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Entries in Blue Bottle Coffee (5)

Thursday
Jul122012

Sweaty Smorgasburg

The day before I experienced the legendary pizza at Saraghina, I trekked on over to Smorgasburg for the very first time.

I know, I know...what the $%^& took me so long? I don't know. What I DO know is that I'm glad I waited. There was (and still is) tons of hoopla surrounding the Brooklyn food movement. New York Magazine dedicated an entire feature to the indie food producers of BK. And Smorgasburg is the Burning Man food equivalent, collecting many of the foodie greats into a Williamsburg lot.

When I entered the lot, and noted the aisles of vendors, my stomach squealed with delight. So many exciting items! So many things to eat! I was under prepared. Specifically, I didn't bring enough dollar bills. Halfway through I had to leave and locate an ATM so I could give these hipster foodies more of my cash money. And I did that gladly.

I first stopped at the Blue Bottle coffee stand so I could cool off (it was once again 2,320,957,2309,234 degrees) and hep myself up on their Iced New Orleans brew. It's my favorite, with a slight chickory edge, softened by a bit of sweetness. I like mine with soy milk or half and half, the lower-fat content milks do nothing for the flavor. 

Cool and caffeinated, I could now approach the food vendors.

The Greenpoint Trading Company was my first stop. I was intrigued by their line-up of spices with which they had seasoned popcorn with as samples. I selected the "El Capitan" BBQ rub. It's a complex mixture of salt, sugar, paprika, cayenne and chili peppers and celery salt with some brown sugar for a maple-y flavor. Even though it's a BBQ rub, I oven-roasted some sweet potato slices sprinkled with this stuff and some olive oil and was delighted with the results. Give it a try.

After that, I encountered Granola Lab. After sampling all of their various flavors, I selected the Strawberry Lemon Thyme. It was unique and delicious. Sweet strawberries, fresh lemon and just a touch of herbal thyme. 

Next up, Grady's Cold Brew. I love the idea of cold brew concentrates. Keep it in the fridge and doctor up your mixture. You can dilute it with either water or milk, or not.... The guys at Grady's allowed me to sample their mixture both with and without milk. To me, it was rich and sweet, like chocolate. I could drink it black, and I usually like some milk in my coffee. Since then, I've been pouring espresso-sized shots into my post-workout smoothies. Here's a recipe if you'd like to try:

What You Need:
8oz soy milk
1 shot glass of Grady's Cold Brew
1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder (you can use a chocolate protein powder if you're looking for more protein)
1 small banana
1 heaping teaspoon of Chia seeds (optional, but I like them for added protein)

What To Do:
Throw it all in the blender (you can add ice if you like it granita-style) and sip with a straw!

It was at this point that I noticed a Smorgas-goer carrying around a plate of teeny-tiny s'mores. I accosted him (hopefully not aggressively) and demanded to know where he procured them. Thankfully, the Mystery S'More Eater was used to this behavior (and in fact, I made similar demands of about 6 other people that day who also found it normal behavior). He pointed genially toward the S'more Bakery stand and I ambled (ran) over to partake in their marshmallow samples. I selected a to-go bag of two Black 'n' White s'mores: giant, puffy coconut marshmallows sandwiched between cake-like dark chocolate grahams, dusted with granulated sugar on one side and coated with dark chocolate ganache on the other. Toast them in up or heat in the microwave for maximum s'more-effect! Mine got a little mangled in my bag of Smorgas-goodies, but this did not effect their taste. 

Truth be told, I was not yet sampled-out. Although, I was starting to crave real food. Salt. Perhaps because it was the aforementioned 2,320,957,2309,234 degrees and my electrolytes were dwindling. To offset this problem, I visited the Stuart and Co. BBQ stand where the Bitchin' BBQ sauce samples were distributed in tiny wooden boats of pulled pork!

These guys obviously know a thing or two about presentation, being a catering company. They also know a thing or two about moist chunks of pork, surrounded in just the right amount of BBQ sauce. Their sauce is nicely balanced with a touch of peppery heat working with some sweet maple notes. I bought a jar and plan on giving it to The Box for his birthday. Along with...

