Showing posts with label Maryland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Maryland. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

On What Grounds?

Subject: On What Grounds? Coffee House
Location visited: Berlin, MD
WiFi?: yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

For me, driving the Delmarva Peninsula for coffee purposes can be a bit of gamble depending on the time of year and the road I take. Often times I have plenty of time to seek one out but it's late Friday evening or Sunday afternoon, while other times I will be near the shore and a seasonal shop will be shuttered.

Friday, October 01, 2021

Vagrant Coffee

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

Despite its proximity, there's not a lot of motive for me to visit Baltimore these days. Sure I blame it partially on the pandemic, but I would also chalk it up to just a lack of good impetus to visit the city in general (though as I write this post, I am chalking up some interest in a visit). Thus, when I found a Baltimore coffee roaster had set up a Philly presence, I figured that would be a perfect compromise for the time being.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Z Vault

Subject: Z Vault
Location: Bel Air, MD
WiFi?: yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Most people think you have to head to California to visit Bel Air, yet if you live east of the Mississippi you can just head over to Maryland. Located in about 45 minutes northwest of Baltimore, I had often passed the city but never made a stop until recently.  Fortunately, my visit made a perfect opportunity to stop at a local establishment called Z Vault.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Rise 'N Grind Cafe

Subject: Rise 'N Grind Cafe
Location: Rising Sun, MD
WiFi?: yes
Rating: 5+ [see key]

It always amazes me how most folks don't explore their regional backyards. Whether it's ignoring local tourist sights or avoiding scenic detours, few people seem to fully drink in what their area has to offer.

Monday, October 08, 2018

The Board and Brew

Subject: The Board and Brew
Location: College Park, MD
WiFi?: yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

It often astounds me how few board game cafes I have come across in my travels. Maybe I'm not looking hard enough, but I can count on one hand the number of coffee shops and eateries that have boasted copies of Settlers of Catan and King of Tokyo, never mind full shelves of games unknown to even the nerdiest of poindexters. But fortune shined upon me one cloudy evening traveling through Maryland when I found a true diamond in the rough.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Order and Chaos Coffee

Subject: Order and Chaos Coffee
Location: Baltimore, MD
WiFi?: yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Over the years, I have had many conversations with friends and colleagues on how they sate their desire for a good cup of coffee at the office. Some bring a thermos; others have a hot water kettle and pour over set-up right at their desk. But very few are as lucky at the folks at Baltimore's Planit Agency, where a superb in-house coffee bar keeps their employees, as well as the surrounding community, on task with excellent beans.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Bird in Hand

Subject: Bird in Hand Coffee and Books
Location: Baltimore, MD
WiFi?: yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Some of my favorite memories involve drinking coffee while perusing through a bookstore. Though some booksellers sadly refuse to embrace the calling of serving excellent coffee, there have been many establishments that do a wonderful job weaving the written word and the well-roasted bean. One such literary oasis new one to my eyes emerged during a recent trip to Baltimore, when I found that Artifact Coffee and The Ivy Bookshop had created a beautiful space adjacent to Johns Hopkins campus in Charles Village called Bird in Hand.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Hotel RL + Victrola Coffee


Many people expect a decent cup of coffee in the morning when they stay at a reputable hotel. Is it too much to ask for a hot cup of joe that doesn't taste like old cigarettes? Experience would echo with a resounding "yes." Sadly the expectation for good hotel coffee has been eroded over time, with tons of mediocre (at best) coffee experiences regularly tarnishing the mornings of coffee lovers across the globe.

