food, places

Legend has it that coffee was discovered when a 9th century Ethiopian goatherd named Kaffi noticed how excited his goats became when they ate beans from the coffee plant. Suffice to say, we all owe a debt of gratitude to those overstimulated goats.

I love coffee. But my favourite thing about coffee is its means of delivery – the humble coffee shop.

In 17th century England, coffeehouses were places where men would gather, rich and poor alike, to discuss politics, science and philosophy. In the 21st century, coffeeshops and cafes are more likely places to discuss Kim Kardashian’s latest diet and take pictures of your food. Nonetheless, I enjoy few things more than wandering into a cool coffeeshop with a friend and chatting for hours over a flat white or two. Or seven.

There are loads of great cafes and coffee places in my city, and a few weeks ago, another one opened its doors.

Delivering an injection of Latin America to York’s coffee scene, Teajuanas (pun very much intended) serves up excellent coffees, teas, breakfast, snacks, pastries and milkshakes. Despite the Mexican pun in its title, Teajuanas boasts influences from all over the world and has the wide range of teas to prove it.

This magpie-like eclecticism and creativity isn’t just restricted to the food at Teajuanas. Almost everything is custom-made and a lot done either by themselves or by family and friends. The beauty of this is that everything features signature touches that make them stand out, like the hooks under the window bar or the hessian upholstered stools or the reclaimed church pew.

You can sense a real love of craftsmanship when you talk to the two owners (whose names I rudely forgot to ask!) You can feel the pride of men who work with their hands, whether that’s whipping up latte or putting up their wallpaper. Speaking of which, the wallpaper is textured and vintage newspaper-themed. It really is all about the details here.

Aside from the huge faux clock that adorns the feature wall, the centrepiece has to be an otherworldly golden and copper dome that rises from the table behind the counter.

This contraption is the coffee machine.

Adapted from an old boiler, this piece of Italian engineering looks like it belongs in the laboratory of a Victorian alchemist in a steampunk fanfic, rather than a cafe in York. All gears, knobs and platforms, not to mention the engraved eagle that sits upon it, it really is something to behold.

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If you’re hungry pop in for breakfast (served “8am till noonish”) or a sandwich, but Teajuanas’ passion is pinchos – Spanish snacks served on bread, spiked with a toothpick (basically tapas as finger food). A rich medley of flavours, you’ll find chorizo, chilli, olives and balsamic vinegar, sat comfortably next to ham hock and gherkin. Pick a few, mix and match and share with friends.

In parts of Spain, pinchos are considered an essential socialising tool. Cafes will have hundreds laid out on the bar and customers are encouraged to take as many as they like as they relax with friends. They pay at the end by displaying their used toothpicks which are counted and charged appropriately. “Unsurprisingly, customers occasionally ‘lose’ the odd toothpick or two before it’s time to pay,” the Teajuana boys laugh.

This kind of relaxed attitude to food and drink is what Teajuanas want to bring to the UK. Somewhere you can pop in for a snack, a coffee and a chat. Maybe flick through one of the books on their windowsill, maybe have a go on one of the instruments dotted around the place. Though perhaps give the didgeridoo behind the pew a miss.

“York is just the start,” they say. The boys have big plans and even bigger dreams. Ideally they’d like to open more cafes all over the country.

They aim to start in smaller cities like York (Harrogate and Beverley were also mentioned as potential future locations) because bigger cities, Leeds for example, are already over-saturated with so many different options.

Leeds’ loss is York’s gain as we now have the best cafe this side of Tijuana.


The Botanist


Before he was a household name with a passion for undertaking impossible missions, Tom Cruise starred in 1988 film Cocktail. In it, Cruise plays a bartender who goes on an adventure of self-discovery or something like that. To be honest, the storyline is somewhat overshadowed by its perfect 80s time-capsule soundtrack and costume.

Anyway, just like Tom Cruise’s character Brain Flanagan, I love cocktails.

Since I was a little boy I’ve enjoyed mixing up drinks, creating overly sweet concoctions of fruit juice and cordial and occasionally milk. But the less said about milky juice drinks, the better.

Not long ago, a branch of the plant-loving cocktail bar The Botanist opened in York where I live, and I got a chance to head down and try it out with a good friend. It used to be part of the same group that owned The Alchemist – its potion themed sibling – but they have recently parted ways.

