Crack in a Jar

“The poulterers’ shops were still half open, and the fruiterers’ were radiant in their glory. There were great, round, pot-bellied baskets of chestnuts, shaped like the waistcoats of jolly old gentleman, lolling at the doors, and tumbling out into the street in their apoplectic opulence. There were ruddy, brown-faced broad-girthed Spanish onions, shining in the fatness of their growth like Spanish friars, and winking from their shelves in wanton slyness at the girls as they went by, and glanced demurely at the hung-up mistletoe. There were pears and apples, clustered high in blooming pyramids; there were bunches of grapes, made, in the shopkeepers’ benevolence, to dangle from conspicuous hooks, that people’s mouths might water gratis as they passed; there were piles of filberts, mossy and brown, recalling, in their fragrance, ancient walks among the woods, and pleasant shufflings ankle deep through withered lanes; there were Norfolk Biffins, squab and swarthy, setting off the yellow of the oranges and lemons, and, in the great compactness of their juicy persons, urgently entreating and beseeching to be carried home in paper bags and eaten after dinner.”

― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Laoganma Spicy Chili Crisp – I have almost finished off my first jar.

The other day we had a little bike ride to Four Bullets, a local brewery. It was a good time – shooting the bull and nerding out and enjoying a good beer.

On of my friends asked me if I had heard of Spicy Chili Crisp. I had not and they said that it was fantastic and everybody was talking about it. They sent me a photo on their phone and said, “You have to get this brand, no others.” They said that they had found a jar at a local Asian market – but there was only one jar left.

So I was tooling around the city and stopped in at the Plano location of the Super H Mart. This was the place, a few years ago, that I successfully found some Banana Ketchup. I figured that if any place had it – that would be the place.

After looked around a bit (the store is vast) I found a dozen jars on a shelf – along with a number of other Lao Gan Ma products. All had the same serious owner glaring out from the label:

Most people would recognize a jar of Lao Gan Ma by the stern portrait of Tao Huabi, 74, the legendary godmother and founder of the brand. In the early 1990s, Tao ran a humble food stall in Guiyang, the capital city of Guizhou province. Her crispy chili oil became a crowd favorite and turned into a billion-dollar business. – CBS news

So I bought a jar along with a few favorite Asian delicacies (all non-carb) and went home. I eagerly drove home and scrambled up a couple eggs. I had been told that it was good on everything – even ice cream – but that eggs were a popular vessel for the condiment.

It was delicious. More than delicious, addictive. It is crack in a jar.

It is spicy, of course, but not too spicy… it is just right. I can take more than a bit of heat – but I have ruined a few meals with too-aggressive application of the chili oil they serve in the little containers – but this does not have the nuclear late after-heat of that stuff. It is also very complex – there is a lot going on in that jar.

What is really odd is the texture. It contains chunks (maybe pea sized) of what I guess is fried peppers, giving it a crunch. I guess that’s why they call it spicy chili crisp. Since buying it, I eat that shit on everything – though I can’t eat ice cream.

I polished off the first jar in about a week. Luckily, I discovered the Vietnamese market near my house has the stuff, though in a smaller jar. I did buy some more and even tried an alternate brand as a test.

It was good too, but not as addictive as the Lao Gan Ma. I think Tao Huabi is glaring at me even more because I tried a competitor.


“I was so thin I could slice bread with my shoulderblades, only I seldom had bread”
― Charles Bukowski, The Last Night of the Earth Poems

Cali Saigon Mall, Garland, Texas

One of the goals that I set, years ago, as I started working on my fitness and freedom from automobiles, was I decided never to drive to the grocery store. I pretty much have kept that up. It doesn’t hurt that I have about five grocery stores, of various types, within two miles of my house. I needed some shirataki noodles and tofu, so I rode my bike down to the Cali Saigon mall (I rode my vintage Cannondale – I have put racks and panniers on it to keep my new Poseidon X light).

On the way out of the house, Candy asked me to pick up some baguettes. So after I bought my groceries I stopped by Lee’s Sandwiches for a couple of fresh-out-of-the-oven loaves.

I always feel European riding my bike through my neighborhood with a couple of baguettes sticking up out of my panniers.

Rum Flavored Coffee

“I was not proud of what I had learned but I never doubted that it was worth knowing.”
― Hunter S. Thompson, The Rum Diary

Es café macerado en ron, posee todas las propiedades organolépticas del ron, pero tiene grado de alcohol

If you have been reading this for a while you already know that I have (although I didn’t want to/plan to) fallen way down the coffee rabbit hole… serious gourmet shit.

Even though I have, for all practical purposes, almost quit drinking alcohol (for no known reason) – one thing I have been experimenting with is making rum flavored coffee. More specifically Ron Flor de Cana flavored coffee. My experiment of adding some rum to a container of coffee beans and then drying them in the air fryer was a spectacular failure. The beans became soft and I can’t get them to grind properly. A waste of coffee beans and of Flor de Cana.

