Archive for March, 2011

On my life’s highlight reel, I have a good amount of cherished memories.  One thing I find myself doing is (pathetically) replaying these events in my head and setting them to 80’s music in cheesy movie montage fashion.  For example,  the time me and some close friends rallied to save our college fraternity house from what seemed like an inevitable campus closure via a pain in the ass administration is typically imagined through Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” appearance in Iron Eagle.

This past Sunday, the fam got together to celebrate Marmo’s birthday at the Gramercy Tavern at 42 East 20th Street.   And while it would be extreme to induct mere dining experiences within one’s life highlight reel, my dinner at Gramercy Tavern (hereinafter referred to as the”GT”) came pretty close.  So if I was to set my exceptional experience at the GT to an 80’s music/movie montage, what better and more appropriate segment to use than Joe Esposito’s triumphant masterpiece, “You’re the Best Around” as seen in the closing moments of one of the greatest 80’s movies of all time, The Karate Kid.  Please bear with me as draw on the comparisons.

I enter the Gramercy TavernDaniel Enters the Gymnasium for the All Valley Tournament

I’d have to imagine my feelings upon entrance to the GT were similar to that of fellow NJ paisan, Daniel LaRusso, as he walked into the All Valley Tournament:  Wonderment, excitement, a tinge of intimidation perhaps – only because of the rep it brings with it.  I needed to bring my blogging A-game.

The place is simply fantastic looking.  It has two general areas: the more “casual” tavern and then the restaurant, where we sat.  But there is a similar theme throughout.  Wood floors, tapestry curtains, blossoming bright colored plants, and aged iron chandeliers that look like they had been forged by knights in the pits of some dungeon.  It’s like  a Medieval Tudor-style farmhouse, with a sprinkle of magic and cheer.  They start everyone off with a delicious crispy potato puff, with olive tapenade (as seen below).

We meet Our Server – Miyagi accompanies Daniel-san to start the tournament

Our server, whose name escapes me, hands us our leather bound menus and drink lists.  After letting the fam chillax and take in the scene for the perfect amount of time, he swoops in and provides us with the headiest of tips concerning mixed drinks and wine recommendations, while seamlessly regaling us with brief, yet relevant tales of some dining history at the GT.  And my man is a pro.  Like our own personal Miyagi.  It’s apparent he has been working here for quite some time, and gives off the simultaneous impression of prompt, professional service without pressure or attitude. Point, LaRusso.

The Appetizers – Daniel-San cruises through the early rounds

Cue the music!  I order Lamb Parpadelle while Elana selects the Cauliflower Custard.  Both are tremendous.  My parpadelle has a delightfully salty flavor, owing to some beautifully cooked shredded lamb.  It is gracefully plopped in a faintly think burgundy broth, with hints of lemon swirling around in its depths.  Every third forkful or so is accompanied by a karate chop of spice to the taste buds.  It’s honestly perfect.  Elana’s custard is similarly off the charts. Like a cauliflower panna cotta of sorts, it also has hazelnuts to supply an appropriate contrasting crunch.  Truly, an achievement in science.

The Entrees – Daniel-San dismantles the Cobra Kai sidekicks en route to the Final

No offense to Daniel-San, but one of my favorite underrated moments in the tournament montage is when Dutch (played by Chad, the son of Steve McQueen) cracks Daniel’s jaw with a the back end of a slick double roundhouse.  Without question the prettiest and most athletic karate move of the entire movie.  The GT’s entrees are similarly flawlessly presented.

And like Daniel-San, I’m able to move past the beauty of my meal’s arrival and get down to business.  I ordered the Duck Breast with confit, cabbage and mushrooms.  The duck is cooked like a medium rare filet, with that sweet tasting quality that only duck meat has.  The accompanying confit is made up of darker meat and is, appropriately, a tad more salty.  The dish is held together by a lurking presence of soy sauce and peppercorns.

