Wednesday, October 31, 2007

CC: Sweetwater Coffee

What's a Coffee Commentary?

Sweetwater Coffee
Location visited: Dillon, MT
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 3+ [see key]

Small towns have a certain charm to them, but growing up in the crowded East, I don't think I ever really got to truly see a small town until I went west, where in some places in New Mexico and Nevada there stands only one main road through all of town and you can take the tour in about 10 minutes.

Of all the west, Montana is the state that I have by far visited the most small towns, some of them more like a NJ rest stop then a town while others do hold a bit of charm. On one particular road trip through the lovely state of Montana south to Idaho, a colleague and I stopped in one such described-charming place that's home to some mutual good friends, a town called Dillon.

Arriving in town early in the mid-morning, Dillon qualified as a good coffee stop, especially because my one friend raves about one specific establishment called Sweetwater Coffee. And as any good friend would, I made a bee line for the venue in the heart of Dillon (it's near city hall, I recall).

To say the the least, the outside failed to blow me away, with a very industrial, bleh-looking building with but a small (by comparison to the backdrop) circular sign. The inside fortunately was a whole lot warmer and enticing, with very bohemian, mis-matched furniture as well as some interesting local art. The place seemed to be a local hangout for people of all ages (even though not many people seemed to be around at 10 AM this particular Thursday).

They serve only espresso (only americanos for the usual drip/press coffee drinkers) with their espresso blend being Montana Coffee Trader's French Roast. The doubleshot I had was a bit sharp with an ok acidity, but nothing amazing. The barista, who was very amiable, seemed to know what she was doing but as I was a bit scatterbrained that morning, I failed to note her skills. Also, didn't note the tea but I did observe that they do offer hot lemonade (new one to me), and though it was tempting, I didn't want to leave on a sour note (haha, get it?).

Overall, Dillon proved favorable and Sweetwater satisfactory. I would say my friend gave a fair recommendation as Sweetwater may not be the best coffeehouse EVER, but for a small town it's a nice operation. For those in Dillon or passing through: if you try the hot lemonade, let me know how you like it.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

CC: Le Petit Outre

What's a Coffee Commentary?

Le Petit Outre
Location visited: Missoula, MT
Free WiFi ? : no
Rating: 5+ [see key]

*Update 7.6.11

I am a hard sucker for mountains, and one of the prettier drives I've driven was a drive from Bozeman to Kalispell. I traveled with three companions (two from over the ocean) and at a non-snowy period where everything is green (go between May and July for best results), there's few places that can compare.

And of course, no road trip would be complete without a good coffee stop somewhere in the middle, which going the long scenic route, Missoula falls smack in the middle. Ironically, the place that got the most legitimate hype in my research was actually a bakery, Le Petit Outre (I tried an online translator to guess the name's meaning and it came out to roughly "the other little one").

The location is right near the old downtown of the city, on the corner of a side street with perpendicular parking. The exterior to my recollection was nothing fancy, a standard barn-esque structure with a really beautiful sign. The interior was a huge bakery warehouse of sorts with a large rack of bakery delights as well as a small coffee counter behind the register. Basically, the place was much more of a grab and go then a sit and study.

They serve Espresso Vivace out of Seattle and much like Vivace, strictly stick to espresso. They seem to be huge fans of David Schomer (the barista sang me his praises and recommended to me his book) and judging from the shots pulled and the quality taste, they know a good deal about pulling shots. No filtered coffee here (to my recollection), so grab an americano. Don't remember if they had tea or not.

On a less common side note, since they're known more as a bakery, I did grab an almond croissant which was out of this world, so I would also propose grabbing a baked item to complement your drink.

Thus, if you ever find yourself in Missoula in need of a French pastry and an espresso, give Le Petit Outre a go, especially if you're there in the winter; you'll need something to warm you up.

*Update 7.6.11

Alas, I have not been back but in looking over my posts I realized that a 4+ did not aptly describe my experience and that Le Petit Outre demonstrated a 5+ for sure (I think it had to do with a past, now-debunked opinion that a place that doesn't serve non-espresso was inferior to a place that served both (2007 was a long time ago for me in coffee knowledge)). I hear that the place is still going strong (and ironically enough, now seems to serve non-espresso coffee).