Now, finally I have figured it out. Make the coffee and then add the rum to it. Makes the morning better. We’ll have to see what it does to the afternoon.

There Is Nothing More Expensive Than A Free Sample

“I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea.”
― Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground

Coffee and morning pages.

For her birthday I bought Candy a six-month membership in a tea of the month club. Every month she gets two samples of gourmet tea from a different country – along with information on the tea and the place of origin. She liked it and it seemed to be a good thing.Unfortunately, the tea company also had a sister organization that sold coffee. They sent along a free sample – enough for two cups – of fresh beans which she gave to me. I ground, brewed, and drank.

Goddamn it… it was good. Really good.

It was from Costa Rica – from the flyer:

origin: Tarrazu, Costa Rica
farm: San Isidro
type: Catuai

This fruit bomb with lush notes of cherry, black currant, passion fruit, and cocoa comes from Hacienda San Isidro Labrador Project, a farm is located 1900 meters above sea level on the hills of Dota, in the Tarrazu region. It is a small, family-owned farm overseen by Johel Monge Naranjo and his son Matias. The pair focus on specialty and traceable coffee. Their product have consistently placed atop the annual Cup of Excellence competition that identifies the very best coffee being grown in Costa Rica.

It was an anaerobic fermented coffee – which means it was stored in barrels or tanks with no oxygen exposure and allowed to ferment to some degree. That gave it a unique, wine-like flavor – complex… that I really liked.

So I ordered some coffee – it was expensive, but not ridiculous. The order arrived promptly and it is a really nice treat every morning. So now, I’m hooked. That was an expensive free sample.

At any rate, I’ve been reading about anaerobic fermentation for coffee beans – here’s an interesting YouTube video (among many).

It Does Taste Better in a Pulp Fiction Cup

“Don’t you just love it when you come back from the bathroom and find your food waiting for you?” — Mia, Pulp Fiction

My Morning Coffee

I woke up looking forward to my morning coffee even more than I usually do (If that is possible – does a heroin addict look forward to certain fixes more?) because I would drink it in my swag Pulp Fiction coffee cup.

Most mornings I make a double strength coffee in my Aeropress , dilute it with hot water, and put it in a vacuum container (either a thermos or, as today, in a Contigo insulated cup that fits in my bicycle water bottle holder). I like that because I can pour it into a real cup a bit at a time and control the drinking temperature.

So, the question is, did it taste better in the swag cup?

Sure did, I mean this is some serious gourmet shit.

Fruit Bomb With Lush Notes of Cherry…

“Coffee is a lot more than just a drink; it’s something happening. Not as in hip, but like an event, a place to be, but not like a location, but like somewhere within yourself. It gives you time, but not actual hours or minutes, but a chance to be, like be yourself, and have a second cup”

― Gertrude Stein, Selected Writings

Mojo Coffee, Magazine Street, New Orleans, Louisiana (click to enlarge)

There are few things more expensive than free samples.

Candy ordered a new iced tea pitcher from some tea place online. That tea place also had a coffee subsidiary and they sent her a free sample – 2 oz. of whole beans in a little envelope – for me to try.

It was some Catuai Anaerobic, from Lardera Coffee Roasters. It says about my sample:

This fruit bomb with lush notes of cherry, black currant, passion fruit, and cocoa comes from Hacienda San Isidro Labrador Project, a farm is located 1900 meters above sea level on the hills of Dota, in the Tarrazu region. It is a small, family-owned farm overseen by Johel Monge Naranjo and his son Matias. The pair focus on specialty and traceable coffee. Their product have consistently placed atop the annual Cup of Excellence competition that identifies the very best coffee being grown in Costa Rica.

So I measured some out, carefully, ground it in my hand grinder so it would be pure, and brewed it up in my Aeropress (the sample was enough for two generous cups).

And damn… it was good. I’m not able to describe coffee flavors – so I don’t know about cherry, black currant, or especially passion fruit but I know a tasty, unique cup when it passes my lips. I think it’s the aerobic fermentation that gives it something that your bitter Starbucks lacks.

So now I want to buy some. It costs about twice what regular but good coffee costs. I’m torn, but I know I’ll eventually give in.

There are few things more expensive than free samples.


“In all my experience along the dirtiest ways of this dirty little world, I have never met with such a thing as a trifle yet.”
― Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone

Aeropress, from Williams Sonoma

I am such a hopeless loser – I even have a piece of paper with a list of things I need for some reason, that I know I have, but that I can’t find. Because these are on a list they stay in the back of my mind and usually I will stumble across something from the list when I’m looking for something else (this is what all of my life is like). Then I check it off.

I knew I had a tiny little battery-powered digital scale. I don’t know how I came to own it – I found it somewhere. I’m pretty sure it was abandoned after some drug deal went bad – that’s what tiny precise scales like this are good for. But I kept it around and would tare my fountain pens before I inked them – to figure out how much ink they hold.

But the thing disappeared. At least it disappeared in reality – existing only virtually on my list of things that I’ve lost that I know are around here somewhere (discussed above). Then, today, after having a dream about fountain pen ink last night I dug out an old box of obscure home mixes of ink I had given up on I found the scale.

