Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Frita Batidos - a harrowing experience

Last night, on my way to do a bit of reading with Ryan at Sweetwater's Cafe on Washington St., I walked past Frita Batidos, a new Cuban-inspired restaurant opened by Eve Aronoff, who owns eve the restaurant. From the outside, you see big park benches on the inside (I should have taken this as my first clue), which are painted entirely white, to go along with the white walls. (In retrospect, it made the place seem super sterile.) When you walk inside, you notice oddly that in the far corners of the restaurant sugarcane hugs the walls. There seemed like a lot of options to order from, which you do at a counter. (I should have taken this as my second clue) On the menu were listed Cuban-inspired burgers, fries, shakes and coffee. It was a cold night, I tell you, and the sound of a thimble-sized shot of espresso sounded really good. They said that it was brewed with "demerara sugar," which I thought was intriguing. (It turns out that demerara sugar is just brown sugar. Talk about exotic advertising.) So, I order the thimble-sized coffee (which was $1.06), and I realised I had no cash. Crap...I paid for it by card, and got a receipt (trash!). But this is just the beginning of the ordeal. I walk to the side, where there is a fancy looking Mirage coffee machine, which surprised me, because (not to be judgemental) it didn't seem like anyone there was...into coffee. When I looked at the top of the machine, where baristas generally keep the mugs and espresso cups to warm, I notice only plastic and paper cups. OMG. (Here is a picture of the thimble. The mouth of it is a little bigger than a quarter. It seems that two thimbles would make one nice sized shot of espresso.)

Me: Are there any glass cups you can serve me in?
Girl: No, we just have these plastic thimbles.
Me: I just don't want to throw anything away. That's all.
Girl: Why not?
Me: I just don't like throwing stuff away...
Girl: Well, this is made of corn and is recyclable, or compostable, whatever.

Crap. She proceeds to open up a little packet of "demerara" sugar (a packet of Sugar in the Raw), and pours the sugar into the filter, and fill it with coffee grounds. I was surprised with the amount of coffee she put into the filter; it seemed like that was enough for two whole shots of espresso. She tries to fit the filter into the machine, and she can't. (It was just a little misaligned, that's all.) So she throws out all of the coffee and sugar. "Hmmph," she goes. She opens another packet of sugar in front of me (I'm flipping out inside) and puts in another bunch of freshly ground beans. She tries to fit the filter in, AND CAN'T! So she throws THAT sugar and coffee away too. "This stupid thing," she goes. She opens a third packet of sugar, fills the filter with beans, and finally gets the filter fixed into the machine. She puts a glass beaker under the mouth of the filter, and two whole shots of espresso come out, as expected! I am thinking, "Oh man, this isn't boding well." She takes the little thimble, fills it up, and throws the rest of the espresso, three thimbles worth down the drain! I was close to having a seizure.

The coffee in the thimble was gone in a second. It was good. But I was left with a receipt, a corn-based thimble, and take responsibility for three packets of sugar, and enough coffee for a small family.


  1. UGH. Darshan, I've been carrying my own shopping bags for close to 17 years now. They used to be washable canvas, which I preferred, except the baggers hated them because they didn't stand up on their own, so as they wore out, I replaced them with the recycled plastic ones which I hope are REALLY made of 100% recycled plastic like they say they are. They seem to be holding up pretty well---I've been using a few of them for more than two years now.

    Anyway, I know you know the story about the man behind me who, as I walked away with my reusables, said somewhat louder than necessary, "I want my groceries double-bagged in plastic, except for my bottled water. I want those triple-bagged," but I can't tell you how many times I've had to repeat myself, sometimes three or four times before the words "I DON'T NEED A BAG" sinks into the head of the cashier. And from there, I can't bear to think about the number of times I've stood there sickened from watching the cashier remove my items from the plastic bag she'd put them in, and then THROW AWAY the plastic bag, as though my groceries had somehow contaminated the bag for the next person. I started just accepting that one plastic bag so I could reuse it for SOMETHING, at least, instead of taking the risk that the cashier would throw it away and I'd be one step closer to insanity. Or at least a seizure. :)

  2. I've been in and talked with the guy that's trying to train the staff for coffee. He's worked for both Riual in San Francisco and Stumptown in Portland. He's pretty serious about coffee and sounds like he's trying to envoke the passion in some of the empoloyees. I imagine it's hard since it's a restaurant not a cafe and thy don't have designated baristas.
    Also demerera is a brown sugar as is turbinado. It is more like turbinado than "brown sugar" is thought in the States. When I was first in they had demerera not turbinado. Maybe they ran out but they taste would be very similar. Of course I wouldn't expect some one that enjoys sweetwaters to appreciate good coffe. You said you weren't trying to be judgemental but that's what your whole post was.

  3. I was at Frita Badito last week, and enjoyed the food and drinks. Did you notice that some of the drinks (ginger lemon-aid) are actually served in a small plastic sandwich bag, tied up with a straw inside? The server said the baggie has a smaller footprint than the regular plastic cup.

  4. Jackie, I had absolutely no idea about that. Did you by any chance take a picture of it? Maybe I should swing by and order a normal meal, and see how much stuff comes out of it...

  5. Judgemental or not...I can understand your point of view Darshan. How do we use moments like this to fix things? I feel terrible telling strangers the implications of their actions...I hate to sound like I am morally superior to them. I typically just write in feedback to the restaurant/hotel enouraging them to re-think how they do business.