What happens when a passion for cycling and coffee inspire a restaurant? I discover the answer, and story behind it, at La Fábrica (The Factory). Hint, we'll be back!
“Lunch is it? You’ll have to speak to me dad. He’s eaten in every shop along here. He’s a real foodie.” We were speaking with the younger half of the window-cleaning team that had just washed the outside windows of Chapel House Penzance, Cornwall, UK, where we were staying. “Dad” soon appeared, with window-washing hose coiled over his shoulder. “Now, Ben Tunnicliffe at the Tolcarne Inn in Newlyn has a Michelin Star, but if you want to eat now, they might be booked. And then there’s the Shore, up at the end of Morrab Road. Might be booked. If it’s lunch now you’re looking for, better try The Old Lifeboat House just down there by the harbor bridge—just over there.” (He pointed toward the shore.) "They’re ranked #1 on Trip Advisor.”
He wrote this information down on the back of his “business card”—a small piece of paper with “Pure Window Cleaning” printed on one side—and handed it to us. Then he loaded up his hoses and drove on to his next job.
That we were given expert culinary advice by a window washer is par for the course in Penzance, Cornwall, UK, a town filled with quirky charm and friendly people.
We had escaped the nearly 100° temperatures of Girona and headed for southwest England. After a few days in Wells, Somerset, where we greeted our favorite cathedral, we participated in a heart-opening Deep Awakening workshop with Tim Freke in Glastonbury. Then we took the train to Penzance, partly to enjoy the cooler climate and partly to base ourselves in a city we enjoy, from which we could visit numerous powerful places and interesting sites in southwest Cornwall.
Unfortunately, too many other people had the same idea, and it was nearly impossible for us to book accommodations for more than a few days at a time. Then our friend Emily, who concocts Pure Nuff Stuff (CLICK) cosmetics in the Egyptian House in Penzance, put us on to Chapel House—she knows the owner, who stocks Pure Nuff Stuff toiletries in the bathrooms. This luxe boutique hotel just opened a few months ago and isn’t listed on any of the standard booking sites.
Chapel House (CLICK) is an historic building dating back to 1790, when Penzance was an important naval base for the Napoleonic wars and the principal port for shipments of tin and copper from the mines that made Cornwall famous. Susan Stuart, the proprietor, has completely refurbished the place while maintaining its historic charm. She showed us the different guestrooms, of which there are only 6. We chose Room One, which has a stunning view of St. Michael’s Mount across the bay. Every room is different and furnished in excellent taste—and has an iPad loaded with local information. Along with our room, we would have use of the gorgeous house—library, reception, gardens, kitchen, and dining room. Not bad, what?
Susan provides more than a B&B—she also offers room service snacks and weekend “kitchen dinners,” with a choice of locally sourced seafood and vegetables. We had landed in something close to heaven. We negotiated a long enough stay to avoid the worst of the heat in Spain and long enough to rest and regroup after our whirlwind trip to the USA, during which we had disposed of the contents of our storage unit, put our Santa Fe house on the market, and visited kids and grandkids.
So here we were, standing in front of Chapel House, looking for lunch. Following the window washer’s directions, we walked down a set of steep stairs to the harbor to the Old Lifeboat House Bistro. The small stone building is, indeed, the “Oldest lifeboat house in Cornwall.” Although it looks like a snack bar, it offers such delicacies as Tart au Citron and a Cornish Cheeseboard, as well as the expected Sticky Toffee Pudding.
It is a local hangout and appears to be frequented by elderly women who are regulars. Our waitress sat down with one lady and had a short conversation about her new haircut before asking if she wanted her usual steak and fries. When a couple sat down outside with their dog, the waitress brought out a dog bowl and a jug of water for the dog before taking their order. “Wouldn’t want the dog to be uncomfortable, would we?” she said, when I asked.
We looked at the chalkboard with the daily specials and chose the Newlyn Crab salad (caught near Newlyn—an arts colony/fishing town next to Penzance). It was delicious, complete with fresh salad and a grapefruit dressing. I spied a high-class Italian espresso machine behind the counter and a sign proudly announcing Carraro Fine Italian Coffee (since 1927), so we ordered macchiatos (espressos with a bit of foamed milk), which were nearly as good as the ones we get in Girona.
Delightfully filled, we walked back to Chapel House to luxuriate in our swimming-pool-size tub for two, enhanced with some of Emily’s luscious Pure Nuff Stuff Squeaky Clean bath gel.
