Mochinut

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.

Flavored

“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.

I Forgot How Good

“Even bad coffee is better than no coffee at all.”

― David Lynch

My Aeropress at a campsite, Lake Ray Roberts, Texas
Aeropress, from Williams Sonoma

As I’ve said before, I did not set out to be a coffee snob. But it is what it is. There is the Aeropress… and a grinder (fresh ground beans do really make a difference).

I actually have two grinders – an electric one at home and a hand grinder at work. Also, two Aeropress (what’s the plural of Aeropress?). I have the original one at home and the portable Aeropress Go at work.

The Aeropress Go, collapsed inside its own coffee cup.
The various parts of the Aeropress Go

And I have my routine(s). I’m afraid on most days, my morning cup of coffee is the best part of the day. At work, I particularly enjoy opening up the plastic container I use and sniffing the aroma of the beans. In a month, when I have more time, when I’m at home all day, I plan on making a little stand with three bean containers and each morning sniff each one and decide what beans to grind.

I did forget how good it was.

We had a big inspection at work – weekend work preparing – shelves of paperwork – hours of preparation. The whole thing threw me off my game and I wasn’t able to hand-grind and brew my usual morning cup.

But we had it catered from the cafeteria – including two big steel cylinders of fresh coffee each morning. So I pushed the little black plastic handle and poured out a mug.

It was awful.

Awful! Bitter as hell but otherwise flavorless. Nasty, Nasty stuff.

The next day, I moved my alarm earlier to an obscene time (I am not a morning person) so I could get to work early enough to grind my own beans, heat my own water, and brew my own cup.

It was the best part of the day.

Christmas, Bistro B

“when I left her to-day, she put her arms around me and felt my shoulder blades, to see if my wings were strong, she said. ‘The bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings. It is a sad spectacle to see the weaklings bruised, exhausted, fluttering back to earth.’ ”
― Kate Chopin, The Awakening

Everyone has their traditions. The best traditions, especially the best holiday traditions… are the ones you establish yourselves.

I don’t remember how we started… probably inspired by the ending (after the disaster where the Bumpass’ dogs ate the turkey) of A Christmas Story….

Our Christmas tradition is to eat at Bistro B – a (one of many) Vietnamese restaurant in our city.

I’ve written about it before:

2018 Another Christmas, Another Bowl of Pho

2017 What the Pho?

2011 Bistro B on Christmas Day

The other members of my family order various things (the menu at Bistro B is literally a book – the menu items run into the seven hundreds) but I stick to the Pho. Today, I ordered number 37 – the beef and meat ball Pho.

This year’s Pho at Bistro B

It was too much food. I have been trying to eat less. With most of the broth, most of the noodles, and all of the beef consumed, I was full. But, what the hell… it’s Christmas. I went for it.

Empty bowl of Pho

There aren’t too many empty bowls left behind at that place.

I felt like I had swallowed a football. The rest of the day… well, it’s a bit of a blur.

Bistro B, Richardson, Texas

We did open presents – not the wild blowout of rending paper as it was when the kids were little.

My son did buy my a cool and interesting gift – Tickets to the January 15th Kansas-West Virginia Basketball game – so we will have a weekend road trip to Lawrence in our future. That should be fun – I’ve only been back once in the last twenty years or so.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

National Taco Day

“Never underestimate how much assistance, how much satisfaction, how much comfort, how much soul and transcendence there might be in a well-made taco and a cold bottle of beer.”
― Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

Taco Selections at Taqueria Tiquicheo
Lengua Tacos from El Padrino

The kids went out for tacos from one of the new “gourmet” taco places that have vomited out across North Texas (and I assume every other city). You have:

Taco Bell/Fast Food—Authentic Taquerias—Tex Mex—-Gourmet Tacos—-Taco Food Trucks….

A whole world of tacos.

But I am an old, fat, diabetic loser trying to eat as few carbs as possible… the world is slipping away from me. I had to get tacos wrapped, not in a delicious tortilla of some kind, but in a piece of lettuce. One beef and bacon and one hot buffalo chicken.

Still, it was pretty good.

The Autumn Equinox and Jicama

“You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person died for no reason.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Fall Colors University of Texas at Dallas Richardson, Texas (click to enlarge)

Today is the Autumn Equinox – the two halves of the diurnal course, light and dark, day and night, are exactly equal. By coincidence, here in North Texas, it as the day the summer broke. The killer humid heat gave way to a breezy, relatively cool, and mostly non-toxic day.

I celebrated by sitting at a windowless desk for ten hours, answering emails.

Then, wanting to live life to the fullest, I stopped at a local Hispanic grocery store on the way home from work to buy three pounds of Jicama. Since my medical emergency in New Orleans two years ago I have been eating as few carbohydrates as I can. One thing I miss are French Fries – or at least French Fry like food items. Potatoes, pasta, bread, rice… that sort of thing, the sort of thing that makes life worth living – are forever gone from my existence. The best I can do is to find substitutes.

