Coffee Quest–Brasil

This morning I spent a bit more time on the computer looking for another coffee house to try while Steve was getting his shower. Narrowed it down to either Brasil or eatsie boys based on reviews, menus and their own websites.

brazil-1As a lover of Eggs Benedict the Brasil Benedict with salmon seemed like something I had to try. So Steve and I jumped on the Vespa and Sports City and headed over to Montrose (within my 10 minutes criteria.)

We quickly discovered that parking would be an issue for this coffee house since there is only on street parking. We ended up parking a block away on a neighboring street. If we’d had a car instead of the scoots I suspect we’d have been at least another two blocks away.

I did find the patio we were sitting attractive and pleasant. The back patio was also very attractive but the inside seating area was noisy despite being about half full.

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The place was reasonably busy with a few people in line ahead of us when we arrived. Service was prompt with my café au lait delivered by the time I was putting my credit card slip away.

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I went for a plain café au lait and Steve went for regular coffee to go with his migas.Food was brought to the table in a reasonable time.

brazil-1-4I will admit that the presentation of my café and benedict was very appealing. Unfortunately neither the coffee nor the benedict lived up to expectation. The coffee was decent but not exceptional in any way. Steve had the medium roast and said he didn’t care for it at all. The eggs were over cooked and hollandaise minimal. The salmon was bland with little texture. The potatoes however were excellent and the cooked tomatoes on the benedict tasty but not sure they worked as well as fresh would have.

After we finished eating we moved the plates to another table that needed to be bussed next to us. Almost immediately afterwards a gentleman came by and asked if he could “clear” away anything gesturing to my coffee cup that still had about 1/2” of coffee in it and Steve’s mug which also still had coffee. I felt rushed even though he took my refusal to have my unfinished coffee “cleared” without comment.

While we were eating Steve and talked about the USA Pro Challenge 2014 where for the second year in a row Tejay van Garderen wins the USA Pro Challenge. Which brought up a question on this year’s route so I pulled out the iPad to see exactly where the route went this year. At first the correct wifi network didn’t show up but eventually “brasil” showed up and I attempted to connect using the wifi password supplied on the receipt. Unfortunately every time I tied to connect I got a message that said “unable to connect” while Steve got a refill of his coffee. After returning Steve pulled out his computer and was also unable to connect. The “gentleman” who wanted to clear out walked buy on his way to clear another table. Steve asked about the wifi problem only to be told “tell AT&T about the problem its their responsibility”.  I used my phone’s personal hot spot to look up the Pro Cycling site. It was only a few more minutes before there was another “offer” to clear our table despite empty tables near us and plenty of free spaces both inside and on the other patio we took the hint and left.

Conclusion

Frankly, despite the décor of Brasil making me want to stay and hang out, sketch some of the plants I see no reason to return.  The atmosphere while initially appealing was poisoned by the multiple requests to clear our table before we were finished. The coffee was barely acceptable and the food looked better than it tasted. In a few days it will be time to try someplace else.

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Quest for Coffee

cool-river-1-2After being spoiled in Breckenridge by the excellent coffee  (not to mention the view) at Cool River Coffee House and Bakery upon my return to Breckenridge where I discovery that changes have been afoot at my usual Starbucks.  The complete turnover of staff, the discovery that one of my favorite regulars is about to move to another state combined with the redecorating  that have made the place noisier and less comfortable than it used to be have all contributed to my decision that it is time for a change. So I have set forth on a quest for a new local coffee house.

Here is my criteria:

  • Should be within 5-10 minutes by scooter from my house.
  • Speaking of “by scooter” there must be a good place to park the scoot preferably within sight of where I’d be sitting. Parking on the patio is one of the perks of the Starbucks I’m looking to replace.
  • The ambiance has to be friendly and welcoming, preferably conducive to leisurely conversation. A welcoming group of regulars would be a definite plus. One of the biggest reasons I’ve kept going to the Starbucks up the street for so many years isn’t the coffee but the group of regulars.
  • Not too noise, aka no great echoing spaces with hard surfaces that make conversation and/or concentration difficult. By the same token I don’t want someplace that is library quiet either.
  • Comfortable seats, armchairs not required but appreciated. Hot smile I’d like to be able to sit with my sketchpad and draw interesting bits of the room, garden or whatever not just use a computer or a book.  Covered patio, atrium, or other outdoor space would be a great too.
  • Good strong wifi connection that isn’t over burdened by bandwidth hogs.
  • Good coffee should go without saying though frankly if the coffee is decent but it meets every other criteria then I can live with decent but never with bad coffee.
  • An interesting and good tasting selection of bakery and other food stuffs for those days when I want or need something to go with my coffee. I have to admit to a fondness for Starbuck’s Classic Oatmeal so similar would be good as well. I’d really like someplace that offers beignets but both of the places within 10 minutes of my house have either closed or moved when their shopping center was relocated. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be any place closer than the west side of town near the Beltway 8 that has beignets anymore.

