Farewell & Thanks For All The Fish

Me and Fabi, Cooking for a Stained Tablecloth Lunch

As I parted ways heading north on I-25, I kept thinking of the year gone past. A year in a town that taught me much more than I could have ever asked for. Ive decided to answer some questions, mostly for myself, as a way to say  thank you and bring closure to my time in Boulder.

Why Boulder?

Great question. Originally the plan was to get away form the then current situation, which in all honesty was a great deal of fun; summertime during the World Cup in Mexico City. Where was I going? A place where I could potentially start a business and do what I loved to do: cook. Knowing someone that was interested in the project, Mr. Grimm, and acknowledging that it was time for Boulder to have food carts offering delicious affordable food, I bought a plane ticket. I guess the fact that I could legally work in the USA also had something to do with the purchase. At first, I was hopeful it would all happen. But then I met The Hill. Living in what most college students would consider paradise. This facilitated the access to collegiate parties, peer introductions, and much CU fun. Food cart on the back burner. Rent, light, Wi-Fi, groceries all still needed to be paid, so a job was in order. Kitchen job was the first thing that came to mind and it made sense. Long nights, holiday work, and meager pay was not what I was looking for, so I reconsidered. Enter Whole Foods. The magnificent corporation offering entry level employees a considerable hourly pay. I took the job immediately; it was low commitment, close to home, part time, and high pay. The way I saw it, it opened my schedule to hiking, biking, cooking, and The Hill. Which proved to be a lot of fun. I met endless amounts of people, played lots of soccer, listened to good music, and enjoyed my living situation with an amazing roommate. The first months were interesting to say the least, but I liked it. I already knew however, that the plan to only stay for a semester would not be fulfilled, Boulder was too much fun. (Notice how I still use the word semester as if I were a student. I think part of the reason I didn’t take a kitchen job, even though pay might’ve been higher, was the fact that I couldn’t call 6 months a semester. A kitchen job makes sure that Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years are your busiest days, not time with your family.)

The Stained Tablelcloth

Playing pick-up soccer on Kittredge (also the most stunning place to play outdoors with the overlooking Flatirons) I met a Ger-man. One of the few people on the field with talent. Friendship was bound to happen given we would likely want to play together in the future. After soccer, talk about food and organics flared up then a dinner invitation was presented. This was the start to a relationship that has completely reprogrammed who I am. Much patience was needed to befriend this man, something I lacked previously. Kudos to you Fabi. From this came the EF-DOUBLE-O-DEE, as it originally was named. The intention: to make a killing selling delicious food out of a place we didn’t have to pay business rent for: my apartment. Except every time people swung by to pick up their “to go” meals, everyone wanted to eat there. I firmly believe this happened because most people want to have someone to eat with in what would otherwise be just another lonely lunch in between class. The project quickly evolved into an opportunity for us to grow as people, cooks, and friends. The Stained Tablecloth was born. A place where friends and people were invited to participate in daily meals and nightly events for the sake of community, creativity, and fun. We described it something like this;

“This is happening to create a community for you to share and trade passion, knowledge, talent, and insight that promote creativity. As a community we are dedicated to nourish our minds and bodies by becoming more aware of the the cycles of life. This is happening to promote a space of growth, teaching, and learning through individuality and cultural diversity.”

It was a blast. But in all honesty, it all started because we didn’t have it in us to charge all our friends for the food we had given them on credit. The solution: serve the food at a payment of their choice. In other words, donation based food and events. This was a project that changed the way I look at life. I know understand the importance of community, honesty, and affordable healthy food. A million thanks to everyone who ate/cooked at the Stained Tablecloth, our sponsors (Dan at Savory Spice, Qin at Ku Cha Tea), and our promoters (Eric Weaver, Lindsey and Brian from Innisfree, and Mark from Conscious Coffees, The Pamlico Sound, etc.) Not to mention the innumerable amount of help and support we received from extremely talented local artists and musicians. You guys are all the shit.