Deriving its name from the profession of studying plants (or basically gardening), The Botanist has a passion for drinks that involve herbage in interesting ways.

Walking in, the decor was understandably rustic and earthy, given its theme. It felt a little like I’d stumbled upon an 18th century florist. I quite enjoyed the little details like the mismatched wood panelling and the pewter-effect taps, as well as the big details like the upstairs courtyard/greenhouse/function room.

We ordered a pitcher of an apricot gin cocktail garnished with basil. Yes, basil. It was great watching our brace-clad bartender whip it up, mixing the drink and adding fresh basil to our cups, before pouring it into its watering can. They’re really serious about the whole gardening thing

I’ve had cocktails in teapots and the like before and I love a fun gimmick as much as the next man, but I couldn’t help but think of We Want Plates – a campaign for food and drink to be served in regular vessels that never fails to make me smile.

While sufficiently quirky and aesthetically pleasing, the can’s long spout didn’t make for good pouring (especially the first few pours when it was full) and I managed to spill it everywhere, though that probably says more about me than it does the drink’s container.

Like I said, our cups (and by “cups” I mean tiny chrome buckets) were garnished with generous helpings of fresh basil. It sounds quite odd but it actually adds a great layer of smell to the drinking experience as you raise the cup to your mouth, as well as enhancing the taste. Hipster pretension does have its benefits.

If you haven’t already, now’s definitely a great time to try out The Botanist as, this month, they are having their “Ginuary Sale” with half price gin (I assume in all branches).

Plus I’m pretty sure a visit counts as a couple of your 5-a-day.




Bojack Horseman Season 2 Review

review, tv

If you asked me to describe Bojack horseman in five words I would have to go with:

  • ‘Bo’,
  • ‘Jack’……
  • ‘Horse’….
  • And probably ‘man’.
  • And something else. I dunno ‘Netflix’.

A better five words would be:

  • ‘Cynical’
  • ‘Hilarious’
  • ‘Ridiculous’
  • ‘Clever’
  • And something else. I dunno. ‘Netflix’.
bojack 2


I love animated comedies. The Simpsons, Family Guy, American Dad, Bob’s Burgers. Once an innovative new field of television, now there are hundreds of these shows. Some are better than others. The ones listed above are some of my favourites, and probably some of the best. I think Bojack Horseman deserves a place on that list. (Special mention to Adventure Time which, while made for kids, is very funny indeed.) I’m going to try and write this with as few spoilers as possible, so you should be safe if you plan to watch the show afterwards.

Produced by Netflix, Bojack Horseman is about a washed up actor who starred in a successful sitcom in the 90s about family values. Think Full House or Home Improvement. Bojack is depressed, selfish,, desperate for approval and frustratingly self-destructive. This doesn’t exactly sound like the stuff of comedy, but the show thrives on its serious yet humourous treatment of sombre topics like cancer, sexual harassment and auto-erotic asphyxiation. (Don’t Google that. Trust me.) This season follows Bojack as he works on a biopic of Secretariat, his childhood hero.

The voice of Will Arnett brings the titular anthropomorphic horse to life. You might recognise his gravelly tones from his time on Arrested Development or a repeated guest spot on 30 Rock. Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul voices Bojack’s slacker housemate Todd and Community’s Alison Brie plays his friend and ghost-writer Diane with Paul F. Tomkins as her husband, the irrepressibly positive Mr. Peanutbutter. He’s a dog so that’s an appropriate name. I’m not sure if it’s better or worse than Princess Carolyn, the name of Bojack’s agent who’s a cat.

Despite being one of Netflix’s lesser known shows, Bojack Horseman has been able to draw some impressive names to guest star, playing themselves or fictional characters. Amy Schumer, Paul McCartney and Daniel Radcliffe all lent their voices to this series. Even better are some of the hilarious recurring characters. This season sees Lisa Kudrow play an owl called Wanda who’s just woken up from a thirty year coma. (The more I write about it, the more I realise how odd this show is). I instantly liked this character, even before realising who played her, because Lisa Kudrow’s voice puts me at ease, no doubt the result of years of watching Friends repeats on T4.

