Thursday, September 27, 2007

CC: Cafe Kubal

What's a Coffee Commentary?

Cafe Kubal
Location visited: Syracuse, NY
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 5+ [see key]

Update 8/7/08

After just having a talk with a good friend of mine about the sad state of affairs with the Philadelphia coffee/espresso scene (the fact that 90% of the shops are operating off poor skills and inaccurate knowledge), it really made me appreciate the good places that really know what they're doing.

But whenever I travel to new places, I rarely get my hopes up for the prospect of hidden gems. Almost always, the coffee geeks of the world mine and expose them quickly so that if you haven't heard of them shouted from the rooftops, there's not much hope.

So on my first trip to Syracuse, I had only heard a yell from a porch (figuratively) about a local joint called Cafe Kubal that by all means of their web page looked legit, but how appearances can deceive. But what good are tips if you let them sit...

I arrived one sunny morning to find the shop in a strip mall in an extremely small space. The outside is all storefront windows with some outside seating (surely only useable 4 maybe 5 months out of the year) and a nice neon sign. The interior is a very efficiently and effectively used space with a couple seats by the windows.

Kubal roasts all of their own coffee in a truly old school roaster dating back to the early 20th century. As I've been back to Kubal several times now, I've had mixed experience with their coffee. In-house, it's superb with a real nice acidity and a good flavor. But I also bought a bag for home use only to find it rather oily and very gross. From what I observe, they roast dark and so my guess on the oil is that it's hard to control with the old roaster. But old roaster or no old roaster, exterior oil = angry mob down the digestive highway.

The espresso is truly where they won my admiration. The baristas really know what they're doing and the espresso comes out beautiful with good crema and a full, fruit-esque flavor. Wonderful!

The tea is mostly free leaf and it looks good, though I haven't tried it.

So as far as gems, I'd say Kubal is currently a fine sapphire in need of some shaping (mostly the dark coffee). I hear there are plans in the works to have a second shop in the downtown area of Syracuse, which if true will be a nice accent for the revival of downtown Syracuse. Final words: give it go, try the drinks there, but be wary of taking your beans to go.

Update 8/7/08

Cafe Kubal has definitely improved in several areas since I last scrawled this. First, I've had a couple coffees that were splendid such as their Indian Sitarra, a 100% robusta that has a lot of unique flavors to it. They have also extended and really spruced up their front patio area as well as upgraded their website. Also, I have learned that the while the roaster is a beautifully restored antique, the roast level still can be easily controlled by a knowledgeable roaster.

New final word: give it all a go.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Iced Coff-tea

In some coffee perusing, I ran across this odd recipe for an iced coffee and iced tea hybrid. Granted summer is almost over, but it's something to give a try before the heat leaves altogether.

I would think most coffee/tea combos could produce a decent product, but I would avoid using very distinct teas (such as the smoky Lapsang Souchong) or a coffee that's over-roasted (but you don't need Cup of Excellence coffee to make a good iced coffee).

Thursday, September 06, 2007

CC: Rojo's Roastery

Subject: Rojo's Roastery
Location visited: Lambertville and Princeton, NJ
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Updated 5/22/14 after original post

Realistically, I must say there's nothing like getting to spend a Saturday meandering around a town of fond memory. These days, weekends are so full of wedding planning, driving, and other tasks that the luxury of window shopping and taking in a nice lunch in an old haunt feels like a sweet chunk of heaven.

I couldn't have picked a better spot to unwind recently then Lambertville and New Hope. Though neither
really hold much history for me (I've only been there about two hands worth of fingers), I have had a lot of good family and friend time there as well as in nearby Washington's Crossing Park (ps: the PA side is better).

Back to the day of unwinding, it was an early Thursday afternoon as a pal of mine and I were making our way through lovely Lambertville after just finishing lunch. We had dined at local Caffe Galleria which was mighty scrumptious though a bit small portion-wise (I'm much more a quantity vs quality guy when it comes to meals). After lunch naturally comes coffee but I sadly knew of zero good places in the area.

Once again, internet to the rescue as when I was doing my homework on the area, I had found that there was a local shop that roasted their own called Rojo's Roastery. We walked all the way north deep into the narrow one way streets and random little shops. Finally, just when the street was about to end we found the place tucked into what appeared to be an office building.

The exterior held a very professional crispness with some nice creative elements, but it came across very sterile (like a hospital) probably because of the color choices. The interior on the other hand opened into a vibrant, beautifully transformed loft-esque space with a really nice service counter to the right, some really chic tables and decor, and the drum roaster/beans/all supplies organized to the left. Though to the studious eye it had a lot of stuff going on, it was tremendously well orchestrated.

Since I had never heard of this place I was truly expecting crappy coffee. Imagine my surprise when not only was it good, it was extravagant! Upon further inspection of the coffeehouse, they really seem to know what they're doing, with their coffee offerings, the right language, etc.

The espresso also knocked my proverbial socks off. The barista knew well and good what she had to do to pull a good doubleshot. The espresso tasted a little blunt at first, but then came across with a real sweetness and a beautiful finish.

Rojo's really managed to make that day of Lambertville meandering that much better for me. I must say that though the entire expanse of Lambertville and New Hope may be devoid of any good coffee or espresso, you can definitely find a nice java repose at Rojo's. It's worth the walk or drive, believe me.

Update 05/22/14

My visit yesterday to their Princeton location prompted a look back at this vague post from 2007(!) which was in dire needs to updating. Rojo's now has three locations (Lambertville, Princeton and Hopewell) and has been continually rocking the socks of their patrons. In the past years, I have had countless great experiences with their well-selected and expertly-roasted coffee, including a top notch espresso program that has consistently managed to impress.