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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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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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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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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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It’s been a big year for us. Back in August we decided to start this blog and now we are on the other side of 2010 – meaning 2011.

Here are a few things we did in 2010, followed by a list of our favorites.

I ran some races. And drank some wine directly afterward.

I went to London with my friend Kaz and had my own cheese plate at Fortnum and Mason. Then I went to Scotland and had some coffee at The Elephant House, where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter. That was pretty cool for me.

I made some paella with CHORIZO for The Box for Father’s Day. Thanks, Tyler Florence!

We gave you some questionably recorded, but tasty recipes for Chicken Dip.

John rode a pink bicycle.

I became obsessed with a ginger mint slushie. Thanks, Kelvin Slush!

I got a fancy camera and started taking glamor shots of cookies (the above is from Brooklyn Larder).

Marmo and I went to Italy and ate everything we could.

We made a stop-motion animation about roasting a turkey.

We made fun of ourselves. Quite a bit. Here, here and here.

We made and ate A LOT of pizza. We even made a video about it in which John shows off his mad-crazy pizza skills.

And now our favorites from 2010. We don’t want to say “best of” because we feel that might be a bit heavy-handed. And we like to keep things light around here. Not that we have commitment issues or anything…In fact, quite the opposite. We feel that our favorites from 2010 will carry over into 2011, and maybe you’d like to try some of them in the New Year.

So, with that introduction and without further a-do, here is a non-comprehensive and non-exhaustive list of our favorite stuff. Grouped into non-sensical categories.

Favorite place to grab a drink on a Tuesday night:
Anfora Wine Bar: I’m (meaning Elana) here every Tuesday night for their “Producer Night” – a special night dedicated to one wine producer. Glasses are usually about $10-$12 for wines that aren’t normally poured by the glass. It’s a great way to learn about new wines, wine producers, and have some amazing Ricotta cheese. And lamb sliders. Joe Campanale, a partner at Anfora and sommelier is always in attendance to give you helpful information on the featured wines.

Favorite Coffee in Hoboken:
Maroon: Their French Pressed coffees are so delicious. Smooth, dark and rich, this is coffee at its most indulgent. And the flavors are amazing. I’m not usually a big flavored-coffee drinker, but I can’t help myself with these. The Macadamia flavor might be my favorite of the bunch. They also stock Brioche from Balthazar Bakery on Fridays and make their own delicious scones (love the oat variety with jam). I’ve been trying to become the mayor of Maroon on Foursquare, and as of January 1st, I finally achieved it! I’m not sure I’m cut out for politics…

Favorite Pizza in NYC (so far):


Elana: Kesté: The del Re. And when they have the Burrata (Thursdays – Sundays), I want to cry real tears of joy. Plus, that silver dome of pizza cookery is pretty wild.


John: Di Fara:  Minus the wait – this pizza joint is my favorite. The pie is a work of art, a labor of love. Watching Dom cook them up is a special thing; you know you are never going to get cheated out of an absolute masterpiece.

Favorite Place for Elana to Get Lunch When at Work:
Spoon: I’m addicted to their salads. I usually get either the Chicken Spinach or the Tuscan White Bean. And if it’s cold outside I order a large Orchid Oolong tea, grab a seat at one of the distressed farmhouse-style tables at the back and pretend I am a lady who lunches. Then I go back to work.

Favorite place to get the Largest, Ripest, Most Amazing Avocado this side of Wherever they Grow:
(which would be Brazil, California and Mexico, for example)
Sobseys Produce in Hoboken: Some of the best produce in the land. Mac and Michael hand-pick each piece.

Favorite Expensive British Cereal
Dorset Cereals: The berries and cherries flavor in the purple box is my favorite. They have a contest going right now on their home page: you can nominate a blog and the winner receives a case of cereal! A CASE! You wanna nominate us?

Favorite Meal I’ve Had This Year


Elana: Lunch of Pasta Cacio e Pepe with Fried Zucchini Blossoms at Roma Sparita in Rome.
John: Pumpkin Cappellacci with Brown Butter and Sweet Potato filling at Del Posto.

Most surprisingly good store bought pasta despite the cheesy label:


John: When home for the holidays recently, I was jonesin’ for some pasta and stumbled across a package of Giovanni Rana tortellini in my Mom’s pantry.  So I boiled some up, and made some sauce.  The pasta quality was pretty darn good!

