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Archive for the ‘Coffee’ Category

I may have mentioned this before, but possibly my favorite movie of all time is Ghostbusters. John and I used to quote this movie to each other quite frequently. We still do from time to time. I recently watched it and was comforted to know that this 80’s movie stands the test of time. It’s still funny (Art Deco, very nice), and Bill Murray is….well, he’s just a genius.

And speaking of things that stand the test of time, how about a Twinkie? According to the Hostess website, Twinkies have been been hanging around on bodega shelves since 1930 (some of them quite literally). President Clinton even put one in a time capsule. I wonder what that one looks like now…

Dan Akyroyd and Harold Ramis (stars and writers of the film) were not immune to the immense power and omnipotence of the Twinkie. They worked it in to one of the best scenes in the film as seen below:

And now I’m going to tell you about a Twinkie. One that I found at Lulu Cafe in Chelsea. I had gone to Lulu in search of Intelligentsia coffee which they brew in their 8th Avenue shop. I found a whole lot more including some homemade Twinkies in different flavors.

At first I was intrigued by the sign (who wouldn’t be?):

And then the flavors! They offered:

Red Velvet Lulus
red velvet snack cakes filled with cream cheese frosting dipped in white chocolate

Lemon Lulus
lemon snack cakes filled with lemon curd, dipped in white chocolate

Brooklyn Blackout Lulus
chocolate snack cakes filled with dark chocolate pudding dipped in chocolate

Passionfruit Lulus
yellow snack cakes filled with passion fruit cream, dipped in white chocolate

I decided on the passionfruit variety and was not disappointed. The cake was moist and dense. In my opinion, real Twinkie cake is a bit insubstantial. I want CAKE. And by that I mean a mixture that is a touch hearty. This one was. And the passionfruit filling was a nice contrast: light, airy with a hint of that fruity flavor piped expertly through the center of the vanilla cake.

A few shavings of coconut graced the top along with a glaze of white chocolate to give the whole thing a graceful “petite-four” flair. I loved it.

So when your spirit storage facility is at capacity and your collection of spores, molds and fungus is getting a little out of hand, don’t panic (and DON’T cross the streams!). Just:

And then call Ghostbusters.

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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
212-851-9101

514 Columbus Avenue
New York, NY 10024
212-875-0100

141 Waverly Place
New York, NY 10014
212.924.6750

9 East 13th Street
New York, NY 10003
212.924.7400

44 GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL
212.661.8580

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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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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So far in my quest to be slightly late for work….um, I mean find good coffee, I have visited the following caffeine-dispensing institutions: Kave Cafe, Ninth Street Espresso (two locations) and Eataly. We also featured an epic journey to the Van Leeuwen store in Greenpoint, Brooklyn with bonus shots of the Panda truck (23rd and 6th).

I plan on continuing this research until I collapse in a heap of over-caffeinated exhaustion. Sounds pleasant, right? Anyway, I’ve been asking for coffee shop recommendations, and one that popped up was Joe the Art of Coffee. Joe has a few locations around Manhattan, but I chose to visit their 13th Street locale.

As you can see from the above two photos, the signage conveyed some very promising messages. I was intrigued.

The Scene:
The 13th Street location is a wonderful hodgepodge of art, mini tables and piles of pastries. A small flight of stairs brings you to the seating area, with the coffee counter just behind. In the mornings, there is usually a line up the counter, but there is plenty of entertaining art lined up on the walls to amuse you while you wait. Like this little number:

and at the tip jar:

The Coffee:
I ordered a latte (I may have mentioned this is my favorite coffee beverage). Sometimes I think good graphic design makes food and drink taste better. I’m definitely guilty of buying wine by the labels, and this to-go cup is an excellent example of well-designed, portable information:

But back to the latte itself! The taste was smooth and light. I would say I would have liked a little more kick – a little heavier on the espresso in the espresso-to-milk ratio, as I felt that the coffee flavor was too mild. However, the milk was steamed to a delightful, drinkable froth that wasn’t too foamy or too liquid.

I’m going to start giving points for latte art. This one was pretty good, but a little undefined – especially on that left side. I do like those feathery wisps that are seeping into the milky-white blob, though. And the leaf-topper is well done.