It was just another day in Penzance—and the only pirates in sight were in the windows of the curio shops along the strand. Maybe that’s because they’ve been scared off by the prone plaster statue of Admiral Benbow with a rifle, poised on the rooftop of the pub with that same name on Chapel Street.
by Elyn Aviva
When we went for an early morning stroll in Girona, Catalonia, my husband, Gary, and I saw a group of well-dressed people standing impatiently outside a shop. We took a closer look and saw a storefront with impressive, fluted grey stone columns, large display windows, and imposing glass double doors. The merchandise on display was unusual: small metallic capsules in coordinated colors arranged in geometric designs. Emblazoned in glowing white letters over the doors was “Nespresso.” Nespresso? The coffee capsule brand?
The crowd grew increasingly noisy and impatient. We decided it was time to leave before they became even more restive.
I was puzzled. Who would want to purchase pre-made coffee capsules? It seemed neither cost-efficient nor ecologically sound. And besides, when you ran out, there was nothing you could do—except wait desperately for the Nespresso shop to open.
Returning from our stroll, we paused again at the shop. Nespresso was its name and luxury was its selling point. From our vantage point we could see inside. Slim young women in classy matte-black uniforms stood near the open door, gatekeepers into this exclusive club. People entered, sometimes showed a membership card, chatted for a moment discreetly, and then were ushered into this high temple of gustatory excess.
We started to enter but then thought better of it. Clearly this was not a place for browsing. Besides, we weren’t sure we would be admitted. We weren’t members of the club.
Several weeks later we were walking with a friend of ours, an elegant and sophisticated resident of Girona. When we passed the Nespresso store, she stopped abruptly.
“I need to buy more Nespresso capsules,” she explained. She rummaged in her purse, then found her card.
“We’ve never been inside,” I admitted.
“You haven’t? Well, now’s your chance—and we can drink some coffee after I make my purchase.”
We tagged behind her as she waved her tasteful matte-black and metallic card at the eager-to-assist assistant. A brief exchange in rapid-fire Spanish ensued. First purchase, then free coffee, she explained.
I looked around. Matte-black walls were set off against a creamy background, resembling the crema on top of fresh espresso. One matte-black wall included a built-in storage unit, filled with multi-colored arrangements of coffee-capsule boxes. On other walls, backlit China-red lacquered niches showcased glass Nespresso glasses and coffee capsules, presented as objets d’art. A nearby wall was a feast for the eyes, the 16 different “Grand Cru” coffees displayed like bonbons, each variety hermetically sealed in its own color-coded metallic capsule.
Attentive clerks waited behind matte-black counters to assist customers. I suppose I should call them “members,” not “customers,” since “customers” sounds so commercial. The clerks (or should I call them “personal shoppers”?) eagerly helped club members decide amongst the numerous options of coffee and accoutrements: elegant, color-coded cartons of coffee capsules; gleaming chrome and black Nespresso machines of various sizes and complexities; dark wood cases and Plexiglass stands for Nespresso capsules; metal espresso cups that were a playful riff on Nespresso capsules; and specialty sugars and cookies. Each type of product was tastefully displayed in its own area.
After our friend completed her purchases, which were carefully placed in the distinctive matte black, silver, and gold Nespresso bag, “our” assistant led us to the back of the shop to the coffee bar. She invited us to sample the newest AAA Sustainable Nespresso café. A video played silently on a large TV screen, showing the process of growing and harvesting the AAA Sustainable Nespresso coffee we were about to imbibe. We sat on padded stools whose upholstery colors coordinated with the colors of the coffee capsules. The circular table in front of us displayed open bins of coffee beans, presumably so you could sniff the different varieties.
The assistant deftly popped capsules into the Nespresso machines, and within moments we were presented with small white cups of steaming, crema-topped café. She explained briefly the particular characteristics of this exclusive coffee (a Limited Edition, only available for a short time): caramel overtones, creamy, #8 on the intensity scale. I realized this was the first I’d heard any mention of aroma and taste—presumably the reasons you buy coffee.
Across the table from us, two elegant Spanish ladies engaged in intense conversation about their latest Purificación García handbag purchases. Next to them was an electrodoméstico (household electronics) repairman. Although membership in the Nespresso club seemed exclusive, it actually wasn’t. Anyone, including ourselves, could join if we were willing to pay the price.
The coffee tasted good. But was this a club we wanted to join?
We expressed our doubts to our friend. Wasn’t this just an über-successful marketing ploy?
She disagreed. “The coffee really tastes good, and it’s so easy to make. It’s foolproof. All you have to do is push a button or two. You don’t have to clean up anything—just dump out the capsules when they fill the built-in storage container. It’s perfect. No mess, no waste. And it costs less per capsule than having an espresso at a café.”
