One of the distressing realities of American life is that very few culinary standards obtain. You can't know whether a "good Italian place" creates sumptuous, lively dishes or whether they sling pale, tasteless, improperly cooked dreck.
|Yuka Cafe, Brussels|
The proliferation of Keurig "K" cups and capsule-pods for espresso, however, threatens this culinary equilibrium. In London, and in Oxford, where I have been living this year, I have come across K-cup coffee in a number of places, but I thought I could put it down to a lack of British espresso tradition. But on my my most recent trip to Paris, I had the memory of some fantastic meals marred by the hot pod-capsule water served at the end. I have had lazy, sunny flaneur afternoons ruined by coffee I did not want to finish. Fortunately, it was not widespread, but even in Paris, I now began to look not merely for a place that looked comfortable, but for some clue from the outside of the place as to whether it was a real cafe, a real restaurant. I regret that there is, as yet, nothing definitive I can offer short of an inspection and lengthy interrogation of the staff. Here in Brussels, where I have traveled with an old friend, it is more widespread.
It doesn't have to be like this. In Britain and Europe, the Real Ale and Honest ("Head is not Beer") weights & meaures campaigns forced bar and restaurant owners to use glasses with a liquid volume line on them. And every establishment pours right up to the line. There may be a nice head on the beer, which can certainly add to the taste, but you are not being cheated by a gassy line.
At this juncture, I don't see the need for government intervention. Maybe just a decal on the door, or low on the window saying they make real coffee. It would be a start.