people should be seen and not heard and not seen much

my ideal coffee shop has single-person booths, like cubicles, and the baristas bring you your drink and no one is allowed to talk to each other or on their cellphones or listen to music without headphones and no children are allowed and no conversation of any kind

my ideal coffee shop is a library with a really strict librarian but also you are allowed to drink coffee

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things I hate at the coffee shop:

    • people sitting in my direct line of vision even though I sit in the corner away from the window
    • people who take my seat at the starbucks I usually go to (My seat is the one in the corner by the door because there’s only once chance for someone to sit next to me and nobody likes the lounge chairs directly in front of me so usually there isn’t anyone sitting between me and the window and when the door opens, there’s a warm breeze mixed in with the AC.)
    • when there are more than two or three people in line because the baristas here are slow and odds are one of those people is going to order six different drinks and get confused halfway through ordering them so that one of the other baristas who could be making drinks has to come over and do an interpretive dance explaining the difference between iced and hot drinks
    • people who sit next to me when there are other seats available not next to me

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    • people who peer into the windows like they are looking for someone but actually they are just looking at their reflection
    • people who stand near me when I am sitting because I can only think about their dirty buttholes or smelly crotches being near my food
    • people who fuck with their hair more seems necessary this is a coffee shop you are not beyonce this is not a music video this is my life
    • people who squirm in my peripheral vision or in front of me and even across the way because it disturbs my whole aura
    • people who sit down in the bench seat like they are trying to catch something fast-moving with their butt because it makes me bounce on the cushion
    • skinny people who think they are skinnier than they are and try to squeeze into places where they don’t fit you are skinny not elastic
    • single customers who take up two tables when there are people looking for tables
    • people who sit four or five to a two-top table (and the two-top is really a one-top)
    • people who talk on their cellphones or watch or listen to anything without headphones on
    • students who look like they are meant to be studying but keeping replying to messages on their phone and giggling and making breathing noises

    • people who come to cafes for meetings, especially sales pitches–i have watched people open up a giant bag and start pouring liquids into various vials and expound upon the cleaning power of their products in the middle of an otherwise quiet coffee shop
    • anyone who comes into a quiet coffee shop making any kind of noise
    • families with children that do an elaborate but bad job of both trying to get their kids seated and arranged and stand in line at the same time
    • people who want a private consultation before they commit to ordering bread and coffee
    • people who come to Starbucks to buy gifts, not coffee, and want to confer with the barista like they need the details on an important investment
    • people who cut in line and the stupid surprised face they make when someone points it out to them like they thought three other people were just hanging out near the cash register because the wifi is better there, or something
    • people who eat their sandwiches with a fork and a knife
    • people who slurp their coffee
    • people who grab for their coffee too frequently (counts as squirming)
    • people who sit next to me instead of the other person when there are two empty seats between us
    • slow baristas
    • the person who shows up just as the rush is over so you had to wait ten minutes for an americano but she gets her frappucino in like 3 seconds and breezes out like no big deal
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    • the starbucks manager who always acts like my ordering a drink is a hurdle to her getting her work done
    • when one barista is making the drinks and two baristas are slapping each other with towels while five customers are waiting for their coffee
    • the delivery guy who comes and flirts really loudly with the baristas and makes them shriek and squeal really loudly
    • the people who let the door slam at the Starbucks by the train station
    • the stupid tiny fucking tables at the cama coffee behind sogo
    • the fact that my favorite Louisa never opened until 9:30 a.m. and now it’s perma-closed
    • whatever the fuck this traditional italian folk music remixed with a techno beat is what
    • the entourage accompanying the one person who is actually ordering a drink, and the fact that all six of them will notice that the one guy is blocking the exit except the guy who is actually blocking the exit
    • people who take pictures of their starbucks order
    • people who take multiple selfies at starbucks
    • people who think starbucks is fancy (overpriced, yes, but its not expensive enough to keep broke college students and people with kids out)

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  • when the barista tries to fix a drink she messed up instead of remaking it because I paid US$5 for this vanilla iced cold-brew coffee and i struggle not to feel stupid about that decision but when you fuck it up and just put some more sugary syrup in it and remind me to stir it myself it’s like a bad-idea one-night stand that doesn’t even redeem itself with decent sex
  • people who bring in their US$2 breakfast to enjoy the air-conditioned Starbucks atmosphere that I paid like US$8 to be able to sit in why didn’t the rest of us think of that you’re so smart ya dickhead
  • people who can’t fucking slide a chair or table over without making a big production like they are remodeling their living space and having an enraptured audience gives them inspiration to go on
  • people who line up too close to me i will make it awkward by flipping my hair or feigning a tic that looks like the electric slide
  • strangers who want to talk about anything besides what i want to drink

things I love

  • watching people try to squeeze through the closing gap in the electric doors because they didn’t know you have to press the button
  • watching people who try to cut in line like they are princess frappuccino get told to line behind those of us who are obviously waiting
  • watching the shitty Starbucks manager tell people who rocked up with breakfast shop sandwiches that cost like US$1 that they have to order a US$5 coffee or leave and watching them leave
  • the hot guys who used to run my favorite louisa’s and sometimes were still buttoning their collared shirts when i came in as they were opening

The Yilan Beer Place

amateur vagrant things to do in zhongli taiwan taoyuan kinds of draft beer

This was a lucky find for us!

