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One Good Place for Coffee

September 6, 2013

Princeton and I may have gotten off to a rough start. I’m really starting to warm up to the place. And it’s not just because of the coffee, but that one drink I had yesterday afternoon went a long way to making this township a great place to live.

At this point we’ve only been here for four full days. The upside about being in faculty housing and having young children is that we’re already making friends. It’s fascinating to see what people bring with them for a year in a new place. Some folks have come from other countries and bring precious little. Others come from nearby states and can bring more of their possessions.

The professor across the commons schlepped both his gas and charcoal grill from Boston. That’s pretty badass.

I’m looking forward to checking out the natural foods co-op here. Perhaps that’s where I’ll find the good eggs. I tried the small farmers market, but the eggs sold out early. We did get our hands on some local honey. But I’m really missing those sweet potatoes from Quincy Farm. Man, it takes a while to hunt down the good stuff.

Maybe it was luck. Or perhaps it was my order (or the actions I took immediately afterward). But I managed to get a surprisingly good cup of coffee from the espresso machine at Princeton’s Small World Coffee.

It wasn’t listed on the menu, in fact this drink rarely is. But it’s the darling of the coffee cognescenti. Halfway between a macchiato and a cappuccino is a drink called the cortado. Blue Bottle calls it the Gibraltar. A few other places have followed suit.

Anyhow, I was feeling lucky so I thought I’d ask at the counter to see if they could make one. And the answer was yes. They even had the right glass for the drink.

After placing my order, I swung around to the side of the espresso machine where I could see the young barista working. It was a mess. Quite literally, grounds were everywhere. There was far too much pre-grinding and the tamping was all cockeyed.

As my shot was being terribly pulled, a senior barista stepped in, stopped the machine, cleared the doser of the grinder, cleared all of the filter baskets that were locked into their heads, cleaned up the work area, and started my cortado again from scratch (including warming a new glass).

And it was great. Deep, fragrant espresso topped with a perfect amount of silky microfoam. It had a powerful extraction that lingered on the tongue in the best way possible. Not only did it give me the energy to get through the afternoon, but it gave me the great warm and fuzzy feeling that there were people who cared about good coffee here.

That makes me very happy. I just hope that whoever is working the machine next time is as well equipped for the task as the fellow who stepped in to save the day.

Coffee is about people even more than it is about beans and machines. And these people need to understand the importance of sweating the small stuff. Because when it comes to making something incredible, it’s the small stuff that matters most.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. September 6, 2013 10:09 am

    Its funny how one coffee can make all the difference in the world. I had booked onto a via ferrate climbing holiday in Italy. My boyfriend had arrived after travelling for three days by bike. He was so tired. He looked around the camp-site and couldn`t find me. When people are tired strange thoughts crop into their head like demons waiting to pounce. This very intelligent man was starting to get completely irrational and wanted to drive all the way back to England. I took him out for a coffee. It was the most posh coffee I think I had ever had, and arrived in a special silver coffee pot with a price tag to match, but it relaxed my boyfriend, and suddenly the world seemed so much better!

    http://www.countrygardengfits.co.uk

  2. September 6, 2013 10:44 am

    Quincy Farm sweet potatoes are the best. Good luck finding good eggs!

  3. September 6, 2013 12:13 pm

    There’s so much great stuff in Princeton. Of course it has a big box side – NJ is the most densely populated stated in the country! You aren’t in the middle of nowhere. But the farms aren’t far, and I’m looking forward to you exploring the Amish markets too.

  4. September 6, 2013 4:16 pm

    Unrelated to today’s post: would you consider taking over for Cheryl Clark or would you take a guess at the “preferred candidate?”

    http://m.timesunion.com/tu/db_40515/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=41uX8oQT

    The Times Union is mulling options to replace Clark. While there is a preferred candidate, we are interested in hearing from experienced writers with food, wine and restaurant knowledge. If you wish to be considered, send a resumé, short cover letter and no more than five writing samples to me, sbarnes@timesunion.com.

    • September 6, 2013 4:32 pm

      Ha! You will remember that Steve de-listed me from his blog roll. My frank criticism of the region (and the roll of the TU and its reviewing policies) has not made me many friends inside the newsroom.

      I’m disinclined to believe that I’m the “preferred candidate” and if Steve is going to be sorting through the writing samples, I can’t imagine mine would be received seriously. Some people view me like a journalist. Others don’t.

      Anyway, the timing stinks since I’ve just relocated to Princeton for the next ten months. It could be a fun gig, but I do question the actual influence of the reviews on the Capital Region community as a whole.

      • September 6, 2013 5:09 pm

        It could be fun, but I’d be afraid it would interfere with your profile as Prof Fussy, and the editor would probably not be as nice as Mrs Fussy. I just wanted to share the opportunity if you had designs on such a position.

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