J.D. Salinger (obviously not voiced by Salinger himself who has the noticeable handicap of being dead) is an unlikely comedy goldmine as he leaves the world of literature and produces a reality show titled “Hollywoo Stars and Celebrities: What do they Know? Do They Know Stuff? Let’s Find Out!” Catchy.

The funniest character to me however, is a reoccurring cameo from actress Margo Martindale who is only ever referred to in the show as “Character actress Margo Martindale”, poking fun at her status as a successful supporting actress who shines in small parts but rarely has starring roles. She’s only in one episode this season, but she is hysterical. A potential rival for funniest minor character is catfish movie director Abe or feline police officer MeowMeow Fuzzyface (in fact, the whole police department) in the episode ‘Chickens’ which we’ll discuss later

Bojack Horseman is much more cynical than most animated comedies. Unlike Family Guy or South Park, it is less focused on dark humour and shock value (though this does feature), but rather has realistic characters who are flawed and broken just like us – at least, as realistic as a depressed anthropomorphic horse actor can be. And just like us, they don’t have the astonishing ability of sitcom characters to solve all their problems in 25 minutes. Actions have consequences on this show. A light-hearted example is that after a Bojack stole the D from the Hollywood sign in season one, the place is now only referred to as “Hollywoo”. A more serious example is when a character is fired for disobeying her boss, even though she only disobeyed him in a cute ‘follow your heart’ kind of way that, in any other show, would have had the boss soften and change his mind.

bojack 3


Unlike pretty much every other comedy, Bojack Horseman isn’t afraid to end an episode on a melancholy note. This is perhaps aided by the fact that, instead of having to wait a week for the next episode like on traditional television, you can just sit still for 20 seconds and wait for Netflix to play the next episode that will cheer you up almost instantly with its hilarity. It feels a bit odd that a show that had you in fits of laughter one minute can leave you feeling a bit downcast and contemplative later on, but I love that the show refuses to tie up complex things like depression in a neat little package.

Episode 5, Chickens is my favourite episode of this season. It earned some full-blown belly laughs from me and there are a couple of sequences that are just genius. At times the joke density rivals golden-era Simpsons, with each line being choke-on-your-coffee funny. Officer Fuzzyface is an absolute scene stealer and it is a joy to see him interact with Todd and with his team. “We know the chicken crossed the road…the real question is, why?” This episode lampoons pretty much every 80s cop show trope even down to the dynamic camera style. My favourite thing about chickens however, is its premise: perpetually stoned slacker Todd takes in a brain-damaged battery chicken named Becca who’s wanted by the police. (This show really is ridiculous when you think about it).

What’s interesting about the episode is that it faces an issue that other cartoons featuring humanoid animal characters refuse to confront – if some of the people are animals, do all animals have the same rights as humans? This is something that perplexed me growing up watching shows like Arthur where the Read family had a pet dog called Pal, but Muffy’s chauffeur was a humanoid dog who was obviously treated like a person. What’s that all about? Same problem with Disney’s Goofy and Pluto. Understandably, Arthur and Disney were reluctant to go into their complex animal caste systems that essentially legitimised forms of cannibalism and slavery. They were too busy teaching us about library cards and the power of friendship. While briefly acknowledged in season one when a bovine waitress grumpily serves a steak to a human customer who awkwardly mumbles a “sorry”, this episode explores the idea in hilarious way that also makes you think about the real life implications of battery farming, food production practices and just eating meat.

Having a cast of animals and humans lends itself quite well to cultural interrogation like this, but especially to jokes. One that I can’t get over from season one is an humanoid cockerel that recreates the early morning crowing of its brethren by jogging around his neighbourhood at daybreak shouting “It’s morning. Everybody wake up”.

Despite all this, once you get into the show, you completely forget that some of them aren’t humans. In fact, it is only when they make jokes about the animal heritage of characters that you remember that Mr Peanutbutter is a dog or Wanda is an owl. This is a credit to the writing and the voice acting. The show is well-crafted and the makers should be proud of it.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first season and season two continues to build on the hilarious foundations. And with the season ending on a minor cliffhanger, it looks like this horse is going to shape up nicely.