But fortunately, some hotels are exceeding expectations in terms of coffee excellence. Take the Hotel RL, who not only offers great coffee from Seattle juggernaut Victrola Coffee Roasters but they have actually gone as far as to build a legit coffee bar in many of their lobbies. Having the opportunity to stay at their Baltimore location this past weekend, I was able to experience this hotel rarity firsthand.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Java Rock

Subject: Java Rock
Location: Rock Hall, MD
WiFi?: yes
Rating: 5+ [see key]

For growing up relatively close to the Delmarva peninsula, I have spent surprisingly few moments upon the landmass. Looking to rectify this delinquency, I have recently taken to wandering the Delmarva and have found it to be a place of gorgeous rural scenery, fishing villages and lots of local secrets.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

CC: Charmington's

Subject: Charmington's
Location: Baltimore, MD
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

When guiding a large entourage of people through the country, most people are content to frequent the many interstate truck stops for some vending machine coffee and a little rest. And while it's very fitting for time efficiency, a rest area nestled right off of America's asphalt arteries smacks of a dull, hollow excuse for refueling and leg stretching. If the opportunity allows me to take my large entourage briefly off the beaten path to break at a quality, local establishment, than so be it.

This is how I and two twelve-passenger vans found ourselves at Charmington's. Needing a break in the vicinity of Baltimore, I noticed in my preplanning that the physical location of Charmington's was but 15 minutes off the path we were traveling. And with what looked like a spacious interior, this spiffy-looking coffeehouse seemed like a perfect spot for my enormous gang to take a quick coffee break. 

Located in a large, brick building, Charmington's boasts a substantial venue with gigantic windows, two long rows of tables and a warm atmosphere that definitely gets some glow from the friendly staff. As for their menu, they serve Counter Culture Coffee and a full offering of food ranging from sandwiches to sweets. Starting off the ordering for my two vans, I got an espresso of Toscano and a drip of the Buziraguhindwa Burundi. The espresso, pulled medium with a light brown crema, dished out notes of lemon, chocolate cake, can sugar, sage and sugar cookie, proving well-extracted and flavorful. The Buziraguhindwa trumpeted out delicious bing cherry, wheat cracker, pound cake, a bit of spinach and thorough milkiness within a medium body, making for a great cup of African coffee. On a side note, I was impressed with the calm demeanor and consistent quality in which they handled the entirety of my group.

When the time came for us to bid adieu, I felt a touch of remorse that Charmington's could only be a brief respite. Hence, if you are ever in Baltimore north of the harbor and seek a great cup of coffee within a great location, check out Charmington's of the corner of W 26th and Howard. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

CC: Artifact Coffee

Subject: Artifact Coffee
Location: Baltimore, MD
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Some years ago, I had made my first hunt through Baltimore for a great coffeehouse and like magi looking for a newborn king in Herod's palace, I found little. While I did not find an actual great coffeehouse within the city limits, I did hear tales of a farm-to-table restaurant called Woodberry Kitchen doing amazing things with coffee. Sadly, I did not have a reservation (or time to stick around for what looked like a great dinner), so I had to leave Baltimore for greener coffee pasture.

Fortunately things in Baltimore have starkly improved in the past years. Not only have more coffee entities put down roots in the city proper (think Spro and La Mill) but Woodberry Kitchen has expanded to (re)animate a full service coffee house called Artifact Coffee. Located in an atypically beautiful stone structure with plenty of parking, the venue has received ample laud from the community (much of it spilling over from the great practices already occurring at Woodberry). Stepping inside, I found a beautiful space resembling a farmhouse outfitted with a lot of classy fixtures and beautiful rustic furniture.

Offering Counter Culture Coffee, I ordered a cup of Ethiopian Haru via pourover and an espresso of the Apollo espresso blend. The espresso, pulled short with a sturdy brown crema, sang notes of milk chocolate, vanilla, lemon, basil, granulated sugar and cake; a delightful pull of Apollo. The Haru additionally belted out a sumptuous melody of sweet cream, peaches, almond, cinnamon and a little grass all together producing a deliciously demure and lightly sweetened coffee.

Needless to say, all of the praise, quality joe and great food has made this a popular stop for folks, so if you come during mealtime, beware of crowds. But regardless of the wait, you should definitely drop by Artifact Coffee when you're in town.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Mugged: Chesapeake Bay Coffee Roasting Company

Subject: Chesapeake Bay Coffee Roasting Company
Mugged: Lighthouse, Honduras and Eco-Reef
Rating [see key]: Lighthouse 4+, Honduras 3+, Eco-Reef 2+

A few years back, I heard about some coffee roasters turning from the widely-used paper/plastic bag to the age-old packaging of a coffee can. The reasoning was that the can was more sustainable and if outfitted with a CO2 valve, it kept the coffee just a fresh. Oddly, the trend never seemed to catch on (possibly because of the association coffee cans hold in the American psyche) and cans all but disappeared from microroasters.