The Yilan Beer Place is a franchise. The first time we enjoyed a lovely spirulina beer, we were in Jiaoxi City, Yilan County, famous for its hot springs. We got our cold beers and then stuck our feet in a pool of warm water where hundreds of tiny carp nibbled at our toes.

The original Yilan Beer Place in Jiaoxi in Yilan County
The original Yilan Beer Place in Jiaoxi in Yilan County

The fish-nibbling part was enjoyable, but yeah, definitely weird. These little fish just eat the dead skin off your feet. It tickles at first, then it feels nice. Or maybe that was just the beer…

Knowing that those fish would have been happier in colder water kind of put a damper on it for me, too. But, as always, I digress…

The Yilan Beer Place in Zhongli is a little bit off the beaten path, as in it’s not near The River, where everybody’s social lives intersect. It’s actually very close to the Xinming Night Market, which is still within walking distance of River, if you’re not lazy or injured. (A taxi will probably cost NT$100.)

The Yilan Beer Place is actually called 麥田現釀啤酒, which means like “Wheat Field Fresh Brewed Beer”, which is why we call it the Yilan Beer place.

The Yilan Beer Place in Zhongli does not have tanks of fish that will nibble your feet, but it does have the same selection of beers: barley (regular), wheat, rye, and spirulina. The barley and wheat beers are tasty in their own right, but we usually opt for the rye or spirulina. Although it’s black, the rye beer is surprisingly light on the palate. I think a lot of us might expect to encounter something dense and formidable like a Guiness when we see beer that dark, but it’s fun and has a hint of chocolate. I personally like the spirulina beer: It’s green, and who hasn’t had a good time drinking green beer? And it’s actually really fruity and nice.

amateur vagrant things to do in zhongli taiwan taoyuan yilan beer place spirulina green beer and rye beer black

You can order beers in pints, pitchers, and 1500 c.c. towers, or what we would call a “yard of beer” in the States (a yard being about a meter in length/height). There is also a really extensive menu of pan-Asian bar food, including Korean chicken wings, Thai shrimp cakes, Malaysian satay skewers, and the local marinated soy beans.

I loved the Korean chicken wings here, but lately it seems that the recipe has changed. The last two times, they weren’t as sweet and sticky, and frankly, just not as good as they were all the times before. I want my Korean chicken wings sweet, spicy, and finger-lickin’ good! However, they now come with fries. Obviously some kind of compromise was made.

Korean chicken wings
Korean chicken wings

There are lots of other good things to eat here, and plenty to drink.

J's favorite boneless chicken bites
J’s favorite boneless chicken bites

Sometimes, this place is dead quiet, and I’m afraid it might disappear overnight like so many restaurants do here. But then sometimes, every table is taken, which is as it should be. I like having such a good spot so close to our house.

amateur vagrant things to do in zhongli taiwan taoyuan yilan beer place drinking some beers

Paris Bar Zhongli, Taiwan

Three amigos: magic bartenders
Three amigos: magic bartenders

My bartending buddies Roy and Taryi, formerly of The River, have combined forces to take over Paris. Lucky for us, it’s right in our neighborhood where there aren’t many other bars. Now it’s one of our favorite places to go.

The cocktails are not cheap: they are made with fresh, quality ingredients and a lot of style. Taryi and Roy bartend professionally and competitively, collaborating on developing new drink recipes with surprising ingredients like ginger and green tea.

We love the mojitos made with fresh mint and grapefruit juice. Ask for their Cosmos Duck if you want to try a Paris-original that tastes like a juicy twist on boozy ginger duck broth.

Grapefruit mojitos with fresh blueberry garnish
Grapefruit mojitos with fresh blueberry garnish

Watching them make a drink is like foreplay for drinking.

You can always get a Heineken or a Corona if you have other financial priorities.

The music is very good. When they are on their best behavior, soft jazz transforms this warm-blue space into the background for scenes from 1920s Paris. When the place is full of friends, you might be bobbing your head to some nineties hip-hop.

No matter what the music, though, the vibe here is chill and drama-free. There’s no room to dance and no walls to flower upon. It’s an intimate space for being with your favorite people.

amateur vagrant paris bar zhongli taiwan vodka tonic
A very special vodka tonic

Shrub

This was supposed to go up on July 1, what happened?! I don’t know. I was on vacation…

The shrub (shrubs?) is (are?) my new favorite summer drink, and it doesn’t even need to have any alcohol.

amateur vagrant shrub

Of course, you can always add alcohol.

I thought I invented a drink with soda water and apple cider vinegar, but there is nothing new under the sun. Shrubs are made by muddling berries, mint leaves and sugar, then mixing them with soda water and apple cider vinegar to taste.

Here is an anti-recipe for shrubs that is more complicated than what I did, if you’re into that sort of thing. Really, I just muddled blueberries and sugar and I loved my drink, so I don’t know about making syrup and whatnot…

It is very easy, very pretty, and very refreshing. My best friend is having a baby shower soon and I think I will make a few pitchers of shrubs to go around.

