Sunday, January 20, 2013

CC: Milstead and Co.

Subject: Milstead and Co.
Location: Seattle, WA
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

A lot of folks in the coffee industry are very altruistic when it comes to fellow compatriots of the trade, but no matter how often I see or hear it, I still find it odd to for a barista to recommend another's coffeehouse. Such was the case, this time in Seattle when I was talking to a pro about where to go for coffee in the city, and this chap emphasized that if I were to go nowhere else, I should hit Milstead and Co.

Fortunately, his heavy-handed recommendation lined right up with my plans and I was able to stop by Milstead and Co.'s in their Fremont digs, right down the street from the fabled Troll. With a sleek, minimal exterior with an overtly enticing glow, I walked into their pleasantly huge space, with a coffee bar the size of a racquetball court surrounded by a pleasing assortment of tables and chairs, not to mention a shared zany patio with the History House next door.

The coffee comes from many a spot, and that morning I settled on an aeropress of Coava Coffee's Ethiopia Kilenso Sidama and an espresso of Stumptown's Guatemala Finca El Injerto Bourbon. The espresso, pulled short with brown crema, sang of grapefruit, honey, charred oak, a little apple juice and some nutmeg, proving to be overall very potent and deliciously flavorful. The aeropressed Ethiopian also proved delicious, with notes of wheat, blueberry, vanilla french toast, fresh pear and a little black tea and cocoa.

Clearly, Milstead and Co. did great justice to the high marks given by their peers. If you happen to be in Seattle, stop by for a great cup of coffee. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Mugged: Medium Signature Roast [Don Tomas]

Subject: Don Tomas Coffee
Mugged: Medium Signature Roast
Rating [see key]: 3+

More and more, people are going right to the source when it comes to food. We love our farmer markets, our local butchers and even our local grocers. Sure we still live in a giant supermarket society, but the increase for small batches and transparency on when/where/how is growing (which is likely tied to the demand for organic, natural and/or socially-responsible food, but that's another topic).

With coffee, we especially love our geography, with most roasters offering full detail on (at least) the region a coffee comes from. With this love affair of source, it's no wonder that a few coffee farmers have awoken to smell their own roasted coffee and have taken on the roasting/retail end themselves instead of sending it all away so foreign roasters can make bank.

One of the handful of farms roasting their own beans is Don Tomas Coffee out of Jinotega, Nicaragua. Offering several roasts of their coffee, they recently sent me out their Signature Medium Roast to try. Below are my notes as I consumed the coffee via drip, siphon and french press.

The drip demonstrated notes pretzel, birch, apple juice, pepper and malt amidst a medium body. A deep and sweet coffee proving a tad dark in flavor.

The french press was a little different, with flavors more akin to cocoa, salty caramel, pepper, soy sauce, milk and nutmeg with a medium body. Still a sweet yet dark brew.

The siphon blasted out notes of malt, pepper, birch, apple turnover and cigar. More like the drip in profile, this brew had a bit of a tobacco to further enhance the dark aspects.

Granted, this medium roast was much more akin to a dark roast in much of its flavors but overall, it was not a bad coffee (especially for someone looking to go dark). If you're in the mood for a Nicaraguan dark roast, try out Don Tomas' Signature Medium Roast.

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

Monday, January 14, 2013

CC: Scratch Bakery

Subject: Scratch Bakery
Location: Durham, NC
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

In the culinary arena, few food mediums tickle my digestive system more than pies. Savory or sweet, I think I could eat pie at almost any meal (save Thanksgiving dinner; a turkey pie could never replace the bird). Naturally, when I was in the area of Durham, I penciled into my itinerary a bakery with multiple pie accolades from publications like Food & Wine and Bon Appetit. But when I found out they purveyed great coffee too, it became a must on my short trot around town.

Stopping en route one morning on my way to some business, I located the bakery bustling but not overtly crowded at its side street location. A quick glance foretold of an enticing venue, with its glass front that leads the patron into their brightly arrayed space, with a chic, modern array of furniture to seat the visiting masses.