But a few roasting operations went with the can and seem to be doing well with it. One such operation is Chesapeake Bay Coffee Roasting Company, a roaster based out of Maryland who recently sent three of their coffees to be reviewed. Their Honduras SO, Lighthouse and Eco-Reef I sampled via pourover, french press and siphon.

Starting off with the lightest roast, I took the Lighthouse for a spin. The pourover produced notes of milk chocolate, cream, slight ginger, apple skin and a little salty beef broth; a sweet chocolate cream with a touch of savory. The french press doled out chocolate milk, Life cereal, apple skin, anise and some malt with a medium body, proving sweet but a bit of rind. The siphon delivered notes of chocolate milk, pungent Life cereal, malty, oregano and apple skin; a medium-bodied brew with a nice cocoa and wheat quality. All in all, a coffee full of delicious notes of chocolate and sweet cereal with a few dark (occasionally akaline) undertones that were subtle enough to not offset the positives.

The Honduras, proving a touch darker, went next. Via pourover, the coffee emerged with a noticeable smokiness along with fig, slight vanilla and paper, eliciting a sweet, carbony brew. The french press proved less smoky, with notes of corn chip, vanilla, toffee and a little grape jelly, with but only a touch of smoke on the back end. The siphon was an average of the two prior, with notes of vanilla, tobacco, paper, toffee and a little corn, establishing this Honduran as pleasantly sweet coffee with a little too much smokiness.

The darkest of the three, the Eco-Reef finished off. The pourover trumpeted out pipe tobacco, apple, peanut, prune and a little cracker; a sweet and strongly smoky coffee with a medium body. The french press delivered a similar cup, with pipe smoke, apple, peanuts, cracker, oregano and touch of milk chocolate. The siphon proved the most intense in flavor, with strong notes of tobacco, caramel, cracker, cream and clove.  

While I enjoyed the Lighthouse a good bit, I liked the Honduras or Eco-Reef less, mostly due to their darker/smoky aspects (though if you're a fan of darker coffee, these might be the cans for you). Thus, depending on what you're looking for in a coffee, try out the Chesapeake Bay Coffee Roasting Company.

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

Sunday, December 27, 2009

CC: Spro Coffee

What's does "CC" mean?

Spro Coffee
Location visited: Towson and Baltimore, MD
Free WiFi ? : yes

6+ [
see key]

*Updated 3.25.11

I never thought that I would pass by an alleged amazing coffee stop three times before I finally stopped at it. But sure enough, several trips brought me past Jay Caragay's Spro Coffee in Towson, Maryland with either circumstances that demanded I push on with no rest or with promises that we'll hit it on the way back (which we didn't).

Finally, on the way home from a great trip in Baltimore (great, except for my coffee fortunes that is) I got to stop into the Towson Library where Spro's initial flagship store resides (there's another one opening in Baltimore soon). Parking proved interesting but on a slow side street my steed came to a rest and my wife and I walked over.

The Towson Library is a gargantuan public biblioteca in a very oddly-shaped building. Spro itself sits on a bridge off to the left when you first enter the main portion. Spro's set up is definitely minimal and a little bland (but there's little that can be feasibly done in such a space). Spro is basically a long counter and a group of tables off to the side in a spot where one couldn't ask for a better visibility.

Spro Coffee definitely seems to have a nice rotating selection of various coffee roasters (just check out the list for their new Baltimore location under the 12/12/09 post on Jay's blog) but they seem to stick pretty close to
Origins Organic Coffee. Despite the option of vacuum pot, I ordered a filtered cup of Java Kali Bendo from Origins, a smooth coffee that demonstrated milk chocolate, a bit of blood orange and a tinge of nougat; a good coffee to pair with a dessert as I really had a hankering for sweets while I ingested the brew. The espresso, pulled short and expertly, had flavors of sugar cane, a bit of a lemon, cocoa and a nice flavor of cloves. As for tea, they use Rishi.