Elana orders the Smoked Arctic Char with sunchokes, leeks, and hazelnuts.  Much like every dish so far, it arrives as meticulously presented as one of Miyagi’s Bonzai Trees.  The leeks, which form the guts of the sauce, emit this sweet tasting mist over the char which is lightly smoked and boasting a hazelnut crust.  There is also a noticeable mustard like presence established throughout the leek sauce.  Elana is beyond pleased – like she died and went to heaven.  Quick, get this girl a body bag, Johnny.

DessertDaniel LaRusso’s gonna fight? Daniel LaRusso’s gonna fight!

I always get a kick out of watching Miyagi rub his hands together to heal Daniel’s leg prior to the showdown with Johnny Lawrence, which is followed up by the shameless ring announcer breaking the exciting news to the crowd.  And indeed, after ingesting dinner, appetizers, and three hunky pieces of bread with the most amazingly salted butter spread all over it, I was a little tired myself.  But a thousand crane kicks to my noggin couldn’t stop me from participating in dessert, for which our server assured us would be a highlight of the meal.

And it was. Elana’s peanut butter semifreddo was simply awesome.  A cold treat with macaroons on the side, my fork kept getting helplessly pulled over to sis’s plate.  An absolute winner.  I went with a GT staple, the chocolate bread pudding.  A warm, moist sponge cake which melted in my mouth. Like a true establishment of class, the GT also placed some fine small treats on the house to polish off our meal.

The Bathrooms – Elana had a very positive report on the washrooms: “The bathrooms had a rustic look with fresh flower arrangements, baskets of hand towels and vintage art.”

Top to bottom, the GT is fantastic in everything they do.  Not a single thing gets overlooked.  It’s our favorite restaurant of the year, and the highest rated restaurant since doing the blog.  Indeed GT, You’re the Best, Around.

Overall Experience: The Godfather

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Today we have a little treat for you – a Jersey City treat.

On a recent outing with some friends, our friend Justin waxed poetic about the Landmark Loews Theatre in Jersey City. He went as far as to say it was his favorite place in New Jersey.


Well, it might now be one of mine. Opening its doors in 1929, the Landmark Loews is more “Movie Palace” than “Theatre”. It is a decorative masterpiece that seats over 3,000, complete with balconies and broad, winding staircases.

And they still show films there. You can check out the full schedule here, but I went for a viewing of Beetlejuice, which I haven’t seen in forever. Let me tell you, both Beetlejuice and the Landmark Loews have something in common: they stand the test of time. It was quite an impressive experience to watch Tim Burton’s 1980’s humorous horror flick in this film cathedral.

It even has a display case filled with vintage candy wrappers! Food, design, crazy decoration and 1980’s flicks all in one outing – I could barely contain my glee! In fact, I didn’t contain it, and was bouncing around the place like a child hepped up on old-school Root Beer Barrels.

Justin also mentioned an Indian restaurant in the vicinity that we should check out called Sapthagiri.

I will say two things:

1. I don’t know that much about Indian food.

2. I FRICKIN’ LOVED this place. And here is why:

All the food we tried was excellent: well-prepared, plated, and demonstrating a wide range of tastes from sweet and mild to spicy and tangy. And the people were incredibly nice. And I am referring to BOTH the waitstaff (who brought us bonus mango-yogurt drinks) and the patrons (a nice Indian family seated next to us offered to help us out with the menu and point out all the good stuff  – SCORE!).

Here are some stand outs:

The Dahi Poori: these were crispy little buckets of the thinnest dough filled with chana, potato, tamarind and mint sauce. Upon biting into them, the savory and sweet filling ran into your mouth – a fine combination of flavor and texture.

Onion Kulcha: White flour bread topped with onion, red bell pepper and cilantro and baked in a clay oven. This was like the Indian version of pizza. The dough was so soft and flavorful, I couldn’t get enough. And check out the char spots! Some Neapolitan pizzerias I know of should take note.

Mango Lassi: This was the mango flavored yogurt drink. I admit, I was skeptical of it at first. I don’t usually enjoy drinking yogurt. But I downed this thing mighty quickly. And would do it again.

