Saturday, July 18, 2009

Best Places for Coffee and Oatmeal Before It Is Too Late

I got an idea for this blog from a new book I saw reviewed in the Wall Street Journal. It is a huge book about the best places to eat in America before it is too late. The authors researched it themselves and said they "just drove and ate" all over America. My kind of vacation! Most of the food, however, is not very nutritious. Just good and gut busting. I have eaten at one of their top 15 places. It is a Clamshack in Ipswich, Massachusetts where we lived while I was going to seminary. You have to have a taste for fried clams to appreciate this place. I never developed one. I looked over the other 14 and decided there was not one worth a special trip. But, I saw a need for another kind of book that highlighted more nutritious choices. What I have in mind is oatmeal which I eat every morning for breakfast. On our last road trip which was this summer, I tried to find the best places for oatmeal every morning. Since I also like good coffee in the morning, the oatmeal place had to serve good coffee, too, if it was to gain a top rating in my book which has only been published in my mind. I know this is a very small niche market, coffee and oatmeal. It may only be me. My wife doesn't even appreciate it! But in the chance there is someone out there....

There are plenty of good places to find good coffee in Kodiak, AK where I live. Unfortunately, the best oatmeal I can find here is the stuff I make: Snoqualmie Falls which I buy way overpriced at Safeway. When we travel I usually load up on it and bring it home in the luggage or I buy some in bulk. I like the kind that is thick cut and has big, substantial, oat flakes with a nutty flavor that keeps its texture when cooked. No mushy, instant type stuff for me. Likewise, I like strong, bold coffee. No cream, no sugar, no nothing, but the coffee. Here in Alaska, I like Kaladi Brothers Red Goat.

So when you travel from here on a road trip, the first town you hit when you get off the ferry is Homer. Homer has some great restaurants and one very good place for oatmeal. It is Duncan House Family Diner in the center of town. Great hearty oatmeal topped with all sorts of great stuff like walnuts, and blueberries. The coffee is just ok. So, if you are traveling north which most people do since it is the only way to go from Homer, you will need a coffee stop about 90 miles north in Soldotna. There is a Kaladi Brothers coffee shop just off the main drag as you pass through town. I think you turn left at the police station and then take your next left when you get to Safeway.

When you get close to Anchorage you may be hungry again and a good place to stop for lunch is in Girdwood at the bakery near Alyeska. The coffee is ok but the cinnamon buns and sandwiches on homemade bread are great. In Anchorage, there is a Kaladi Brothers at New Sagaya Market and it is sold at Snow City Cafe, the best place for oatmeal in the city. They serve a big bowl of thick cut oats with a tray of brown sugar, granola, and raisins alongside. You can order fresh blueberries or a banana on the side. And as I said, they serve Kaladi Brothers coffee. It's a combo that is hard to beat.

On the road north, you can make another coffee stop at the Kaladi Brothers coffee shop in Wasilla just off the main drag in the Safeway parking lot. From there it is a long drive to Fairbanks. In the Denali area there is passable oatmeal at the restaurant at the Creekside Cabins and pretty good coffee. That's a good thing because there is not much else there except tourist places.

In Fairbanks, the best place for oatmeal burned to the ground this past year. The good news is that they are rebuilding. It was the College Restaurant near UAF. So, your best bet is to hit Alaska Coffee Roasters on Geist Road between Pizza Hut and a big MacDonalds. They have the best coffee in town (maybe the state - I need to do some more taste tests) and great breakfast pastries and sandwiches.

If you travel out of state in the Great Northwest, there are no shortages of great coffee places. I have not found too many good oatmeal places though. I can say that Stumptown Roasters serves some great coffee in Portland and several outlets around the area. If you get near the coast make sure you stop at Five Rivers Coffee Roasters in Tillamook, right across from the Cheese Factory. The people who own it are great to talk to, there is great coffee to sample and you can take a fresh roasted pound of coffee home with you. I often order their coffee to enjoy at home (Fogcutters blend is a personal favorite but most people find it too strong, Barbs Blend or Sportsmens Blends are milder). The best place for oatmeal I have found is at the Bobs Red Mill outlet and restaurant in Milwaukie, a suburb of Portland. If you want a break from oatmeal, which I even do sometimes, as long as that break includes pancakes with real maple syrup, you can try The House of Hotcakes just over the Ross Island Bridge in Portland. It is a cool place (no atmosphere which really makes for great atmosphere!) with heaping portions of everything breakfast and ok coffee but coffee is not what you go there for!