While I could see the downsides of operating in a public venue such as a library, I can't help but think how much more reading I would do if there was such a splendid coffeehouse in my library. If you're in Towson, especially if you are looking for a great place to have some coffee while you read, make sure to bookmark Spro.

*Update 3.25.11

I made out to the Baltimore location and I must say I was further impressed. There were many options for coffee infusion (I believe there were 6) and the coffee and espresso were delightful. The cafe is also cozy and a nice addition to the Spro name.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

CC: Spoons Coffee Cafe

What's does "CC" mean?

Spoons Coffee Cafe
Location visited:
Baltimore, MD
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 3+ [see key]

Baltimore is a lovely city but it strikes me silly that I cannot find a single recommendation for decent coffee in the city limits with the exception of an upscale restaurant called the Woodberry Kitchen. Thus in an effort to increase my pool for a recent trip, I decided to try out some places that were off the radar but looked promising.

And that's how I landed at Spoons Coffee Cafe in the Federal Hill area on a bustling Sunday afternoon before a Ravens Game. The cafe seemed to have some promise, as they roast their own coffee as well as some decent latte art on the website. And since I found nothing better around the harbor, my beautiful wife and I bounded for the door of Spoons amidst the masses of Raven fans.

Given the game, Spoons was plenty full that day. The interior is a warm, multi-level structure that accomodates quite the dine-in crowd. Looking only for the usual, I made my way to the front counter. The drip was their East Timer blend, a bright coffee with the flavors of grape, chocolate milk and a subtle hint of sweet grass; a fair coffee. Not so much fortune did I find with the espresso, as it was a decent pull that had decent crema but I was hit with a really bitter, dark taste with flecks of pepper. The tea is Rishi Tea.

Even though I can't say I'm surprised I didn't find a hidden gem in Baltimore (coffee geeks mine them out well), Spoons Coffee Cafe wasn't a half bad spot. If you're in Baltimore, try Spoons out for yourself.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

CC: Java Mamma's Coffee Shop

What's does "CC" mean?

Java Mamma's Coffee Shop
Location visited: Reisterstown, MD
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 3+ [see key]

xtra time can occasionally be a blessing, such as when you show up to an engagement 45 minutes early and in efforts to kill time, you find what could be a good coffeehouse.

This happened to happen in a recent trip to Reisterstown, Maryland when I stumbled on a place called Java Mamma's. The coffee shop sits in a converted brick house with a huge gated patio and plenty of metal furniture. Inside, the cafe becomes two distinct rooms, with a cute seating area in the front and the counter in the back.

The coffee comes from Orinoco Coffee & Tea, a Baltimore/DC area coffee roaster new to me. I had a cup of the house blend that turned out to be fairly good; notes of juicy caramel apple, butter and an overall nice brightness. The espresso, pulled medium-to-long in volume, proved OK but despite a nice sweetness and decent crema, the espresso had a strong bite of char and bitterness. The tea was from the Eastern Shore Tea Company.

At the end of my time killed, I felt the side trip to Java Mamma's fair; sure there could be some improvements but for a random stab, it was better than I had hoped.

If you're in Reisterstown, give Java Mamma's a sampling.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

CC: Caffe Pronto

Subject: Caffe Pronto
aka Ceremony Coffee's last vestige of it's old name
Location visited: Annapolis, MD
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

*UPDATED 02.10.14, at bottom*

While I've always wanted to visit the city of Annapolis to see the rich Chesapeake Bay history and Naval wonderment, time unfortunately held me to a short pit stop.

Wanting to utilize my time and cup of coffee wisely, I chose amongst several locations of a popular coffeehouse and roaster called Caffe Pronto. Having had several of their batches before at a couple different other coffee establishments, I have actually been aching to make a stop at one of their own stores to see how they wield their beans.

Based purely on geographical proximity to the highway, I made a beeline for their spot amidst the humongous Festival at Riva shopping megalopolis. Wading through the immense mall traffic, I finally landed outside the corner shop with its beautiful huge windows and bright brick shell.

