Smug Coffee Update

Geisha Santuario beansThough you, Smug readers, may have long since tired of the subject of overpriced coffee, Smug Scout was still smarting from her disappointing trip to Intelligentsia’s Chicago birthplace (subject of last week’s post “Smug Scout Shutout in Chicago”), so she was very relieved to return to the lap of Smugness in Silver Lake. Imagine her delight when she saw that Geisha Santuario was available in two forms: by the bag and by the cup. However, because Intelligentsia wants to exaggerate the exclusivity of this coffee (not unlike Hermès with “wait-list only” $10K Birkin bags), apparently to justify the jaw dropping cost for Smug suckers, the availability was limited and reluctant. On the shelf, behind the sign advertising half a pound for $80 in purposely fuzzy script, sat one lonely bag.

Geisha santuario signThen, when Smug Scout went to order, the Depression-era hipster café chimiste (or whatever Intelligentsia calls its employees) had to find out if it was even still possible to sell a cup of this exotic moneymaker. Smug Scout acted polite and excited, though she felt sardonic and foolish. She shelled out her $10 with alacrity (inexplicably $2 cheaper than in Chicago) and then of course had to wait twenty minutes while the café chimiste did all sorts of things with beakers, flasks, test tubes and other unidentifiable chemistry lab apparatus. Smug Scout hated chemistry in high school, so you can count on the fact that she does not know what she is talking about here, but she is nonetheless fairly certain that the café chimiste was stealthily using an antique Bunsen burner to get the coffee up to 210 degrees because she cannot imagine any other explanation for having to wait so fucking long for one cup of coffee. As she was waiting, she had plenty of time to think about the geishas and wonder if they got into “boutique” bio-diverse shade grown direct trade coffee because they were tired of dealing with rightwing paramilitary cocaine traffickers or if they realized they could make more money with Smug coffee than coca plants. (Again, Smug Scout is not an expert here. Most of what she knows about Colombian cocaine production and distribution comes from “Miami Vice.”)

Geisha Santuario Anyway, when Smug Scout finally got her coffee, she was anxious to see if she could detect how the “bouquet of jasmine and orange blossom greets the palate, followed by the effervescent acidity of tangerine, raspberry and black currant.” She even drank it black so she could be more sensitized to these tasting notes. No luck. No matter how much sniffing, swirling, and oxygenating she did (i.e. pointlessly treating it like wine), the best she could come up with is “better than Starbucks.” The main thing she noticed was that despite allegedly being heated to 210 degrees, it got cold within minutes. So was it worth it? Not exactly. On the plus side, however, when Smug Scout went in for a second, cheaper ($5) cup of coffee and earnestly asked the café chimiste for a recommendation of what to drink following the Geisha Santuario–either Indonesian or Ethiopian varietals with zany names intended to stymie all pronunciation attempts–Smug Scout was amazed to find that the café chimiste actually comped her this one! Only in L.A., Smug Scout thinks. Smug Scout’s friend Rosa also believes it was a reward for being the first friendly mark customer at Intelligentsia. Rosa believes Silver Lake hipsters would never ask a café chimiste for an opinion because they are all already experts. Is Smug Scout now an expert on Geisha Santuario coffee? Yes, as long as you do not mind that she made up half of what she has written about it. If you do not like that level of accuracy, then Smug Scout will recommend that if you have questions about cocaine you should probably not ask Don Johnson.

Smug Scout Shutout in Chicago

Intelligentsia Chicago exteriorSmug Scout has a love-hate relationship with Los Angeles. She loves the restaurants, the farmers’ markets, the palm trees, the monotonously bland weather, and the local political races featuring a homogenous blend of Democrats. She hates the driving conditions she feels were devised by Satan. She also does not believe she could have a pure love for any place she has to work, but of course work pays for her favorite pastime: traveling. And so whenever Smug Scout has even a three day weekend, she hotfoots it out of L.A. Her most recent trip was to Chicago over Presidents’ Day weekend. She loves Chicago and was excited to do some serious Smug scouting there. Too bad this plan failed.