Coffee Drinking Experience: Top Gun

Overall, Joe the Art of Coffee is a great place to grab a giant scone and a morning cup, hang out at one of the little tables and listen in on other people’s conversations (I overheard a fascinating one between a teaching assistant and a professor….something about the conjugation of German verbs…). The latte taste was mild, but very well prepared. It just didn’t give me the “juice” I was looking for.

And yes, we will be giving out latte-art awards.

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John and I are as choosy with our Italian desserts as we are with our entreés (like pizza). I happen to be a tiramisú snob, and have turned up my nose at quite a few slices, while John will down well-made panna cotta like an Electrolux that’s just had its filter cleaned.

But the cannoli….Ahh…the cannoli. A perfect cannoli is a study in contradictions, a perfect blend of opposites in flavor and texture. As the holding device, the shell represents a challenge: It must be crispy and ever-so-slightly sweet. NEVER chewy or dense. With lots of airy holes for extra crunch.

The cream presents another challenge. First, it has to be ricotta cream. I know….I know, you may be thinking, “Who would fill cannoli with anything else?” If you asked that question, you’re hired!

You might be surprised to learn how many whipped cream filled cannoli I have encountered. And put down after the first bite, because that’s just wrong, people. WRONG.

Assuming that the filling is ricotta based, it should also be rich, thick in consistency and have a definite sweetness that is not overpowering. Light and airy are not characteristics of the filling – those belong to the shell.

Now a final word of caution: NO PRE-FILLING the cannoli shells. If you walk into a bakery and there are a stack of filled cannoli in the glass display case, don’t order them. They could have been sitting there since the Dharma Project’s last food drop.

The shells should be lined up, empty awaiting your order. Then, and only then, do they get their ricotta cream piped into them. This is because cannoli filling will make the super crispy and light shell a soggy, dense mess. True story.

As for toppings or additions to the cream filling, these are traditional and definitely allowed. I’m not a huge fan of succade, or chopped, candied citrus peel, I find that they don’t add much in terms of flavor and are just interruptions in the cream filling. Like speed bumps. I do, however approve of mini chocolate chips, either integrated into the cream or sprinkled on top. These do add flavor, and because they are firm, but not crunchy, an extra layer of texture. Pistachios often make an appearance, as does a nice dark chocolate dip. However, prepping the chocolate dipped varieties usually means pre-filling, so I’m not the biggest fan of this option.

OK, I think I’m done with my pastry-related tirade. Are you still here? I hope so, because Rocco’s cannoli are definitely worth the trip. To the West Village. In the pouring rain. And John doesn’t walk very quickly. So, if you’re going with him, you should know that.

Rocco’s has a lot of other treats that we didn’t sample. We went straight for the cannoli. But you might like to try some of these:

They sure looked tasty.

After navigating the somewhat confusing line (it seems that people just queue up in no particular order, and there’s no number system), we noticed the empty cannoli shells lined up in the back awaiting their creamy centers – a very good sign. We ordered 2, and got them to go.

Probably we should have enjoyed them at on of Rocco’s cafe tables. Instead, we ventured out into the pouring rain (did I mention that John walks slowly?) and to the PATH train to head back to Hoboken.

Both John and I are very impatient when it comes to food. We want to eat it NOW. Whatever it is. Now works. The train unfortunately arrived immediately, even as I was unwinding the intricately-laced bakers twine on the box.

John: “I have never wanted the train to NOT arrive before….” This said as I reluctantly returned the white box to its plastic bag.

Once on the train, all bets were off. Especially the ones saying “No Eating or Drinking on Path Trains”. John dove into his cannoli as I attempted to take photos of them on the moving train. Please keep in mind that we are professionals. You shouldn’t try this at home. Or anywhere.

I held off on eating mine as I wanted to take a nice glamor shot of it once back at my apartment (see the first photo for evidence of self-restraint). But I was curious, so I asked John some questions.

Me: “How is it?”

John: “Great.” (You might not think it, but this is actually very high praise from John).

Me: “Ummm…Could you give me more details? How’s the filling?”

