Tag Archives: coffee

Uncover LA: Echo Park

By Tracy Castillo

When foreigners, or even non Southern Californianers, hear someone mouth the word “Los Angeles”, their immediate thoughts are probably overtaken with images of palm trees and the Hollywood Hills, but there is actually much more to Los Angeles than the  popular tourist attractions. Over the last decade, Los Angeles has created a large cultural hub that spans from countries and cities all over the world. There’s Koreatown, Little Tokyo, Little Armenia, Little Bangladesh, and the list keeps going on and on. All of these hubs are filled with great cultural vibrancies consisting of great restaurants with native dishes, and stores stocked with the country’s native products. I am lucky enough to live in one of these cultural hubs just five miles north of campus, Echo Park.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Being in a situation in which I had to a find a home that did not require a one year lease, I ended having to look for housing outside the USC area and in the Echo Park area. Though I miss the convenience of living just a couple blocks from school, I enjoy living in this colorful neighborhood more. Echo Park is filled with taco trucks, coffee shops, and health food restaurants (seemingly on almost every corner). You may wonder what cultural category Echo Park falls into, but it doesn’t quite fir into any one box. I would say that it has a culture of its own, a Los Angeles culture where all walks of life have come together to respect and coexist within each other’s customs. For example, is it not uncommon to see a young artistic crowd patiently waiting to order authentic Mexican food from the taco truck camped out in front of the Ralphs’s, or a native Latino family walking into a vegan donut shop. These are instances that show how two very different sets of people are embracing each other’s customs.

So if you ever find yourself stumbling into Echo Park, here are some suggestions. If you want great inexpensive Mexican food, you must try the taco stand off of Alvarado St and Scott St. This stand is set up every evening in a vacant parking lot next to the Autozone. Here you will find a simple yet refined menu that can whip out anything from tacos to mulitas. If you’re curious to try an ever-popular vegan restaurant, Sage is the  perfect one. Sage is an all vegan restaurant that serves everything from Biscuits & Gravy to a Cauliflower Steak Dinner and a Brownie Sundae, but don’t let the word, “vegan” scare you, trust me, it is all very tasty!

And after dining at Sage, you can walk down to Echo Park Lake and rent a peddling boat and float around the lake or you can hang out by the grassy patches and read a book, listen to music, or simply gaze at the lake.

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What Parisian Cafés Taught Me About French Culture

By Nathalie Bradford

My heart was racing as I stepped off the plane and into the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. The exhaustion I felt from the twelve-hour flight melted away almost instantaneously. Having never lived on my own before, let alone in another country, I had no idea what the next five months had in store for me but I was excited to find out.

I crammed my massive suitcases into a taxi and did my best to pronounce the name of the street my apartment was on. After I arrived at my apartment I unpacked quickly and attempted to map out a way to get to my first class, which began the next day.

After about two hours of taking the wrong metro lines I managed to locate my classroom and ran inside. The professor gave a brief introduction to the course and began to explain our first assignment. We were to conduct a semester long ethnography on a Parisian café of our choosing. This meant we needed to choose a café and visit it at least 3 times a week for two hours at a time until the end of the semester, making detailed observations of everything and everyone while we were there. Initially, this assignment did not seem too intimidating to me; I mostly saw it as an excuse to drink copious amounts of coffee.

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A Morning Ritual

By Kevin Jiang

Nothing gets up me in the morning like the smell of coffee. That delicious scent, dark and rich; a deep roasted aroma. To me, it is the smell of comfort, a warm reminder that “Hey, the day is going to be OK”. It’s what drives me to class in the mornings and gives  that extra power boost in the afternoons. But hold up. Before you say I am addicted to coffee, let me affirm that I can stop drinking coffee whenever I want; I just have no desire to do so.

Coffee is my morning ritual. I don’t make it from some auto-brew coffee machine or the infernal Keurig (which are absolutely terrible for the environment, not to mention expensive), nor do I buy it from some overpriced coffee shop. I actually hand brew my coffee myself, either via a pour over or a French press (which I will explain in detail later). In the mornings, before my mind has the opportunity to fully comprehend my dreaded wakefulness, I trudge over to the kettle and heat up some water. I wait for the familiar thrum of the water heating before grabbing the beans. As I open the bag, the scented waft of the beans hits me hard, like cold water to the face. In an instant, I feel more alert and ready. I scoop out some whole beans into my hand-grinder. I begin churning, feeling the coffee beans crushing with each loop. As I crank, it is as if I am winding myself up for the day ahead. Then grabbing my machine of choice (either the pour over* or French press**), I begin the extraction.  I pour a bit of water over the beans and allow them to “bloom***” for 30 seconds. A burst of scents—floral, earthy, and rich—flies up with the steam. I then pour in the rest of my water and wait patiently for my cup of bliss.

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