My Qwest for Appassionato



Appassionato Espresso Stand…, originally uploaded by andai.

This past weekend I was at Qwest Field to check-out the Sounders rout the New York Red Bulls 2-0. It was a great game, although I missed the first score because I was in the middle of ordering an extremely salty, relatively tiny but expensive hotdog and complaining to the lady behind the counter about the exorbitant prices and the fact that I was a captive audience. Checking the price listing, I saw they had drip coffee for $5.00 but no espresso. When I asked them about espresso, they pointed me to an espresso cart that I had walked by without really noticing.

Well, at least they had an espresso cart, but then I wondered, if they were selling drip for $5.00, than how much more would they add to the prince of espresso drinks? Shockingly, the prices were actually very reasonable considering the location, captive audience and all that. They actually had 16oz lattes for only $5.00. Ok, I can buy that, no problem.. The second surprise, which in some way was not really, was that the espresso cart was serving Café Appassionato espresso.. and not Starbucks. I say that it was not much of a surprise because I know that Appassionato does have their Seattle Seahawks special blend, that also includes the Seahawks logo on the coffee cup. Of course this was soccer match, not American football, so none of the Seahawks football nonsense here… and I was glad that they were not serving Starbucks at all.

I kind of felt bad for the lady manning the cart especially since she was pretty much solo… which is not the way to run an espresso cart in a sports stadium in America. Even though the line to the cart was relatively short when I went to order my latte, it took quite a while for me to get to the front of the line to place my order. And this was during the first half while the teams were still playing. Later, I returned during the half-time period and there was a really, really long line that snaked around the ‘food court area’ at Club Wells Fargo club level I highly doubt that she was going to be able to serve in the line everyone before half-time was over and there were still more joining the line. And I’ve been there… sort of… and I know how busy it can get for her because a couple of summers back I volunteered to run one of the espresso stands at the Seattle Mariners baseball stadium and even though I had help, I remember how busy we were especially in-between innings or breaks.

I don’t quite remember how coffee beans were neither packaged nor labeled but I do remember that the espresso machines were pretty much straight-forward and relatively easy to use. Just about anyone could make a somewhat ok latte or other espresso machine after being given a 15 minute ‘how-to’ session as I was. No doubt in the hands of a skilled barista, the machines could produce liquid black gold.

Well my latte wasn’t liquid gold, and the barista was certainly not highly skilled or she may have at least known the blend of espresso beans she was serving. She gave me the generic answer a barista would use if unsure and didn’t want to admit, “oh yes, this is the Appassionato house blend…” ok, whatever. But to be honest, she was a nice lady and also for the fact that we were at Qwest Field and not on Capital Hill, I’d say that my latte was ok enough that I could actually buy another next time I go to watch football soccer at Qwest Field. Oh, even better, I declined the 16oz option and opted for the 12oz cup instead and she charged me $3.50 instead of $5.00. Now at Qwest Field, that is actually a great bargain!

Sounders Colors on Space Needle

This is the photo I took a couple of weeks ago coming back from the Sounders party at the Seattle Space Needle the night before the inaugural game the Sounders played New York Red Bulls. Pretty impressive win for the Sounders, 3-0.

For this photo I used my Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor Lens. I really like this lens which I got a little while ago a what I would term to be a great price. It is a pretty crisp lens and in my opinion, a lens that is sort of tending towards a prime lens. It does a pretty awesome job given the price is such a bargain. Now I could go one step up and get the Nikon 50mm f/1.4D instead but the Nikon 50mm f/1.8D is about $300 more than than this one which I bought for about $130, and spending $300+ for a new lens is simply not in my budget. But as you can see, I think the photo turned out pretty decent especially considering that I was holding the camera, no tripod, no vibration reduction (or image stabilization for you Canon folks).

And I just came back a few minutes ago from Qwest Field, the field for the Seattle Sounders. Today they played Real Salt Lake, from Salt Lake City, UT and dispatched them 2 – 0. This is the second straight win for the Sounders and I think they are certainly showing a lot of promise!

FCC’s ‘Free’ Wireless Strategy

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I am currently hanging out at Fremont Coffee Company (FCC, not to be mistaken with that other FCC) in the Fremont area of Seattle, enjoying an great 8 oz latte before I head on out to conduct some personal business here in the Fremont area. Since I have my laptop with me, I thought I might as well pull it out and get online and check out twitter since I am rather early and I have a few minutes to spare.

