it is... you see it there in the shop, looking all cute and cuddly, and you think go on then, not least because they're giving away a free youth curfew with every purchase. Not that I have much use for a youth curfew. There aren't any youths around here to curfew. When I was in the shop I thought it said "young curlew" and I was a bit disappointed once I'd got it home. I thought it'd be just the thing to keep my adolescent bittern company. Although on further research I find that curlews actually have very poor management skills so I got off lightly there. If you want a bird to manage your heron exporting franchise then apparently the ibis is your best bet. Something for me to consider next time I'm shopping. Just make sure you don't have too many oyster catchers on the phone lines. They tend to put off prospective clients with their constant cries of "BLEEP! BLEEP! BLEEP!"

The upshot of all this is that I am not allowed to play outside or wear a hooded top. So that open air performance of Little Red Riding Hood I was signed up to lead looks like it'll have to be postponed. Perhaps for the best, as I was having difficulty remembering my lines. Who could ever forget those lines? Let me see how well I do:

"My my, Grandmother, what big cuticles you have!"

"Golly Gee, Grandmother, what a huge thymus you have!"

"Gadzooks, Grandmother, what a protruding coccyx you have!"

It always troubled me that Hood couldn't distinguish her grandmother from a wolf in a nightie. Did she have bad eyesight, or did her gran just look a bit wolfy? And sound a bit wolfy, too, one assumes, unless, as per that other wolf-transvestism fairy tale: the Seven Little Kids, the wolf had swallowed some chalk to make his voice softer. My mother's got terrible eyesight, what with her macular degeneration and all. I gave up trying to convince her that her new "dog" Winnie is actually a capybara.

What the wolf teaches us most of all, of course, is that we should always swallow our food whole. Who knows what predicament would befall dear wolfy had he chewed his meals? In both tales the victims are released from the wolf via an incision to his stomach, and in Seven Little Kids at least, the wolf is able to survive this operation. Had he masticated, he may not so readily have been spared by the avenger. Vital survival skill, there. I've found that if you don't chew your food properly you're likely to suffer from gas. Considering the new heater in my local pub's "smoking lounge" (ie. garden) uses up a gas canister every 2 to 3 days, perhaps the landlord should invest in some wolves and bottle his own wolf-gas. I suppose it'd be more harmful to the environment, but who knows until somebody tries it?

What we also take from this is that the stomach of the wolf can expand to epic proportions. It can accommodate at least seven immature goats or a girl and her grandmother (and in some renderings the lumberjack also). But reader be warned, the nightie hangs less pleasingly on such a paunch. Damn, it's a good thing Winnie isn't a wolf, 'cause it would cost my mother a fortune to feed her!