July 02, 2005

RIP Luther Vandross -- I raise my cup to you

Ritual Coffee Roasters
Opening day
Originally uploaded by DogMilque.

Some SF days are overcast and foggy. Summer can be a hit or miss. Today it was lovely outside and I couldn't wait to pull out my new-yet-used cheapo bike and take care of errands around my hood.

My can of Cafe La Llave has run out at home, and a glass of oolong milk tea just didn't cut it this morning. I remember seeing a new cafe in the neighborhood, next to Lost Weekend Video, called Ritual Coffee Roasters. It's nice, shiny exterior has taken over a space I barely remember. I roll over dying for a tall glass of espresso con ice.

After struggling for a few minutes w/my new bike lock (I'm still trying to figure this one out), I walk into a busy space reeking in the most delicious way of fresh, roasted beans. I figured I'd sit myself down w/a cup and write out the monthly rent check. No dice, this place was packed to the brim.

Oh well, I may as well get my coffee to go. I ordered a double iced espresso, and was served up a glass of ice mixed w/the anticipated dark elixer. I make my way to the bar to dress it up and find a nice surprise of liquid sugar! Now in Asia and most of the Pacific, liquid sugar (or sugar syrup) is a common sweetener for iced drinks. It's one of those common sense things that just hasn't caught up to the cafes here. With sugar syrup you never worry about stirring your drink to oblivion in hopes of dissolving the sugar crystals. Sweeten up and you're ready freddy.

Post-espresso dressing, I finally give my iced espresso a sip and oh my lord.... it was the best cup of coffee I ever had. Truly! It beat Martha Bros on 24th St in Noe Valley hands down. Now that's saying a lot. I had to have more.... but I felt aprehensive, especially since I really needed to write that rent check and get on w/my life. Oh what to do... I wanted to savor that cup slowly & surely. I figured the next best thing was to take away a 1/2lb of the house roast, "Hair Blender." Oh lovely this Hair Blender! I grab my bag of goodness and zip away.

After careful produce selection at one of my favorite markets on 23rd & S.Van Ness, unsuccessful thrifting at Salvation Army and roasted chicken noshing at one of the divey Chinese take-out joints -- I head home to feed the guinea pigs their Summer salad and take in some Chocolate City on KCRW.com.

I realized much of this evening's mix was a lot of 80's & 90's soul, which is usually not the norm on this wonderful radio show. The answer to today's theme is brought to light when the host announces a tribute to r&b balladeer Luther Vandross, who passed away today at 54.

I have fond memories of Luther's early tunes -- Never Too Much, A House Is Not A Home, and the entire The Night I Fell In Love album. One track in particular, Creepin' is one of his most underrated songs. It's a slow, sultry tune that defined a mid-80's Summer. This is Luther before he went by the Disney soundtrack wayside. The power ballads to follow his early success never really sat well with me.

So in honor of the talented Luther Vandross, whose early music presented the backdrop to my awkward coming of age years, I raise my delicious cup of Hair Blender coffee in your memory....

Ritual Coffee Roasters
1026 Valencia St, between 21st & 22nd
San Francisco
415 641 1024

weekdays 7am-11pm
Sundays 8am-9pm


Anonymous said...

I must say, when I heard Luther had died, i thought of those 'mid-eighties summers' when you used to play his (tapes?)... -I'm also taken back every time I hear Anita Baker. Seems like so long ago and then like yesterday.

special combo said...

Oh yes, Anita..... she does go hand in hand with 80's ballads. I miss her actually. I keep hearing she's having a comeback and I either miss it or perhaps it never happened. Nonetheless, she defines that period as well as Luther. I loved his music then.