Image from charlitoscocina.com ...some charcuterie! I mean, who doesn't want cured meats for their birthday? I selected the Campo Seco Dry Cured Country Sausage from Carlito's Cocina. Pasture raised pork, cured with a delicate fleur de sel. Simple, versatile and oh sooooo wonderful. I know it was hot and generally everything was melting, but this moist and salty pork did melt in my mouth. Make no mistake, I tried all their offerings, and I very much enjoyed the chorizo (hello, omlettes!) and the black truffle (I can see this as a great modification to a pasta Amatriciana).

Finally, it was time to eat. For realsies. I was hungry for lunch. But what to have. There were so many options, and mostly all of them looked good to me. As I was standing in the middle of an aisle looking lost, I saw a gent saunter by with two large pretzel bread sandwiches. YES! 

"What ARE those? And where did you get them?" I asked him. 

"They're from the Schnitz stand over there," he pointed me to my right, "I have not tried them, but I hear good things."

"Hearing good things" is generally enough for me when I'm hungry. So, I went with that and approached the booth. Schnitz offered two options, and I selected the Bamberg:

This sandwich was something special. Dark chicken meat, wonderfully juicy was thickly coated with crispy Panko breadcrumbs  seasoned with parsley. I do love a thick crumb on a piece of meat. The pickled cuke's threw in a tangy sweetness, while the caramelized onion dijon mustard was such a winner, I hardly know where to start. I do love a caramelized onion...but combined with a biting dijon flavor really makes them stand out. The whole affair is sandwiched in a Tom Cat Bakery Pretzel Roll that is buttery soft.

After my Schnitz break, I ambled the stalls for a while longer, sampling some Hibiscus Citrus Ginger Soda from Brooklyn Soda Works and some Dark Chocolate Chai "Ice Cream" (it's coconut based, so it's dairy free) from Alchemy Creamery.

Double-fisting these refreshing items, I departed Smorgasburg (regretfully, although I was out of cash for the second time) and made my way back to the L train, already planning my next trip back. This time, I'll need to take some reinforcements...any takers?

Thursday
Nov102011

It's the Coffee!

I have a hilarious story for you. It involves coffee. Will you indulge me? Oh goodie!

When I was living in Los Angeles, a friend of mine from high school came to visit me with her husband in tow. I agreed to give them a driving tour (nobody walks in LA) of Los Angeles in Bubbles, my 2003 silver Beetle (that was incidentally just leveled by a tree at Iaciofano HQ during the most recent snow storm.

Can you spot the Beetle amongst the tree?Before venturing out, I made them brunch, complete with coffee. My friend's husband apparently overindulged in the caffeinated beverage and became...um...uncomfortable during the driving tour. My friend kept shouting at him from the backseat, "DAN, it's the coffee!!" in response to his repeated, feeble assertions of not feeling well.

I am here to say, that yes. It was indeed the coffee. And also probably the Excedrin he took along with it. But that's neither here nor there.

Readers, in San Francisco, it's the coffee! Specifically, in this post we are going to talk about Blue Bottle Coffee and Four Barrel Coffee, both of which I consumed in such copious amounts that it's actually surprising I'm getting any sleep at all — even days later.

Immediately upon disembarking my transcontinental flight, I made haste to my hotel which was within walking distance of the SFMOMA. Yeah, art's great and all...but they have a Blue Bottle Coffee Shop on the fifth floor next to the sculpture garden! Priorities. I need caffeine to look at extra-modern art. And then I can groove with the interpretive dancers cruising across the makeshift bridge on the third floor. But not before.

So I sauntered up to the Blue Bottle stand and ordered a cappuccino. And a ham and cheese sandwich.

I have to hand it to the barista at the Blue Bottle counter. Quality control is difficult. And when you start spreading your product around various locations (including museum stands in sculpture gardens), you really never know what you're going to get. 

I would like to report that the Blue Bottle baristas run a tight (caffeinated) ship. This cappuccino was superbly prepared: deep, strong coffee was topped with expertly frothed foam in one of the prettiest designs I have seen.

I really love it when the darker swirls of the coffee mix with the creamy white patterns of the milk and you get something like a chocolate colored rainbow. Don't you? I thought so.

No sooner was I done dancing across the mezzanine than my friend Kaz reported that her airborne transport had descended onto the earth and she was making her way toward me via horseless carriage.

Caffeine is a wonderful thing, people! Just go with the wacky language - it won't hurt you!