Captain America: The Winter Soldier Review

film, review

So I saw Captain America [2]: The Winter Soldier in the cinema the other day. I’ve been sceptical about comic book films ever since I watched The Green Lantern movie. Scraping the barrel there, guys. The news that Antman is going to made into a film does little to alleviate this scepticism. By the way, this isn’t to say that Lantern or Antman are bad comics, it just seems like film execs are desperate to make superhero comic movies (which are likely to be hits) and are now resorting to the more obscure comics for material, having exhausted the ubiquitous likes of batman, Superman and Spiderman. (Don’t even get me started on the unnecessariness of a Spiderman reboot so soon after the last one.) The people at Marvel Studios have combatted this lack of material by doing The Avengers as it enables them to make standalone films of each the characters, minus Hawkeye and Black Widow – though how long till one of them gets a spin-off (for better or for worse)? Aaaand they’ve got the Agents of Marvel TV series too. Honestly, they must turn up at Stan Lee’s house everyday with a dumptruck full of hundred dollar bills. The reason I’m sceptical is because doing this seems very money oriented. Obviously this is capitalism and they’re a company out to make a profit so that’s fair enough, but, with 2 films every year plus a TV series, this seems almost greedy. I guess my problem is that if the Avengers films are competent, they don’t even have to work hard on the standalone films (as long as there’s enough explosions) and people will still go and watch them a) because the superfans will watch anything they put out and b) because the normal fans will want to follow the story.

That said, Captain America was actually rather good. Obviously it wasn’t the most amazing film ever made, but it was a very capable action movie. I quite enjoyed the storyline as, to my surprise, it went to very interesting places. To be honest, I was just expecting to see Chris Evans hitting people, taking off his shirt for little to no reason, kissing attractive women and occasionally looking contemplative (to show that beneath the muscles, he’s a sensitive soul). Obviously all these features were there – it  is an action movie after all – but unlike some action films, this one had a good narrative beneath them.

Very, very short summary:
SPOILERS! (DON’T BOTHER READING THE REST OF THIS POST IF YOU DON’T WANT THE PLOT RUINED FOR YOU! Here‘s a really nice post about spring outfits. Read that instead.)
So basically, two years after the Battle of New York (when the Avengers fought all the alien robot things), Steve Rogers AKA Captain America still works for SHIELD which is the good-guy government agency that deals with freaky stuff like robot aliens and time-travelling supersoldiers and small unassuming scientists who turn into huge green monsters when they get ticked off. Long story short, it turns out that HYDRA (the even-more-evil-than-the-Nazis baddies from Captain America 1) has been working within SHIELD since its inception in the 40s. DUN DUN DUNNNN!  Over the years they’ve been agitating international conflicts and world disasters etc. in a bid to coerce humanity to surrender its freedom. They would have had a hand in, for example, 9/11 which led to Western people sacrificing some of their individual liberties (eg. stricter security measures on planes) in aid of the war on terror. There was a montage of stock footage of old conflicts they’d aggravated but I can’t remember many (I think the Cuban Missile Crisis was one). This theme obviously has implications for the current political landscape and is a clear rejection of measures that might turn America – or any other nation, for that matter – into a nanny state. SHIELD/HYDRA have made three huge airships that have the capability of shooting hundreds, if not thousands, of targeted missiles at a time, effectively neutralising any form of resistance. While the SHIELD side, such as cool as ice boss Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), do this in the name of defence from e.g. alien robots, the HYDRA contingent have formulated an algorithm that predicts who is likely to be a threat to them/their future plans and a la Minority Report allows them to incapacitate them (in this case meaning blow them up) before they perform the offending behaviour. Evil stuff, right? Anyway, good ol’ liberal Captain America was sceptical of the program from the start, even before the evil motives were made apparent, and dramatically storms out of a meeting with his boss Nick Fury over it. Ultimately, Nick comes round and along with Rogers, Black Widow (oh hey, Scarlett Johanssen), Maria Hill (AKA Robin from How I Met Your Mother) and some black guy with some insane robotic wings, they destroy the machines, securing liberty, but not necessarily peace, for us all. Deep.

Another contemporary political parallel that can be drawn is the way our heroes were hunted due to the information they knew and their subsequent whistleblowing. It brings to mind recent controversies involving Wikileaks and other such distribution of government secrets. The movie seems firmly in favour of exposing the authorities if what they’re doing is wrong, a position that many would probably agree with, though in the real world, the good/evil lines aren’t so easily distinguishable.