The Experience: The Shawshank Redemption – The Happy Ending

In conclusion, take a trip to the Jersey side for the Landmark Loews/Sapthagiri double feature. If you’re lucky, you’ll run into those very helpful patrons to point out all the tasty stuff (hint: everything!).

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Today, we bring you a review of John’s Pizza, on 87 Sussex Street in the Paulus Hook neighborhood of downtown Jersey City.  After some thorough internet research prior to our trip, I did indeed confirm that John’s of Jersey City was an offshoot of sorts from John’s on Bleecker.  This excited Elana and I.

The Scene: We went on a Monday night, but even for a Monday, it was pretty quiet.  Hopefully this was not an indication as to the quality of the pizza. It’s a pretty large spot for a pizza joint, with wood and stone floors throughout, and an upstairs that didn’t seem like it was getting a lick of use.  They had a full bar with beers on tap and, indeed, what appeared to be a coal fired, brick oven. If it was not so dang cold out, John’s would have been most likely sporting their outdoor seating scene, which appeared like a charming option.

The Grub: Prior to the pie, Elana and I sample some of our kryptonite, fried calamari (NOT pronounced cal-a-mod).  And while we realize making a crisp fried calamari is not exactly rocket science, some restaurants can still manage to bungle up calamari.  But not John’s – it’s close to perfect.  It is crispy and tender throughout, not rubbery or soggy.  Also, the squid is of sizable portion.  (Although it didn’t include the tentacles, which I like).  We also ordered what were termed “fried mozzarella wedges”  (creative!) which I very much enjoyed. They had a snapping crust and had a moist, even consistency throughout.  Each appetizer has an accompanying bowl of marinara, in which there are bits of basil leaves and perfect levels of olive oil lightly swimming about.  Chunks of freshly peeled tomatoes lend itself to a very smooth taste.

Onto the pizza.  Elana and I both got personal pies.  I ordered the “traditional” which was your basic margherita pie, while Elana ordered a pizza bianca – which had ricotta and mozzarella.  Both pies missed the mark a bit.  The Traditional had a TON of cheese, which was stretching all over the place, and slightly distracting me from the otherwise stellar sauce.   It’s definitely the tastier of the two.

Elana’s Bianca was a little bland.  Just like the traditional, the cheese is heavily applied, but it’s not packing a serious or sharp enough punch.  Both pies are unfortunately not sporting the “as-advertised” effects of a well functioning coal fired, brick oven.  The dough is a little crunchy and tough, with a noticeable stiffness throughout.

The Bathrooms – Elana reported: “The bathroom was clean and orderly, but a touch outdated and well-worn. Large mirrors were appreciated, but the potpourri and soap could have used more attractive containers.”

Overall, I must say that I was a bit let down by John’s.  Although a purported descendant of John’s on Bleecker, the apple seems to have fallen a bit far from the tree in this instance.  We prefer Grimaldi’s and Dozzino in Hoboken should you be looking for artisanal, Neapolitan style pizza within an earshot of an NJ path train.

Overall Score: Vanilla Sky

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Today is Marmo’s birthday!

The above photos were taken from a scrap book I assembled a looooong time ago entitled, “The Complete Hairstyle Index of Marlene Iaciofano.” In it, I displayed photographic examples of her numerous hairstyles (The Box jokes that she’s had about 742 of them) and numerated them for ease of identification for both herself and her stylists. Personally, my favorite is Baby Marmo, sporting what looks like a wig, but is actually all her real hair. Marmo has a nice head of hair, people. John would like to think he inherited this trait.

In addition to good hair, Marmo has a lot of other fantastic qualities that make her a good mom. Here are some of them:

1. Her refrigerator, while alarming and a potential health hazard, is always stocked full. You will never starve in the Iaciofano house. Unless The Box is there.

2. She makes no sense. In a good way! Marmo has a deep reservoir of energy. Often this comes out in her speech patterns. Like when she attempts to put three thoughts into one sentence.