A Youtube Video listed five food items to try. One was Jicama – which I’ve eaten off and on over the years – usually as a pickled salad item.

I found some other recipes to make sort of spicy baked fries out of Jicama – which I think I’ll try.

Wish me luck.

The Honey Process

“It is inhumane, in my opinion, to force people who have a genuine medical need for coffee to wait in line behind people who apparently view it as some kind of recreational activity.”
― Dave Barry

My Aeropress at a campsite, Lake Ray Roberts, Texas

I did not set out to be a coffee snob – I really didn’t. But now, looking back, it was inevitable.

Like everyone else my age, my early years were marked by my parents boiling cheap ground stale Robusta coffee in a percolator, recirculating the grounds, through a layer of toilet paper (always out of filters) until it was so bitter it was undrinkable – then drinking it anyway. I remember being fascinated at watching the water bubbling against the little glass knob on the top – the sound of exuberant roiling water and the smell of burned beans. When I got to college my parents bought me a percolator which I modified with some rubber tubing into a crude still – nothing worse than a nascent chemist in a dorm room with something to heat liquids.

Then there was the Mr. Coffee – which made a little bit better brew – but still the coffee itself was terrible. Right after school I spent some time addicted to daily morning coffee from the machine at work along with a stale sugared bread-thing from the next. I gave that up and went through miserable withdrawal when I learned of the screaming high-pitched caffeine headache that stuff would cause. Then came Starbucks, which actually makes terrible coffee (I always think of Starbucks as an office rental place, rather than a coffee shop) but it at least put coffee culture on the map. And it became a decades-long rabbit hole for me, and many, many others.

After years of experimentation I finally settled on a French Press and was happy with it except for the difficulty cleaning it out.

And then along came the AeroPress which I realized was the perfect way to make coffee. I now have two – one and home and a portable model at work.

For a while, I would grind a week’s worth of beans on the weekend. But then, as I fell farther, I realized that it really does make a better cup if you grind the beans fresh… and bought a simple hand grinder for my desk at work.

So now I’m exploring the (literally)world of coffee beans. I learned quickly that I like light roast (the taste of the coffee varietal and location comes through better – plus a bit more caffeine).

My favorite place for buying coffee beans is Central Market. Yes, there are some very good custom roasters in my area, and I will visit them, but each one is somewhat limited and it can be tough to find exactly what I want. Beside, most of the best Dallas roasters have product in Central Market anyway. They have a vast selection of bulk bins full of a wide variety of whole bean coffee and there is something about putting the brown bag under the chute, lifting the handle, and listening to the coffee slide down.

The only downside is there isn’t a Central Market within easy bicycling distance from my house. The other day though I was driving back from some work I did at another location of my company and the route took me by the Central Market at Lover’s Lane and Greenville. I stopped as quickly as I could and found a coffee that looked really good – In-House Roasted Coffee Nicaragua Jinotega Honey Process.

Ok, let’s back up almost fifty years. I was in high school and living in Managua. A good friend had an uncle that ran a coffee plantation in the mountains above Jinotega and three of us hitch-hiked up there over Semana Santa (Easter Break) and had a great time. We spent one night in Matagalpa (an amazing city) and one in the coffee warehouse in Jinotega (the odor was amazing) before making it all the way to the plantation. There we rode horses and explored the area. There was even a miles-long wooden aqueduct that provided water for washing the coffee beans and hydroelectric power for a few lights around the main house. Amazing memories.

So, I have a built-in preference for Nicaraguan… and especially Jinotegan coffee.

I wondered about the “Honey Process” and looked it up. It has nothing to do with honey – it refers to processing the coffee with a layer of the fruit still attached to the inner bean. Supposedly it makes for a sweeter cup.

And the coffee is fantastic. It’s exactly what I was looking for. As I begin to run low I need to get back to Central Market and buy some more. I’m a little worried that I’ll miss out on other good things if I keep buying this – but I can’t imagine anything I’d like better.

I did not set out to be a coffee snob – I really didn’t.

A Lot More Than Just A Drink

“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

My Aeropress at a campsite, Lake Ray Roberts, Texas

I’ve written before about my AeroPress – It took me over sixty years but I have finally found the best way to make coffee. The AeroPress is a perfect brewing machine… I thought. Something has surpassed it. The only thing that could possibly surpass it – a better AeroPress.

The AeroPress Go.

The various parts of the Aeropress Go

The Aeropress Go, collapsed inside its own coffee cup.