John: “Awesome, man.”

I see.

Once I could sample mine in the comfort and stability of my non-moving apartment, I could tell that John was correct. It was a great cannoli. The shell was fried to perfection, and I detected a hint of cinnamon in the mix that added a subtle flavor. The cream was indeed awesome: a ricotta cream with very tiny and sparingly applied succade and topped with mini chocolate chips. I may have wanted the cream a bit thicker, but the flavor was true to form. The shell even maintained its crispiness throughout our soggy walk home, shattering as I bit into it (this is supposed to happen).

Rocco’s: a great place for awesome cannoli. Man.

Pasticerria Rocco
243 Bleecker Street
New York
New York, 10014

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Searching for a decent cup of coffee can be a challenge. Luckily for me, my path to work intersects with Van Leeuwen’s Panda truck stake-out of 23rd Street and 6th Avenue. A large Intelligentsia Americano with a bit of half and half from the big yellow truck is my usual and fool-proof order.

However, sometimes I’m not in range of a Van Leeuwen truck (GASP!). And sometimes, I go out of my way and travel to the far reaches of the universe (Alphabet City!!) just because I want to try something different. We are supposed to be giving you sage advice regarding taste, are we not? Therefore, we must adequately research – throwing caution to the wind and occasionally being late for work because we stopped to take a photo of a parked cherry red Vespa while ambling ever-so-slowly back to the Flatiron District. And by “we” I mean “me”.

Sage is great by the way, especially in a brown butter sauce with cheese ravioli.

But back to coffee! This past Wednesday, I was no where near the Tompkins Square neighborhood. But I travel well, so I ended up at the 10th Street (between Aves A and B) location of Ninth Street Espresso.

I rolled up to the counter at the back of the long, narrow shop and ordered a latte. Normally during the work week I have a regular coffee or an Americano with a little half and half. But a latte is perhaps my favorite coffee drink. I enjoy a good cappuccino – if I can find one, but there is something decadent and also breakfast-y about all that steamed milk poured over the perfect amount of espresso. Especially if it is served in a bowl.

The Ninth Street coffee blends are made from Intelligentsia beans. I was overcome with pleasant emotions at this revelation – startling both barristas with my reaction. Ninth Street gets their coffee from Intelligentsia, and then creates their own custom blend. They also sell packages of these blends at their store locations.

My latte was a fine blend of milk and espresso – a touch more bitter than I usually like. Nevertheless, the milk was both frothy and creamy (it shouldn’t be all foam like a cappuccino). And the steamed milk art was very impressive as well.

Fully caffeinated, I strolled West on 10th Street to work, snapping a few random photos along the way.

Like some very cool iron-worked doorways:

And a Vespa, John’s dream vehicle.

John recently asked me if a Vespa would be tax-deductible. I responded only if we were using it to deliver pizzas at our Neapolitan pizza joint in Austin, Texas. Which doesn’t exist, by the way. But these are the things we discuss over gchat during the course of the day.

Anyway, I made it to work (mostly) on time, but I needed to further research Ninth Street Espresso. I decided to visit their Chelsea Market location for a compare/contrast.

Their Chelsea Market location is a walk-up counter and has a fast-paced, we-mean-business attitude in contrast to the more low-key, relaxed 10th Street vibe. I like this peppier vibe. It makes me think that the barristas have been drinking the punch. Or the coffee, as it were (or is).

I again order a latte, and am more pleased with the results at this location. I know they are using the same beans (perhaps they blend them differently here?), but the espresso is smoother, perhaps indicating a more balanced ratio of espresso to milk.

The milk art was, however, a little more elaborate at the 10th Street location.

Coffee Drinking Experience: Top Gun – The Well Working Formula

Ninth Street Espresso

Locations:

Chelsea Market
75 9th Ave. (Between 9th & 10th Ave)      212-228-2930

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

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

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Hello, everyone! We have a special feature today over at Brooklyn Exposed. John and I run rampant through Brooklyn sampling chocolate from Mast Brothers and Nunu Chocolates. You can read about it here. Also included is a recipe for Spicy Hot Chocolate featuring a Mast Brothers chocolate bar.

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