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Posts Tagged ‘Flatiron District’

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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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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A week or so ago, I learned via Twitter that Eataly now sells fresh, uncooked pizza dough. Readers of this blog know that John and I like to make our own pizza dough. But SOMETIMES….just sometimes….you can’t. You might not have time, or yeast, or flour because you gave it all to the sourdough starter that is living on the top of your fridge and that you expect has been drinking all your wine because you don’t seem to have any left in the apartment…

Clearly, I digress. Sometimes you need to use someone else’s dough. I’m not here to judge you. I AM here to judge other people’s dough.

And I’m starting with Eataly’s, which I picked up in one of their numerous refrigerated sections for $3.20. Not a bad price. While I was there, I also picked up some purple potatoes and fresh rosemary which I was going to use in combination with the fresh ricotta cheese I made to top the pizza.

And one more wild card, because, let’s face it people, I’m not here to be normal. I have been wanting to try different methods of baking pizza. I have a pizza stone, which delivers great results. I have also used a cookie sheet with some success. This time, I wanted to use my cast iron pot. I thought that by trapping the heat in a smaller area (the pot) I would achieve a crispier outer crust with a more moist center. This was my hypothesis, anyway.

General Instructions:
I heated up my pot in the oven at 500 degrees for one half hour before placing the dough inside.

Placing the dough in the pot is a little tricky. The pot gets VERY HOT (please remember your oven mitts). And you have to get the dough in there, and then place on all your toppings while the dough is starting to sizzle and cook already. Kind of stressful.

But I did it. And I didn’t even burn myself (I did cut myself slicing potatoes though)! I got my dough into the pot, smeared on some ricotta cheese (the truffle salt and olive oil variety), and topped it with sliced potatoes (instructions below), olive oil, a pinch more truffle salt and some rosemary.

Then, I put the lid back on the pot and put the whole device in the oven. And then I checked it 10 minutes later. The crust wasn’t really charring, and it was cooking more slowly overall. I baked it for about 20-25 minutes (as compared to the usual 10 minutes on the pizza stone).

The crust did not char, but turned a nice golden brown. The bottom was almost like a thick, crusty bread rather than a pizza crust. This is the result of the cast iron pot. I believe I will be returning to the pizza stone (hypothesis proven WRONG).

BUT! What about the Eataly crust? How did it taste? I have to say, I give Eataly’s dough my stamp of approval. It was moist (even in the face of my cast iron pot experiment, and had a nice airy texture combined with a delicate olive oil/salty/yeasty flavor that was just right. My friend Meg ran over to my apartment when I started tweeting that there was pizza in the oven, so she can also attest to the fine flavor of the crust.

And finally, here is the recipe for the Ricotta, Rosemary and Potato Topping:

What You Need:
8 small purple potatoes, sliced thinly
Ricotta cheese (from this recipe)
Fresh rosemary (as many sprigs as you like)
Truffle salt (a few pinches)
1 tablespoon olive oil + extra drizzle for the pizza
1/4 cup water

What To Do:
Slice your potatoes (don’t cut yourself like I did).

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Place your sliced potatoes in the pan and and a pinch of salt. Toss to coat with oil and salt, and let the taters heat up. Add 1/4 cup of water to steam them a bit and some fresh chopped rosemary. Simmer until tender (you will be able to easily pierce them with a knife.

Spread the ricotta cheese on your stretched out pizza dough. Top with the potato mixture. Drizzle with a little olive oil, and add some more rosemary if you like.

Bake in the oven at 500 degrees (on a pizza stone, preferably) for about 10 minutes.

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Recently, I was lunching at Eataly with a group of colleagues. Actually, I just wanted to use “lunching” and “colleagues” in the same sentence.

I was hungrily devouring a pizza with the other members of a food photography class that I was taking. We had come to Eataly to do some on-site food photography. Come for the pictures, stay for the food – that kind of thing.

Readers of this blog know of the obsession John and I have for pizza, so I used this opportunity to sample Eataly’s version.

Eataly’s pizza menu offered the Neopolitan-style, wood fired, personal sized pizza characterized by a thin crust with a floppy center and a charred yet moist and chewy outer crust (or cornicione).

A member of our group suggested sharing a pizza. But I needed to research! For the blog! For our readers! For science! Also, I was hungry. So I politely responded, “I’ll be taking one down all by myself. But thanks for the offer!”

Besides, when I share food, I’m always mentally tallying the number of pieces that I have in relation to everyone else in an effort to be polite. It’s too much mental energy when I’m trying to eat. Plus, it usually leaves me hungry.

I selected the Verduretta, a traditional Margherita (tomato sauce and mozzarella) topped with roasted eggplant and red peppers.

The portion size was generous. I did not, in fact, end up taking the whole thing down by myself. Leopard-like black char spots graced the outer crust which sloped downwards to a very thin and flexible inner pizza. The tomato sauce was tangy and the strips of roasted eggplant provided a smokey and woodsy quality that had me wishing these veggies had been more generously applied.

While the eggplant scored high marks, the roasted peppers seemed just decorative accents as they were a more generic, from-the-can variety and didn’t add much flavor.