For my birthday I was elated to get one. I actually needed a second Aeropress – one for home (kept with its parts in a small blue zippered case near the kitchen) for morning jolts – and one for work to make it possible to get through the day. The Aeropress Go is perfect for that. I carry it in on Mondays and home at the end of the week  – that way it is available to carry with me on my bicycle for sunrise stops to sip some Joe.

Is it better than the original? I think so. The coffee is just as good and it is very small and I even like the cup that comes with it (it is plastic – but quality plastic [precious resin is what fountain-pen aficionados call it] – but the little ridges keep it cool in the hand).

Now all I need is a portable grinder… and a metal filter… and a portable coffee container… and to get up earlier in the morning… and a coffee nap.

Reviews:

Review: AeroPress Go

If you’re serious about brewing your own coffee when traveling, this is the kit for you.

One thing I noticed in the AeroPress materials is how they highlight a water temperature preference of 175 degrees Fahrenheit (80 degrees Celsius), which is notably cooler than the just-boiled water from my kettle. So, I bought a kettle with six presets and paid particular attention to the effects of water temperature. Trying this out is part of coffee testing’s scientific method, but the insistence on 175 degrees also read like marketing hokum.

I immediately knew I was wrong in my first head-to head. With all other variables locked down, I made a cup with 175-degree water and another with water right off a 212-degree boil. Both made good coffee, but after smelling the 175-degree cup, I noticed it lacked the smoky/burnt/caramelized aromas that stuck out clearly in the 212-degree cup. Whether you enjoy those smells probably depends on how much you like burnt marshmallows.

The bigger difference was in the sipping. Again, both cups were good, but the 175-degree cup reminded me of high-end coffee-shop coffee, while the 212-degree cup had rougher edges and sharper flavors. I had been brewing with a medium-dark roast, so next I experimented with an oily dark roast. I found similar but less-pronounced results. Still, it was good enough to convince me to brew at a lower temperature in the future.

If you do tinker—give it a try!—just remember to tweak only one variable at a time and use coffee that you know you like. As long as you’re in the ballpark, it’s hard to go wrong, but Jessica Easto’s Craft Coffee is excellent if you’re looking for a primer on brewing methods.

Regardless of method, the Go is superior to its already excellent predecessor.

First, it’s made to travel. People like to talk about traveling with the original, and there’s an accessory bag you can get to do that, but the Go’s cup and lid make it much more compact, and less clunky too. Fly into a new town for a week, grab a bag of ground beans when you land, and your home kit is now your road kit.

Second, between the mug and the lid, you’ve got places to set things down as you work. The best thing I’d figured out with my original was to put a loaf pan next to my kettle, creating a little accessory bin so I didn’t have to set a wet, grounds-covered stirrer or slightly drippy brewer on the counter. It’s not perfect, but it’s better with the Go.

Third, packed into its cup with the lid on, it looks much nicer on a kitchen shelf.

Fourth, they both cost around $30.

Bikepacking Review – AeroPress Go

In their own words, inventor Alan Adler and the team at AeroPress designed the new Go version to “provide all the delicious brewing capabilities of the original AeroPress plus a convenient drinking mug that doubles as a carrying case.” I think that’s a fittingly anticlimactic summary of the AeroPress Go. It hasn’t been completely reinvented or seen any revolutionary modifications. Rather, it’s simply an AeroPress that packs into a 15oz mug for travel. It still brews the same cup of coffee, and it’s not meant to replace the original; the two exist alongside each other in the company’s lineup.

the AeroPress isn’t well suited to brewing massive cups of coffee—if that’s what you need to get going in the morning—but don’t let its diminutive size fool you. It’s designed to brew small, concentrated cups, and it does so exceptionally well. Personally, I like to make an extra strong brew and then dilute it with some water after, yielding an Americano.

The AeroPress Go comes with a generous 350 paper filters, and a replacement pack of 350 costs just $5. They’re very reasonably priced when compared to filters for other common brewers, work great, and have a tiny footprint. And it’s entirely possible to reuse your paper filters several times, just by giving them a quick rinse in between batches.

All that said, it’s worth considering picking up a reusable metal filter for your AeroPress or AeroPress Go if you plan to use it regularly. The one pictured above is a fine DISK filter from Able Brewing. At $15, it may be half the cost of an entire AeroPress kit, but it’ll last you a lifetime if properly cared for, and also means you won’t create unnecessary waste with each cup.

Aeropress Go Review: Is Smaller also Better?

Review: The AeroPress Go Is the Better AeroPress (Even If You Don’t Travel)

 

Sandwich Hag

“I made a sandwich out of things. I’m an American. We can eat anything as long as it’s between two pieces of bread.”
Jim Butcher, Small Favor

Sandwich Hag, The Cedars, Dallas, Texas

Sandwich Hag, The Cedars, Dallas, Texas

Sandwich Hag

Not only is the food to die for, her story is inspiring,  plus the graphics are fantastic.