Now if you want to use the wireless here, you have to buy something like a coffee or some goodies. You can then ask the barista to give you a user name and password that you can use for the time you are here. Behind the barista is this machine that actually generates user names and passwords that are valid for a period of 4 hours and that’s what you use to log on to FCC’s wireless. I think that is pretty smart idea. On the one hand you provide ‘free’ wireless to your actual customers as opposed to folks simply hanging out and enjoying free wifi and on the other hand, you also don’t get someone buying one cup of coffee then hanging out here all day. I call this free because the general idea is that you are there to get your coffee, but once you do, you then have the option to use their wireless at no extra charge. And you must admit, 4 hours is actually a pretty generous allocation of wifi time. And at the worst, if you really need more than four hours of online time, then at the end of the first four hours, your drink is probably stale so you should get up and go buy another drink or get some good eats.

The reason I think this is a great idea is because I remember a few years ago when I used to spend a lot of time at Victrola Coffee doing my dev work. The place was so popular, and everyone and their grannies would be hanging out there all day using free wireless and their network would simply crawl. Eventually it got so bad there that they started turning off the wireless on weekends, and asking people to be reasonable with regard to parking at the store. I simply stopped going there even though it was (and still is) my favorite coffeehouse.

I am guessing that with the sheer number of Seattle Pacific University students who like to come here and study probably had some influence on the decision to have users buy a drink before they can use the wireless… but I am only speculating…

Oh and my 8 oz latte? Really, really good. I have decided that one of the ways I am cutting back on my dairy intake is that in the future, when I order my double shot latte, I will be ordering an 8oz rather than a 12oz. This way, not only do I get a stronger, tastier (I hope) drink, but I also don’t get too full from consuming a 12 oz latte. And to think that just a few years ago I used to order the 16 oz lattes!

Allegro Coffee @ Whole Foods

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One thing I don’t like about Whole Foods is the fact that they do not allow people to take photographs within the store. Now I’m not talking about taking photos of the shelves and stock, that I can sort of understand, but simply no where in the store including in the ‘cafe’ area of the store. I don’t think that is cool. So what happens if you are with friends at a table enjoying a meal or even a snack and you wanted to take a pic of you and your buddies… no go! Anyway, who cares… lets talk about coffee instead.

Well it just so happens that I needed to go to Whole Foods anyway to get a couple of things. In addition to a bit of shopping, I also wanted to make sure I grabbed an Allegro latte since most of the other times I find myself at Whole Foods, it tends to be at those times of the day when I have already had a latte so I haven’t really had the right opportunity to check out their espresso drinks. So today was great simply because I had not yet drunk my morning latte.

So after I got done with my shopping, I stepped up to to espresso bar to get my latte. Normally I would have just ordered a 12oz latte and all that, but since I am trying to cut back on my dairy, and I am also finding that a double tall (12 oz) latte doesn’t cut it anymore since I need something a little stronger. This second point was brought home this past Friday when I ordered a 8oz latte… but more on that on a later posting. The long and the short of it is that I ordered a double 8oz instead. When I told the barista about this, she told me that she actually drunk triple 8oz lattes since even triple 12oz lattes did nothing for her… ok, now that’s a hardcore espresso junkie!

Now Whole Foods does not have their own coffee roasting plant, however, they have partnered up with Allegro Coffee, a Colorado based specialty coffee roaster to supply all their coffee beans for espresso and drip, and also for sale in the stores. And with keeping with Whole Foods products, Allegro Coffee supplies organic coffee beans. For the espresso, Whole Foods uses Allegro’s Organic Espresso Bel Canto. The name translates to “beautiful song”. This is a medium roast that is described in the words of Allegro Coffee as “enticing and aromatic with a mild nutty undertone onto which lemon, jasmine and ripe berry notes are layered”. And I actually liked it. Being that it was a double 8oz, it was pretty strong as I would expect but being that it was a medium roast, it was still a great taste.

I would certainly go back for more since the latte was pretty decent… and even better were the two baristas on duty who were very friendly and helpful even though they told me that I couldn’t take pictures, but we were able to chat about coffee and cameras.

Now if only Whole Foods would let me take a picture of the espresso bar, then that would be a more personal touch than the picture of the Allegro Coffee paper cup that I included with this post.

Miel & Abbey



My Cats, Miel and Abbey, originally uploaded by andai.

Yesterday, we said goodbye to Miel and Abbey, the two cats have have lived with us for about four years now. Without having to go into details why we have given the cats up, all I can say is that I am sad that we indeed had to give up the cats.

I must say that of all the cats I have ever owned, these two sisters have probably been the most intelligent, gentle and loving cats. And even though they were somewhat scared of people when we first got them, they quickly adopted to their new home and also more open and friendly towards visitors.

And of course there were the times when the cats would vomit or throw-up hairballs on the carpet, track litter into the living room and a couple of times pee in the wrong place (because they were sick), they were great to have around the house. And just about every day when we got home from work, it was also great see Abbey at the door waiting to welcome us home.