Upon collecting Kaz at the hotel, she reported that she was in immediate and dire need of a caffeinated beverage. Who was I to disagree with her reasonable demand? Thus, we immediately made our way to the Mission district to visit Four Barrel Roasters.

I was immediately impressed by the wacky, eclectic and even thoughtful atmosphere of this coffee shop. There were tall bar tables gracing the sidewalk outside accompanied by the most impressive bike rack parking that seemed one part Elfa Storage System and one part jungle gym.

Indoors, the spacious shop sported wood panelled ceilings, ship-rope lighting fixtures, and....wait for it...TAXIDERMED WILD BOAR HEADS! Multiple ones at that. I wonder if they are from this guy's collection?

This time I ordered a macchiato. I was rationalizing drinking more coffee by choosing a beverage that comes in a smaller cup. I'm not sure that logic was sound. To make up for potential faulty logic, I also ordered a chocolate donut flavored with cardamom and topped with a sprinkling of brown sugar.

I assumed that the donut would, of course, erase the error of all my ways as donuts often do.

I would say that both macchiato and donut accomplished this and then some. No sooner had I downed that miniature carafe of rich and slightly smoky espresso than I was swinging from the bike rack monkey bars, cautioning passers-by not to "tell me what I can't do!"

This coffee and donut snack was was obviously destiny.

The kiss of cream was a touch more generous than I am used to receiving in my macchiati, however it was not too much to push it over the edge into the cappuccino category. I must note that the milk art was not quite as lovely as my Blue Bottle cappuccino's.

And let me take a moment for the donut. Kaz and I shared this chocolate spice cake creation, dividing our respective halves with the precision of T-Square wielding architect. No crumb left behind! The dense chocolate cake was bittersweet (and not just because I wanted to eat Kaz's half as well). The spicy punch from the cardamom was sweetened and smoothed over with a delicate crunch of brown sugar.

Perhaps this is how the wild boar on the walls were entrapped...with cardamom donuts and coffee. John Locke could leave his suitcase of hunting knives behind.

And so, in conclusion, you attract more wild boar with coffee and donuts than with vinegar; cappuccino, interpretive dance and ham go fantastically well together, and there is always a decorative use for taxidermy.

Four Barrel Coffee

Blue Bottle Coffee

* To read my previous review on Blue Bottle Coffee, click here.

Wednesday
Nov092011

I Left My Stomach in San Francisco!

Before I get into it, a note of thanks. To all of you.

I had a fantastic birthday. Off the charts. And many of you had something to do with it. So thank you.

And thank you, San Francisco. What a great city to celebrate in...i ate everything it offered. Well....almost. It was close, people, very close. I'm going to take you on a fun tour of what I ate in San Francisco over the next few days – the highlights.

The below image is a hotel room collage of some of the evidence:

Not everything in this photograph is edible. But Elana's Gastronomic Tour of San Francisco will cover such topics as:

Tartine Bakery – a line worth waiting on. Bring a large bag. Fill it with pastry. Get back on line. Repeat.

The Ferry Building Farmers Market – Thank goodness I do not live within walking distance of this place. They would have all my money. And I would leave with things like packages of dried heirloom tomatoes, farm fresh meats and mushmallows. Yeah, I said "mushmallow." More on that later.

Una Pizza Napoletana – The crust! Ye GODS, the crust!

California Wine – YES! I'm now especially fond of a Carignane from Donkey and Goat.

Bi-Rite – I have a gourmet food-related impulse purchase problem (*see also Ferry Building Farmers Market).

California Coffee – Four Barrel vs. Blue Bottle. I will take both early and often, please!

Socks – It was kind of chilly. So I bought some. Aided by a few Gin Bloody Marys at an extended brunch featuring a duck ragout.

And speaking of gin...Speakeasies! Sidle through the secret door, study the 40 page epic drink menu, and keep your voice down for crying out loud. This is an establishment of repute!

I will take you through all this. Slowly, and with patience. And then we will detox... just in time for Thanksgiving.

But we also have a winner!

I decided to give away one of my Top Your Pizza cookbooks plus a little San Fran treat. The treat is a fun package of caramels I picked up at the Ferry Building. And the winner? The winner is MADDIE! Maddie, I'll give you a shout via email. Thanks for commenting!

Thursday
Jul142011

Will Travel For Food - Rockaway Park Edition

As long as these warm, sunny days of summer persist, I will be taking my food adventures out-of-doors as much as possible. I will travel to the far reaches of the universe – like Queens! – in order to bring you outdoor eats reviews.