What a concept: an espresso machine that is easy to use, requires no clean up, and produces uniformly good coffee. And you get a choice of flavors—16 choices in fact, plus special editions. In addition to the convenience, you get to make your purchases in a jewel-box-like store—I mean boutique—that reeks of exclusivity, of luxury that is surprisingly affordable. In this time of financial crisis, it’s a brilliant concept.
Nonetheless—or perhaps because of the success of the marketing concept—I had a few qualms. The coffee packaging, for example, hardly seemed ecological. And the concept definitely felt elitist. I picked up a few tastefully designed brochures and started reading. One encouraged capsule recycling and explained in detail the advantages of the aluminum capsules; another described the AAA Sustainability program; another emphasized the energy-efficiency of the various espresso (oops, Nespresso) machines. Fitted into one matte-black wall was a recycling center, a discreet reminder to remember the environment.
Almost against my will—and probably against my better judgment—I was convinced—or rather converted—to the Nespresso concept. Hesitantly, I reminded Gary I had a birthday coming up. Not surprisingly, there was a special offer.
Soon we, too, were Nespresso Club members and the proud possessors of a shiny new Nespresso machine. It came with a sample of the 16 different coffees and a booklet describing in detail the varied aromas and flavors so that we, too, could learn to be coffee (make that Nespresso) connoisseurs. Although I say we were the proud possessors of the machine, I am not sure who actually was possessing whom.
That evening I went online and discovered that Nespresso has opened a “Star Boutique” in Paris, a “two-story edifice only a few steps from the Arc de Triomphe” on the Champs Élysées. Paris. The Champs Élysées.
Suddenly I realized that I had stumbled on a new kind of travel: Nespresso tourism. We could travel around Europe visiting Nespresso boutiques. After all, we were card-carrying members! We could enter these temples of luxury, make a purchase, and sit with others “like us” to drink the coffee of the day. We might even run into George Clooney.
The future spread out before me. We would usher in a new kind of pilgrimage. Instead of traveling to sacred places, we would travel to shrines to conspicuous consumption.
First published on Your Life is a Trip (CLICK HERE)
I have become nearly addicted to “bullet proof” coffee. Don't know what that is? It is NOT a cuppa coffee in a Kevlar vest. (You will find a recipe at the end of this post.) My “bullet proof” coffee should not be confused with Bulletproof® Coffee, which is a registered trade name of Bulletproof Nutrition, Inc. (www.bulletproofexec.com), which markets their own special version of the ingredients. I’m sure their version is superior to mine, but this is all “homemade.”
I start with a serving of espresso coffee from my trusty Nespresso machine. I just love this gadget, but then I’m a confirmed tech junkie. I add butter (from a farm in France), coconut oil (organic from the Philippines), and mix 20 seconds in a blender. The result is unlike any coffee I have ever tasted—smooth, buttery, and delicious.
I can hear you saying “Surely, that is a formula for gaining weight and clogging arteries.” Well, I can’t claim that bulletproof coffee is directly responsible for my recent weight loss (20 pounds in 3 months), but it hasn’t been causing me any problems either.
“Bullet proof” coffee is a part of a strange diet that Elyn and I have been on. It goes by the name Ketogenic, and she is much stricter than I am. Basically, I have cut out all grains, potatoes, rice and sugars, and voilá the weight just dropped off. (Unfortunately, no weight loss for Elyn!) I’ll have more to say about this in another post.
What are the benefits of drinking “bullet proof” coffee? Well, that depends on who you are consulting. The anti-saturated-fat advocates claim it is a recipe for disaster, but David Asprey, President of Bulletproof Nutrition, Inc., claims that it aids mental function and can help with weight loss by satisfying hunger.
The first thing I drink on awakening is a cup of “bullet proof” coffee. That cup has some serious fat. I follow it with a breakfast of yogurt (organic sheep yogurt from a local source) laced with nuts, berries, coconut flakes, and seeds. This keeps me going until the 1:30-2:00 PM, Spanish lunch time. I never seem to feel much hunger, and when I’ve checked my calories I’m way down from what I used to eat.
We used to say: “Eat a better breakfast—do a better job!” For me, “bullet proof” coffee is an important part of my better breakfast. (Confession time: Elyn is the one who makes my “bullet proof” coffee in the morning.)
Elyn’s “Bullet Proof” coffee recipe:
One serving of espresso or good filter coffee (organic, if possible)
One tablespoon of grass-fed butter without salt
One tablespoon of organic, cold-pressed coconut oil
Blend thoroughly and enjoy.