Best ice cream condiment:


John: The homemade caramel sauce at Van Leeuwen’s Ice Cream in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.  The ice cream is also of top flight caliber – smooth, creamy and rich – but the sauce was outrageous. It has a bitter, tastily burnt characteristic to it which really compliments the sweetness of the ice cream.  The espresso, as seen above, was also wonderful.

Best Bathroom I’ve hung out in:


John: Del Posto’s bathroom.  Can we give these lavatories any more hype?  Ah, who cares.

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This week on the blog is dedicated to parties. We will be featuring all sorts of festive food inspiration for your holiday party needs. First up: a review of my holiday party in two parts (Part The Second to be featured later this week).

I never used to have parties. It seemed like a lot of stress to have to feed and water people at my place. And be in charge of them having a good time?? Yikes, waaaaay too much for me. And then one day I changed my mind. It happened last year at this time when I hosted my first holiday party. And it was GREAT fun. A dance party erupted in the kitchen (why do people ALWAYS congregate in that room above all others?) and lasted until 4:30 in the morning.

Based on this previous success, I decided to go for a repeat and this past Saturday was my second annual holiday party. My apartment is still recovering (as are my neighbors, most likely….sorry ’bout that…). I thought I would give you a run down – complete with recipes – of some of the edible highlights of the evening.

Since I was cooking for the occasion, all my guests were kind enough to bring the drinkables. We had some wonderful ones – not a dry glass in the place! Here a few highlights:

Hendricks Gin: My favorite. I really like gin. And this is the gin I like the bestest (many thanks to Dave for bringing this gem).

Hirsch 2008 Gruner Veltliner: I bought this one. Mostly because of the reindeer on the label. It was really light, crisp and clean.

Laird’s Applejack Rum: This was brought by Tim (hi, Tim– thanks!). This is the stuff that Van Leeuwen puts in their eggnog ice cream to give it a little punch.

New Castle Brown Ale Mini Keg: Everyone seemed to like this very much, but I have no idea what to do with the empty mini keg now. Do you throw that in recycling? Right now it’s on my kitchen floor, just hanging out.

Now onto the recipes! We begin with the Caramel Coated Brie:

What You Need:
1 wheel of Brie
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
a few pecans to make everything look pretty

What To Do:
Prepare an ice-water bath. Heat the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, swirling until sugar dissolves.

Cook, continuing to stir, until the mixture turns a dark amber color. Immediately dip the bottom of the pan in the ice-water bath to stop the cooking.

Place your Brie on a serving plate and pour the caramel sauce over the top. Place pecans decoratively around the edge. The caramel coating will get hard, like a candy shell.

Notes and Tips: When you are cooking the sugar and water, the mixture will get foamy. This completely freaked me out. Just keep stirring and acting like everything is normal, it will turn dark soon enough. Also, getting the pot clean after torturing it in this manner is quite an adventure. I added more water to the pot and heated it until the remains were all dissolved. Then I poured it out and immediately washed the pot.

* Recipe from Martha Stewart.

I think everyone’s favorite hors d’ oeuvre that I made was “Le Cake,” a recipe that I got from the book A Table in the Tarn, a French cookbook written by two British expats that live in the French countryside and run a boutique hotel. It’s a savory cake that I stuffed with Kalamata and green olives and Havarti cheese. I modified their version a bit, but it’s essentially the same. Here is how you make Le Cake (thereby becoming best friends with every one of your guests):

What You Need:
3/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
3/4 cup Green olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
4 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
plenty of freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cubed Havarti cheese (or other semi-soft cheese)
2 tbsp freshly chopped herbs (I used thyme)
1 cup milk (Note: I actually ended up using a bit more because my dough was a bit dry)
3 1/2 tbsp melted butter
1 large egg
3/4 cup créme fraîche (try not to eat it all before you mix it into your dough)

What To Do:
Grease a baking pan (or several smaller baking pans) and sprinkle with half the grated Parm. Whisk the flour, baking powder and seasonings in a large bowl (this is easier than sifting). Mix in the cheese, herbs, and olives.

In a small bowl, whisk the melted (and cooled) butter, egg, milk, and créme fraîche. Using a spatula, fold the wet ingredients into the dry until just mixed – the dough will be thick and sticky – stop mixing when it is just combined.