3. She refers to either John or I as “Johnelana” or “Elanajohn”.

4. She always wants to try new restaurants.

5. She likes taking her children to foreign countries like Italy. It’s John’s turn this time – they depart on Friday.

6. She refers to my dog Toby as “Little Cesar” and “that cute little dawg” (please read with NJ accent). And treats him like her grandchild.

7. She will still make John breakfast.

8. She is an excellent cook.

Below, I am offering you one of Marmo’s tried and true pasta dishes: Farfalle with Sausage. This pasta dish makes almost everyone happy almost all of the time. It’s a Marmo special. The sauce is a tomato cream (the whole tomatoes provide a chunky consistency) with a kick from the red pepper. As for the sausage, if you like extra spice, you can use a spicy Italian sausage. Otherwise, a sweet sausage is a perfect contrast.

What You Need:
1 small onion, chopped
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
4-6 links of sausage, casing removed
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 can whole tomatoes
Grated Parmesan cheese
1 box farfalle pasta

What To Do:
Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-low heat. Cook sausage meat, without casings. As the sausage cooks, break it into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Cook until the sausage is browned.

If too much fat has accumulated in the pan, you can drain it off, but leave about 2 tablespoons (a little fat goes a looooong way).

Add chopped onions and garlic and stir.

Add spices and herbs and the can of tomatoes.

Bring to a boil and add the heavy cream. Reduce the heat and cook on a very low heat for 20 minutes.

in the meantime, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once it is boiling, add about 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the boiling water. Add your farfalle pasta and cook until al dente (check package instructions).

Drain the pasta in a colander, and the cooked pasta into a large pasta serving bowl. Add in the sauce and toss to coat.

Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese, and a little extra chopped parsley.

Serves 4-5 people.

Wanna wish Marmo a happy one? Go “like” her company, Gourmet Getaways on Facebook!

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We have been heavily caffeinated for weeks now. Well, I have. John’s been on a steady stream of downers just to counter my coffee buzz. I thought it might be helpful to post a round up of all the coffee sites I’ve visited complete with locations so you can try them on your own.

But first! One last coffee shop: Cafe Grumpy!

The Scene: I popped in there just yesterday for a morning latte. It was bustling! There was quite a line-up for coffee, but it was all so well organized and everyone was so patient and good-natured about it, I didn’t mind at all. At one point, a girl waiting for latte turned to me and said, “Were you in front of me or behind me in line?” I honestly didn’t know, but the barista cleared it all up for us – he had been mentally keeping track the whole time. Nice work.

The Coffee: This latte was exceptionally well-frothed. In fact, my favorite part of the Grumpy Latte was the milk. It was so rich and creamy (hooray for full fat milk) that after I finished my drink, I took a spoon to it and scooped up the last bits of froth that were leftover. Now that’s good foam.

I also have a fondness for the logo, which is indeed grumpy:

Luckily, I didn’t feel like the above drawing after sipping my latte.

Overall Coffee Drinking Experience: Napoleon Dynamite, The Offbeat Success

And now, onto The Roundup!

For all things Van Leeuwen, you can read:
Our first review, discussing their Greenpoint store and Panda Truck.
Or view Tim’s (from the Panda Truck) Latte Art.

Van Leeuwen Store locations:
632 Manhattan Ave, Greenpoint, Brooklyn
81 Bergen Street, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn

Truck Locations: Follow them on Twitter to find out where they are!

Stumptown is coming up Aces at the Ace Hotel.
Stumptown at the Ace: 18 W 29th St. New York, NY 10001
6am – 8pm daily

As is Kava Cafe, opened by Ace Hotel’s partner John Saric.
Kava Cafe: 803 Washington Street

Take a walk to one of Ninth Street Espresso‘s locations:

Chelsea Market
75 9th Ave. (Between 9th & 10th Ave)

Alphabet City
700 East 9th Street (Between Ave C & D)

Tompkins Square
341 East 10th St. (Between Ave A & B)

And if you find yourself in the Italian Mega Market, Eataly, their espresso counter is worth checking out.
Eataly: 23rd and 5th Avenue

Meanwhile on 13th Street, Joe the Art of Coffee serves up delicate lattes and off-the-wall art.

