Sunday, February 23, 2014

CC: Smile To Go

Subject: Smile To Go
Location: Manhattan, NY
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 5+ [see key]

If there's one thing emerging more and more in people, it is a staunch desire to eat less chemicals. Whether that's meat free of antibiotics, vegetables sans-pesticides or groceries free of preservatives, folks seem to prefer getting away from many of the chemical additives our forefathers heralded as improvements to the marketplace.

Last I was in Manhattan, I found myself looking for some great coffee and a bit of the aforementioned nourishment. In my search for nearby places, I found Smile To Go, a carry-out and catering offshoot of The Smile over on Bond St. With both eateries known for quality ingredients on an ever-morphing, delicious menu PLUS a variety of coffee from Plowshares Coffee Roasters, I deemed it a good fit and merrily made my way over to Smile To Go. 

The space impressed me as unique and energetic, with the cozy-yet-vertically-spacious feel of the front interweaving with the bustling kitchen that made up the back 2/3 of the hall. With food second on my mind at the moment, I approached the counter to talk coffee and ended up ordering an espresso of the A-Train espresso blend and a drip of the Costa Rica Finca Gamboa. As the barista handed me my espresso, he warned me that the machine was not pulling the best shots that day and that it might be a bit sour. Sure enough, the espresso was slightly tart, smacking of pungent raspberry, but not to the point of it being unpleasant, with the other flavors of buttermilk biscuit, vanilla, a little nutmeg and a touch of clove shining through to make it a fairly wonderful infusion (aka only a touch off). The drip belted out joyous melodies of Belgian ale, apple slices, walnuts, cola, light nougat and basil within a medium body, making for a hearty, sweet brew.

As for the food, I had but a sampling that made me only wish I had been hungrier. In the end, if you're looking for a great meal to compliment some great coffee (and/or visa versa), make a point to hit Smile To Go (though get their well before the thick of lunch, as I was advised by the barista that lunch time can be nuts).  

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Mugged: Ethiopian and El Salvador [Barefoot Coffee]

Subject: Barefoot Coffee Roasters
Coffee Mugged and Rating [see key]:
- Yirgacheffe Kochere, Ethiopia 6+
- Finca Villagalicia, El Salvador 6+

California is home to many great roasters, some I've known of for as long as I've cared about great coffee. One such entity is Barefoot Coffee Roasters, an operation now out of Santa Clara that has a delicious rapport for serving up delicious beans. Currently they have a mobile coffee van and 2 independently licensed retail locations, and while I hope to visit each spot soon, I was pleasantly surprised to receive two bags of direct trade coffee to try out in my abode: their Yirgacheffe Kochere, a washed Ethiopian coffee known for its vibrant flavors, as well as their Finca Villagalicia, a fine-looking coffee from an El Salvador farm with past Cup of Excellence wins under its belt. I sampled both coffees via pourover, french press and siphon.

The Kochere led the charge, sampling first in the pourover with notes of strawberry jam, fresh pineapple salsa, triple chocolate brownies, some lemon pepper and pie crust, proving rich, bright and full of flavor. The french press held out a glowing array of chocolate brownie, raspberry, strawberry Jolly Rancher, pastry dough, rose petals and a little lemon rind. The siphon ended on a consistent high note, with wisps of raspberry, chocolate truffle, apple pie, whipped cream and walnut, within a slightly deeper body. In summary, a decadent coffee full of fruity explosions and dessert-y glory.

The El Salvador also came out with top honors. The pourover trumpeted out notes of salted caramel, chocolate truffle, sourdough, gala apple, slight celery and a touch of nutmeg within a balanced, medium body. The french press presented chocolate, salted caramel, heavy cream, apple, celery and slight sourdough. The siphon was the final rocket red glare, with chocolate, nougat, sourdough, apple and slight sage blaring out of the medium body. A fine coffee with lots of sweet and deliciously tart flavors deftly intertwined this smooth coffee.

At the risk of sounding overly positive, these coffees were hands down some of the best I've had in past months. If you seek some great coffee from skilled hands, seek out the fine beans of Barefoot.

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

Monday, February 10, 2014

CC: Menagerie Coffee

Subject: Menagerie Coffee
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Old City Philadelphia for years has been a bit of a coffee wasteland, with but a few spots of decent rapport slinging coffee in a 3-4 block radius of Independence Hall. Fortunately, the times are a-changing and visiting history buffs need no longer schlep long distances for a great cup.

The brightest of new coffee establishments in the Old City arena is Menagerie Coffee. Located on 3rd St a few spots south of Market St, this coffeehouse not only boasts a great location, but a beautiful space as well. Decorated in sleek woods and pleasant lighting, there's a spot for everyone in this well-designed shop. The coffee of course is what adds the majestic, TGI Friday-level flair, with beans from Annapolis' Ceremony Coffee AND Minneapolis' Dogwood Coffee, both roasters not seen enough in this region.

Sauntering in, I ordered an espresso of Dogwood's Neon (I love that it's literally labeled "neon" on the menu instead of "espresso") and a pourover of Ceremony's Ethiopia Worka. The espresso, pulled short with brown crema, offered up notes of lemon, cherry soda, cocoa, basil and arugula amidst a full body and a velvety mouthfeel. The Worka pourover was a heavenly uppercut of fruit, specifically strawberry jam and passion fruit, with supporting flavors of maple syrup and shredded wheat amidst a light body.

To state the obvious, Menagerie Coffee offers a menagerie of great coffee options. Let not another moment delay your arrival.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Mugged: Kenya AA [Convive]

Subject: Convive Coffee Roastery
Coffee Mugged: Kenya AA Organic Kia-Ora Estate
Rating [see key]: 4+

Like any fan of history, I am a prolific memorizer of random knowledge that only comes in handy during games of trivia. And with knowledge comes a desire to see or experience the facts firsthand. Being home to the oldest permanent European settlement in the United States, St. Augustine has almost as long been on my list of places to visit. Sadly, my purposes never lead me to the warm sands of the city, but sure enough it will happen soon.

And though I know much of the city of St. Augustine, I knew of few great coffee options in the area until a friend of mine mentioned a friend of hers had a roasting operation in town. The name of the roaster was Convive Coffee Roastery, a small coffee business that just this past year dove into the the adventure of entrepreneurship. Sending out a bag of their Kenya AA Organic Kia-Ora Estate, I was able to try out their beans via pourover, french press and siphon.

The pourover dealt out chocolate, prune, rye, oatmeal stout and a little blackberry, with the profile proving deep and sweet. The french press extended out notes of savory herbs, cream, nougat, stout, buttered bread and a little berry. The siphon belted out flavors of cream, chocolate, oregano,  blackberry and buttered toast. 

Throughout, this was a coffee of varying heaviness, though consistent in it's sweetness and depth of flavor. Thus if you're looking for a sweet and girth-y Kenyan, give Convive a whirl either by stopping by at their location in Dos Coffee. Wine or order a bag online. 

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