Allegro Coffee

In the middle of the Stained Tablecloth’s growth came the Holiday Season, and my part-time job at Whole Foods suddenly required full time hours. I wanted to work less and less and was working overtime. Thanks to Boulder’s eager Whole Food’s enthusiasts the Pearl Street store underwent a major overhaul. The renovation was also an opportunity for Allegro Coffee, a roaster which started in Boulder, to open its first retail Coffee Bar. Switching teams probably meant I could get back my part time status and focus more attention on the Stained Tablecloth. I applied for the job, got it, and as of December was only working 21 hours a week. Now I could devote time to the project. December was also a major renovation for the Stained Tablecloth, as the departure of my roommate Mimi to Ghana left me with an open apartment to work with. We made the place look stunning. I remember a guest commenting; “My brother had told me you guys ran a joint out of your apartment. I couldn’t imagine it. Now that I’m here I understand.” It was all setup for January, when the students got back for class. But something happened in between. Caffeineation station. As my passion for the Stained Tablecloth grew, so did my passion for Coffee. Something I drank only to prolong my wakeful hours suddenly became a time guzzler. I was spending more time reading, learning, brewing, exploring coffee than I was doing anything else. I ended up working an unexpected job for a company that was eager to open up their arms and share their knowledge. I was lucky to be shown the way by the best in the business. Jess, Matt, Katie, Brian, Darrin, and Christy: I will never forget my experience at Allegro, I am forever grateful. Judging in a Barista Competition, competing in the Brewers Cup, meeting coffee farmers from Bolivia, being able to infinitely brew on of the years 10 best coffees, making V60’s at the Bar, pulling shots, and playing at the cupping lab. It was all more than I deserved, I miss it dearly.

The Fifth Street Temple

I soon moved out of the apartment, theoretically to have a garden to grow some food and continue our path to create the Su-stained Tablecloth (credit to Roya.) The fifth street temple was a beautiful place. A large 5 bedroom house in North Boulder with hardwood floors, a bathroom to myself, a large deck and backyard, and a massive garden space. The roommates: 3 psychic readers (Saman, Jenny, and Ahad) and Caleb (Caleb, how do you describe your job?). This was a period of intense growing. Not exactly what I had expected for a living situation, however I’ve now learned that you grow the most in environments that are farthest away from your comfort zone. It was interesting because as individuals I loved every one of my roommates. Ahad was always an inspiration and had similar opinions and thought process as myself. Saman was always calm, with a hidden burst of excitement and fun. Jenny was happy as can be and a lovable girl. Caleb, a dude I related to and was pleased to meet through the others. However, I seemed to not fit it with the expectations as a roommate. Most of my time here I kept to myself and it only encouraged me to delve deeper into the world of coffee. When the summer came I moved back to my apartment. This house, my experience there, and my roommates I will always remember.

Back to the Hill

Summertime was here and every day in Boulder was a fairy tale. Riding my bike, enjoying the trails, spending time with Amanda, it was exactly what I needed but I was eager to move on. My first week in Boulder I had met the girl I’m now in love with, and plans since the beginning were for me to move to San Francisco, where she attended school. It also made sense for me given the coffee scene was booming out there. The Stained Tablecloth continued hosting amazing Wine and Dine nights at the beautiful Innisfree Poetry Bookstore, and much fun happened there. In Houston I had watched Pete Licata get crowned as the US Barista Champ, and it was surprising to be sipping some coffee outside of Ozo to watch him walk in. The man was from Hawaii, what was he doing in Boulder? Apparently altitude in Boulder would help him practice for the World Championship in Colombia, so the guys from Ozo had offered him the space. I was soon enjoying  the champions espresso and a question he posed brought a guest to the shop. Scott RoJohn was quick to swing by and answered some questions on degassing, but also got a chance to talk about steaming pitcher design and his modified equipment at home. When I departed that day, I left with Scotts business card and the humble fact that he was a retired Aerospace Engineer. As the lovely summer continued so did my interest in coffee and specifically in roasting it. I wish I could’ve had time to spend down at Allegro, however distance made it hard for me to get there. So instead I visited the Conscious Coffee roastery and learned a lot from Mark. I visited the Ozo roastery and learned a lot from Nolan, but the day I visited Nolan he said, “You can’t  leave Boulder without tasting Scott’s espresso.”

