Sunday, December 23, 2012


In some parts of the world people eat their breakfast at the local bar. Not because they crave alcohol at that early hour, but because the coffee is fresh and strong, the company is cheerful and equally engaged, and the kitchen does a damned fine job.

The neighborhood drinking hole is in fact the communal living room.

Bars in the Benelux are not customarily stocked with the huge variety of intoxicating beverages that one sees in the United States. No vast selection of fine single malts, no choices among the Bourbons and the Irish whiskies, nor even much in the way of Brandy, Vodka, or gin.

That last category may be represented only by its Netherlandish iterations. Specifically two or three Oude Genevers, and three or four Jonge Genevers.
Plus Citroen Genever and Bessen Genever for the ladies.
Who will likely drink sherry instead.

The only similarity between an Amsterdam café at dawn and the same place at dusk is the tables covered with carpets, the glint of glass, and the cheerful hubbub.
Breakfast is not a big deal, but just in case, the owner's wife will be manning the kitchen. He, however, will probably be at the coffee machine, making cups of strong coffee with a contraption that jets boiling water through a measure of grounds, yielding a hot cup on which some yellow foam drifts as evidence of freshness.
It is strong, aromatic, and bitter.
And always served with a cookie. The Dutch would NOT like the coffee without the cookie. It just doesn't seem right. Coffee and cookies go together like ducks and water, or fish and chili paste.
And BOTH start with the letter 'K'!
Quod erat demonstrandum!

If you've ended up in a kroeg which has drunks early in the morning instead of open-faced meat or cheese sandwiches, and slices of appeltaart (pie), you have come to the wrong place. The same holds true for bars in the United States.

Alas, bars in the United States are often the wrong place.
At any time of day.

What we need is a pleasant public living room, with a sober Dutchman behind the counter, who will bring you a fresh cup of coffee on a saucer with a spoon, a few sugar cubes, a small creamer, and two (!) wrapped cookies.
With a comfortable terrace, shielded from the wind.
On which there are tables and rattan chairs.
With gleaming ashtrays on the tables.

Sounds quite nice, doesn't it?

Unfortunately, that isn't possible in San Francisco. The ashtrays are outlawed in any case, and you'd be accosted by loonies, rabid anti-smokers, and other vagrants.
And you would probably freeze -- our climate is rather miserable.
There are almost no awnings or outside heaters.
It's a long dark winter here.
Most of the year.

I'll just pretend I'm at a café with a cup of coffee and two cookies.

I never actually eat the cookies, but they're essential.

Coffee, without cookies, is naked.

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