One more checked off the list.

Why did I want the thing? Well, as I continue to fall down the endless rabbit-hole of coffee nerddom, I had a thought of being more precise about my beans-to-water-ratio. I’ve been digging out an approximate scoop and not paying much heed to the water. Here’s the king of the coffee nerds, James Hoffmann, on the subject:

So, I watched the video – did a little more research and thought it all out. I decided to go with 250 ml of coffee (a little less than I used to drink, but I’d make it a bit stronger) and a 75gm/liter coffee/water ratio – in my Aeropress. That works out to 19 gm of coffee beans ground up and 250 ml of water (heated in the microwave – for that small amount it works better than the kettle). I used my hand grinder rather than my electric Braun – that way I can select the beans for that individual cup – depending how I feel today.

And it was pretty damn good. Stronger than I am used to and with a hint of bitterness (which is not bad -just a hint). So I think I’ll keep going this way.

On down the rabbit hole.


I’d rather get a hot dog or a doughnut than write a song.

John Prine

Ceramic cat at Mochinut

The other day I wrote about having to drive between two donut stores on the way to work every day. Due to medical conditions I can’t eat donuts… not even one. I’m used to that, but still I can dream. I am especially interested in the one on the south – a new Japanese fusion donut shop called Mochinut. The donuts look like a circular string of donut holes and are made with rice flour. Best of all, they come in tantalizingly oddly different flavors.

We were coming back from Mother’s day festivities in Downtown Dallas and my son expressed an interest in something sweet to eat. I suggested a quick stop at Mochinut – we would be passing by soon.

Even if I can’t eat it, I can see… and dream.

They were very good (I’m told) the shop is bright and simple – the flavors varied. Here is what they offered:

Mochinut flavors: Coffee, UBE snow, Original, Dark Chocolate, Strawberry W/Poky, and Churro – the flavors change ever week.

The place had a nice attention to detail. For example, on the dark chocolate Mochinut – there was a little chocolate bear sleeping on a marshmallow pillow. Cool.

Chocolate cake bear sleeping on a donut.


“What’s a rainy day
without some delicious
coffee-flavoured loneliness?”
― Sanober Khan, Turquoise Silence

Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

I had to drive down to our facility on Love Field at work today and deal with some paperwork. It went quickly and smoothly so on the way back to North Dallas I had time to stop at the Central Market at Greenville and Lover’s Lane.

I passed the vast rows of perfect exotic vegetables, past the long cold row of waiting fish, past the display of bright red beef, past the beer and wine and into the land of bulk food items – long vertical plexiglass chutes with a sliding gate at the bottom. These are filled with everything from nuts to grains. But I headed to the end of the winding displays – there there was coffee.

As a certified and certifiable coffee snob I’m not supposed to drink flavored coffee because the added artificial essence disguises the delicious perfection of the roasted beans. But I can’t help it. I like to have a selection. I like to open my tiny plastic tubs of beans and sniff them – choose the infusion of the day. I like the smell of flavored coffee in the whole bean, in the grinder, and in the cup.

So I picked up a bag, opened the valve on the Banana Nut flavored accumulation and let a little bit over a pound slide out. Off to the the side there are two banks of coffee grinders – one labeled “No Flavored Coffee” and the other “Flavored Coffee Only.” I ignore those – I like to grind my beans right before they go in the boiling water. I’m not sure if it really makes a difference, but I think it does.

I had to stand in line a long time clutching my tiny single bag – the Express Lane labeled “15 items or less” seemed chock full of folks with fourteen items each. But I eventually made it back to work and was able to re-fill my container with Banana Nut goodness.

My coffee ritual – bean selection, measurement, grinding, water heating, loading the aeropress, brewing, filtering, pressing, and finally drinking – that’s the high point of my day.

Aeropress, from Williams Sonoma

Between Scylla and Charybdis

“Fancy me between Scylla and Charybdis.”

― Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady

There is a lot of food at the ends – Por Ejemplo – the King of Candy Apples

For a couple months now I have been eating Keto – no carbs at all. I always resisted this… for several reasons… but now have arrived at the point that it is the only way that I can keep my blood sugar under control.

It’s working – we’ll see how it goes long-term – but there is one bad side effect. I absolutely crave certain things – pasta, pizza,tortillas, and other starchy or sweet things. I know there are substitutes, but it isn’t the a same.

Every morning I drive to work and enter the straights between Scylla and Charybdis. One Beltline, only a few blocks from my house – in a spot where traffic is heavy so I can’t speed through – there is a brand new Dunkin’ Donuts on the right and a brand new Mochinut on the left (that’s a shop that sells a hybrid Japanese/Hawaiian style of donutish pastry).

It drives me crazy. The thought that I will spend the few years I have left and never eat another donut is more than I think I can stand.

And then, last night, I dreamed I was eating a chocolate donut. It was so real. I wonder if, years from now, I won’t remember enough to know what it is like.