the shortlist, darlington

the shortlist, darlington

Little Marionette coffee. 258 Abercrombie St, Darlington. Many years ago when I was studying at Sydney Uni, this part of Darlington was a run of shops, not cafes. Now there are a number of different spots to grab a coffee, but the one with the most promising supply of beans is this one.

From a narrow menu, I pick the roast mushrooms on toast, with feta. It’s a good flavour mix, well made, and quite filling – it looks like the food here is very good.

Coffee is really well made. There’s a decaf grinder on the bench, and – though they’re a bit slow when things are busy – it’s a really good drop. Worth a visit for the food, and for the coffee.

where the magic happens, the shortlist, darlington

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peppi panino, glebe

Peppi Panino, glebe

Arte Caffe coffee. 325a Glebe Point Rd, Glebe. Far from Broadway, this place is a local deli with a rich variety of meats and cheeses on offer, and many other gourmet treats. If you’re looking for some food, there are a range of panini and other sandwiches on offer – this is my preferred stop to grab some food on my way to the park at the end of Glebe Point Rd.

Coffee is well made, freshly ground to order (even the decaf) and prepared very quickly, as befits a cafe in front of a bus stop. Worth a look.


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Ira Glass at the Sydney Festival

For almost two hours in the Sydney Town Hall, Matt and I sat listening to Ira Glass talk about how he uses radio to tell stories, and about how to interview people in a way that will make you “fascinating-er”.

Here are a few notes I scribbled down, and my immediate thoughts on them. I’m interested in becoming a better story-teller, and Ira must be one of the best today, so it was great to listen to him.

He talked about his college degree, in semiotics (when he graduated, his parents put an ad in the local paper – “wanted: semiotics major. High salary, no experience required”. When the ad was printed, they clipped it out and mailed it to him. Cruel.

But semiotics taught him to ask the question “How does the story give pleasure?”. It’s this question that informs his editorial decisions in preparing the radio show. He said that he uses the lessons he learned in his degree every day.

It’s clear that production quality is important to him – he used his iPad throughout the show to play excerpts from past shows, and from his radio production days gone by, but also to include background music Ben hr was talking.

When you interview someone, it’s worth asking, at every step, “What happened ? How did you feel?”. This will give you better pieces that can then be remixed according to he wider arc of the story, when you find it.

After a few beats of the story, it’s time to insert a moment of reflection; what does it mean, in the general principle?

Radio is not naturally a visual medium. To help people relate to the story, you need to make it visual.

To help people tell their story in the most animated way possible, have them tell you the dialogue – they will perform the story.

A lot of time spent on creative work is invested in finding an idea that’s decent enough to make your work about. Finding an idea is a job in itself.

We’re used to getting news in a casual, personal aesthetic now: the staid formality of the newsreader is feeling increasingly distant.

Make sure you put people in the middle of the story so they can relate to the characters.

Finally, Ira told the story of the Arabian nights, and concluded with the observation that narrative is a Trojan horse to help us access our feelings about issues.

frangipani gelato and dessert bar, cronulla

frangipani: gelato, coffee, dessert - cronulla

Little Marionette coffee. 118 Cronulla Rd, Cronulla. This place moved to these larger premises only recently, and it’s gone – for me – from being a curiosity, and an optional part of a trip to Cronulla to being a highlight.

gelato at frangipani: gelato, coffee, dessert - cronulla

This is among the best Gelato I’ve ever had: creative flavours (try the Xmas pudding while it’s still in stock, if you can – amazing), reasonably priced ($4.50 for a single scoop, $5.80 for a double).

coffee at frangipani: gelato, coffee, dessert - cronulla

The pressure to do a good job with coffee at Cronulla is a cafe that has spent the last 10 years raising the bar of coffee in this part of Sydney. To try and compete, they have chosen Little Marionette coffee, and they’re doing a really good job: the shots are made carefully, and the crema on my decaf espresso (yes, decaf) is better  than I’ve seen in a lot of cafes in Sydney on their “real” espresso.

where the magic happens - frangipani: gelato, coffee, dessert - cronulla

If you’re in the Shire, and looking for dessert, this should be your first choice.

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swallow coffee traders, rockdale

sparrow coffee traders, rockdale

Single Origin Roaster Coffee. 1 Tramway Arcade, Rockdale (near Rockdale train station). I’ve never thought of Rockdale as a place to find good coffee, but the Coffee Guide app that I bought showed it as a place that was open on Sundays, and not the furthest from my house, so when the opportunity arose, I headed over. Tramway arcade runs from Rockdale station to the Princess Highway – it’s only a handful of steps away from the steps to Rockdale station.

range of coffees - sparrow coffee traders, rockdale

This place has a small footprint though they’ve tried to make the most of it – even the tiny outdoor space has a little table and a chair. There’s seating on a handful of small tables, and a host of coffee-making equipment. The weekday menu is compact; a choice of sandwiches, some brasserie bread pastries, and some other cakes that are made on the premises (notably a pistachio friand made with hazelnut meal).

where the magic happens, sparrow coffee traders, rockdale

Though there are two grinders next to the coffee machine, one is for the main caffeinated coffee, and the smaller grinder next to it is for the single origin of the day. Nonetheless, the decaf for my decaf latte is ground to order in a third grinder that’s generally used to grind up take-home beans. The coffee is even better than I was hoping for – this place is doing great work, and is well worth a visit.

You can get up-to-date information about them (including their opening hours) from the Swallow coffee Facebook page.

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Talking yesterday to a friend who is a working mum was a chance to reflect on commuting.

The busier your life gets, the more you appreciate a chance to commute. You’re stuck for a period of time, doing something necessary (travelling to a destination), and you’re physically removed from a range of responsibilities (housework, child supervision). It’s a chance to accomplish something, however small, that you want to. Read a book. Watch a video. Sit quietly and think.

Even if the train is late or delayed, it is, for the most part, a great opportunity, not really worth getting upset over.

Perhaps the biggest threat to this time is a smartphone – it means that electronic distraction continues to spill over into the commute.

Something I’ve noticed about my commuting habits: I’m spending more time listening to podcasts and playing video games than I am on reading books and “creating content”.

So as the calendar ticked over to 2012, I deleted most of the games from my phone, and set myself up with more content to read. I’m hoping to get a little more benefit out of the opportunities afforded by commuting.

Do you have a new year’s resolution about how you spend time?

Nikita espresso bar, Leura

nikta espresso bar, leura

Nikita coffee. 179 Leura Mall, Leura. Just when I thought I knew everything that Leura has to offer, I walked past this place – simple decor and furniture, minimalist menu, kitchen out the back. Though they were still getting the kinks out of the ordering system, there was a positive attitude and a desire to offer great customer service.

interior, nikta espresso bar, leura

At the end of the first day, there wasn’t a lot left of the extra bits and pieces that go with a cafe, but there was still plenty of coffee.

decaf grinder, nikta espresso bar, leura

Tucked out of the way is this tiny decaf grinder. We have here some contest for best coffee in the Blue Mountains. Granted, this was their first day open, and the staff were 10 hours into their first shift, but it was really, really worth drinking.

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