Fox Run Roasters

I had already emailed Scott once before but had received no answer. I had expected to. Why would he contact me back? I insisted and wrote to him again. He told me to swing by his house and I did. I also brought Amanda along without asking if that would be ok. When I arrived I noticed what was happening. I had arrived in paradise. This lovely man had invited us into his home to share his passion. He made us coffee, the best I’ve ever had, which requires about a 25 minute preparation time. You can only imagine what an Aerospace Engineer would do to an Espresso Machine. Rocketships came flying out of that coffee and onto my tongue. We were invited to return and from here blossomed the most beautiful relationship I have ever been a part of. On our second attendance to the RoJohn/Biers home we were introduced to Kate, the missing piece of the puzzle. Every second we spent there was a retreat from Earth. Scott was also nice enough to teach me how to roast. Which meant that I know spent most of my time roasting and cupping at home. From Ficus trees to Colterra dinners, and sample roasting. I am ecstatic to have departed Boulder forming a sincere relationship that I know will last forever. Let the Jaguar be with you guys.

Now Im Gone

Now I’m gone, but Niwot cursed his spell. I loved every second I was there and Im sure I will return. I will dream of the Flatirons, the creek path, the trees, and the clouds.

Until soon Boulder,


2 Responses to “Farewell & Thanks For All The Fish”
  1. fabian11 says:

    Dear Lalo,

    I want to say I miss you, but I do not. “Ohh”, one might say. Of course I miss your physical presence, riding our bikes to Whole Foods, cooking up delicious foods, conversing with a cup of coffee or freaking out about something that went wrong according to expectations.

    But I do not miss you completely, because you are still here in a way. I remember the good times with you, and I sometimes think about how you are doing where your are physically. I bet your are roasting some good coffee these days.

    I know now is an overwhelming time for you. You are moving, you are maybe looking for a job, you are writing your blog, you have a beautiful girlfriend to spend time with (hey Amanda!), you are in a new town. A town filled with emotions, opportunities, possibilities.

    I hope as much as your time is overwhelming, you are enjoying every moment of it. How are you now?

    I wrote all this down without thinking about it. And the rest is intuitive, too. I know you appreciate that side of me, with its natural duality.

    I cannot describe to you how much I have learned and grown in the past 9 months with you as a friend in my life. You have taught me about food, women, coffee, soccer, and baking. These are maybe a hundredth of the things that I could list. But they came to my brain immediately, so they must be of significance.

    One main thing you have taught me that I want mention is how to value things. Economics teaches much about values that humans devote to things with help of a unit of measurement. Money is what often was in my mind when sharing food. But there are so many other things and lessons that we have received. Some, paintings and books and equipment, has an economic value. If you added them up, you could probably start a small business. And there is those things that have intrinsic value. Life lessons, skills, connections, knowing that vegetables soak up oil when you put them in the pan before the oil gets hot, the importance of measurement in baking, etc., etc., etc.

    Did we get 10,000 dollars like you said we could? Not nearly. I think there are about 34 dollars left on the Stained Tablecloth Bank Account. That’s positive. It’s not negative. We did not lose any money. And that even though I got a cooking education from a trained Chef, I learn about coffee from the best, I got to roll around in Mercedes cars, BMW’s, cook food for incredible artists and listen to their music every week. I went to an A Capella Show, a Funk Band, and many, many others and listened to their music acoustically, privately formed to the local demand and taste. And we still have 34 dollars? We came out positive?

    In essence, you have taught me to rethink how to value things, and made me a student of Economics that questions more. Even though you always told me you know little about Economics?

    Here we are. I am at a point in my life where I love every moment, I realize and appreciate the beauties around me to the fullest extent, I am self-confident, happy, ready to go and create. That is what you have left me.

    I am forever grateful that you have been and are my friend. I don’t miss you because I know you are here. I can feel you.

    I hope you make the best of your moving time, and channel lots of positive energies from Boulder.

    Things are happening here!

    Much Love,

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  1. […] As I parted ways heading north on I-25, I kept thinking of the year gone past. A year in a town that taught me much more than I could have ever asked for. Ive decided to answer some questions, mostly for myself, as a way to say  thank you and bring closure to my time in Boulder. Why Boulder? Great question. Originally the plan was to get away form the then current situation, which in all honesty was a great deal of fun; summertime during the Worl … Read More […]

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