Liquid Grace


I’ve launched a new column on Eater PDX featuring coffee roasters and shops around Portland. I love that it forces me to get out my camera and explore the dynamic spaces I sometimes take for granted. Barista Dave Tran is highly skilled; I had two capps and a shot from him, each extracted well and treated with love.

morning / Sellwood, OR / Either/Or

Earnestness in Action: Flatlands Coffee

While it can slip over the thin line into withering zeal, earnestness is an underrated quality that many of us who are new, or just romantic, in the beverage industry carry. Whether it’s the way your eyes brighten and your voice rises when you share the story of how you ‘got into coffee’, or it’s how assiduously your cling to the early visions that sustained you in spite of the morass of normality surrounding, earnestness is a beautiful thing.


When Ben Vollmer of the nascent Flatlands Coffee in Bowling Green, Ohio, first reached out to me last year with what seemed an unrealistic Kickstarter goal of raising $60K for his ‘third-wave coffee shop’, I was struck by how refreshing it was to see young baristas like Ben and his wife and business partner Casey throwing down their hats into the ring without fear.

Because the reality is that life hurts us, systematically, rigidly, and with a heart-killing vigor. Once I had hope in many things. I thought it was possible for me to be a barista champion, a famous pianist, a femme fatale, a world-famous writer, a CEO—I thought I could be everything, and that the world would somehow hear of me.


Not that I’ve forgotten my dreams. Still, the daily living, the dish-washing and the child-rearing, the hell of traveling with a toddler, the sheer confusion of living in a strange city far from home, the intensity of forging a real, true, honest married relationship—these things have taken the edge from my earnestness at times. No less has the natural cynicism that comes from growing up in an industry and seeing might prevail over right, time and time again.


So today, I want to honor earnestness, in the form of Flatlands Coffee. Truth is, there are lots of third-wave coffeehouses. And each claims to be different while retaining, on the whole, homogeneity. Maybe Flatlands will be different. But I don’t honestly care. It’s not the gear on a counter that makes a coffeehouse great, nor is it snazzy packaging and social media savvy (though Flatlands has all of it by now, in its second, more modest Kickstarter effort). It’s not a great intro video, cool branding, and pretty faces (though Ben and Casey have all these things).


It’s earnestness. Intention. A simple lack of shame discovering passion. Being unafraid to throw your heart out there, with full knowledge that the cruel world—and people you know—might scorn it. It’s innocence and wisdom, enthusiasm and dedication, passion and stories, all wrapped up in one glowing face. Here’s to Flatlands Coffee, and here’s to earnestness all around us.

mid-morning / Redding, CA / Flatlands Coffee

3 Classic Seattle Coffeehouses

espresso vivace, espresso, seattle coffee, seattle espresso

Seattle coffeehouses hold a special place in my heart, and I’m not alone. Much has been written about how the green mermaid wrapped her arms around the world from this Emerald City, but not so much has been said about the influence of Seattle’s independent cafe culture. I’m nowhere near able to write the definitive version; still, David Schomer of Espresso Vivace was one of my first/best influences as a young barista, and no visit to Seattle is complete for me without multiple visits to his shops.

coffee, seattle coffee, macchiato, seattle espresso, espresso vivace

Look at that. Take in that flawless surface, the milk and espresso melding in perfection. This, friends, is a macchiato. This, friends, puts most of the thousands of espresso drinks I’ve downed in the shadows. This, friends, is why I haven’t been ordering cappuccinos lately in my home city of Portland. Because I’ve never tasted a milk/espresso beverage made to this level of beauty anywhere other than Espresso Vivace.

analog coffee, coffee, seattle coffee, espresso, seattle espresso

At Analog Coffee in Capitol Hill, I had a delicious shot of Herkimer Coffee, and thoroughly enjoyed photographing the space. The classic “Seattle-style” espresso is giving way to newcomers like Slate (below) but every time I drink a shot like this I immediately think about moving here. Rich, syrupy, viscous, earthy and sweet at once, its makes me remember why I fell in love with espresso in the first place.

barista, seattle barista, victrola coffee, seattle coffee

The last shop I want to mention here is Victrola Coffee, the Capitol Hill location of which was an easy walk from the Convention Center where I attended SCAA last weekend. So busy was I trying to capture the elusive charm of barista Mark’s workflow and face that I only remember my shot being rather ristretto and rather tasty, so I know I’ll have to come back for a more studied impression another time. Regardless, Victrola represents another gritty, classic Seattle shop that is hugely attractive to me.

Not everyone likes this style of coffeehouse–in fact, that’s the whole point of the 3rd wave movement–but I do, and I’ll never be afraid to claim my allegiance to a more classic Italian style of extraction, presented with grace and a complete lack of self-consciousness that is refreshing to this sometimes-weary coffee drinker.

last weekend / Seattle / Vivace, Analag, Victrola



On Assignment: Cannon Beach

beach, ocean, cannon beach, oregon beach, toddler, cute, sun and sandCannon Beach, and a toddler’s cheeks. The brief sun on our lips and the ocean breeze in our eyes. A break from the craziness of the city and a meditation on all that matters.

family, beach, ocean, three generations, sun and sandThree generations stand overlooking the boundless deep. Toes wriggle into the sand under cold water.

husband and wife, love on the beach, beach, ocean, oregon beachSeparate paths on similar terrain. Hearts locked together and meditations alone. I may be on assignment but I am also fully alive, on a beach, with my family. Life’s circles come together in a perfect Venn Diagram and I stand in the center.

Cannon Beach, OR / afternoon / off the grid