Monday, January 30, 2012

new logo and design

Yes, we're changing up the design. Let us know what you think, as it shall prove to be an ongoing work over the next few weeks.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

CC: Apple Pie Bakery Cafe (CIA)

Location: Hyde Park, NY
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

To be perfectly honest, a lot of mainstream chefs have let me down with the breadth of their culinary knowledge. Sure they know their food, and most at least understand their wine, but very few masters of the kitchen seem to have even heard of high quality coffee. Sadly, this seems to have stemmed largely from many sources (archaic benchmarks, corporate sponsors, etc), with poor coffee being found rampant amongst the nations finer culinary institutions.

But just when I was about to lose hope in the movers and shakers of the culinary realm, a little blue bird confided in me that the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park was serving up Counter Culture beans a la french press as well as in their espresso machine, all from within a cozy, CIA bistro dubbed the Apple Pie Bakery Cafe. Thankfully, I happened to be winding up the Hudson River one weekday and thus, I made a stop in for lunch and some coffee.

The CIA itself has a nice parking garage for visitors and finding your way through the campus was none too difficult. The Apple Pie Bakery Cafe exists in Roth Hall and is accessed in one of its many hallways. The cafe, decked in bright colors and light from large windows, was brimming with patrons, both visitors and members of the school, either eating their lunch or communing over coffee. 

I ordered a french press of a Nicaraguan (in my haste, I did not write down which Nicaraguan) and an espresso of the Toscana blend. The espresso held a monotone brown crema and was pulled to a short/medium volume. It held flavors of bittersweet cocoa, lemon, cider, potato chip, a bit of salt and romaine. The shots were definitely pulled in a more traditional (Italian) fashion but the use of great beans made this a great espresso. The Nicaraguan held notes of subtle roses, cherry candy, asian pear, sweet tea, seaweed salad and a bit of caramel in smooth, light/medium body. 

To put it succinctly, I was delighted with my experience. The CIA proved that at least some of the culinary intelligentsia in the world recognize good coffee. If you happen to be in Hyde Park or close by, stop by the Apple Pie Bakery Cafe for a stellar lunch, snack or great cup of coffee.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Mugged: Geisha [Sea Island]

Mugged: Geisha, Costa Rica
Rating: 4+ [see key]

It's hard to believe that coffee trees used to be confined to East Africa, especially in today's world economy where a place with the right climate will grow coffee on at least one farm. Some places, like the island of Java, trace it's coffee trees to about the 17th century, but even today some coffee varieties are still being exported.

One such variety that has gotten an excessive amount of publicity is the geisha variety, primarily for the hefty price it fetched in some Cup of Excellence auctions. Having had the pleasure of sampling some that fabled expensive coffee, I was impressed with it then and since, I've welcomed opportunities to try similar varieties. My most recent encounter with a geisha is from Sea Island Coffee with their Geisha, Costa Rica, the second of the two coffees sent out for review. I sampled it via drip, french press and siphon.

The drip relayed notes of honey graham cracker, wheat, strawberry, a bit of cocoa, anise and some peppercorn amidst a medium body. A delicious coffee though the peppercorn proved not an attractive facet.

The french press issued a brew with more graham cracker and wheat, strawberry and a little peppercorn and cocoa within a medium body. Also good minus peppercorn.

The siphon was my favorite of this coffee, demonstrating notes of honey, a bit of nuttiness, strawberry, cocoa and hay.

Encapsulated, I can't say I'd pay as high a price as the CoE geishas fetched, but Sea Island still roasts a good geisha. Especially if you're on the right side of the Atlantic, give Sea Island's Costa Rica Geisha a swirl.

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

Monday, January 16, 2012

CC: De La Paz

Location: San Francisco, CA
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

There have been countless times when my travel plans and coffeehouse hours have not lined up. Usually late afternoons, nights and holidays play the culprit, though it always seems to be a weird mix of factors (the owners are getting married on a Wednesday). But sometimes I wander into a blessed form of a Bermuda Triangle where all the factors line up and the timing becomes perfect.

Such it was with De La Paz Coffee Roasters. I managed to find some time to show up during the small window of Friday between 8 AM - 1 PM, the only time this roaster's soon-to-be-coffee-bar serves up coffee and espresso to the masses. The space would be hard to spot from the street were it not for the street sign, but since they seem to want to move in the direction of a speak-easy-like bar setting (one that serves amazing coffee and espresso), it seemed fitting. 