Turn the mixture into your prepared baking pans and sprinkle with the rest of the grated Parm. Bake for 30 minutes (for small pans) and 45-50 minutes for large pans at 350 degrees until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Keep in mind, if you hit cheese when you skewer-test your cake, it will be sticky.

Blammo: amazingness! Added bonus: your apartment will smell so good, guests won’t know what to do with themselves.

Continuing on with olives, I would like to mention something I did NOT make (GASP!) but was brought over by my friends Stacey and Tony: Blue Cheese Stuffed Green Olives. I think I ate the whole bowl by myself. Just get some green olives, some blue cheese, and stuff the cavity of the olive with the cheese. Put them in a pretty bowl with some toothpicks on the side and watch them disappear. Most likely by me, if I’m at your party.

You can also throw these little guys in a Bloody Mary as a garnish. And as my friend Meg says, “Who doesn’t like a drink that comes with food?” I just don’t know.

Also featured were Avocado Bruschetta (recipe here) and Bacon Wrapped Prunes. If you like bacon (YES!) and you also like that salty-sweet food combination, you’ll love this. And it’s ridiculously easy. Here’s how it goes:

What You Need:
Some dried, pitted prunes (get some plump juicy ones)
Bacon – one slice per prune, please!
Toothpicks – to hold the whole delicious device together

What To Do:
Fry up the bacon. When you have achieved your desired level of bacon crispiness, wrap the the strip of  bacon around the prune and spear it on a toothpick so it doesn’t all fall apart.

I will continue the rest of the recipes later in the week, but I am leaving you with two images from the evening to gear up your holiday party excitement. First, is our friend Drew. Drew wanted to be on the blog. And since he won the award for “Most Festive Pants,” I really felt like he deserved to be on it.

Now, I don’t give out the Most Festive Pants Award to just anybody. But look at those – kudos to you, Drew!

Finally, here is my Christmas tree. For those of you that are crazy enough to follow us on Twitter, you may know that my Christmas tree and I have been fighting. It was threatening to fall over the other day, so there is currently a mini pumpkin and an old, empty tin of pepper shoved into the tree stand to help it remain upright. Why don’t they try that with the Leaning Tower of Pisa?

* The graphic at the very top is a postcard I designed back in my old stationery-designing days. © Rosebud Design Studio.

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John and I have a long list of animals, minerals and vegetables that we are thankful for this Thanksgiving and holiday season (although John is less enthused about the vegetables). We love our family and friends (even Aunt Emily!), and we’re both really, REALLY thankful that we have the time, energy and resources to keep up this blogging madness.

I could go on in this manner, but instead I’m going to switch it up and offer you the John and Elana Talk About Food version of heartfelt thanks. Here we go…

Elana’s List:

1. I am thankful for our readers that tolerate the nutty things I say and indulge my questionable sanity.

2. For Anfora Wine Bar, where they keep letting me in the door even though I drink all their wine and eat all their fabulous ricotta cheese every time I visit.

3. For the really cool vendors that actually like it when we feature them on the blog: Van Leeuwen, City Cakes, McClure’s Pickles, Kelvin Slush and Astor Wines (check out Astor Wine’s Thanksgiving Wine Guide here).

4. The smoke detectors in my apartment.

5. John and his endurance of my incessant rambling about what I’m planning for the blog and recurring demands for content (Me: So, I want to make a movie that involves little crockery owls making a turkey. Allllll in stop motion animation. Cool? John: uh-huh)

6. Pyrenees Brebis cheese from Murray’s Cheese. It’s off the hook.

John’s Commentary: Elana – Half of the things you have mentioned involve you essentially pestering people for favors. It appears that little brother needs to keep an eye on you more often, so as not to scare anyone off.  Also, I don’t use smoke detectors.  They kept going off every time I slipped on my new Sanchez jersey.
Nonetheless, I’m thankful for:

John’s List:
1. My Pizza Stone

2. Truffle Oil

3. The unusually temperate weather for this time of year

4. The plethora of artisan pizzerias popping up in the area

5. Millionaire Matchmaker

6. My next culinary voyage to Italy in the spring of 2011

Elana’s Commentary: I think it was actually your pants being on fire (liar, liar) rather than the combination of you and the Sanchez jersey that set off the smoke detectors. However, if you plan to “keep an eye on me,” you may need to do better than the following (I’m on the green side):

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