550 west 120th (Northwest Corner Building)
New York, NY 10027

514 Columbus Avenue
New York, NY 10024

141 Waverly Place
New York, NY 10014

9 East 13th Street
New York, NY 10003


And before we forget: The WINNER of our LATTE ART Contest? Tim, from Van Leeuwen. You blew the competition out of the to-go cup, Tim. Nice Job.

And if you need MORE coffee, don’t forget to check out:

Amy Ferraris’ The Perfect Cappuccino Trailer and our recipe for Espresso Granita!

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I had a special request – a commission, if you will, for some edible artwork. The project outlines were the following:

1. Create an espresso granita like the one a friend had sampled in Tuscany.

2. Whipped cream too, please.

Keep in mind that I had not been in Tuscany with my friend at the time she sampled this delicacy. So I had to ask for lots of details because I was flying taste-bud blind.

Was the espresso flavor strong? Yes.

What was the consistency of the ice? Like little chips, all in different sizes so you could crunch them.

What about the whipped cream? Not too sweet. Just a tiny bit to give a little contrast to the espresso ice.

I began with some research. It’s pretty easy to make granita (really). You really just need to freeze stuff, and break it up with a fork during the freezing process every now and again so you don’t get one giant ice cube. One giant ice cube does not a granita make.

Following this research, I purchased some espresso from Eataly.

This stuff looked pretty good. And I really liked trying to say “Heuhuetenango” too.

Then I brewed some up using my French Press. I like the way coffee tastes brewed in a French Press. It’s STRONGER! I used 5 heaping tablespoons.

Meanwhile, I boiled some water (3 cups) with about 1/8 cup of sugar in a pot. Once it was all heated up, I poured it into my French Press, waiting the appropriate amount of time (3-5 minutes), and then PRESSED.

Then, I poured this lovely concoction into a pan and popped it into the freezer. I tried to give it a stir and break up the ice with a fork every half hour or so. Eventually, I had to use something stronger than a fork (I bent the fork), so I opted for some tongs (please picture a ridiculous scene of me smashing coffee flavored ice with metal tongs). I did this periodic smash until the stuff started to look like this:

And then I made some whipped cream. Initially, I made the whipped cream without sugar. But just a tiny bit of confectioners sugar adds a whole lotta goodness.

Gather 1 cup of heavy whipping cream and 1 1/2 tablespoons of confectioners sugar. Put them in a mixing bowl and with a hand-held mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the cream and sugar until it’s whipped and soft peaks form.

Scoop some granita into a bowl or fancy glass (I used retro snow cone holders) and top with whipped cream.

Now for the ridiculous part of the story….you knew there was one, right?

I was meeting my friend after work for her to try this granita and give me the final word. But how to transport it? It’s ice, it melts. So, I:

Brewed the coffee at home.

Poured it into one of my insulated Camelback water bottles.

Transported it to work.

Transferred it to a baking pan and put it in the office freezer.

Then from time to time I would get up from my desk to go smash ice chunks. It was actually a very therapeutic workplace activity.

Before I left work, I whipped up the cream and transferred the granita BACK into the Camelback (I was hoping this would prevent it from melting). Then I walked to a bar, commandeered us some fancy glasses and served it up.

Final determination: success. The espresso granita is crunchy, strong and slightly bitter which pairs nicely with the smooth, creamy and ever-so slightly sweetened whipped cream.

Note: The first time I made the cream, I made it without confectioners sugar, but all the tasters agreed that a lil’ bit o’ sugar greatly improves it.

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Today we have a special caffeinated treat. My friend Amy Ferraris is a talented film maker AND a cappuccino addict. She combined these two passions in a documentary film entitled, The Perfect Cappuccino. It it, she describes the trials and tribulations of finding that perfect 6 ounces of cappuccino, and what that means in terms of both ingredients and atmosphere. The above link is a trailer to her documentary. We also have a short interview with Amy below.
Why did you want to create this documentary? Is there a specific message you want people to take away?
I felt compelled to, in the way that you feel compelled to scratch an itch. I had spent over a decade obsessing about this question of “Why is it so hard to find a good cappuccino in America?” So I finally decided to look a little closer at the question, in the hope that it would stop plaguing me (which it eventually did).