As for the mozzarella – the marshmallow-like dollops were an excellent consistency: they retained a good meltiness even upon cooling, and were never plastic-y or dry.

John would call this a “solid” pie, and I would agree. Technically and traditionally sound in crust and cooking method, yet lacking a bit in depth of flavor from its veggie accoutrements.

Overall Pizza-Eating Experience: Top Gun, The Well Working Formula

Bonus Section! I’ve you’ve read this far, you can see a few photo highlights from the Eataly tour:

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Today is the kick-off for City Bakery’s 19th Annual Hot Chocolate Festival: A month-long celebration of molten, drinkable chocolate featuring a different flavor every day. Every single day. Talk about reasons to get up in the morning.

This morning’s reason was Banana Peel Hot Chocolate. City Bakery’s hot chocolate is characterized by a thick consistency, and today’s blend was no exception. It wasn’t too thick – no spoons would be standing upright. I mean, you have to be able to drink it. The banana flavor was wonderfully integrated. It was like drinkable chocolate chip banana bread (need a recipe for that, because I have one). Not too strong, and very balanced. As an added bonus, my drink had a nice little froth at the top that gave the drink a light and fluffy quality.

And if you’re feeling frisky, top it all off with one of their homemade marshmallows. They are like white sugary sponges. In a really excellent way.

I feel like it might be my duty to sample all the flavors for you. So you know what to expect. Would you find that helpful? Ok, good. However, if you want to know the plan, you can check out the schedule of City Bakery’s hot chocolate offerings here.

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The other week I took a quick trip to ABC Kitchen for the very first time. Please hold your WHAT-TOOK-YOU-SO-LONG’s, as I honestly don’t have a good answer. Finally, an opportunity presented itself and I was able to squeak out of work on time AND snag a choice spot at their bar.

I was flying solo for this adventure, and I generally like the experience of dining out alone. I can concentrate on the food a bit more (I find John’s constant chatter about his hair distracting at times). The only drawback is that I sample fewer dishes. Consequently, this will be a mini-review. (As an aside, I suppose I could have ordered an 8 course meal all to myself while sitting at the bar, simultaneously sipping all their drinks, but that would probably have attracted a lot of unnecessary attention).

First, a word about the ambiance. ABC Kitchen is a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach. I couldn’t stop looking around me. The style of the first floor of ABC Carpet & Home has been organized into a restaurant with fantastic results. The weathered wood rafters are offset by textured and pristine white walls, while intricate light fixtures dangle delicately from above to create some impressive mood lighting (that is extremely bad for food photography in the evening).

The menu is organized into the usual categories (such as appetizers and entrees) but also includes a Market Table section, which is ABC’s version of a small plates selection. I decided to order from this list and chose the following:

The Crab toast with lemon aioli: The quote I got from the bartender/waiter on this dish was, “This is my favorite thing on the menu, and I don’t like crab.”  SOLD!

Crispy delicata squash, maple syrup and grated goat cheese: I didn’t actually need a hard-sell on this one, but I was waffling between this and some other choices, so to throw me back into the squash camp, my waiter said, “This dish has everything: salty, sweet – with a little drizzle of maple syrup and tang from the cheese.”

I also ordered a basil ginger fizzy drink that was exceptionally refreshing, even in the wintertime.

Photo by Amy Cao, AmyBlogsChow.com

The Crab Toasts arrived: four chunky slices of just-browned sourdough with fresh, white mounds of crab meat piled on top. The crab meat itself was incredibly mild-flavored, with just a hint of sweetness. The large chunks (as opposed to stringy shreds) of meat allowed me to really sink my teeth into this one. And the lemon aioli provided just a hint of tang, which you could augment by squeezing some of extra lemon wedges provided along side. It was an incredibly light dish that I could envision passing around at a summer BBQ (stand by for test kitchen experiments on this one).

I left no crab behind, and was subsequently greeted by my new love: crispy delicata squash. A light drizzle of maple syrup served as the stage for bangle-bracelet-sized squash rings ensconced in a fine, crispy shell.  The grated goat cheese provided just a touch of smooth, creamy saltiness, making this an achievement in both texture and flavor combination.

Like I said, I was in love. I glanced sideways to see if anyone would notice me licking my plate. Finally deciding that would be bad form, I settled for tweeting out to the world, “I am in love with a squash.” I think that was my most popular tweet ever, judging by the responses. People wanted details (which I gladly gave them), and one even requested to know the name of my love, the squash. This last request left me feeling a little cheap: I never asked it’s name. I was waaaay too involved it dragging it’s delicate fry overcoat through the syrup and then adorning it with tiny crumbles of cheese before devouring it.

Well, this just means one thing: I will need to go back. Hopefully it’ll give me a second chance. And a third…

Oh, and if you want to follow us on Twitter so you can continue to hear about the squash love affair (why wouldn’t you?) you can do that here.

*Photo of dining room from nymag.com (I put it in that fancy floral background, which is an illuminated piece of art outside ABC Kitchen).

Overall Experience: The Godfather – The Perfect Game


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