[Ed.: Today’s guest blogger is Rumon, a Victoria based beverage aficionado (amongst many other things!). Rumon’s currently raising money for Movember – i.e. prostrate cancer research. Please support him and this worthy cause by donating or joining the Mo’ Pho Challenge. Thanks!]

It’s an odd and presumptively idiotic thing to wish a hangover on oneself.  Nonetheless, here I am, stone cold sober and without a chill, sweat, ache or bit of nausea to complain of and … complaining.  Because really, if one’s going to properly celebrate – in coordination – the National Days of Cappuccino and Harvey Wallbanger – one really should feel like they’ve been run over by a dump truck the night before.  No such luck.

Hell, not only was I not hung over today, I think I got my Order of Operations Consumption backwards.  But more on that in a minute, after the jump.


Cappuccino

 

Let me start by making clear that that 16 oz bucket of luke-warm skim milk and assembly-line-espresso in a white paper to-go cup with a pretty green mermaid on it is not a cappuccino.  Sorry.  And, yes, I should likely disclaim off the hop that I’m recently back from Italy and riding a little high on my self-righteous-cappuccino horse (it’s a white horse with a chestnut mane and tail).  But you’ll forgive me if you too have visited Italy as a trip across your taste buds and you’ll understand how upon my return I found myself reflecting that much of what we pass off as Coffee Culture out here on the Left Coast comes across as analogous to calling a McDonald’s Quarterpounder with Cheese the cornerstone of a Hamburger Culture.

But I’m getting myself wound up.  And on my first spin as a guest here.  Perhaps I should explain myself before I’m not invited back.

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cappuccino done right, habit coffee & culture, victoria

To do so correctly, the cappuccino is perhaps the most difficult espresso-based beverage to prepare.  It begins (no surprise) – and ultimately depends upon for its success or failure – with a shot of espresso poured into a porcelain demi-tasse.  Over top of the espresso is poured hot, foamed milk to the top of the cup, this process sometimes also including the barista spooning a portion of the microfoam into a convex mountain atop the drink.  The milk being poured over the espresso forces some of the coffee to the surface, this process allowing the (North American) barista, should they choose, to create “coffee art” such as hearts or leaves in the top of the milk.

Which takes us back to Italy, birthplace of the cappuccino, where I saw no coffee art, but where I also drank not a single bad cappuccino in a commercial operation.  When we landed in Florence after two weeks of hiking in the Dolomites (where we were provided excellent coffee no matter the remoteness from human settlement), I stupidly asked a osteria proprietress for a cafe recommendation after lunch. “What do you mean?” she asked.  “Well,” I said, “where would you suggest we go to get a good coffee?” Looking quizzical, she responded, “But they’re all the same…” And, essentially, she was right.  Walk in any hole in the wall in the cities we visited in Italy and you’ll be rewarded with an excellent “cappu”.  None of this this-coffee-shop-is-the-best-in-town-its-barista-won-the-Western-Canadian-championships phenomenon.  No pretension.  And, by extension, very little variation.

And so we come home to the Pacific Northwest, birthplace of the 21st-century coffee boom, where variety and variability is the order of the day.  Just as I can purchase beans here in Victoria, BC, from most any fair trade micro-plantation in the world, from Isla Ometepe in Nicaragua to the hills of Ethiopia, I can also receive a wide variety of coffee quality at the counter.  Taking my first cappuccino upon arriving home – at twice the price, I should remark – I couldn’t finish it.  Though it had been made to the proper proportions, the espresso was watery and limp, the foam lacking vigour and contours.  Why bother?

Happily, I can report that Victoria offers a number of excellent alternatives to the green mermaid and her push-button swill.  Those alternatives are no surprise to anyone in the YYJ espressirati: habit coffee & culture, Street Level Espresso, 2% Jazz, Discovery Coffee, the Village Cafe & Deli (Estevan Village), Buon Amici, Caffe Fantastico (now various locations) and select restaurants (e.g. Zambri’s).  Places where greater attention is being paid to the temperature of the water in the machine and the time taken to pour that water through the espresso grinds, each of which can have a profound effect on the crispness vs. funkyness and sweet vs. sour outcome of the espresso and the beverage it props up.

Speaking of propped up, it’s time for me to head back to the bar to see if Harvey’s still where I left him, leaning against the brass…


Harvey Wallbanger

 

So-called retro – or classic, if you were drinking them when they made their initial appearance – cocktails are making a bit of a comeback these days, so drinking my way through Harvey Wallbanger day seemed timely, if not all that well advised.

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Harvey and his twin brother enjoy the atmosphere of the Bengal Lounge, Victoria

Getting a little help from Wikipedia on the history, “[the] Harvey Wallbanger was invented in 1952 by three-time world champion mixologist Donato ‘Duke’ Antone… Legend has it that the drink was named after a Manhattan Beach surfer who was a regular patron of Duke’s ‘Blackwatch’ Bar on Sunset Blvd, Hollywood Ca during the early 1950’s.”  The mixology for the drink has an elegance I’ve not seen in the surf bars I’ve cut through around the world:

3 parts Vodka
1 part Galiano
6 parts fresh orange juice
Pour Vodka and OJ over ice in a rock or highball glass; stir; float Galiano on top; garnish with orange slice and maraschino cherry

Elegant in its simplicity, yes, but not in the same way as a burnt vodka martini is elegant.  It’s the ironic elegance of a morning after, when you’re holding your back straight to proudly recall the revels of the night before while the knots in your stomach conspire to double you over.   Shuffling to the “medicine” cabinet to find the hair of the dog that will take off the edge.  Sticking your nose into the ocean breeze set off by that maraschino cherry, the vitamin C of the orange juice helping to revive your spirits for another go on the strip later that day.

In other words, the Harvey Wallbanger is a drink for the tropics, whether as a necessary salve or an early day commencement to what will become a long night.  It’s really not a drink for the Bengal Lounge in the Fairmont Empress, where I enjoyed – yes, very much – my HW to celebrate Harvey’s Day.  Bringing me to how I screwed up this day, this first foray into guest blogging on 365Foods and why I wish I wasn’t feeling so healthy just now.


The combination of National Cappuccino and Harvey Wallbanger Days is perfection, intended or otherwise.  But it’s a perfection that requires perfect alignment and timing by the celebrant.  And here, though I deeply enjoyed my day and the beverages that came along with it, I failed.  For I started my day with a cappu (as one typically should) and ended with a Wallbanger.  Having not had one of the latter for many years, it wasn’t until the sweet enticement of the Galiano took my mind south of 23.5 degrees north latitude that I recognized my error, and too late.

 

Forget that spiced Caesar on your next morning after and instead Hail Harvey.  Whether in the tropics or not, starting your day with the Wallbanger’s combination of soothing orange juice, ocean-spray evocative Galiano and curative Vodka will be just what the doctor ordered to lift your spirits.  Have a couple.  Get yourself right.  And then – and only then – roll further down the road for a cappuccino to get you fully on an even keel.

You’ll never be happier to be hung.

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