11. My coffee moment, thanks to Dan Sallitt

My friend, Dan Sallitt, got into the habit of seeking out coffee in his constant travels around New York to see movies.  He has the greatest knowledge of film history of anyone I know.  I peppered him with questions and he said there were only nine good espresso bars in New York.  I was shocked.  But there must be dozens of great coffee places in the metropolis.  I asked Dan to take me to one of these nine places.

We stepped inside the Blue Spoon and it was filled with the lunch trade.  Dan explained that it had started out focused on coffee but that it had to repurpose itself primarily as a sandwich shop to survive.  Dan advised that I needed to order an espresso and to drink it without any sugar or they wouldn’t take me seriously. 

Drake, the barista at the coffee machine nodded a laconic hello.  Dan ordered two espressos.  I watched as Drake made an espresso, took a small sip, tossed the rest away, then made another espresso, sipped, then threw it away.  Finally he made one that he didn’t sip that he put on the counter. 

Dan insisted that I drink the first espresso and to drink it before it got cold.  I took a sip – and was staggered that coffee could taste so incredibly complex.  It was recognizably coffee, but it was unlike any coffee I had ever experienced.  It tasted of lemon and citrus, qualities I would never have associated with coffee.

Drake struck me as an artist in exile.  None of the office workers on their lunch hour were ordering espresso.  Drake’s magic was hiding in plain sight.   

I’d had one comparable culinary experience.  In high school, I went over to Jay Forrester’s house after school.  He was a fellow debater but he was also a bit of a jd (juvenile delinquent).  Jay had an open bottle of wine on his dresser.  He said that he had shoplifted four of them from the gourmet shop at Foley’s Department Store.  I read the label: Lafitte Rothschild 1959.  I took a sip – and was literally staggered -- I took step backward.  I was utterly stunned.  I had no idea that something could taste so amazing.  My taste buds were alive to some celestial vibration they had never experienced before.

That was my wine moment, which I didn’t pursue.  But the coffee moment, I did.  Maybe because coffee is also a quotidian thing and why not try to have something that tastes utterly amazing in your daily routine.  That espresso at the Blue Spoon started me on the path of great coffee.  And led to making the coffee movie.

Vienna, 2012

Vienna, 2012