Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Coffee Project New York

I had planned on a continuous stream of posting about my trip to Portland but a recent discovery has forced me to alter my best laid plans. I will return to Portland, but keeping with the theme of great coffee I felt compelled to share.

The weather has finally broken here in New York and so my rambles have become more frequent and longer. On a recent stroll through the streets of NYC I stumbled upon a small storefront with the words COFFEE PROJECT NY across the top. It triggered a vague recollection of possibly reading about it. Regardless, I investigated. I quickly realized I had read about the shop because of its signature offering, Project #1, the de-constructed Latte. More on that in a minute.

Coffee Project New York is the labor of love of Chi Sum Ngai and her partner Kaleena Teoh. Chi Sum trained as a barista in Portland (aha!) and moved to New York. Coffee Project NY is in the mold of the great coffee shops I found in Portland, run by passionate people with a deep appreciation for great coffee looking to serve a neighborhood and community. Chi Sum and Kaleena welcome you with a hello and a smile the second you enter the shop, doing everything possible to make you feel welcome. 




A small shop with a big heart



Coffee Project NY's beans are roasted for them in Red Hook and their milk comes from Salem, NY. They offer drip, all the expected espresso beverages, cold brew, chai & hot chocolate. They step it up from there. They offer nitro-coffee; cold brew run through a keg infused with nitrogen. I have had nitro-coffee at other places but none has come close to the one at Coffee Project NY. They have their beans for the nitro-coffee specifically roasted to enhance their sweetness. This works well with the nitrogen process which gives the brew a creamy texture without adding any dairy. I am light & sweet coffee guy so it means something when I tell you I did not add a drop of milk or single crystal of sugar to my nitro-coffee. The coffee is bright, with a light sweetness and thick, smooth texture. The closest comparison I can give you is a pint of Guinness poured in Dublin by a pro.




The special of the house is Project # 1, the de-constructed  Latte. Inspired by Slate Coffee Roaster's version in Seattle it is the impetus behind the shop. The de-constructed Latte is, in order, a shot of espresso, a shot of milk and a Latte. It is served on a board with a small glass of sparkling water and a sweet biscuit.


It tastes as good as it looks.


The milk is specially pasteurized at a lower temperature for a longer period to retain a taste similar to raw milk. It is consumed in the order listed to highlight and enhance the flavors and experience of the Latte. The theory is that by tasting the espresso on its own as well as the milk you are better are able to focus in on all of the distinct flavors when they are combined in the Latte. It works, and it is a delightful experience. The de-constructed Latte is only served in house which makes it the perfect excuse to stop for a moment in this hectic city, focus on something pleasant and truly enjoy the experience. I cannot recommend it enough.

All this would be reason enough to visit Coffee Project NY but they do not stop there. They also offer both and affogato (espresso with vanilla ice cream, one of my favorite things in the world) and a coffee-float (nitro-coffee & vanilla ice cream) Throw in some daily pastries and Coffee Project NY has all the bases covered.





Coffee Project NY is a solid twenty block walk from my home, making it a two mile round trip. It is not only worth every step but an inspiration to lace up and hit the pavement. Get ready to stretch your legs. The payoff is worth it.






Coffee Project New York - 239 East 5th Street, between 2nd & 3rd Avenue - http://www.coffeeprojectny.com/







Monday, May 23, 2016

5 Days in Portland - Volumie 1, Coffee Culture - Part 2, The Obsessives

Portland is filled with coffee obsessives and it can seem like every one of them has opened a coffee shop, which is a good thing. The number of coffee shops with just one or two locations is significant and it is even more amazing how many of them are roasting their own beans. Here are just a few of the great shops I visited during my brief visit. All are worth seeking out.


Extracto Coffee Roasters

Extracto Coffee Roasters has two locations, both in the Northeast. They have, hands down, my favorite logo, a clamp & coffee bean.




The shop on NE Prescott is in the same complex as Pok Pok Noi, Muscadine, a bakery and pot dispensary. The shop has a turntable spinning vinyl, a pour over station and antique containers for sugar and other condiments. The second shop and roaster are on NE Killingsworth. They have a full line of beans which are available in their shops. Their cortado is a winner, made from their house roasted Eleven of Spades blend. I picked up a bag and brought it home. It was great as espresso and equally as good used with a Chemex.


Photo taken in my kitchen, because I brought these beans back home.



Extracto cortado.


Extracto Coffee Roasters -   http://www.extractocoffee.com


Saint Simon Coffee Company

Saint Simon Coffee Company consists of a single shop on NE Broadway. I discovered it when I searched for coffee near where I was staying. The reviews were stellar. They use Coava beans and some reviewers felt they brewed Coava beans better than Coava did in their own shops. High praise.

The shop is small and feels a bit like Miike Snow album art come to life.





The cortado is fantastic, living up to the reviews. They have a few pastries in the morning and my two younger reviews gave their hot chocolate high marks. Small and singular, Saint Simon is worth seeking out.


St. Simon cortado. Another hand stamped cup.