I guess the message I would want people to take away is to PAY ATTENTION to their coffee and to the places where they consume it. I would also really like it if coffee shop-goers paid as much attention to atmosphere and community as bar- and restaurant-goers do. The coffee shop is not just a place to fuel up on caffeine!

What are the defining characteristics of a good cappuccino?
I wrote a whole series of blog posts on this once, the most comprehensive of which is here.

But here’s the “short” version… A cappuccino is typically defined as a drink that is one-third espresso, one-third steamed milk, and one-third foamed milk.  I would argue that the perfect cappuccino incorporates coffee, air and milk into a few magical sips of something that is more than just the sum of its parts.

A cappuccino should feel dense and creamy in your mouth, but light and airy at the same time. You should not be able to perceive the separation of liquid and foam, at least not in the first few sips. I have heard this texture described hundreds of times by people in the coffee business as “velvety.”

This unique texture is produced by a substance that I’ve sometimes heard Italians refer to as the “crema del latte” – literally, the “cream of the milk.” Americans refer to this substance by the decidedly less charming name of “microfoam.”

Really good crema del latte is incredibly difficult to produce. But to me, it is what makes a cappuccino a cappuccino. In the course of making my documentary, I interviewed a number of baristas about producing the crema del latte, and the consensus seems to be that it’s all about heating the milk slowly and keeping it below the temperature at which milk starts to taste salty instead of sweet. It’s also about using the right milk. Milks with higher relative protein content – such as nonfat milk – will stiffen up much quicker than full fat milks, forming that horrid meringue-like substance that graces many cappuccinos in America. So when I hear someone ordering a nonfat, extra-hot cappuccino, I feel like they just insulted my mother. Blech.

Who makes the best cappuccino and why?
I’m happy to say that it’s no longer as hard as it used to be to find a good cappuccino in the U.S. In fact, there are too many places for me to list (although I would recommend using espressomap.com as a resource. That guy knows his stuff).

But if you add in the consideration of wanting a place that not only produces a drink that is technically excellent but does so in an environment that is authentic and is genuinely a “third place” (in the Ray Oldenburg sense of the term, NOT the Howard Schultz sense), well, then, my list of favorites is much shorter…

1. DoubleShot Coffee, Tulsa, Oklahoma
2. Bica Coffeehouse, Oakland, CA
3. Bar del cappuccino, Rome

Can you make a cappuccino at home? If not, why?
You can make a crappy cappuccino at home, no problem. You can even make a good cappuccino at home if you are willing to invest a few thousand dollars in superior equipment and spend lots and lots of time getting it right (and some people do – check out home-barista.com and you’ll see what I’m talking about). But making a good cappuccino at home is really hard, mostly because making good espresso at home is so hard. Espresso is really finicky, and there are many variables that have to come together for it to taste OK (nevermind for it to taste great).

Does your obsession with cappuccino extend to American coffee, and if so what are your favorite brand blends?
No, it really doesn’t. I am a milk addict! I am fortunate that the head barista at my awesome neighborhood coffee shop (Bica Coffeehouse in Oakland, CA) regularly offers me tastes of the latest coffees he’s featuring, so I get to try a lot of them. But it’s not usually what I crave. And I don’t drink much coffee overall. So while I like trying little tastes of other things, it’s a rare day that I want a cup of drip for my morning coffee.

That said, when I DO drink “American” coffee, lately it has all been single-origin coffees roasted by some of the fantastic roasters near me in the bay area – Ritual Coffee Roasters, Verve, Temple, De La Paz and Four Barrel all come to mind.

