Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Travelog(ue) VI: Caffe Threeway

When you book a hotel room in Italy, the price usually includes the following morning's breakfast. It's basically a cold, self-service breakfast (the spread ranges from ample to minimal, depending on the hotel), with a hot beverage. B&c usually gets coffee with milk, but I prefer to be a bit more adventurous. When we were in Florence, the breakfast attendant kept three full pitchers on the counter: one of strong coffee, a second of hot steamed milk, and a third of hot chocolate. I would add equal parts of each to my cup, then take it back to the table to stir and drink. When I first did this, we had the following conversation:

B&c: What's that?
TED: It's a caffe threeway.
B&c: Here we go...
TED: It's equal parts coffee, milk, and hot chocolate. The coffee is the strong, aggressive top. The milk is the smooth, frothy, accommodating bottom. And the chocolate is the versatile exotic, who makes the whole thing decadent. It's really good.
B&c: You're insane.
TED: Excuse me, but could you maybe be a little bit less frothy and a little bit more accommodating?

When we got to Rome, the breakfast offering was a bit on the dismal side, and there was a coffee machine on the counter. I saw the attendant refilling it one morning. It had three chambers for powdered coffee, milk, and chocolate, and it mixed one or two of these with hot water, depending on which button you pushed on the front. I pretty quickly found that if you pushed the cappuccino button, waited for it to do its thing, and then pushed the button for chocolate, the two orders together would fill the cup just to the brim. You had to stir it a bit to make it work, but isn't that always the way?

If you happen to find yourself in a coffee bar in Rome and you notice that there are two attractive men behind the bar (or, if you're there with someone, one attractive man behind the bar: it's not at all unusual to find either situation in Italy), go ahead and ask for a caffe threeway. If the waiter looks at you funny, then explain to him you want cappuccino mixed with chocolate. If, on the other hand, he smiles and invites you into the back room, don't forget to thank me.

Here's a picture of one of the waiters who brought us coffee in Rome. We'd just been through the open air market at the Campo di Fiori, and it was the only cold day we had in Italy. It's (as usual) a terrible picture. The inside of the bar was a bit dark, and the waiter was standing right next to an open doorway, which was quite bright.

Also, while his sweatshirt somehow makes him look hunched over, he was actually tall and slender, with excellent posture. In any case, I found him very cute, and he was clearly lower maintenance than most of the men in Italy. (I'd also guess that he's more frothy than exotic, but I did not, alas, find out.) Italian men are, indeed, very handsome, but I'm not convinced that they're any more handsome than other European men. It is indisputable, however, that they try harder, especially the straight ones: I've never seen such a well-groomed group of breeders. I suspect that they're very high maintenance, though, and I would probably not get along all that well with anyone who has to visit the barber weekly. Still, you can't beat Italy for eye candy. Or coffee.

In case you're wondering, you usually have a choice of refined or turbinado sugar. There's only one kind of artificial sweetener, but the packets come in four different colors.

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