Wednesday, September 29, 2010

CC: Barista

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What's does "CC" mean?

Subject:
Barista
Location visited: Portland, OR
(Pearl District location)
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating:
6+ [
see key]



Finally. That was the word that plowed into my mind when I passed into Portland's lovely city limits for my second trip ever, this one outlasting my last Portland trip which was no more then a late night Sunday pit stop.

First stop on my stops was Barista. I confess that since their opening in early 2009, I have wished to pass through their arches and experience what sounded like a great coffee experience. Barista had such appeal largely for their unorthodox-yet-beautifully-obvious approach to coffee, such as having many coffee roasters offered in their shop (the number was around 9 when I arrived) and having 3 rotating featured espressos every day.

I arrived tired but eager. I walked up the steps, onto their porch full of tables and inside to what looked like a lobby. Barista existed mostly to the left in a small shop with beautiful woodwork (I later found out that one guy does many of the gorgeous coffee bars for the city) and plenty of coffee (a whole wall is just whole bean bags for sale), but the shop spills into the lobby with big black tables that make the place exist in so much greater a space.

I ordered Stumptown's Kilimanjaro El Salvador as my espresso and a french press of Ristretto Roaster's El Salvador (no theme planned; just worked out that way). The espresso proved velvety in texture, ripe with a sugary lemon with vanilla kick plus an infusion of strawberry and blood orange. The shots were superbly pulled, short in volume, capped with great crema and overall, proved to be delicious. The french press had a beautifully bright introduction, with twangs of caramel, fig, honey, a little tapioca and chai; a very smooth coffee with a great profile. The tea I failed to note.

Of the coffeehouses I wish I lived near, I added Barista to my list that day. Stop in.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

CC: Third Rail Coffee

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What's does "CC" mean?
Location visited: Manhattan, NY
Free WiFi ? : no
Rating:
6+ [
see key]




Though Jersey is right next to Manhattan, I hold the opinion that there's no such thing as "popping in." No matter how many different methods I try, it always takes at least a half hour, even when I am right across the river (circumstances never seem to favor my speed). But I guess you can rationalize the time taken for the reward on the other side.

One recent end of a business day, I was driving down the NJ turnpike and hit a massive parking lot of traffic. Not wanting to sit and also having a rare free evening (the wife was to be with friends til late), I decided to park the car and take NJ Transit into Penn Station, grab some dinner and coffee and then head home when traffic had dissipated.

The plan mostly worked. I didn't end up finding as great a dinner as I had hoped but I managed to finally make it to Third Rail Coffee near NYU. In the midst of the evolving NYC coffee scene, Third Rail has won strong accolades for good coffee (NY Times gave some love) and seems to have strong attention to detail. The cafe itself is typical of NYC in that its low on space but every ounce is optimized amidst the exposed brick, wood floors and wall seating.

Third Rail serves up Intelligentisa and Stumptown and per their offerings that day, I got a Black Cat espresso and Stumptown's Costa Rican Don Mayo Reserva via Chemex. The Costa Rican brought earthy notes, hints of wheat, rum, oregano and corn; a smooth cup that proved delicious. The espresso, pulled short with pretty crema, had flickers of lemon, bittersweet chocolate, cloves and raspberry within a nice velvety texture (a good showing of Black Cat). The tea is free leaf.

Especially with the friendly banter from the baristas, Third Rail choo choo-ed sweetly into my heart. If you happen to be in the city, rally to their doorstep.


Monday, September 20, 2010

developments

You might notice some changes but fear not! We are just going through some changes in design.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

CC: Bea's of Bloomsbury

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What's does "CC" mean? Location visited: London, UK
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating:
6+ [
see key]



Afternoon tea is something I wish America embraced. Around 2 PM every weekday, I would love to stop working, break out the tea (or coffee) apparatus (not to mention tiny sandwiches) and simply relax. Some may argue that we have "coffee breaks" but that's like saying that AstroTurf feels like Kentucky Bluegrass.

Wanting to roll in the proverbial grass, I did my utmost to fit a true afternoon tea into my recent London exploits. I did a good chunk of research and after sorting through my options, the cafe that looked most smashing was a placed called Bea's of Bloomsbury. According to their website, they were not only Square Mile's first customer (hip hip for tea AND espresso) but they also offer one of the best (and most affordable) tea times in all London. Check and mate.

Bea's gets a lot of traffic so I actually was blown away when I found an open interior table on a sunny Sunday afternoon. The cafe has a gorgeous layout with black and lavender walls, an open kitchen in the rear and a fluidity that makes the space seem twice as large. I ordered up a Square Mile espresso (an espresso only place) and a pot of lemon verbena tea. The espresso was pulled short by trained hands, producing a bright coffee with notes of tart cocoa, grapefruit, fig, mint, almond and nutmeg. The tea was steeped well, had a balanced lemony flavor (like lemon grass) and a subtle natural sweetness. Both the espresso and tea provided exemplary experiences.

It should be noted that Bea's does some amazing things with food and bakery items (if you get a meringue, pace yourself because they are huge). All around Bea's met all of my high expectations for a good British tea time experience. You should go.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

CC: Tazza D'Oro

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What's does "CC" mean?