Yesterday was really sad because it was obvious that they, and especially Miel, did not want to get into her carrier. She took off running upstairs and I had to go up and cox her out from under the desk. I don’t think I’ll forget that sad, sad look she gave me as her new owner picked up the carrier and went out the front door.

And now the house feels somehow not complete. This is the first time in years that we have not had the two fur balls, if not on the wed, or warming themselves by the space heater, sitting on my lap as I type away on the computer. Yet, I know their new owner is going to give them a bigger place to explore and hang out. They will also have an additional feline companion and a dog who loves cats that they will get to know and bond.

And the new owner has also graciously invited us over to visit with them once the cats have settled in and gotten used to their new home…

Fonté Coffee at Chez Dominique

Chez Dominique
Chez Dominique, originally uploaded by andai.

Chez Dominique bills itself as a European style cafe serving European Pastries. Ok, I have to say that is a bit of a stretch… and even though I don’t really want to go into the details about what foods they serve, I will go there every so often to get a sandwich at lunchtime. I will also get their fruit cup and/or freshly squeezed orange juice which is really great. And some no doubt, do not go there because the food is super yet every time I go there, there’s always plenty of people in there ordering food. But who cares about the food anyway, we are here to talk about espresso.

Chez Dominique is the first place where I consciously discovered Fonté Coffee. When I first started going there, it was clear that the coffee they served certainly had its own distinct flavor that I did not recognize, and thus my love for Fonté was born. I am not sure what they serve for their drip coffee, but for their lattes and other espresso drinks they serve Fonté’s Italian (European Style) Blend which I think is actually pretty decent. Since coffee is not the main focus of Chez, I don’t necessarily expect that they will actually serve exceptional espresso drinks. This is not to say that the baristas there are pretty bad when it comes to pulling espresso shots, they do a decent job of it I think but for a more exceptional Fonté experince, I would certainly rather go to Joe Bar which is right opposite the Harvard Exit Theatre up on the North end of Broadway on Capital Hill.

And to be honest, I will certainly be going back to Chez every so often. I really like the owner and her staff who are really nice, friendly and honest. And for me, good service goes a long way in having me come back and support small, local businesses. And I also much, much prefer their coffee to that of Online Coffee, which is more of a coffee shop and has one of its locations just one block up and over from Chez Dominique.

Abbey the Chimney Sweep

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Yesterday evening we had a bit of a scare. Our cat Abbey disappeared and was nowhere to be found. I don’t know exactly what time she took off, but it is pretty likely she was out of the house all day… but at the very least, all evening. It took me about an hour to notice all over a sudden that the girl was nowhere to be seen. After searching the house thoroughly, and feeling confident that she was not in the house at all, I went looking for her in the neighborhood. I think I must have spent 45 mins to an hour searching around our and our neighbor’s yards and also around the entire block. This is one case where if we had some sort of GPS chip on her, I would have been glad.

Now there were three main reasons I was rather freaked out. The first being that Abbey is not an outdoor cat as much as she would like to think she is. For this reason, she really has not outdoor instincts and so my fear was that if she were to meet the wrong cat or dog or even any of the raccoons that live under the neighbors house, she wouldn’t last too long so I was fearful of her safety. Second, if she got lost, she might not be able to find her way back, so no telling where she would end up. She could also be easily run over by some car or something. The third reason is that this past Sunday we had her new owner come meet the cats. Since for reasons for which I will explain at a later time, we feel that we needed to find someone else who can care for them… and we did. She came over this past Sunday and met the cats and now she would be coming over the following Sunday to pick up the two. I don’t know how we could tell her that now Abbey, who seemed to really like her a lot, is lost.

Well just before I was getting ready to retire for the night, I don’t know why, but I decided that I needed to go back downstairs to the front door and check once again, just in case she had come back and was at the door waiting. Lo and behold, as soon as I opened the door, the girl came running it. Thank the Lord she was back…. and even though she was rather dusty with a little greasy streak towards the top of her head, she looked pretty fine and normal. It was almost like she had enjoyed her adventure.