I quite enjoyed seeing Natascha (Black Widow) in the film. As per, she held her own with the dialogue and action; and with all the buff shirtless men, was probably one of  the least objectified characters, though, for some reason Samuel L. Jackson showed a lot less skin then her. Her presence did make me wonder where all the other Avengers were but as she, like Rogers, works full-time for SHIELD, it was not surprising to see her. (Hawkeye was missing though.) And anyway, she loves being in other people’s films. Am I right, Ironman 2? It made me laugh at one point when, on the run from SHIELD/HYDRA, Steve turns up at Black Flying Guy’s house with Natascha, claiming that he’s got nowhere else to go, despite the fact that they’re practically strangers and that millionaire Tony Stark (or anyone else on the team) must have at least one spare bed. To be fair though, Fury’s advice to Rogers to “trust nobody” could go some way to explaining their reluctance to contact their Avenger buddies.

I also liked seeing familiar faces in the movie, especially Revenge‘s Emily Van Camp. It was also great to see  some Revenge-esque action to her role, instead of the unremarkable love interest role that her and Steve’s hallway meet-cute implied. The Indian guy from Community (I’ve only ever seen one episode, I can’t remember his name) had a small but funny role too – I’m not sure if he’s famous enough for it to qualify as a cameo – and Ugly Betty’s Bradford Meade was a member of the World Security Council amongst other well known faces whose names don’t spring to mind at the moment.

Another thing I liked was the humour. Action movies like to shoehorn in poor wisecracks between the gunshots but this film actually did make me laugh a few times. Nick Fury’s car chase scene unexpectedly led to some good banter with his Siri-like onboard computer and I chuckled when Black Widow throws a man off a multi-storey building and proceeds to casually chat to Rogers about girls he might like to date.

One thing I didn’t enjoy [SPOILER] was Nick Fury’s fake death. Not too long into the movie he is ‘killed’ but later on we see that (hallelujah!) he’s alive! The same thing happened to Agent Coulson who died in the Avengers film but was able to prise death’s cold, clammy hands off his neck to star in the Agents of SHIELD TV series. I saw the first episode and was very unsatisfied with his response when someone was understandably confused about why the heck he wasn’t dead, which was little more than “Soz I was just fakin lol”. Fury’s explanation was similar, but at least he gave a better reason and his resurrection didn’t seem as tacked on as Coulson’s. Nonetheless I’m still unhappy about this for five reasons:
a) You can’t just kill people and bring then back to life willy-nilly.
b) I don’t appreciate having my emotions toyed with. I appreciate that they like to give us suspense and all that but once is enough. Granted, as I’m not too big a fan, I had little emotional connection to either character (the first time I’d seen/heard of them either was in the first Avengers film) but it’s the principle.
c) Their insistence on killing beloved supporting characters implies an almost lazy reliance on formula to create emotional response.
d) Now it’s harder to take them seriously when a character really does die.
e) And in order to combat this, I have a feeling they’ll have to get rid of someone else, so that we begin to fear death and never again take the mercy of the writer-gods for granted. I don’t want this to happen. No one had better lay a finger on my Maria Hill. Understood? Ok, good.

Another issue I had with the film was birdyboy. I’m sure it was explained somewhere, but no one batted an eyelid when he casually whipped out his mechanical wings. Like what the fudge?!! Where did THIS guy come from? And even if they did pay lip-service to it at some point in the film, neither Steve nor Natascha seemed the slightest bit impressed or surprised at the elaborate set of wings the first time he got them out. I mean, come ON, it’s a mechanical marvel at the very least. See what I did there? “Marvel”. Oh, come on, that’s funny.

[SPOILERS] I think it’s interesting that by the end of the film, SHIELD has been dissolved. In films organisations like this are never shut down. If there’s a mole or a bad leader or whatever, the evil faction will be removed and replaced. The life  of the agency is never in question, the malfunctioning elements are just changed. As such, I think it’s a really exciting and unexpected way for the story to go, especially after all the time that the previous films and TV series have spent establishing SHIELD as a force for good. I’m quite interested to see how the next Avengers film is going to pan out in relation to this.

