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Back Buzz - May 17, 2003

pumping heartRemo's, 259 Fullwood Road, Broomhill, Sheffield, South Yorkshire

As this is my first coffee review since I've returned to the UK from the Pacific Coast, I was a bit worried about what I might find after being spoiled on the espresso culture of Los Angeles and San Francisco. But my concerns were unfounded: in the heart of the university area of Sheffield I've found a true coffeehouse! Remo's, a small cafe on a busy road in Broomhill, has a distinctly Italian feel to it, from the Ferrari poster on the wall to the Italian radio station which was playing when I visited. And they serve LaVazza coffee as well. It's obviously a hangout for local espresso drinkers, as the barista seemed to know a lot of the customers by name.

There are two rooms at Remo's: the tiny front room and a roomier no-smoking back room. Since there was nothing much going on in the back room except for a business meeting between two people I managed to slip myself into the last available space in the front room, wedged tightly next to three oblivious women, each permanently attached to their respective mobiles. The friendly barista brought me my single macchiato in a pretty little LaVazza cup. My drink was capped with a lovely head of foam marked with the hint of a rosetta. And the shot of espresso was very pleasing -- a bit smooth for my tastes but perfectly done, which filled me with much-needed hope.

The bar along the front window in Remo's looks like the best place to sit (if there's room) and enjoy the view across the street of lovely Yorkshire stone buildings which house rather nonromantic businesses like NatWest and the Taptonville Dentistry Practice -- and all framed by lush rain-happy trees. The Broomhill area of Sheffield started life as Crookesmoore Racecourse back in the 18th century. When William Newbould built a house on the site he named it Broomhill simply because it was the first house above Broomhall and it was on a hill. Sitting at the window of Remo's you can also watch the traffic go by on this impossible-to-walk-across part of Fulwood Road. Call me an ignorant American, but I can never figure out how to cross at this particular point. I eventually give up, turn into a chicken, and walk down the road to the traffic lights -- which answers the eternal question "Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to Remo's."

Halfway down through my macchiato the rosette was still there: a white heart nestled into the tan crema. Ah yes, hope and love make for a very good theme. I love my coffee, and I hope I can make it back across the street without disaster...

Speaking of possible disasters reminds me of my Worst Case Scenario daily calendar and of a related e-mail exchange with my Bay Area friend:

I'd forgotten to check the Worst Case Scenario advice for the day. Although it may be a bit late, I'm sure the advice could come in handy any day:

1. Hold on tight to the saddle with your hands and thighs.

2. Sit up in the saddle as much as you can.

3. Alternately tug and release the reins with a medium pressure.

4. Wait for the horse to stop.

(No, it's not that! It's "How To Stop A Runaway Horse".) While driving in city traffic I often contemplate the Worst Case Scenario advice on preparing to be struck by a out-of-control SUV piloted by someone talking on a cell phone while you're waiting at a stoplight. Should you take your foot off the brake to let your car move freely after the impact? Or press down hard on the brake pedal to minimize the acceleration and risk of whiplash?

You should press the brake gently but firmly while swimming sideways until you find yourself out of range of the riptide's current. At this point you should build a cave in the snow, use the last fuel in your lighter to ignite whatever catsup packets you still have, and then jump the fence, being careful to clear the barbed wire, to avoid being rear-ended.