Last week during my "staycation" I travelled to Rockaway Park in Queens with a friend to test the waters, not of the ocean but of the food vendor scene on the boardwalk. There are a host of eating opportunities right on the boardwalk, around 96th Street.

My first stop was a cluster that included Babycakes, Motorboat & The Big Banana, and a smoothie stand (name unknown, but it was right next to Ode to the Elephants).

First, I sampled a mini Cookie Crumble donut from Babycakes. Babycakes makes gluten-free Vegan treats in many forms, but I am always attracted to donuts. Particularly mini ones. The dough on this one was very satisfying, as it was more like cake in consistency. Dense and squishy, with a "yellow" vanilla flavor, it was perfectly balanced by the crumble topping, juuuust enough frosting and a delicate accent of chips.

You can check out Babycakes full menu here.

My companion procured the above fantastic fried fish sandwich from Motorboat and the Big Banana. The ridiculousness of the name of this institution has not escaped me, but neither did a few bites of this sandwich. Packed with flavor and nestled between a lightly toasted potato bun, various cabbages and decorated with a tangy tartar, this "sangwich" was exceptionally light and fresh. The fish fry was noteworthy: light, slightly salty and crispy.

For Motorboat's location, see Yelp's listing here.

At the unnamed smoothie stand, I ordered up a Tropical Smoothie. Blended with papaya, banana and soy milk, this concoction was ever-so-slightly sweet and amazingly light. No heavy post-smoothie regret here. Am i the only one that experiences that?

Brought to you by the guys behind Roberta's and the Meat Hook, Rippers offers hamburgers and fries, but also freshly squeezed juices. I opted for a cucumber and mint that I downed with surprising speed. Easy, breezy. And I'd go back for another.

Rippers at Rockaway Park

We then veered off the board-walked path to an adjacent Rockaway Taco location (Rockaway Taco does have a boardwalk stall, but the word on the street was that the tacos were better at this location).

Upon arriving, I was immediately transported to Venice. California, that is. Beach combers ambled up to a cobbled-together, white-washed shanty with surf boards and chalk board menus to order their tacos. The place seemed to have sprouted from the ground, nurtured by the salty sea breezes and a sprinkling of cilantro.

I ordered a Delux Fish Taco (delux = guac) and a side of Fried Plantains.

There was nothing complicated about this taco. The fish was simply battered and fried, yielding a light and crispy white filet. The fresh cabbage was accented by radish slivers for a bitter crunch. And the guacamole was smooth, buttery and flavored with just the right amount of cilantro. I added a touch of salsa verde from the condiment bar, and I was in fried fish taco heaven.

And now for the Fried Plantains. I happen to love plantains. Put them on a menu and I will be compelled to order them. Like bananas, but better, when plantains are fried they accomplish the ultimate in texture contrasts: a gushy center of sweet mushiness with a crispy and even chewy caramel crust. Rockaway Taco's plantains were just that, with a little cheese crumble on top for a bit of savory balance.

Rockaway Taco

After all this food, we were getting sleepy. Obviously caffeine was needed, and Blue Bottle Coffee happens to have a Rockaway Park Boardwalk location. I have to admit, I was looking forward to visiting their stall all day. Since my recent trip to their Williamsburg shop, I haven't been able to stop thinking about their Iced New Orleans Coffee.

This was exactly what I ordered and it was as good the second time around as it was the first. Thank goodness for you, Blue Bottle.

Blue Bottle Coffee

Finally, as a graphic designer, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the excellent signage we found while scouring the place for edible treats.

I passed this first one over to my triathlon team, just to remind them of potential hazards:

The hand-drawn sign played a prominent role at Rippers:

And while your mind is being blown, be careful not to choke:

As we biked out to Rockaway Park from Brooklyn – a leisurely 1 3/4 hour ride, we opted for the A train on the way home. For those lacking a bike, have no fear, the A train is a capable and amiable steed. With lots of room for bikes, should you decide you can't even imagine riding yours home after all those tacos, coffee, smoothies and mini donuts. And there might have been a burger in there too. Just sayin'.

 

Wednesday
Jul062011

Brooklyn Day – Part The First: Williamsburg

Last Monday I had the day off. The whole day, people! I hardly knew what to do with myself.