Inside the atmosphere was basic, more utilitarian then it was inviting (it's under construction), but the mood of the De La Paz-ians more then compensated. Few places held such a jovial nature; there were folks from Sightglass (literally, the coffee roaster around the corner) hanging out and shooting the breeze with their "competition" (a beautiful instance of comradery rarely seen in most industries). I was quickly greeted upon my entering in a friendly manner, though also given my space to peruse and acclimate.

I finally settled on their Oscillations blend for some espresso and a pourover of La Violeta, a micro lot from Costa Rica's  Finca El Llano in Tarrazu. The Violeta proved delicious, with notes of lager, peanut, caramel, a little hyacinth, spinach and pinch of lemon zest amidst a medium body. The espresso also gave a stand up performance, with the flavors of almond, butter, tangerine, wheat thins and sage performing amidst a short pull with brown crema.

Apparently their new digs are due to open up in February, so if you happen to live in the Bay area or you plan to visit, keep your Friday AM open if you go pre-opening.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Mugged: High Jump [Deep Cello]

Subject: Deep Cello
Mugged: High Jump
Rating: 4+ [see key]

Of all the sports I played throughout my life, Track & Field was my favorite. As a javelin thrower and shot putter, I would get to spend nice spring days chucking objects around a field with little pressure other then to make sure my throws were comparable to the upcoming competition (cutthroat, huh?). 

But if you were to ask me which events were the toughest amidst the old Olympic events, I always thought anything that involved flinging yourself into the air was pretty bold. Pole vault definitely scared the skittles out of me (I'm big and uncoordinated; let me just use a skinny stick to launch my weight over a 9 foot wall) and long jump seemed risky (jump as far as you can and land on your tailbone). The only one that looked fun and worth the risk was the high jump. 

But even though I never got to try the high jump in the field, I was able to taste Deep Cello's High Jump blend in my mug. A light roast sent out to me to review, I dove into it via the three infusion methods of drip, siphon and french press.

The drip threw out subtle notes of milk chocolate, butter, wheat toast, peanuts, honey, cranberry and cinnamon amidst a medium body. A tasty infusion with a variety of flavors. 

The french press was a little different, with notes of pie crust, milk chocolate, vanilla, clove and cranberry jumping out amidst a medium body.

The siphon polished off with an smooth infusion of milk chocolate, wheat toast, cranberry, peanut, honey and bran within a medium-bodied brew. 

Overall, I found the coffee to be tasty with lots of flavor, though the potency was not as strong as I would have liked and the flavors a little too piquant. Nonetheless, still a good coffee; try the High Jump if you're looking for a decent light-roasted blend. 

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

Sunday, January 01, 2012

CC: The Cup

Subject: The Cup
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 4+ [see key]

My final coffee stop in Sin City was a place that was also located in the Crystals, a shop located very discreetly in the back first floor called the Cup. Rumored to me by one source to have decent espresso, it took me a walk or two around the Crystals to actually find it but only around the corner and down the stairs from my earlier coffee stop.

A cute-looking venue with a huge orange window and tons of white, the place has a nice array of art and furniture, perfect for the tourist looking for a break from the crowds. Asking the barista of the coffee, they informed me it was "their own" (which in trying to clarify, I wasn't able to decipher whether it was a "secret supplier" situation or they roast their own, though my guess is the former). I ordered a doubleshot off their Victoria Arduino machine of their espresso blend and their signature blend a la regular drip.

The espresso, pulled short/medium and with a flat brown crema, was a tad burnt in the front, with notes of dark cocoa, deep sassafras and lapsang souchong; an overall decent pair of shots though the extraction could have been better. The drip proved pleasant as well, with a smooth, light body and notes of honey, hyacinth, multigrain, wheat grass and brazil nut as well as a tinge of slight staleness (twas later in the day, so the pot probably sat). The tea is Stash.

While I wasn't as floored as I had hoped to be, the Cup still provided a fair coffee and espresso experience, especially compared to the many other coffee stands doling out over-roasted swill nearby. Thus, if you're in the Crystals looking for a cafe that has a nice environment and decent coffee, try the Cup.