Salt & Pepper Diner songs of the day for 3/18

I haven’t tapped the cranial jukebox for a while, so thought I would share a song. The only problem is several candidates occurred to me and I couldn’t pick just one. So let’s stock up, shall we?

Fact: 98% of people over the age of 21 are incapable of resisting the urge to sing along – loudly – when they hear this song. It’s science! Back when we used these shiny things called “CDs” to listen to music, the Hot Fuss album got an awful lot of play in our car.

Matthew Sweet is criminally underrated. Why didn’t this guy become a much bigger deal? Should have been a huge star after the Girlfriend album. This one isn’t off Girlfriend but is equal to all the great songs on that one. I know everyone claims their twenties was the era of the best. music. ever. But man, we were completely spoiled in the ’90s with so much amazing music.

I really enjoyed this one when it was in heavy rotation on what we innocently called indie radio. It wasn’t until years later that I learned the frontman and I went to college together. Great guy, huge talent. His current band is doing some terrific stuff, check them out too.

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new grinders for the home

Coffee obsessives who brew their drinks at home have a couple new options for grinding fresh beans. Both look absolutely terrific.

Moccamaster KM5
If you read my most recent holiday gift guide, you’ll know that Technivorm Moccamaster has some of the best-looking home coffee makers – and they also make cute Christmas tree ornaments.

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Coffee’s origin story

from @EmpirepodUK on Twitter

I am not usually a podcast listener, but have recently been hooked by the Empire podcast, where historians tell the story of the rise and fall of some of history’s most important, well, empires.

In an episode released in January, the subject is the history of coffee, particularly its impact in the Ottoman Empire, spread through Europe, and development in England. The hosts are William Dalrymple, a Scot who has lived most of his adult life in India and written many terrific books, and Anita Anand, a British journalist and historian of Punjabi descent. They are joined for this episode by Harvard professor Cemal Kafadar, who has written of coffee in early modern Istanbul.

I realize this description has been less than enthralling, but give it a try. The podcast is available on Apple podcasts and on Spotify.

Surprises in the Sunshine State, part II

Siesta Key Beach

Following up on a not-so recent post (sorry I’ve not been diligent lately about posting) about a trip to the Jacksonville/Saint Augustine area, here’s a report on another trip, this one with my family over the holidays to Sarasota. The trip included catching up with old friends, a day trip up to St. Pete, interesting museums, beach time, and, of course, lots of coffee.

Let’s start with the non-coffee stuff, shall we?

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that didn’t last very long

The excitement over last summer’s debut of Tigerella’s coffee shop in DC’s Western Market is now officially extinguished, as it is permanently closed.

The coffee side of the business closed in December, with a sign in the window announcing a holiday break with a January reopen. I was in Western Market today and the space is now bare, except for a few fixtures; a bagel shop will soon take its place. Tigerella’s restaurant is still open, but its only coffee option is French press.

Coming soon after the closing of beloved Little Red Fox, which is ceding its space to a different local bagel chain (one which, IMO, is very overrated), this ain’t good. Let’s please wrap our finest DC independent coffee stalwarts like The Coffee Bar in bubble wrap and keep them as safe as possible.

photo of person standing in between trees
my current vibe
(photo by Min An on

P.S. Sorry not to post part II of the Florida travel piece yet, it’ll be up soonish

well that’s a first

My drink of choice is a bit of a bastardization of a standard beverage, so it’s not unusual to find myself in a detailed conversation with the person at the register and/or the barista of what it is I’m looking for. How that plays out is often a good clue of where to set my expectations on a first-time visit to a cafe.

Sometimes the drink I end up with shows that I probably wasn’t clear enough. Phrases like “traditional macchiato,” “a little bit of milk,” and “not too much foam” can mean very different things to different people.

Today I visited a cafe I’ve been to before, and my request for a “macchiato with an extra double shot” didn’t phase the barista.

I was given something that I haven’t ended up with before:

bottom to top: macchiato; ‘extra’ double shot of espresso

Surprises in the Sunshine State

photo: Pexels/MGN

In the past few months I’ve made a couple trips to Florida, and been pleasantly surprised to find some terrific coffee shops. Here’s my report.


On this trip, four coffee shops visited, and each one earned the Coveted Asterisk of Quality.TM

I flew to Jacksonville’s airport for a weekend mini-reunion with some college friends in nearby St. Augustine, America’s oldest city. I had an early departure so my first stop after getting the rental car was for coffee. I had very low expectations for Jacksonville itself, as it’s always reputed to be boring and bland, but I was glad to find myself in the Five Points neighborhood at BREW Five Points. Great coffee, friendly people, and on a cool street with what looked to be a lot of cool and quirky restaurants, bars, and shops. I managed to resist these treasures in the window of the antique & junk shop next door.

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The Matty Macchiato 5th Annual Holiday Gift Guide – Part II

photo: iStock/Svetlana_nsk, via The Wirecutter/NY Times

Part I of this year’s guide focused on branded swag. Today we’ll try for most everything else.

Here are suggestions on what to get for the person who……..

Wants to make better coffee at home, by any method

I could wax poetically about coffee demigod James Hoffmann and his new book, How to Make the Best Coffee at Home, ($19.99 – available from all major book retailers, though it would be nice of you to support your local independent bookstore), but better to let the man himself tell you all about it.

If you are interested in coffee at all, Hoffmann’s YouTube channel is an absolute treasure ($FREE).

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The Matty Macchiato 5th Annual Holiday Gift Guide: Part I

So two weeks before Christmas may be a little late to be much help. Remember, if something doesn’t arrive in time you can always print a picture and let them know their present is on the way! Or start normalizing New Year’s gifts.

If for some reason you’d prefer well-written professional writing and images – can’t imagine why – many quality coffee roasters have added holiday gift guides to their websites. You should also check out Counter Culture Coffee’s staff recommendations page for recommendations on the best gear for making great coffee at home.

Many of these are repeats from past guides, but I’ve tried as much as possible to find new/different/improved versions. Okay, let’s go.

Swag ’em up
Everybody loves swag, whether it represents their favorite sports team, beer, or coffee roaster/café. Our beloved Little Red Fox tee is no longer available, but here are some awesome pieces of branded merch from coffee world.

Verve Coffee Roasters Fuego Pocket Tee, regularly $25, currently on sale for $13(!)
The mullet of coffee tees: all business in the front and all party in the back.

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Some DC coffee news

Great to see that DC multi-roaster The Coffee Bar reopened its 17th Street NW location. While TCB’s Shaw home base stayed open for the duration, the 17th Street shop closed for a significant stretch during the pandemic. The shop resumed operation in October, and hasn’t skipped a beat.

This nugget of wisdom was recently on their sidewalk chalkboard:

While that’s a wonderful development, there is also some very unfortunate DC coffee news.

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