It’s tough to be a newspaper man these days. Having run out of tiresome video game and comic book themes, they’re now making Hollywood movies out of bloggers. It seems that anyone with a Twitter account can also get a book deal — ironically celebrating the very media format it supposedly deems irrelevant. So we avoid the knee-jerk reactions when a newspaper staple like SF Chronicle restaurant critic, Michael Bauer, publishes a brief write-up on the local coffee scene: Michael Bauer: Between Meals : Let’s have another cup of coffee.
Trust us: a guy like Mr. Bauer has his haters. The guy even has recent exposés of his identity — Superman-style — despite the fact that his face has been on “WANTED” posters in SF restaurant kitchens for years, offering a bounty for any restaurant employee who identifies his arrival.
What we appreciate about Mr. Bauer is that he makes no pretense about being a coffee expert. That you’ve developed a professional palate for food doesn’t convey credentials as a coffee expert, purely by association, just because both activities involve your mouth. This is a far cry from the megalomania of some Bay Area celebrity chefs who think their coffee reigns supreme — when, in fact, it loses taste tests comparing them with an airport Starbucks. A bellwether of intelligence is a self-awareness of limitations.
In the article, Mr. Bauer notes that, “Blue Bottle has become a name with loads of cachet, and coffee made in a French press is practically becoming as ubiquitous as tap water.” We couldn’t help but notice this very phenomenon this evening, as we watched Noe Valley‘s Contigo produce French presses of the stuff like a factory assembly line for coffee-craving customers. Before even asking who supplied their beans, we (correctly) suspected it was branded Blue Bottle just by the heavy rotation at their coffee grinder. (Oddly enough, we found the resulting press pot to be a bit underwhelming — in flavor, freshness, etc. — for the pedigree.)
And to prove his own ignorance of the topic, the last half of Mr. Bauer’s article on “artisan coffee” (his term, not ours) concerns McDonald’s and Starbucks — which have about as much to do with artisan coffee as a Big Mac has to do with Kobe beef. The difference here being that we can forgive the guy — he clearly knows not of what he speaks. But at least he’s not pretending to be something he’s not.
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