Pop-up porch cafe: Chocolate stout edition

It has been ten years since we bought bags of chocolate for the purpose of not eating them (!) You see, whilst in Australia, we were spared the excessive commercialism. We did try one year in Sydney- no candy, rather adult costume party. The oz invitees were darling “Do we have to dress scary?” It was a good time all around (oh apple bobbing on a string, you’re a keeper) and we decided to take the merriment further afield to one of the bars. “We don’t serve freaks.” Buzz kill. (Don’t you worry, we found a rave that welcomed ALL).

So fast forward 10 years and two ankle biters later and here we are contributing to the $7billion that Americans are spending on the holiday. We weren’t even sure if they celebrate it here in Leeds. I was secretly hoping that I would get to abscond with the Twix bars. But our neighbours had some bats on the windows and the grocery carts at the grocery stores were gang busting with pumpkins. So, we waited. The ankle biters are too young to understand and we won’t push the issue unless they are interested. But us adults, truly, we got giddy.

Why? Well, between the initiation of the pop-up porch cafe and about two weeks ago, we brewed our own beer. Forty bottles of deep chocolate stout. Fingers wiping the saliva off the side of my mouth, oh so good. Honestly, one of the top three beers I’ve tasted here in Leeds. Granted, as it was our first batch, the only consistency of quality between the bottles is the inconsistency. But when you get one, you’ll know and you’ll bow your head. So with these gems of liquid chocolate, we decided to share the wealth. Why do the kids get all the swag for the evening? We turned the tables and decided to give the adults some glorious reprieve. We knocked on four neighbours’ doors and gave them the treat and invited them to share some more.

Thus, pop-up porch cafe: chocolate stout edition rolled out. This time, the whole family sat on the porch with drinks in hand (stout, stout, milk, water) basking in the glow of the pumpkin. As darkness descended, we were all just elated: knowing we had marvellous beer and sharing it. I think that is the pulse of Halloween slowly forgotten: neighbourly kindness. One came round. Slowly, they will come.

(Photographs by Vivian Romero)


A video and five links to start your weekend

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Umbracity, or bicycle-sharing for the umbrella set

Each time you shop and request a plastic bag from major UK supermarkets, it will cost 5p

The origin of the coffee break

If a tree falls in a forest, we will hear it

Pop up porch cafe

It has been 299 days (not that I’m counting) since we last had a child-free dinner. It is a meditated sacrifice as we spend the first year inculcating a foundation of sleep, eat play, repeat. Every child is different, I know. But man, anklebiter 1 sleeps like a dream and we attribute that to the routine. So not to jinx anything, we persevere. I know of one mum who dines with her partner after the children sleep aka the grown-up dinner. That’s fantastic but our tummies generally close shop circa 7pm and it’s not something we’d like to change. Also, as that mum realised, there’s something about gathering round the table together…

Anyways, it so happened that the stars aligned and we found ourselves with a bottle of bubbles, some smoked salmon and cheese, strawberries and raspberries and a decadent chocolate tart inviting us to feast.  As it was quite the celebration and the evening sunshadows proved inviting, we took it outside. It was memorable enough to warrant a photograph. Yes, on our porch/ public footpath/ neighbourhood street.

pop up porch cafe
pop up porch cafe

Our very own pop up porch cafe. The husband laughed, “You know when you have kids when you use their furniture..” Yep that’s their table. That’s the only thing that would fit on the footpath and meet our dining requirements. Quite impromptu and as the best times are usually spontaneous, this proved to be magical (maybe it was the glow of the candle and the buzz of the bubbles). A few cars rambled home to their garages and I couldn’t help but think our candle was a little beacon home. Our neighbour returned from a late night at work and chuckled, “You on holiday?” It did feel like a holiday and feeling a bit of guilty mischief, we felt compelled to reason our presence. “It’s our anniversary.”

It’s true. It was. We even invited him over for a glass of bubbles. But why did we need to hide behind the fact that we needed a special occasion to celebrate outside? Every day is a special occasion and my urban imagined has us 227 style (dating myself) feasting with our neighbours. I might be on to something. I’d like to see if I can, within the year, have neighbours imbibing on good times off little chairs in our pop up porch cafe. Talk about random neighbourhood acts of wonder and connection.