Caffeine III: Accessory Digression

Yeahyeahyeah, I know. Boushey's is not a coffee place so much as a tiny upscale deli market. There's no place to sit, and coffee is hardly the main event. There may not be a main event, because Boushey's, an Ottawa institution for decades, is all things to all people - on a restricted floor plan.

Nice-quality fresh fruits and veggies in the windows front a labyrinth of narrow aisles and high shelves jammed with a colourful and diverse selection of bottles, cans and boxes filled with gourmet goodies and basics. If you run out of coriander and cooking sherry for the ratatouille at 10 PM, Boushey's has got your back. Ditto if you need emergency dairy for your Cheerios in the early A.M. There's also a small but (very) serious butcher counter, and a huge selection of Lebanese (and other world cuisine) takeout in the coolers, for those week nights when you're too ratted out to make your own tabbouleh or hummus. Naturally, this kind of compact cornucopia, fronting onto one of Elgin Street's busiest blocks, does not come cheap. You will pay.

But we were talking coffee. And right beside the cash is a coffee pot and a mound of giant muffins.

The coffee? Purest parboiled Bunn-omatic battery acid, served in Styrofoam. If not titrated with discretion, it will torque your nervous system into twisted, teeth-chattering jaggies for hours. Apparently some people like this effect. To each, his or her own. It's just over a buck, and does the job.

But beside the coffee carafes is that mound of giant muffins. All kinds, for a very reasonable $1.25 apiece. Baked on premises, so that if you time your arrival to just after 8 A.M. on weekdays, they're piping hot. Cognoscenti ignore the cakey berry varietals and head straight for the original - honey-bran with raisins. (There's a low-fat version with dates, but proper mouth feel is elusive here.) Cognoscenti also arrive early. They go fast, there aren't many leftovers, and yesterday's muffins are kinda tough if by chance you find one.

The coffee is strictly for emergencies. But for those ambrosial muffins - an ideal complement to the (other) coffee of one's choice - all is forgiven.

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