Except that I did: I wanted to go to Brooklyn. I don't get the opportunity very often, as my life seems to circle around the all-consuming triangle of Hoboken, Chelsea and the Flatiron District during the work week. But given a day off, I jumped on the L train and headed to the 'Burgh. For brekkie.

By which I mean breakfast, of course. If you were to suggest to me that I sneak in some activities before breakfast, I would assume you are one of the following:

1. Crazy

2. Nuts

I don't do things before breakfast. It's just not right: nothing good can come of it. So, with that being said, the only problem remained, where to breakfast? I chose Marlow & Sons, owned the operated the same people as Diner, which is right next door.

I truly enjoy when good food and design collide. I hadn't yet put Marlow & Sons food to my lips, but I was immediately impressed by their turn of the century menu design, which incorporated the ubiquitous NYC pigeon. Nice work.

I chose the Poached Eggs with Sauteéd Greens and Toast.

I love a poached egg. And these were ENOURMOUS, perfectly cooked so that the ooey-gooey yolk had just the right amount of oooze to it, and sprinkled with sea salt and a smattering of cayenne pepper. The "greens" were lamb's quarter greens – like a blend of spinach and arugula with just a hint of bitterness. The appeared to have been simmered in a broth of a chicken variety, as they were wonderfully seasoned and sported a ringlet of juice. The bread – a multigrain – was soaked (in a good way) in butter and stock juices.

I left no evidence behind, excpet a spotlessly clean plate.

My belly was full, so I could enthusiastically devote myself to a day of activities. That involved food, of course. As I ambled back to Bedford Avenue, I stopped into Marlow & Daughters, the specialty market the final member, completing the trio of Diner and Marlow & Sons.

These Daughters, whoever they are, know a thing or two about gourmet food selection. Fresh and ripe produce was arranged in crates outside, while the inside was stocked with goodies including these tiny pepperoni that I picked up for The Box:

He devoured them (practically whole). Next time, I'm going to try the pork and beans:

I also picked up a copy of the intriguing periodical Diner Journal. Stocked with well-written food-related stories, illustrations of mixed drinks and shellfish, and enough enticing recipes to keep me busy for some time, this magazine is a true gem. You can find out more about it here.

Marlow & Sons
81 Broadway Williamsburg, Brooklyn NY 11211

Marlow & Daughters
95 Broadway Williamsburg, Brooklyn NY 11211

Around this time, I was feeling the need for coffee. I had not yet visited Blue Bottle Coffee in Williamsburg. Before you gasp in horror, just know: the situation has been rectified. I have gone. And would like to go every day if I only could. I actually left that place with a tear in my eye that I could not go more frequently.

Check out these fancy-pants gizmos that drip the cold brew coffee (Kyoto and New Orleans blends):

Like giant hourglasses measuring the passage of time in drips of caffeine rather than grains of sand.

The folks at Blue Bottle are pretty good at carrying their signature color throughout the shop – even the espresso machine is decked out in it.

And the coffee – did I mention how good it was? I chose the New Orleans cold brew, as the barista instructed me that this blend would be best with soy milk (my chosen mix-in). He recommended drinking the Kyoto black and I wasn't brave enough to disagree with him. He commanded an air of authority.

Let me tell you, I sucked down that New Orleans coffee like nobody's business. Slightly sweetened to take the edge off the chicory flavoring, smooth as a freshly iced cake, and rich as trust fund baby. I wanted to swim in a vat of it. Next time, perhaps.

Blue Bottle Coffee
160 Berry Street, Brooklyn, NY

After the coffee, I needed some carbs. Wouldn't you? The answer is yes. I strolled into the Northside Bakery, attracted both by the turquoise storefront and the promise of authentic Polish baked goods. While the fruit-infused crumbly bread shown above looked incredibly enticing, I opted for a multi grain loaf literally bedazzled in seeds of all varieties:

Having eaten most of the loaf throughout various parts of that day, I can attest that it is highly satisfying: packed with grains, delightfully chewy on the inside (so much so you just want to squeeeeeeze it) and the crust is both flaky and hearty with a glimmering egg-white sheen.

Northside Bakery
149 North 8 Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211

That concludes my tour of Williamsburg. Next up: Clinton and Cobble Hills where I encounter the Forbidden Donut, a formidable ice cream soda and side walk chalk! Stay tuned...