Subject:
Tazza D'Oro
Location visited: Pittsburgh, PA
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating:
6+ [
see key]



So many times little things brighten my day. A small baby making a forceful rolling R sound, a tiger spraying a heckler at the zoo or a correctly-executed high five all tend to put a shimmy in my step.

One moment of late that really perked up my afternoon was a coffeehouse in Highland Park called Tazza D'Oro. I had not been sad or down prior to arriving that fine day but the day had proven rather warm and I was a little worn out.

Noting the shared name to the Roman cafe of fame (though, having just visited Rome, I wouldn't say I was impressed with it), this Pittsburgh cafe is no cheap knock-off. I had heard from many credible palates that the coffee and skill was truly great, and I could feel optimistic (metaphorical) dragonflies lifting my weariness as I walked past their charming outdoor area into their lovely innards.

Standing amidst the stone tile floor, exposed wood beams and nice lighting, I settled on a Costa Rican for my drip and an espresso of (what I was told was) a custom blend, both from Verve Coffee Roasters out of CA. My drip delivered a bright, earthy coffee with the presence of mango, paprika, nougat and a darker body (the last characteristic could be more from time in the pump pot, but I emphasize that it did not taste stale). The espresso, pulled short with beautiful crema, popped with a cocoa, almond, molasses, lemon candy and rum. Both coffee extractions were well-prepared and delicious. The tea is free leaf.

As you may have deduced, my day got another ray of sunshine from my coffee but not from the caffeine (ok...maybe a little), but for the excellent flavors showcased. If you happen to be in Pittsburgh, stop at one of Tazzo D'Oro's locations.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

CC: Aldo Coffee Company

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What's does "CC" mean? Location visited: Pittsburgh, PA
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating:
5+ [
see key]



Lackadaisical Saturday mornings go hand-in-hand with coffee at a fine establishment. I speak no great epiphany, but since my Saturdays are often lightning-paced (and when they are not, I sleep them by) I lament that I rarely get to enjoy the pleasantry of a Saturday morning brew out.

Yet vacation changes everything and being in Pittsburgh on a gorgeous Saturday, my entourage and I made our way to Aldo Coffee Company. A bit of a local coffee hero, Aldo has been in the lime light on more then one occasion with their quality barista skills and coffee practices.

Aldo sits on a main street south of downtown Pittsburgh in a brick building with an orange, red and black (Halloween!) awning. Inside, the structure reflects two small shops merged, with the bar on the right, seating throughout and an overall low-lit joint decked out in Italian decor.

The coffee hales from Stumptown, Intelligentsia and La Verdad (a coffee roasted by Aldo). That morning, they (oddly) had Stumptown's Hairbender and Intelly's Black Cat as filter coffees (waiting in pump pots); the prospect of either wasn't really appealing as both are great for espresso but not really other infusions. But since they were pulling shots of Black Cat that AM, I went with the Hairbender for my cup of drip. While I can't say my hair bent, the brew produced a little brightness similar to lemon, hint of pepper, some pear, oregano and a little nuttiness. The coffee also proved a little saucy (due to what seemed staleness) but overall, was fairly good.

As for the espresso, the Black Cat possessed notes of dark chocolate, lemon, nutmeg, a bit of hibiscus and some zesty vanilla. The shots were pulled short, had a good head of crema and proved pleasant. The tea is free leaf.

While I can't say I would agree with Aldo's drip selections that day (they had so many others to choose from!), I would say the experience overall gave my Saturday morning a nice bit of pep. When you're in the area, give Aldo a heave ho.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Mugged: 2010 Reserve [Mañana Madera]

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What does "Mugged" mean?


Subject:
Manana Madera Coffee Estate
Coffees Mugged:
2010 Reserve

Rating: 5+
[see key]



A
good cup of coffee always starts from outside the continental US (of course, Hawaii represents as our lone coffee grower state) but usually I am not too familiar with trying out coffee roasted on-farm. I guess the idea makes a lot of sense and the only real headache is shipping.

I had the delightful opportunity of late to sample the 2010 Reserve crop of Manana Madera Coffee Estate out of Panama. The coffee seems to be their singular offering for a small farm that also seems to offer coffee tourism opportunities (only $80 a night!).

The coffee was sampled in the infusions of drip/filtered, french press and siphon. The drip displayed a nutty, strawberry flavor with hints of wheat grass, milk, honey graham cracker and a smidge of cocoa. A very even and sweet coffee.

The french press delivered a nutty cup, with more noticeable wheat grass, honey and cocoa notes, as well as hints of triscuit and cream amidst a full body. This cup actually smacked more of honey as it cooled and overall, proved terrific.

The siphon was the least distinct, still holding nuttiness, triscuit, honey and graham cracker but it had more of a bourbon kick and much less sweetness. Still good coffee though.

Though the price tag (shipping) makes it a pricey cup, the 2010 Reserve is a coffee I would not shy from (i.e. I liked it). If you are looking for a coffee truly all from Panama, then try out Manana Madera's 2010 Reserve.

note: coffee was provided free of charge and the above review is objective feedback.