Sunday, August 26, 2012

CC: Wormhole Coffee

Subject:  Wormhole Coffee
Location: Chicago, IL
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Many years ago I read a book called Enter the Worship Circle, an interesting piece that explored the many ways a person worships God, one of them being personified through the story of a coffeehouse patron. At the time, I was more obsessed with coffee culture than the quality of the beverage, so the part that stuck with me from this book was the emphasis on seeing simple truths (specifically about worship) through unusual artistic presentations in a coffeehouse. 

Years later, even though most coffeehouses try to be more chic than eclectic, every time I hit an off-the-wall joint, my mind thinks back to the concept of simple truths in the less conventional. While in Chicago, I had heard of an establishment called Wormhole Coffee near Wicker Park. The part that had caught my ear was an attention to quality with their coffee but upon arrival one early evening, I caught sight of a full-size DeLorean sitting in the front window and I knew this was no typical shop. 

The shop carried a sci-fi theme overall, with a complex arrangement of figurines and art highlighting the various pieces of mismatched furniture. My coffee came from two sources, with my espresso using Metropolis' Red Line and my pourover Ipsento's natural Panama. The espresso, pulled short with a marbled crema, held the flavors of vanilla, bittersweet cocoa, Italian bread and sweet scallops, all of which blended together to form a great drink. The pourover demonstrated blueberry, cherry jolly rancher, wheat, 2% milk and a little cake doughnut; a coffee with a punch of sweetness followed by a subtle wheat. 

While I didn't stay long enough to analyze the intriguing decor, I found Wormhole to be just the tear in the fabric of time that I needed. If you're looking for a fun place to get some great coffee, set your coordinates to Wormhole Coffee.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

CC: Trouble Coffee

Subject: Trouble Coffee
Location: San Francisco, CA
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 5+ [see key]

When you do a bit of research on coffeehouses, usually the first place you look is their website. Most have pictures of the establishment as well as the usual "About Us" and "Menu" pages, both with occasional useful information about what they really offer and what to expect. 

And a very small percentage of the time, you get a website that makes you curious as to the establishment purely by its odd nature. Take Trouble Coffee & Coconut Club, a small coffeehouse on the far west side of San Francisco that seems to defy convention, but at the same time seems to provide the necessary information if you're willing to seek it out. It did it's job on me, as I added it to my list of places to visit even though it was somewhat out of the way of my travels. 

Sporting an outside seating area complete with flower boxes and a large log, I knew I had found Trouble long before I stepped inside. The interior, while very cozy, maintained an intimate and welcoming feel amidst an array of stimuli. As for coffee, they brew Ecco Caffe, specifically blends called Elbow Grease and the Hammer, the former offered as drip coffee and the latter as espresso. The shots of the Hammer were short with brown crema, smacking of vanilla, peanut, ginger, caramel, cola and lemon; a tart yet balanced spro. The Elbow Grease drip proved (surprisingly at the time) dark, with notes of well-done steak, cigar, white bread, sugar cookies and spinach. I found out later that Elbow Grease is an attempt at a non-bitter French Roast, to which it certainly achieved a great taste compared to a typical French Roast, but I personally found it too dark to be very pleasant. 

In walking away, I can say that the only thing I would have changed would have been the Elbow Grease. Otherwise, Trouble Coffee seems like a great local hangout where folks come to commune over good coffee and toast. If you happen to be on the western edge of San Francisco, make your way over to Trouble Coffee.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

CC: Maglianero

Subject: Maglianero
Location: Burlington, VT
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Of all of the close by places that have remained elusive all of my long years, Vermont has remained at the top of my list. No matter how many vacations, road trips, business ventures and detours I have attempted, nothing could get me close to its quaint borders. 

But finally a beacon of light blazed onto my schedule and my wife's fancies, as I was able to escape with my lovely bride to the Green Mountains and gorgeous landscape of Vermont for a long weekend. Of the many things we did there, one of them was hang out in Burlington and hit a few stops of note. One place in particular stood out quite boldly, a coffeehouse very much off the beaten path called Maglianero. 