In the documentary you note that cappuccino has caused you to question your community, country and way of life. But has it brought you any answers?
YES! In the process of making this film, I discovered a place that had a real sense of community. You walk in, everybody knows you, you sit down among friends for a long talk or you just stay for a minute to grab your coffee and BS with the guys behind the counter or the person next to you in line. But either way, you have this face-to-face social interaction every day. That place was the DoubleShot Coffee Company in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

I felt (and feel) that that kind of community is so special and so wonderful. I later read “The Great Good Place” by sociologist Ray Oldenburg, which perfectly describes the phenomenon I’m talking about – the “third place.” It’s not work and it’s not home – it’s something else.

It’s easier to feel a sense of ownership or a feeling of belonging to a place that is not antiseptic or cookie-cutter. And people’s behavior changes when they feel at home. The same person who ignores you in line at Starbucks might strike up a conversation with you if you’re sitting on “their” couch.

This is not to say that community can’t form at a Starbucks, but there are barriers to it – the airport security-style lines, the prescribed language for ordering your drink and the customer-is-always-right script you hear in return from the people behind the counter, the get-in-and-out-fast efficiency of the whole place… all these things offer a subtle discouragement to having a genuine interaction with anyone else. Learning all of the above was a big deal for me. It roots me in my community and my neighborhood. I feel very grounded in my “village” – I feel a kinship with the folks I know from my own third place, and that extends to a larger feeling of kinship with my community. I would love it if I could share that message with everyone.

What is the strangest place your search for the perfect 6oz of cappuccino has brought you?
That’s a good question. Tulsa, Oklahoma was pretty darn strange for me (I’m a Californian). But in a good way. It’s a city full of contradictions and surprises. I loved it.

You can also read Amy’s blog and check out the official Cappuccino Movie website here.

Amy’s movie will also be screening at a festival, and here are the details on that:
What: The Perfect Cappuccino screens at the Oakland International Film Festival
When: Sunday, April 10 at 6:00 pm
Where: The Art Deco Auditorium in Alameda, CA

More info at www.oiff.org or www.cappuccinomovie.com

Thank you, Amy!

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It was a bright, sunny day: partially warm, birds were chirping, clouds had parted and the smell of coffee was in the air. On this almost-Spring day, my morning caffeine travels brought me to Stumptown Coffee Roasters at the Ace Hotel.

The Scene:
The Ace Hotel (at least the lobby and coffee shop) combines a well-designed and eclectic interior (see Exhibit A) with a dash of playful humor (see Exhibit B) and amusement park style attractions (a photo booth!! – evidence of which can be found in the above image).

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

As I queued up with the rest of the Flatiron District for my morning brew, I couldn’t help but notice some other stand-out accents like the beautiful Spring time flora:

And the turn of the century, Victorian Era inspired packaging:

The Coffee:
I ordered my usual latte and was presented with a perfectly frothed, whole milk infused beverage decorated with a teeny-tiny heart. There really is something about steamed whole milk that is exponentially better than steamed skim: FAT. Milk fat just tastes good, especially with coffee. It’s rich and velvety without being too sweet – a perfect balance to deep, bitter coffee. Which is exactly what happened here, and why I had to commemorate the image below with a little Victorian Era decoration of my own.

So impressed I was by my latte drinking experience, that I returned TWICE in one week to the scene of Stumptown at the Ace. This time I mixed it up and ordered a macchiato. Macchiato is an espresso with just a touch of steamed milk. In fact, the word “macchiato” means “stained” or “marked”. So this is an espresso drink with just a little stain of steamed milk.

As you can see, my mark arrived in the shape of a heart, which very much brightened up my morning. More than just pretty decoration, the steamed milk was just enough to balance the deep, dark espresso. No sugar required (cuz I’m sweet enough….oh, I’m just kidding, people). The thin film of foam draped over the surface of the robust espresso is also a nice textural and taste contrast.

Emboldened by my macchiato, it was then that I decided to try out the photo booth. They put it there for people to use, right? Maybe not just one person with coffee in hand, but who cares? Certainly not I. So I snapped a few pictures as evidence of my macchiato enjoyment (see the first photo).