Intelligentsia Chicago menuThe first failure occurred at the original Intelligentsia. Since Smug Scout is such a slavish fan of the Silver Lake outpost, she was absurdly excited to see where that ne plus ultra of Smugness began. As soon as she arrived, she thought she had reached Smug coffee Shangri-La when she saw that she would be able to order a cup of the most insanely overpriced coffee she has ever seen in her life: Santuario Geisha from Colombia. Smug Scout loves the idea of a coffee plantation that is also a sanctuary for beleaguered  geishas, though she knows that geisha is really just a coffee bean “varietal” from Panama. But regardless of this mundane reality, she could not wait to shell out the extortionate sum of $12 to see if she could detect the promised notes of jasmine, orange blossom, and black currant. Unfortunately, her excitement turned to dismay when the Smug yet hat-less coffee artiste (Smug Scout refuses to use that silly word “barista” and doubts Intelligentsia tolerates it either) announced without even the slightest trace of fake apology that Santuario Geisha was sold out. In disgust, Smug Scout ordered the cheaper, purposely unpronounceable Zambian one, which she felt tasted less like apple, cherry, and caramel and more like coffee. To add insult to injury, none of the three milk canisters contained soy milk. She recalls that two of them contained whole milk. What an outrage! No one in L.A. drinks whole milk!

Ruxbin exteriorThe second failure occurred that very same evening. While riding in the car, Smug Scout spotted a Smug epicenter called Ruxbin. She knew this restaurant was Smug when she saw the intentionally unreadable pseudo old fashioned “typewritten” sign (though she does not recall any old typewriters that used a meat cleaver to represent the letter “b”), the bizarre playhouse looking contraption, the studied placement of twigs, and barely varnished reclaimed wood everywhere in sight. If Smug Scout is being perfectly honest, she does not believe she has seen a restaurant that advertises Smugness so aggressively anywhere else in the world. She had to find out more. She had to have dinner there. Uh-oh. She could not have dinner there. Ruxbin had no space for Smug Scout! Ruxbin, which scorns that bourgeois reservations nonsense, dismissed Smug Scout and her two Smug Chicago friends, though they arrived one hour before the restaurant’s final seating. After being turned away without even the slightest trace of a fake apology, Smug Scout noticed that Ruxbin posts “House Rules.” You can read the rules on the web site (, but here is Smug Scout’s summary if you do not want to bother: “You may not complain about waiting, even if it is two hours. In fact, do not waste our time or ink by allowing your name on our list if you are the type to dislike two hour waits for a precious reclaimed wood table that we will then rush you away from because other marks are waiting for it. Keep all Apple products off and concealed.” Such brazen and hostile Smugness.

After this disappointment, Smug Scout had to content herself with the web site, which offered such a rich, engorged feast of Smugness that Smug Scout almost lost her appetite for the real experience. Here is some useful information from the “About” page: (

With Ruxbin, our goal is to create food that goes back to the etymology of what a restaurant is meant to embody.                                                                                  res·tau·rant \ˈres-t(ə-)ränt also -t(ə-)rənt, -tərn                                                            Etymology: French, from present participle of restaurer to restore

Maybe Smug Scout is not smart enough for Ruxbin, but she does not really understand how food can “go back to an etymology”; she thinks someone has pretentious meals mixed up with linguistics. Still, she is grateful to know that she has been correctly pronouncing “restaurant” all these years.

The Space: Ruxbin emerges at the junction of Wicker Park and West Town. This 32-seat American Bistro hosts a steam-punk decor in a sepia-toned menagerie. Time periods and materials flair together with the Refurbished, Repurposed, and Reclaimed. Vintage and salvaged compositions furnish every surface of the dining room, creating an inviting respite.

This passage takes Smug Scout’s breath away. What does she love best? The use of “flair” as a verb? (Could it be related to flairer, the Old French word meaning “to scent”? Just ask the Ruxbin etymology experts!) The idea that a place can “host a…decor”? (Does that mean the restaurant can kick out the decor if it becomes unruly?) The utterly unhelpful imagery: “steam-punk decor in a sepia-toned menagerie”? (Are brown-tinted animals present?) No, while that last one is close, it is not her favorite. She loves the capitalized Smug adjectives!

Smug Scout is already planning another trip to Chicago. You will restore her then, Ruxbin! And get the geishas to harvest some extra beans, Intelligentsia!