Where to Start? Croissant Biroche French Bakery Cafe

Probably wouldn’t surprise you to discover I started with Google/Bing searching for articles on the best coffee houses in Houston.

croissant-brioche-1I decided to start with the highest rated coffee closest to me – Croissant Brioche French Backer and Café. First issue is the same as there always is in Rice Village – parking.  I took this picture with the Vespa in it parked where if I left it more than a few minutes it was likely to be towed. That’s not a deal breaker since I know quite a few places including one across the street that I can tuck the Vespa in without any problems.

Second was that that there is no wifi. The external tables do meet my comfort and interesting things to look at criteria but there are only a few of them. The inside has that echoing box vibe going, enough said.

croissant-brioche-1-2The other bark against it is the lack of wifi. If you need wifi this isn’t the place for you. It is also very crowded inside the small shop with tables so close together the gentleman at the table behind me had so little room to get out that I had to stand, move to the side of my table and push the chair I was sitting in under the table to let him out.

There did appear to be lots of conversations going on but each pair or group was very much self contained with no interactions not caused by the tight quarters between the tables. Chairs were straight backed dining table chairs so I wouldn’t think you’d want to linger inside though the outside chairs were more comfortable looking.

Conclusion

Coffee was excellent. Probably one of the best lattes I’ve had in Houston, strong with a rich flavor but not bitter. I tried their mocha muffin which was good though there were so many others as well as croissants, brioche, pan au chocolat and other French goodies that are so tempting. While I will definitely go back it won’t become my regular haunt because of the crowded noisy environment and lack of wifi. For a cup of coffee and chat with friends it is definitely someplace I’ll go back to though I’d want to snag one of the outside seats.

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SCB 2014 Results

Just in case you haven’t been over to the Scooter Cannonball site I’ll save you the trouble and let you know that I did achieve both my goals for this event.

First and foremost, I finished with both the scooter and I in good shape. Total problems with the Sports City were minimal – one of the two tail lights went out and I had to add 2lbs of air to the tires. The speedometer was seriously off after we put the bought on ebay rim with the K66 tire on the back. Turns out that even though the 2008 and 2009 Sports City used the same rim size the 2009 had extra speed sensor buttons on it (5 instead of 2) which caused the speedo and odometer to think it was going 2.75 times faster than it was really going. Fortunately, I rode with a GPS the entire time so I wasn’t relying on either. Unfortunately, it says I rode 11,000 miles from Hyder to Houston instead of the 4,000 give or take it actually was, sigh. That’s going to be a PIA for servicing intervals, sigh.

Second, I finished in the top half of the competitors placing 13th out of 28.

So what did I learn from riding the cannonball?

First, if I ever do this again I need to spend a lot more time learning the route and navigating better. After looking  at all the time I lost because I missed a turn or followed my GPS when it differed from the route is added together I lost at least 2 hours off my raw times because of navigation errors on day 6 (40 minutes) and day 7 (30 mins). Not to mention that on day 9 the route I chose to avoid the closed bridge put me into a bicycle race and road construction, sigh plus when my two conflicting GPS directions I chose the wrong one. Well, actually from the great fun to ride road perspective it was the right road. Lovely twists and turns through the forest on somewhat narrow but very smooth road with properly banked corners, that one was worth the extra time. Hot smile Like others before me I found out that I had a much stronger competitive streak in me than I realized since I had originally figured I wouldn’t worry that much about where I placed, wrong.

Second, I want a tour tank. Seriously, while I appreciate fuel stops on normal rides as a way of stretching my legs and taking a break on the cannonball it just doesn’t work as well. Especially when you are in  another country and you can’t pay at the pump. Some folks said that it was because US credit/debit cards don’t have a pin/chip system. Well two of mine do and they still didn’t work at the pump.