In addition to coffee, I ordered this fancy little brioche roll. Those white crystals gracing the surface are actually sugar crystals (one might confuse them with salt). Brioche is one of my favorite breads because of the ever-so-slightly-sweet, mushy center and its glossy, amber, super-thin crust. This one did not disappoint, the sugar crystals adding a bit of extra CRUNCH.

The Experience:
All in all, I would have to say that Stumptown Coffee Roasters at the Ace Hotel is:

But since I should really attach a movie experience, I give it: The Godfather – The Perfect Game.

Stumptown Coffee Roasters at the Ace Hotel
18 W 29th St.
New York, NY 10001
6am – 8pm daily

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To kick off Coffee Week in earnest, today we have a special treat: Latte Art, courtesy of Tim who mans the Van Leeuwen Panda Truck. Both John and I are big fans of Van Leeuwen. You can read our first review of their Greenpoint store here. Luckily, you don’t have to travel to the store every time you need a well-brewed cup of Intelligentsia coffee, as they have a team of caffeine-dispensing, well-designed light yellow trucks roaming the city. And there is one right by my office.

I had asked Tim if I could post some photos of his steamed milk art on the blog, and he kindly agreed. So one day, I escaped from my office under the pretense of needing food (completely believable pretense coming from me), and ran on over to the truck parked on 23rd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues.

Tim brewed three lattes with three different milk designs and you can see them below (with a little design fun added by me). Of course, Tim is a finalist for our “Best Latte Art Award”. Thank you so much, Tim and Van Leeuwen!

* No lattes were wasted during this photography session. I drank one, we managed to give one away to a family of tourists, and I brought one back for my boss.

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We have not talked about pizza all week! What were we thinking?? Clearly, we weren’t.

To bring you all back, I present you with this mini review (it is Friday, after all) of Slice in the West Village.

Let me set The Scene:
The Megs and I washed up on the West Village location of Slice on Official Umbrella Inside-Out Day. It was torrential downpour in New York. No umbrella was safe. Certainly not mine. Or my hair. We will leave it at that. We dove out of the water, and flopped onto one of the train station-style booth tables, happy to be dry (kind of) and have the promise of food in pizza form. The interior is friendly and cozy, with half booths and tables lining the dining area and an eclectic arrangement of books and nick-nacks lining the exposed brick and wood-panelled walls. There is a wine and beer selection to complement their healthy pizzas.

The Food:
First! A note on the Slice style pizza. This is an artsy pie. It’s square, so I would technically throw it into a Sicilian category based on geometry. It’s also thin crust. But the ingredients of both the crust and the toppings are modern. California style? I lived in California for 7 years, and I’m not sure what that means except that maybe it’s a bit indie, a touch free-form-no-rules (in a good way) I’ll do what I want pizza. So there! And with the organic, free range, hormone free ingredients it’s Venice Beach meets Brooklyn! Served on a pan!

Anyway, there were two stand-out pizzas from our selection. They were:
The Miki: a wonderful combination of basil pesto (sans pine nuts for the allergic!), chicken sausage (that had flavor!), goat cheese, sundried and fresh tomatoes, and a little extra fresh basil. All this was piled onto a crispy-on-the-outside-but-chewy-on-the-inside honey whole wheat crust. Verdict: Completed devoured. The pesto was so good, I didn’t even miss the pine nuts. True story.

The Yuri: Organic truffled (squeals of joy!) ricotta and mozzarella, with sauteed mushrooms all living harmoniously on an herbed crust. Verdict: Also devoured. Wonderful truffle flavor without being too dramatic and overpowering (save the drama for…well, for your mama, I guess). The mushrooms were nice and meaty. I really hate wilty mushrooms.

The Bathrooms:
I was overwhelmed by Slice’s bathroom – so much so that when I walked in there, I forgot what I came in there to do – take photos of course! A red glass chandelier! Art featuring muppets! Painting on the walls! Check it out:

The Experience: Napoleon Dynamite – The Offbeat Success

Slice – The Perfect Food

535 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10014
P. 212 929 2920
F. 212 929 2987


1413 2nd Avenue (73rd/74th Sts)
New York, NY 10021
P. 212 249 4353
F. 212 249 3706

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