Saturday, April 18, 2009

Richie and I went to interview another witness to a UFO sighting today. He wanted us to meet him at a Vietnamese restaurant. Our witness, whom I will call Mr. G, was eating when we arrived, but we just wanted drinks for now. I ordered water and coffee.

"Iced coffee or hot?" The server asked. Iced coffee? I thought. Gross. Wasn't it obvious I was a sophisticated coffee drinker who didn't need to mask the flavor by turning it into a milk shake, for heaven's sake?

"Hot." I said politely.

We made some small talk with Mr. G, discussing music and other interests, before getting down to business. In the meantime, the server returned with my coffee. She set before me a tall glass with what appeared to be an inch of cream at the bottom. There was also a spoon and a straw, and on the very top of the class perched an espresso-sized silver pot with a spout. Very dark coffee was slowly dripping from the bottom of the pot into my glass, mixing with the cream at the bottom. I watched it for a moment in uncertainty, then tentatively lifted the lid of the pot and peered in. It was still half full of coffee.

Mr. G, who was watching me, began laughing. I looked up self-consciously. "I'm not sure what to do." I said. I replaced the lid, assuming I should wait for the coffee to finish dripping into my glass.

However, it was taking a very long time, and even had I let it completely empty into my glass, it would have been only the most miniscule amount of coffee. I became increasingly confused when I noticed that the server had also placed a tall, lidded, plastic travel mug next to the glass of cream. I picked it up. It was hot. What was in here, I wondered. Maybe the server hadn't left it after all; maybe it had been left by a customer. I inspected the edge for signs of lipstick, then, with difficulty, tried to pry the lid off. Mr. G. began laughing again. At last the lid gave, and I discovered the travel mug contained hot water.

Now I looked from the mug of hot water to the glass of cream with coffee slowly dripping from the silver pot. I was bewildered and couldn't wait any longer. I signaled the server. "What do I do?" I asked, pointing to the glass and mug.

She regarded the glass with a slight smile. "You mix the coffee with the cream, and then you put ice in it. It's better with ice."

Better with ice? What was with this woman and iced coffee? Fine, I gave up and agreed to the ice, which she brought with delight. That still didn't answer the question of what to do with the mug of water, but I wasn't going to ask yet a second question in this ridiculously complicated ordeal. I let the coffee drip a little longer, then removed the siliver pot, and set it on top of the mug of water so it would drip the remaining coffee into there without making a mess. Then I mixed the coffee in my glass into the cream at the bottom, and found the cream was extremly thick, like sweetened condensed milk. It made a luscious looking rich brown color, and I sipped some through the straw. Oh wow. It was sweet, but it was delicious. I had Richie taste some. Mr. G. was watching all this go down, I have no doubt, with almost as much interest as he had watched the UFO last week.

Before pouring the ice in, I realized I would need water to fill the glass up, and that is when the tall travel mug made sense. So I removed the dripping silver pot from the travel mug long enough to pour in some water (which now contained some coffee), then I added ice. It made a wonderful, sweet cool drink.

And that was my first experience with Vietnamese iced coffee. Apparently, Mr. G. goes there all the time and likes the coffee. I can't imagine why he didn't offer to help me out...

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