Maybe a little controversh, but I think Natascha likes Steve…. and/or vice-versa. Yeah, she kept suggesting girls he should date, but if you ask me, that’s a textbook, if juvenile, sign that she’s got a soft spot for o Captain, my Captain. I may be wrong here. If you know me at all, you’ll know that I’m obviously reading the wrong textbook when it comes to my love life so my eye might be a bit off. I think the fact that that she kept at it throughout the movie gives her away. She constantly pointed out girls he should ask out, instead of pointing to herself like she really wanted to. (I’ve been there, sister.) Also, they kissed. I don’t care how vital it was to their survival. A kiss is a kiss. And Hollywood doesn’t waste kisses. Something’s going to go down. And plus, at the end she voluntarily gave him a kiss on the cheek. It was just a little peck, but you know what they say: pecking leads to necking. Ok, no one says that. But in this case maybe they should. I suppose I could find out for certain by researching the Avengers comic books, but I don’t care even close to enough. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Finally, the closing scene featured a snazzy montage – I LOVE montages!! – of what happened immediately afterwards. I’m particularly interested to see what happens to Maria Hill, now working for Stark Industries and Emily Van Camp’s character, now working for the CIA.

All in all, the film was a lot better than it needed to be. It would have perhaps been unsurprising if the film was little more than an insular, isolated punch-em-up that had little bearing on the rest of the series (more like the first film?) but this film went a different way. What a soldier.


Flicks on the Net

film, review, tv, Uncategorized

As anyone who follows me on Twitter will know, I recently got a Netflix account (it’s all I tweet about; I don’t have a life). The thought of a 30 day free trial was too tempting an offer for me refuse as I didn’t want to have to spend the summer holidays interacting with human beings. I was a little bit wary about starting the free trial because I joined Lovefilm in 2011 under similar circumstances (planning to exploit the free trial and get the hell out) and ended up staying with Lovefilm for two years. “Well, well, well,” I imagine them sneering. “It looks like the exploiter has become the exploitee!” *manic laugh* To be fair to Lovefilm, I did enjoy their service while I was using it (and probably will rejoin at some point) but I fancied trying out the selection on Netflix and I didn’t want to have to pay for it.

“So what’s the verdict, Edi?” I hear you scream, sitting on the edge of your seat, waiting with bated breath and any number of other clichéd idioms. I absolutely love Netflix! I feel like it’s got a wider and more recent selection of content to stream than Netflix, but I don’t know how true that is. It may just seem new to me as I’ve never had Netflix before. I’ve watched a few films, but I’ve mostly been binge-watching comedy series (“Arrested Development” is my current favourite). I’ve read articles about how services like Netflix are changing the way we watch television and I have to agree. We’re all “I’m not gonna wait till next week to watch the next episode like we did in the noughties. This is 2013, I’m going to watch all five series in three days. That’s just how we roll in this decade.”

I haven’t watched any of the original Netflix content like the Kevin Spacey led “House of Cards” and I’m still on series two of “Arrested Development”, so I’m yet to reach the Netflix produced season four, but trust me, I’m sitting on the edge of my seat, waiting with bated breath.

Speaking of original content, I read somewhere that Amazon (who own Lovefilm and are producing their own shows too) will not follow the Netflix binge model when releasing their shows, which is a shame because waiting to watch TV is so last decade. I did enjoy watching the pilots that they made though, and was quite disappointed that my favourite, “Supanatural” (a hilarious animation about two sassy ghetto divas who essentially have the same job as Indiana Jones) was not chosen to be made into a full series. It literally had me rolling on the floor laughing; one of the few times the slang ROFL would actually be an accurate description of what I was doing. The ones that have been voted in are “Alpha Team” – John Goodman stars in a political comedy about four inept Republican senators. Haha republicans are funny etc – and “Betas” – some nerds come up with what could be the next big app and try to get it financed. Think “The Social Network” crossed with “The Big Bang Theory”. Haha nerds are awkward etc. I quite enjoyed both shows (the former more than the latter) but they weren’t my favourite of the pilots. Also, is it just me who’s noticed the similarity in the titles of the shows? “Alpha Team” and “Betas”…. Alpha, Beta…..

All in all, I’m absolutely loving Netflix and I might post a few reviews of the things I watch. I can tell you’re all siiting on the edge of your seats, waiting with baited breath.