4.27.2005

Bitter grounds

Today is Dave's birthday. I had been scheming and squirreling away yarn shop paychecks for months - money that otherwise would have purchased yarn, so you know I am serious - to get him a high quality espresso machine. My plan was to surprise him this morning with a steaming cup of java. I was even going to try my hand at latte art.

Dave is hard to shop for, and even more difficult to surprise. He does love a good cup of latte, though, so this was going to be the perfect gift. My fellow blogger and foodie Kate recommended the right machine. It wasn't in stock locally, but I uncharacteristically started planning early enough that I could wait the month for it to arrive. When it came my neighbor hid it in her basement (Dave is impossible to hide things from, too). I even bought a simple set of ceramic espresso cups and a tool for tamping the grounds down.

As the day approached, I got appropriately wonderful coffee beans, Grumpy Monkey, and the best local whole milk, Calders, from Big 10 (aka "Cheese Cheese Cheese"). The day before I found some amazingly gigantic, luscious strawberries and some good chocolate to dip them in, for an elegant accompaniment.

Before going to bed last night I sprung the machine from its hiding place and hid it in the back of the truck. I cleverly set the alarm on my cell phone to go off half an hour before Dave usually awakes.

I was at my most brilliant, most sneaky, most generous best (not counting the part that I really wanted the espresso machine for myself).

Until this morning. The alarm went off. I spent 15 panicked minutes searching for my car keys. Finally found them here - whew! Spent another 15 minutes reading instructions and putting the thing together. Then someone sprung Evan from his crib, and he and Brian came to help. Have you ever had two children under the age of five help you prepare espresso?

As I was simultaneously swatting away small children and priming the pump on the machine I snapped the steam nozzle off in my hand. Panicked, but hoping it was a detachable part, I called Kate for tech support. She gently informed me that I had broken the damn thing. But the show must go on! Dave must get his latte! Kate talked me down, encouraging me to forge ahead with the espresso and forget about foamed milk. Unruffled, I placed the cups under the spigots and set the machine to espress, or whatever the appropriate verb is. Hot water gushed from the steam nozzle and all over the counter. No espresso came out. I called Kate again, just for sympathy.

Then Brian, Evan and I dipped the strawberries, made plain old drip coffee, scribbled our names on a card, and headed back upstairs for the sorry presentation of gifts.

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