Posts Tagged ‘Coffee’

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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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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So I’m trying not to post loooooong expositions on Friday. Just recaps. BUT (you knew there was a “but” right?), since we’ve been featuring coffee and I am HEAVILY caffeinated due to all the research, I have a short Friday update. And it is:

Lattes at Eataly! I will post in bullet point form:

• Eataly is on my walk from physical therapy to work in the mornings.

• I’m in PT because I have some irritating IT Band tendinitis.

• My P.Therapist, Phil made an entire CD for me of 90’s Hip Hop! Thank you, Phil! You rule. It’s not doing much for my knee, but it helps tune out my coworkers.

• Lattes are an important part of P.T.

• Eataly’s lattes are darn good. Even the ones made with skim milk.

• Espresso to Milk Ratio: well balanced.

• Good espresso flavor, not overpowered by the milk. And not too bitter either.

• Steamed milk is light and fluffy, but not too foamy. It’s still drinkable.

• I’ve seen better steamed milk art, though.

And now onto the RECAP:

On Monday we got our caffeine fix at Ninth Street Espresso. And took pictures of a Vespa. And were slightly late for work.

On Tuesday we reviewed Rubirosa Pizza. Vodka sauce on pizza. Read all about it.

On Wednesday we ate cannoli on the PATH train. And took some incredibly blurry photos of it.

On Thursday, we had a sangwich. And made some Honey Dijon Yogurt Sauce.

Next week: We have some BIG news!! Stay tuned.

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Look at this work of art! Straight off Van Leeuwen‘s Panda truck this morning on 6th Ave. A good start to the birthday weekend, I think. This little beauty was followed by a delivery of Butterlane cupcakes from Marmo and the Box.

This weekend will bring some good stuff for you, my dear readers, in the form of two great restaurants that will be reviewed. Get excited, but I’m going to keep you in suspense as to which restaurants.

In the meantime, let’s review:

First, don’t forget to sign up to follow us, or tweet me “Happy Birthday” for you chance to win the herbed Italian salt. Click here for more details. Many thanks to all the people who have already done so!

Need a recipe for the weekend? Try out Velia’s Eggplant Rolls.

Want some Sant’ Eustachio Coffee? Order from Gustiamo and be entered to win a free coffee cup!

Have a great weekend!

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Since Doug already won the Sant’ Eustachio coffee that I brought back from Rome, it has come to my attention that some of you may still want some of this coffee. But where to get it? I didn’t bring any more back with me, sorry.

Enter Gustiamo – a magical website that imports fancy Italian delicacies, including….wait for it….Sant’ Eustachio coffee! Can you imagine? So if you would like to order some of your very own, you can get it here.

To sweeten the (coffee) pot, our new friends at Gustiamo have offered a Sant’ Eustachio coffee cup giveaway exclusively for our readers. Isn’t that nice? Here’s how it works:

1. You order Sant’ Eustachio coffee from their site.

2 Enter the word “mug” in the special instructions box in the shopping cart.

3. A presto! You are entered to win the coffee cup, pictured above.

Neat right? We thought so. Now who wants a cup o’ joe?

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