I plan on continuing to explore the Great Northwest and Alaska for other oatmeal and coffee places as we travel.

Friday, July 3, 2009

A Tale of Two Churches (maybe Three)

This is a story about two churches or, maybe, three, depending on how things turn out. The church in the story has been around a long time. It is a pretty traditional church. It looks like a church with steeple, a cross and pews. The pews became an issue. The pews had been in the church as long as anyone could remember. In fact, most people could not think of a church which did not have pews so that in some people's minds: churches = pews. In due time, some outsiders came along and it had been their experience that churches could have chairs. In fact, they preferred chairs when given a choice between pews and chairs. They kind of thought it foolish to have pews when you could have chairs. They thought since Jesus was seated next to His Heavenly Father he was seated on a chair, presumably. They brought this up when the church discussed whether to get rid of their pews and replace them with chairs. Not to be outdone, the people who preferred pews came up with a Biblical reference as well: somewhere it says, many are called but pews are chosen.

Still there was a third group in the church that was at odds with both these groups. And as long as they were discussing options for seating in the sanctuary, they just wanted to point out that the first Christians neither sat in pews or chairs! They stood! So, if we want to be truly Biblical, let's get rid of the pews and chairs and stand. Many times the Bible refers to God's People as standing in the presence of God. Their favorite hymn was Standing on the Promises.

At the last church meeting to discuss whether to keep the pews or replace them with chairs or get rid of both, a committee recommended a compromise plan. Half of the sanctuary seating would be chairs, half would be pews and one other section would be set aside for the Standers. Much discussion ensued. People left the meeting frustrated because they failed to agree on who would be up front, the pewsitters, the chairsitters or the standers.

It is hoped that this issue can still be resolved or where there is one church now, there will be three soon. A church of pewsitters, a church of chairstitters and a church of standers, each one feeling that they are the most Biblical. And there are already enough churches that believe that.

What Price a Life?

Donte Stallworth ran into a 59 year old man who was on his way home after working all night at a Miami construction site this past March 14. Stallworth had been drinking all night. He was driving his luxury car; Mario Reyes was on foot crossing the street. Police estimated Stallworth was going 50mph in a 40mph zone. His blood alcohol level was .126 well above the Florida limit of .o8. Stallworth stopped after he hit Reyes and called 911. His lawyer said, "he acted like a man and took responsibility for his actions." Too bad he didn't take responsibility for his actions before he got in the car and drove drunk. Did he act like a man then, too? Driving drunk? For his crime, Stallworth was sentenced to 24 days in jail. He will probably be suspended by the NFL at the start of this season for a few games, forfeiting some salary. His insurance companies settled with the victim' family avoiding a lawsuit.

Not long ago another NFL player was convicted of operating an unlawful interstate dogfighting ring. Michael Vick, a superstar quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, was vilified in the media for his horrible abuse of the dogs who were used for his dogfighting promotions. For his crime, Vick served almost two years in prison and was fined 1 million dollars. He is awaiting word when his football suspension will be lifted although his former team has already said they do not want him back.

So two cases. In one a human being is dead and in another some dogs are abused and killed. In one a night of pleasure results in a dead father and husband and in another someone's pleasure results in maimed or dead animals. Few people have firsthand experience of dogfighting. It is not a common pasttime. Most people probably would be repulsed by it. Dogs are very popular pets and most people see them that way. Vick's hobby appalled people.

Stallworth, on the other hand, was involved in a pasttime many people can relate to. Having a few drinks at a their local bar. Many people have picked up their car keys and driven home after enjoying those drinks. Alcohol is big business in this country. It earns a pass in most drunk driving cases. No one is going to go to bat for someone who abuses animals. No one shakes his head and says, oh well that happens. It clearly does not need to happen. However, when it comes to having a few drinks and driving, oh well that happens. When someone is killed, oh well that happens.

Donte Stallworth feels terrible about the tragedy he caused. Michael Vick says he feels badly, too. There is no good reason to cause a dog to suffer. There is no good explanation for why someone gets into a car after a few drinks. But, in this country, if you do, and if you are rich, you can get away with murder.