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Back Buzz - May 16, 2005

pumping heart Spago Restaurant, 13-15 Osborne Road, Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne & Wear

As this is a coffee column I don't usually write about restaurants. But occasionally a restaurant serves such great espresso that it deserves to be written about. We discovered the culinary as well as caffeinated joys of Spago when we stayed at the Osborne Hotel during a visit to Newcastle. The restaurant, which is next door to the hotel, is connected by a door to the hotel's bar. As we had spent a long day out with friends the idea of having our evening meal so close to our room sounded appealing.

And what a great choice it was! After a drink in the hotel we adjourned to the restaurant where we were seated at a table near the front. Surrounded by Art Deco portraits of vaguely familiar people with slight touches of Cubism, we enjoyed a great meal. I had an excellent starter, calamari piccante, followed by an absolutely exquisite pesce spada. For dessert we had espressos accompanied by shots of Drambuie. The espresso, made with Saicafé Coffee, was well made and came right to the pleasantly curved point: a perfect ending to a delicious meal. It's impressive how a good strong espresso after a late evening meal can really set off a good liqueur. It was a bit of Italian heaven in the middle of Geordieland.

Although Spago isn't open to the public for breakfast it does open at noon, which seems like a good excuse to stop in for an early afternoon espresso -- accompanied by a fine lunch, of course. And the staff are friendly and I could look at those paintings for hours.

Speaking of popular art reminds me of an e-mail conversation with my Bay Area friend about t-shirt labels and the sometimes Cubist art of dressing:

I keep reading about people complaining about irritating labels in the backs of their t-shirts. Because of this Hanes is planning to screenprint its labels into its t-shirts, thereby removing the need for any sort of physical label. This sounds like a terrible idea to me, seeing as how I always determine which is the front and which is the back of my t-shirt by quickly checking where the label is located. I suppose I could adjust to looking for a screenprinted label instead, but it wouldn't always work.

I'm reminded of the time years ago in Seattle when I got up at 7:00am on a winter's morning. Remember that, as opposed to where you live in California, in Seattle in winter it's still pitch-dark outside at 7:00am. I put on my bikini panties and my bra, and then my longjohns and a t-shirt for layering, and then a sweater and jeans and socks, and I was ready to go. I noticed during breakfast I felt a little strange and decided the elastic was probably wearing out on that particular pair of undies.

It wasn't until I was downtown and was having trouble walking without my underwear chafing my crack that I discovered what the problem was. When I went into the restroom to check, I discovered I'd put my underpants on not backwards, not inside-out, but sideways! And the thing that was chafing me was the label, which was not on the side but on the bottom, sticking up into..., well, not wanting to peel off all those layers of clothing I took out my Swiss Army Knife and sliced off the label so I could continue through my day without screaming.

So if Hanes goes through with this plan, how many northern-latitude t-shirt wearers will discover, later on those winter days when the sun finally rises, that they put on their t-shirt backwards or inside out or even sideways?

Perhaps this will create a whole new fashion...

I agree that it's a bad idea for Hanes to manufacture t-shirts without label tags. I've only rarely encountered an irritating label, and, by comparison, I found it far more irritating when a thermal undershirt lost its tag, making it quite difficult to tell front from back without putting it on. Someone should project the late arrivals and lost productivity that will occur when people have to puzzle over their t-shirts in the morning and possibly re-dress after putting them on backwards. Why not make a removable tag (with a warning like "NOT TO BE REMOVED UNDER PENALTY OF LAW EXCEPT BY PURCHASER") and let people decide for themselves?

Yes, of course! This would make t-shirts feel a bit more dangerous as well, empowering the adolescent wearer with the right to prosecute to the full extent of the law any meddling mothers who might want to fool around with their clothes while they're in the laundry.