Now that she was back, my next dilemma was whether or not I should give her a bath. In the past, I have had to give her) and her sister Miel a bath because they had ‘soiled’ themselves and not done a great job of cleaning themselves, but this time, I needed to give her a full bath since she was pretty dusty and I didn’t want her climbing all over the bed, blankets etc in that state. I also didn’t know if she caught fleas or anything like that… I was hoping not…

She was not happy with the bath. And by the time I had her covered in shampoo, she was totally uncooperative and struggling to get away. There was no way I was going to let her go covered in soap and water since she wouldn’t be able to lick herself clean and she’d probably get soap all over the place. So I had to somewhat compromise and at least rinse her as much as I could and get as much of the soap off. Giving her a bath in the bathtub has always been awkward due to the design of our bathtub, and that makes it much harder when the cat is struggling. So I finally took her downstairs to the downstairs washroom and finished rinsing her in the little sink in the washroom. This was a much, much easier experience for the both of us. Though by this time I think she had had enough. So I wrapped her in a towel and dried her off after which I then turned on the space heater so she could lay down and warm herself as she dried herself.

I decided I needed to give her another rinse today since she has the slightly strong scent of the shampoo. Now even though she has a lot of hair and I would expect the shampoo smell to hang out for a while, I just wanted to make sure that she was probably rinsed. This time I decided to give her the rinse in the kitchen sink for a couple of reasons. Firs t, the water faucet was more powerful so I could give her a better rinse than I would in the bathtub or the washroom. The second advantage was that I would stand up straight and hold her nicely. It turns out, a third and unexpected benefit of this was that she was actually more comfortable taking her bath there since she could actually stand in the sink. Now granted, she would rather not have to take a bath, but at least she wasn’t struggling like the day before… so this was great. After a through rinsing, I once again dried up in a couple of towels then turned on the space heater so she could warm herself as she dried….

This was a bitter sweet moment for me… to think too that these are the last days I am able to hang out with her… and actually both the cats since they will be gone come Sunday evening…

Headache, Nauseous

I don’t know what’s going on this evening. Its been a long day. I am currently in a two day training class…. and halfway through the class I was already tired and sleepy, fighting to stay awake. But that’s no biggie I guess… but now its almost midnight. Regardless of what time I go to bed, I have to get up by 6:30 at the latest. And though I am really tired and want to go to bed, I have this massive headache and I have also been feeling pretty nauseous these last three hours. I don’t know what is causing all this, but I having a really strong cup of English breakfast tea before I retire for the night. Yep, all that caffeine, hope it helps with the headache, doesn’t make my nausea worse but one thing for sure, I know it will not keep me awake.

Caffè Appassionato by Fisherman’s Terminal

Caffe Appassionato

At least twice a year, I go down to the area by Seattle’s Fisherman’s Terminal to conduct some very necessary business. And every time I’m there, one of the ladies who runs the office will offer me a cup of coffee… which is your ordinary everyday drip coffee with sugar and the powered creamer. And I graciously accept the cup. And every time I drive down there, it just so happens that I drive right by the Caffè Appassionato flagship coffeeshop and roasting plant and I don’t even think to stop by and get my coffee from there instead.

Well, this year I decided that things were going to be different. There was no point in me passing up perfectly good latte in lieu of regular old office drip (no offense H) and so I stopped by the Caffè Appassionato coffee shop right on 21st Avenue West. It was actually a pleasant visit.

At the time I entered the shop, there was only one barista behind the counter serving both those at the counter and those going through the drive-in. She was very apologetic for having made me wait. I placed my order, making sure to indicate that I wanted whole milk in my latte. Once again she apologized for the fact that they didn’t have whole milk which the don’t stock anyway and instead offered to add some half & half in with the 2% to make the result a little creamier. Hmmm…. I don’t know about that…

Caffe Appassionato

Now under normal circumstances, this is where I may politely decline the offer, maybe bitch a bit if the barista was rude about it and leave. But there were two things going against this. The first was that I would rather have anything they made, even if I paid for it, then go and drink the office stuff I knew I was going to be offered (once again, no offense ‘H’). The second and even more important was the fact that the barista’s customer service/customer interaction was excellent and so I decided, “what the heck, why not?” And so I placed my order.

And I’m glad that I did. The latte was pretty decent. Their espresso blend, which I think she told me was the Appassionato Blend, was pretty good I think. Now if only they actually used my favorite brand of milk, i.e Smith Brothers Farms organic whole milk, and if they also had raw sugar, then things would have even been better.

What I find interesting about Appassionato is that if you check out their website, you find that a number of their different blends are marketed both towards espresso and drip coffee, depending on the actual experience you are looking for. So for example their Beethoven’s Blend is marketed as “…great for drip coffee or as a light espresso” while their Caffè Espresso is marketed as making a “…velvety espresso or a bold and tasty drip coffee”. And they have a ‘ton’ of other blends including the Seattle Seahawks Blend. So even though I believe that they do use the Appassionato blend to make espresso, I can’t say that for sure and I will need to go back and talk to them… I have to go back to the Fisherman’s Terminal area this week anyway so I might as well stop by the shop and get another drink.

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