In I walked into Caffe Pronto's open cafe, a very nice space with plenty of furniture and an overall very luminous atmosphere. As mentioned, they roast a mean batch of coffee and they brew their coffee by the cup via a pourover (aka manual drip). I ordered their Brazil Cerrado, a smooth earthy coffee with the sweetness of a pear, a touch of earl grey and a nice body; a pleasant coffee in totality. The espresso made for a pretty good cup, as the short/medium pull possessed decent crema and displayed a little like a chocolate-covered cherry with hints of dark bitterness. The tea is Revolution Tea.

Including a pleasant interchange with both baristas, I really found my stop at Caffe Pronto to be a gust of refreshment. If you happen to be near a Caffe Pronto or one of their purveyors, give them a slurp.

*Update 02/10/14*

Despite the image change to Ceremony Coffee Roasters, this lone vestige of Caffe Pronto remains. The shop has been updated (I love the birch trunks behind the wood booths) and the coffee has improved categorically (hence the update in rating). 

Thursday, February 19, 2009

CC: La Mill Coffee

*Update for May 27, 2013*
Subject: La Mill Coffee
Location: Baltimore, MD
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Baltimore's inner harbor is a great destination that, for a long time, only seemed to be lacking a great coffee joint. Thankfully, the harbor is now home to the first east coast location to La Mill Coffee, a Los Angeles blockbuster receiving all too many accolades for great coffee and great service. Keeping with their illustrious reputation, LA Mill managed to find a home in the Four Seasons right in downtown.

Swinging by one lovely morning, I found the familiar La Mill sign not far from the hotel entrance. Walking in, I found a gorgeous open shared interior with the hotel tavern that was chock full of various seating, large windows and beautiful design. For my coffee, I ordered a pourover of a Guatemala and an espresso of their Bliss Espresso blend. The Guatemala pourover smacked of sugar cookie, sassafras, wheat, malt and nutmeg, proving sweet with a nice malty finish. The espresso, pulled short with a brown crema, tasted of herbs de Provence, cocoa, salt, milk, lemon rind, grapefruit and a little pepper.

As I had hoped and longed for, this expansion of a westerly gem retained all of its luster. If you're downtown or around the harbor, stop by the Four Seasons for a great cup of coffee at La Mill.


*original post from February, 2009*
Subject: La Mill Coffee
Locations visited:
Los Angeles, CA 
Free WiFi ?
: yes
6+ [see key]

There is nothing like a nice warm respite in the warmer parts of the country in the dead of winter. But there is also nothing worse then getting there and finding it cold and rainy. Alas, my fate was somewhere between those two maxims in a recent trip to LA; warmish weather with spells of torrential rain. Fortunately I had some wonderful coffee prospects to keep my spirits soaring.

One particular gem I've had my eye on for some time was a ritzy establishment called La Mill Coffee. It had developed a reputation for taking the coffee experience to new heights, with table service, exquisitely-skilled baristas and higher end products.

Needless to say, I wasted no time in getting there. I arrived on a sunny morning, seeking parking on the crowded streets of Silver Lake. To my surprise, La Mill had it's own parking lot despite being on a crowded thoroughfare. Walking up to the front, the cafe stands out from the rest of the street with it's glaring red store front and beautiful windows. Inside the red continues into a well-decorated interior full of beautiful art, chandeliers and a large array of upscale dining areas.

The coffee is their own, consisting of four coffees that day. I decided to try their Nicaraguan, brewed on their Clover. I usually am not visually affected when I first sip coffee, but this one made my eyes roll into the back of my head and caused me to take a deep breath. This coffee tasted like a smooth light roast and had distinct flavors of toasted nut and chocolate. The espresso was pulled really short and demonstrated similar amazing-ness; smacks of honey, super velvety texture and light acidity. The teas were free leaf and La Mill also offers what looks like a decadent full menu.

On the whole, I left La Mill walking on air. I would say that this place needs to be a detour if you're visiting the area and a common hangout if you live nearby.