Ordering coffee before pie (a necessity), I decided on an espresso of Intelligentsia's Black Cat and a drip of an Intelly-concocted House Blend. The espresso, pulled short with brown crema, reverberated unsweetened cocoa, spinach, lime, nutmeg, fig, thyme and lemongrass, all together holding a nice measure of acidity and spice. The drip of the House smacked of almond, croissant, carrot, root beer, milk and some cashew in a brothy yet sweet cup of coffee.

After my coffee, I dug gleefully into two different pies (any bakery listed in the top 10 pie places in the nation deserves 2 slices of pie), all to find a confirmed haven of great pie accompanied by great coffee. If you're close, scratch deep the surface of Scratch.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Mugged: Ideal Brew

Subject: Ideal Brew
- Organic Guatemalan Santa Rosa from Harvest Cafe
- Guatemala Huehuetenango from B Java Coffee
Rating [see key]: both 3+

I often love trying new coffees, though an untested bean has always the risk of disappointment. I suppose that fear is what has given rise to the popularity of many coffee subscription services. If you lack the skills needed to discern a potentially good coffee, why not have someone else more qualified choose it for you?

One of the more recent to appear on my radar is Ideal Brew. Still in beta form, they seek out good roasters and send you three bags of three different coffees. Back in November, I had an opportunity to try out their current shipment and now that the tale has made it to the front of the PCB queue. I had the opportunity to try out their Organic Guatemalan Santa Rosa from Harvest Cafe and Guatemala Huehuetenango from B Java Coffee, both roasters out of Indianapolis. Given the small quantity, I only sampled them by drip and french press infusions.

B Java's Guatemala Huehuetenango via drip produced a deep coffee, with notes of malt, curry, a little clove and a touch of oregano. The french press proved similar with elements of malt, buttered biscuit, clove and oregano amidst a medium body. All around this coffee painted a deep, spiced coffee with a caustic after-bite.

The Santa Rosa from Harvest Cafe faired a bit better, with the drip painting a portrait of apples, cloves, sassafras, cola and a touch of cream. The french press delivered corn, cocoa-ish malt, sassafras, oregano and a little milk. Both infusions held an slight darkness, a deep quality akin to prune and malt with an overall sweetness that loosely balanced it all out.

While I can say I preferred the Santa Rosa of the two, I can't say I really cared for either coffee. Thus, given the task of Ideal Brew to farm out the best coffees to try each month, I can't say I would be signing up to try coffee like this again, as I am not a fan of dark coffee. But if you're a fan of coffees on the fringe of darkly roasted, you might want to give Ideal Brew and/or these two coffees a go.

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

Sunday, January 06, 2013

CC: Birchgrove Baking

Subject: Birchgrove Baking
Location: Montpelier, VT
Free WiFi ? : no
Rating: 6+ [see key]

I've been to my share of state capitals, and of them all Montpelier has to be one of the fairest. Sure it might be small, but what it lacks in size it makes up in character.

Driving through the streets of the city one overcast day, I stopped by a local bakery reputed for offering a superb cup of coffee, a place known as Birchgrove Baking. Situated a bit off the beaten path in a cozy one-story structure, the bakery exudes a warm, inviting aura with a few bar tables and a homey-yet-slightly eclectic decor inside.

As for beans, they offer Vermont Artisan Coffee, a fine roaster out of Waterbury. Looking to sample their wares, I ordered an espresso of the espresso blend and a drip of Mane's Blend. The espresso, pulled to a medium volume with a brown marble crema, held notes of ginger, bittersweet cocoa, a little lime, some salt and a bit of sweetened clove, proving to be a well-balanced extraction with a nice body. The drip displayed flavors of sweet tea, pear torte, bubblegum, Italian bread and sugar cookies; a pleasantly smooth coffee designed to accompany a well-baked treat.

After consuming my libations, I grabbed a few pastries and hit the city roads. And since the pastries were likened to angelic carbohydrates from hallowed hearths, I can say that Birchgrove did a mighty fine job all around, coffee and confection. If you happen to be in Montpelier, give Birchgrove Baking a visit.