Mama Wendina’s Brew

Hi. I’m Mama Wendina. Am I Italian? No, not really. There are a few Italians hanging from my mother’s branch of the tree, but this post isn’t about my lovely cousins, Toni and Tina, their uncles or Grandma Angelina’s splendid Sunday gravy. (That’s red sauce, for those of you not in the know.)

What Mama Wendina has in common with Italians is a passion for a strong, smooth, sumptuous cup of coffee*, and I make-a da best. The two ex boyfriends who’ve had the privilege would lay testament to that. In fact, they’re probably sharing a cell in a maximum security facility, talking about my coffee and trying to decide which of their mothers to kill first when they get out. One of them will be heavily armed and the other is clinically psychotic, so avoid the greater Seattle area if you can.

First, let’s discuss beans. Buy these beans: http://bargreencoffee-store.stores.yahoo.net/frenroas.html End of discussion.

They have an organic French roast but it doesn’t cook up as nice. Other coffee snobs and snobettes are finding these beans to be near the best, and have even blogged about them. Imagine that? If you live near Seattle (and haven’t encountered one of my exes) you’ll find Bargreen Coffee at Bartell Drugs, so make sure to grab a bag of the whole beans while waiting for the pharmacist to refill your happy pills.

If you don’t own a grinder, buy one. I have a typical home grinder that holds around two-thirds of a cup of beans. Fill it to the top, then grind the holy heck out of those poor beans until they are almost an espresso worthy paste. On any given morning, my neighbors can hear horrific cement grinder sounds, followed by loud slams on the counter as I loosen unground beans from the sides of the well. Then back to RRRRWRRRRWWRRRR SLAM! BWEEERRRRRWRRR… They hate me.

While you’re shopping for a grinder, also purchase a #2 plastic Melitta cone and some #2 filters. I sometimes buy the unbleached filters for aesthetic reasons. At this point, bleaching my brain cells won’t make much of a difference. The plastic cone will cost less than a latte, and a box of 40 cones will run about the same.

Heat water until you see a hint of steam. Do not let the water reach a full boil. If you’re using a tea kettle, you’ll be pulling it off the heat well before the whistle blows. Hotter, and you’ll add bitterness**.

Put a filter in the plastic cone.

Scoop half the ground beans (around 1/3 cup) into the filter, and place the rig on top of a coffee cup that holds 10 or 12 ounces.

Slowly pour hot water over the beans until you reach the top of the filter.

Gently stir the contents to incorporate all the grounds into the water and form what is known in the espresso world as crema. Crema is the caramel colored swirl that forms on top, and is an indicator that the essential oils in the coffee are now flavoring the water.

DO NOT bump the cone full of hot water and grounds with your elbow and splatter the wet grounds all over your kitchen. I cannot stress this enough.

Let the water filter all the way through, until there is absolutely none left in the cone. You’ll have around eight ounces of coffee at which to sip.

I take mine with two huge spoons of raw sugar and one large spoon of non-dairy creamer. Sounds sacrilegious, but non-dairy creamer doesn’t water down the coffee, it has a Twinkie-like shelf life and it’s great for those of us who can’t even look at a glass of milk without getting gassy. If you do use a milk product, use heavy cream.

If you insist on using one of those flavored creamers, please don’t tell me about it or I’ll have to ‘unfriend’ you on Facebook. Years ago I pulled espresso at a friend’s cafe. When someone would order a “nonfat, single tall, decaf vanilla latte with two packets of sugar substitute” we referred to it as a “why bother” and banned them from the premises.

My next post will be a continuation of my Christmas cookie series. Don’t worry. You’ll have plenty of time between now and then to finish reading Atlas Shrugged.

*I also have a violin case, but there’s a violin in it.

**If you’re like me, you’re already bitter enough.

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Fuggly Boots and a Bottle o’ Rum

Quick questions: Anyone still bothering to watch football? I’m so discouraged with this season, I’ve cancelled my Seattle Seahawks Jockstrap Flip-Up Advent Calendar order. I’ll just have to wallow in curiosity, and smooth my ruffled hawk feathers by walking my dog in my new Ugg boots*. What’s the point of having children if we can’t humiliate them with bad fashion trends, right? (Limit your answers to “Yes,” or “No, and what is wrong with you?”)

Now for the real reason we’re here: fruitcake. Dark fruitcake, to be exact. It’s notoriously hard to photograph, but I think I may have done it some justice by adding an empty bottle of rum and being ripped on Ambien when I set up the shots. I purchased said bottle o’ five years ago**, and will have to–ulp–brave the local methy liquor store before I can make my Great Aunt Mary’s*** famous rum balls. Life is a constant struggle.