Third, I need a better camera solution. I had mounted my Canon D10 on my handlebars as I normally do when touring. For some reason my camera decided to develop battery issues. Sometimes I’d take a photo and well, there was no photo when I went to download the camera later and the battery would be dead despite charging it before leaving in the morning. I picked up a new battery at Best Buy in Norman to see if that would solve the issue but sadly it did not. So I don’t have all the pictures I should have and that includes both checkpoint and scenic photos I took. My Spot did work properly and I had tracks for back-up documentation each day but it was still annoying to stop, take a photo only to find that it wasn’t on the memory card.

Finally, the Sports City turned out to be an excellent choice for this cannonball. In fact, it is hard to conceive of a cannonball where the Sports City wouldn’t be a top choice well, the SYM HD 200 might be better from a handicap perspective but it performed very well.

Final Results

Place Name Scooter Total
1 DaBinChe 2010 Honda NHX 110 3172
2 Feb31st 2007 Vespa GTS 3164
3 Old As Dirt 2008 Aprilia Sport City 3096
4 Motovista 2006 Vespa GT200 3050
5 Ericalm 1987 Honda Helix CN250 2991
6 4in6isCool 2008 Vespa GT200 2916
7 MrMoi2000 1971 Rally 180 2913
8 G-Man 2008 SYM HD 200 2866
9 Wleuthold 2006 Vespa GT200 2847
10 Maroy Piaggio MP3 2821
11 Ejp 2005 Vespa GT200 2819
12 Wire89 1964 Vespa GL150 (1983 Adj) 2800
13 Cdwise 2008 Aprilia Sport City 2749
14 Teacherquinn 2007 Vespa GTS250 2737
15 MrKlean57 2014 Piaggio Fly 150 2351
16 Tupelosue 2009 Vespa GTS250 2292
17 LM15 2008 Piaggio BV250 2271
18 Frank Tabor 2009 Genuine Stella 2228
19 MonkeyButt 1982 Vespa P200 2157
20 Lostboater 2009 Vespa GTS250 2083
21 HankM 2004 Honda Helix 2053
22 Yanobobano 2005 Vespa GT200 2012
23 Chucklestx 2006 Kymco People 250 1903
24 Mike Smith 1997 Honda Helix 1874
25 Svhess 2012 Genuine Stella 4T 1846
26 Digit 1977 Vespa P200 1669
27 Bagel 2007 Vespa GTS250 958
28 Cochid 2003 Aprilia Scarabeo 50 133

Will I ride another cannonball?

The answer is “maybe”. I will depend on the route and what scooters are eligible to participate. I would have to have a scooter that met the qualifications without purchasing a scooter specifically for the cannonball. I am lucky enough to have a variety of scooters available from a Buddy 125 through Scarabeo 500 so that part shouldn’t be an issue unless vintage only were to be a requirement. Though there have been a few Buddys in previous cannonballs I can’t see myself riding one cross country. I might could see riding the Derbi 150 but frankly its pretty slow for a 150 but it is a comfortable scooter so it is an outside possibility. Somehow I just can’t see the Derbi placing very well no matter what sort of handicap it received so I’m unlikely to participate if that’s the only scooter in our stable that qualifies. For me a 200-280cc scooter is the perfect choice for a cannonball.

What would really tempt me to ride another cannonball is one that goes through all the New England states since I still need to get those clicked off my ride map. One suggestion that was made for 2016 is from St. Johns, Newfoundland to Key West, Florida by way of the great lakes. I like the suggested start/end but I’d just as soon keep it closer to the coast so I could get those pesky New England states clicked off my ride map. Rainbow

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Gymkhana

I took a few videos of cannonball riders in the gymkhana.

Bagel

Old as Dirt

DaBinChe

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SCB–New Orleans

I must say I was a bit disappointed in the ride into New Orleans. It was my understanding that the cannonball riders would be at the head of the ride back across the causeway. This is how we started out but that only lasted until the gas stop approximately 1/2 mile from the brewery. On our group rides when there is a long stop for food/beverages either the gas stop is just before we get to the stop or people fill up during the stop so that when it is time to go there is no need to stop again.

IMG_5192As you could see in the last post video there were a lot of people surging into the gas station most of which did not need to get gas. As we pulled out there were several people who cut into the cannonball riders. Others who would cut up and in-between other riders which makes me nervous.

It was interesting riding across the causeway with its turnouts but it was definitely a thumpity thump ride.

Once we arrived in New Orleans the streets were lined with scooters at the official finish line.

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