Buckets

Saturday is drinks day here at Amateur Vagrant, unless I post about something else.

This is just a brief introduction to what every backpacker, English teacher, and expat high-schooler in Asia already knows and loves: the bucket.

Fancy buckets with fruit
Fancy buckets with fruit

Have you ever thought to yourself how cool it would be if your favorite cocktail were like ten times bigger than usual and came in a container with a handle?

The the bucket is for you.

think the original recipe is a bottle of the Thai rum, Sangsom, and Coke, poured over ice in an actual bucket (the kind you played with at the beach as a kid). However, you can also add an energy drink like Red Bull or the equivalent, or you can do other combinations like whiskey-and-coke or vodka-and-whatever.

We got these buckets after we got caught in a crazy rainstorm in Chatuchak Market in Bangkok. Like it was practically raining buckets…

Anyway, we ran to shelter in front of some abandoned mall because we didn’t know where else to go, and then we were kind of stuck there because the rain was so intense and we couldn’t get back to the train station. So we ordered drinks. I think it was a piña colada bucket and a mai-tai bucket because we are fancy.

amateur vagrant thai buckets pina colada me and j

When you order a bucket, you usually get a handful of straws in it, too, because you’re meant to drink it with friends. If you make a bucket with a whole bottle of rum, maybe don’t drink it by yourself, right? That would be gross if not downright dangerous.

Anyway, next time you want to do something ridiculous with alcohol, you can try making a bucket with you and your friends.

amateur vagrant thai buckets me drinking

Here’s another post from another blog with more pictures and info about Thai buckets. He promises some tips for safe bucket-drinking at the end, but then the post just ends with no more information, which I feel is a commentary on how dangerous it can be to drink this much tasty alcohol.

Matcha Coffee

Iced matcha coffee, mugged
Iced matcha coffee, mugged

This is more of a Sunday morning than a Saturday night kind of drink.

I “discovered” this drink at my local Louisa Coffee shop when I ordered a “matcha latte” thinking it would be a hot drink made with matcha and milk. I was  surprised to taste that it was made with coffee and matcha, and even more surprised that I loved it.

Now I order matcha coffees at Louisa all the time. The matcha coffee is cheaper and they say it doesn’t have any milk in it.

It seems like there must be some milk in there because it tastes and looks creamy, but maybe it’s just the cheap milk powder.

I am not sure exactly how they make it, but I’m in love. And I enjoy it cold as much as I enjoy it hot, which is unusual for me.

I don’t have a matcha coffee recipe. I am 99% sure that if you add some matcha tea powder to your coffee at home, and add cream or sugar to taste, you’ll be good to go. Actually, J does that at home all the time so he can have his coffee and still enjoy the health benefits of drinking matcha. I can’t drink matcha on an empty stomach without getting nauseous, so I usually have my matcha coffee to go between classes.

Louisa iced matcha coffee
Louisa iced matcha coffee

 

Mmmmmatcha coffee
Mmmmmatcha coffee

Picklebacks

Guys. So. When we went back to the US last summer, we heard that everyone in Philly was drinking picklebacks. We went to this place called Sidecar to wait for some friends and ended up trying all four of the picklebacks on their menu. We were so hooked!

In case you haven’t had the chance to try a pickleback yet, it’s generally a shot of whiskey chased with a shot of pickle juice. Only some people are super creative so they are doing variations like shots of tequila chased with shots of brine from salsa, whatever. Just something salty and sour chasing something hard. Mmm.

We wanted to recreate that experience for our friends in Taiwan. You can get commercially made pickles here, but everybody online says not to use that juice: it’s too salty, there are too many additives, and so on. We couldn’t find all the spices we needed, like mustard seed, here in Zhongli, so I just ordered a bag of premixed pickling spices from iherb.com. I’ve never really pickled anything before and I wanted to start off with something easy. Also, some customers reviewed the products and said they didn’t like the cinnamon chips in the mix, but I thought that sounded like it would be real good in a shot you are supposed to drink.

We’ve made big batches of pickle juice for picklebacks three times now. We were kinda fudging the recipe until I found this magic ratio: equal parts vinegar and water and four times the sugar to salt. It was like SO MUCH SALT and EVEN MORE SUGAR, but in the end the pickle juice was almost pleasant to drink. It made for a nice, bracing chaser without making your eyes twitch from the acidity of the vinegar.

For the most part, our friends have loved the picklebacks, with the exception of people who really don’t like pickles. Also, unexpectedly, our Taiwanese friends seems to like picklebacks even more than our Western friends. I had thought the unfamiliar spices wouldn’t resonate with them.

A big jar of pickle juice can disappear pretty fast once we start pouring as most people will ask for seconds. Our bar-owner friends started thinking about other drinks, like dirty martinis, they could mix with pickle juice. It was really great to feel like we were inspiring people to be creative with new ingredients.

It went way better than the time J was trying to convince every one to put chocolate on their blue cheese. That’s delicious, no joke, but even I can see how it’s not for everyone.