If you’re the kind of person who likes to read recipes, I follow the dictates of page 75 of the 1968 edition of Better Homes & Gardens “New” Cook Book; adding prunes or dates instead of raisins and swapping out the canned OJ for some seedless jam, fresh juice or a dry gin martini, and pretending I’m in the spectacularly modern feature kitchen.


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*Yes, Sam-dog will be wearing the Ugg boots.

**The rum, not the Ambien. Apparently I’m a bit too ambiguous since being dropped on my head at the tender age of 43.

***The one on my mom’s side, not my dad’s side. If you’d been paying attention to this blog AT ALL, you’d know I had two.

You Know Your Neighbors Are Classy When…

While I don’t claim to know what I would do if I had a mattress to dispose of, I know one thing is for certain: It wouldn’t end up on a sidewalk, in a road, next to a dumpster or permanently strapped to the roof of my car, gathering moss and bugs.

Other items that frequent my streets are broken baby carriages, televisions, microwaves and couches. Broken and neglected, they resemble stray dogs.

Both times in my 47 years of existence, I’ve purchased from mattress stores that take old mattresses to the dump or to a charitable organization. I didn’t have to take on the responsibility or expense of the disposal process.

So I guess I shouldn’t judge, but I do.

Weak Cup of the Week, Weeks Eight, Nine and Ten

Don’t judge the lengthy interim. A lot has gone on, and I’m sure you could find other important stuff to read and discuss in my absence. Many of you are clever like that.

These three weak cups of tea are brought to you by the art on my big brown art wall. I collect a variety of art forms, the only requirement being that each piece can’t cost more than $100. I hope some day their worth will be on par with lotto winnings, as ‘hope’ is my retirement plan.

On the left is a painting by a friend, Laurie Fox Pessemier, who lives in Paris and whose prices have risen a bit since this purchase. (A second painting by her broke my rule.) Her paintings are a delight, as are her artist husband Blair’s. This is of Notre Dame from the Pont Des Arts bridge and yes, I was there when I bought it.

The middle one is done by a clever Seattle gent, Bill Heberholz, and is made with metal scraps from toys and an old fuse storage box and four dominos, all nailed to a board for good measure. It was more like $135, which is also against my under $100 rule but I really dug its charm.

The one on the right is by an artist named Leland Leichman. I snagged it during one of Seattle’s monthly art walks. The artist was sitting cross-legged on a felt tarp, underpricing himself. He was handsomely gaunt; which, admittedly, was why I approached.

When I chose this painting he asked, “Are you sure?”

I’d chosen it because the use of space intrigued me, but hadn’t noticed the subject matter. I took in the nudity and bleeding and said I liked it all the more for its subliminal anti-domestic violence statement. He rolled his eyes, shrugged his shoulders and asked for $12. I gave him $15.

All artists mentioned are very google-able.

Photo by Herb Ritts

The Dumpster Tagger’s Credo

“This is my dumpster. I own this dumpster and everything in it; bones, rot, coffee grounds and those recyclable plastic containers that one lazy guy throws away. I will defend this dumpster against my rivals to the death! Or until that garbage truck gets here.”

Weak Cup of the Week, Week Five

Ten or so years ago I decided I’d join the food and drink fadsters, and my first assignment was to try a vogue, mysterious bubble tea beverage. Lucky for me, there were dozens of bubble tea outlets in the Seattle metropolitan region. Seattle is replete with Asians and asiaphiles, ensuring that every few feet there will be a place that primarily caters to the food tastes of people who consider me and my food habits unusual.

I swung into a tea shop, and was delivered an endless list of possible combinations of tea and bubble flavors in rapid-fire Chinese-English by a girl who’s speech pattern indicated she wasn’t above the misuse or omission of punctuation*. Making matters worse, I had to choose between clear, brown, bright green, blue or pink bubbles.

Seriously? When I order something at Starbucks it takes two seconds. “Double short latte, please.” Done. Sometimes I want a fancier drink, but I do it to teach the, “Single tall, caramel, decaf macchiato with twenty-five ice cubes, six Splendas and–oh, why not?!?–a drizzle of chocolate sauce, please, because I went to the gym today,” people a lesson in proper coffee ordering.

It wasn’t easy, but I pared down my choices to green tea with a splash of milk for the primary fluid, and unobtrusive beige bubbles that I was promised were also made with green tea. I still felt ridiculous.

As that first blurp of tapioca climbed up through the oversized straw and into my mouth I thought, “This looks and, quite frankly, tastes like a clogged toilet.” The starchy blob didn’t have any redeeming qualities other than bitter sweetness, nor did it have a purpose in the drink. I tossed the almost full cup into the nearest trash can and ran before I could be judged.

Assignment: complete. Results: unfavorable.

On the heels of the bubble tea craze came the donut craze, immediately followed by the high protein craze; at which point I resigned from the fadsters. I enjoy a lot of meat, but I can’t skip carbs without enduring potentially fatal withdrawals.

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*For the record, neither am I.