Located south of the main stretch of town, I made my way over with the wife to find a very huge warehouse space that seemed to serve a host of needs. A home base of sorts for every breed of cyclist, their interior conveys a love for bikes along with a communal space that is not just for those riding cycles. 

Aside from various visually stimulating art pieces and eclectic furniture arrangements, Maglianero primarily caught my eye with their focus on quality coffee, serving up local Vermont Artisan Coffee & Tea. For my visit, I ordered an espresso of their house espresso blend and a Clever Coffee Dripper of a Kenyan Coffee. The espresso, pulled short with brown crema, smacked of apricot, caramel, a sniff of cigar, lime and cascara, all proving a beautiful and juicy symphony of flavor. The Kenyan tasted of pancakes, hot cocoa, sweet curry, kale, pulled pork and chamomile; a bright, brothy and sweet brew that made me wheelie.

Maglianero is yet another establishment that makes me wish I rode a bike more frequently. Make sure to grab the address before you adventure out, as you might miss this hidden gem if you're not careful. No matter the wheels you travel upon, give them a stop. 

Monday, August 06, 2012

CC: Angry Catfish

Location: Minneapolis, MN
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key] 


Bicycling is a hobby I wish I liked. Because of my current work situation, it's not practical in terms of my ever-varying commute and in my spare time, I really find no joy in riding my wheels around town. Maybe one day it will work out, but for now the bikes get cooler each year and every sunny Saturday a new bicycling enthusiast is born. 

Probably the biggest common interest I seem to have with avid bikers is a love of great coffee. So often I find folks sitting at the table of a great coffeehouse in their racing leotards sipping away at an espresso. It's no surprise that some bike shops have opened an in-house coffee bar to cater to the many folks who would saunter through their doors. 

Far and away, the best coffeehouse + bike shop operation I've witnessed is the Angry Catfish in Minneapolis. A former hardware store, the shop has a substantial coffee bar off to the left that beautifully compliments the rest of the happenings of a classy bicycle store. Serving Intelligentsia, the Angry Catfish holds high standards of skill and quality that make their coffee formidable.

To mark my inaugural visit, I ordered an espresso of Black Cat and a pourover of the Panama El Machete. The Black Cat gave off flavors of dark cocoa, lemon, oregano, hefeweizen and sea salt amidst a short pull with brown crema, thus demonstrating a deliciously executed infusion. The pourover blasted notes of fuji apple, wheat and cashew as well as the subtle flavors of cumin, olive oil and honey amidst a light/medium body, all together providing a scrumptious coffee. 

Walking away, I knew that if I had an Angry Catfish around the corner, I probably would be arriving frequently on two wheels. If you're in the area, brake for Angry Catfish. 

Sunday, August 05, 2012

CC: Ports

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

New York City has always been a city setting the stride on city parks. Sure other cities may have more or bigger parks, but few can contend with the beauty and design of Gotham's. My new favorite is the High Line, a former elevated train track converted into a beautiful elevated pedestrian parkway. Even on a recent visit to the city where rain pelted off and on all day, I found a rejuvenating walk upon the High Line after a nice brunch with family just what the doctor ordered. 

But after a while, promises of a new (to me) coffeehouse wooed me away from the aged freight tracks. I walked myself but a few blocks over to Ports Coffee & Tea Co on W 23rd St, a Stumptown slinging shop with a reputation.

The outside, while typical NYC tan brick with green awning, still held charm with its nautical influences and noticeable presence. Within, the cafe has an efficient ambiance accented with large globe lights, a chalkboard wall and a steady stream of patrons.  

For my order, I had an espresso of Ethiopian Mordecofe and a drip of the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Adado. The espresso, pulled short with a brown marbled crema, breathed subtle lime, slight cigar and italian ciabatta as well as some wisps of berry, cayenne pepper and cocoa; a delicious pull that proved balanced and interesting. The Yirgacheffe held notes of sweet corn, honey, carne asada, buttered toast, apple, sweet balsamic dressing and cocoa in a light medium body, doling out a tasty and complex cup of coffee.

While there's no shortage of great coffee in NYC, make Ports a definitive stop if you're in the neighborhood.