Saint Simon Coffee Coffee Company - 2005 NE Broadway


Courier Coffee Roasters & Bar

The number one tourist destination in Portland is probably Powell's Books, and with good reason. The world's largest bookstore, an independent one to boot, is at the heart of this city and a reflection of it as well. It is just as popular with locals. That means when you go to Portland you will go to Powell's. And after hours browsing and wandering the endless aisles you will need coffee.

Powell's has a perfectly nice coffee shop in it (of course) but just down the street sits a small jewel that I would urge you to visit instead, Courier Coffee. This tiny store front, which has an energetic mix of DIY and Punk spirit, belies the ambition behind it. The store feels like a bootstrap operation, a turntable spinning tunes and coffee being made. But they are making great coffee, from their owns line of beans. There is roasting going on somewhere. The cortado is spot on. They also have an enticing bit of pastries and sweets. Not just chocolate chip cookies but one of the better canelés outside of France. These happen to come from their own ovens.

There are a lot of great things coming out of this small space. After coming from Powell's it may seem even smaller, but it is the perfect antidote for Powell's exhaustion and worth the half a block walk.





Courier Coffee Bar & Roasters - 923 SW Oak - http://couriercoffeeroasters.com/


Heart Coffee Roasters

Heart Coffee Roasters is a well know, well regarded roasting company with two coffee shops, one on the East side on Burnside and one on the West side on SW 12th Avenue.  Sharp, clean, minimalist  modern design runs through the shops, merchandise and website. They sell beans, coffee subscriptions,  coffee making equipment and merchandise (yes, they have a beanie) through their website and stores. It is what you would expect from a well run mini coffee empire.

The shop on E Burnside is large and spacious with high ceilings and ample seating. Large garage doors line the wall on Burnside. The cafe offers the usual coffee and espresso drinks as well as V60 and Aeropress.




They sell their full compliment of beans in handsome packaging. White dominates the design throughout Heart with black as the main contrast and splashes of color as accent.


Heart's compliment of beans. The big bag on the left with the black label is their Stereo Blend.

The cortado and all espresso drinks are made with their Stereo Seasonal Blend. It is a lovely, well balanced blend and they pull it well. I did not buy a bag of the Stereo and I am kicking myself. I will be ordering some.


I could say something groan worthy but I wont.


If you have any lingering doubts about Heart Coffee this will put them to rest. As befits a coffee company who's signature espresso blend is called Stereo, this 1970's beauty is the beating heart of the Burnside location, The Marantz 2270 Steriophonic Receiver. Some things were better in the 70s.



Am I jealous? Yeah.


Heart Coffee has a well deserved reputation and a loyal following. Fans of good design as well as good coffee would do well to seek them out. Plus you get to stare longingly at that source of the steriophonic sound.



Heart Coffee Roaster - 2211 E Burnside & 537 SW 12th Avenue - http://www.heartroasters.com/



This is just a small small sampling of the diverse and dedicated coffee scene in Portland. It is a small city with an outsize influence on the coffee culture in this country and Nirvana for the caffeine addict.  


Friday, May 6, 2016

5 Days in Portland - Volume 1, Coffee Culture - Part 1, Deadstock Coffee

It has been twenty years or so since I was last in Portland (Oregon, not Maine). Based on all I have read about the food and drinks scene in Portland, the fact that it has been central to the Third Wave of coffee in the US and, of course, Portlandia, I was expecting big changes to the city. What I found was a city with the great coffee you would expect, really good food, good drinks and a lot more room to grow. I'm sure if I was a native I would be decrying how overrun the place is. From a New Yorker's perspective, they are just getting started. The running joke as we drove all around Portland and its environs was "Damn, this traffic is killing me." In five days we spent a total of twenty minutes crawling in traffic. Oh the horror.

There are moments when you feel you are in a Portlandia skit. There are moments when you could be in Williamsburg or San Francisco. Over all you are in a small, livable city with nice people, lush green surroundings and a lot of good things to eat and drink. And oh, the coffee. That is where we start.

You would have to spend a month in Portland to try all the great little coffee spots. I only scratched the surface. My list is neither complete nor a claim to the best coffee in Portland. It is simply the places I visited and what I enjoyed, and I enjoyed all the places I visited. You would have to try really hard to have a bad cup of coffee in Portland. I didn't. Up first, Deadstock.


Deadstock Coffee

Deadstock Coffee was the first place I discovered. Of all the great coffee spots I found it was probably my favorite. The main reason is the specific theme of the shop and how thoroughly it reflects the personality and taste of its owner.


Deadstock was started by a former Nike employee who wanted a place to hang with fellow sneaker enthusiasts. Thus Deadstock was born. Located in a small storefront on NW Couch Street in the Old Town/Chinatown district of Portland, Deadstock crams a lot of personality into its small space. It is a shrine for sneaker heads and hoop fans. Classic kicks are on display as well as shoe boxes, basketball themed art and other great touches. It is fun and welcoming, without a wiff of coffee culture elitism that can pervade some shops.


Can you name them all?


 My favorite touch. Sorry Zo fans.





 What Nike fan shrine is complete without a tribute to the man who made the company.


Properly encased Air Jordans

If you recognize some, or all, of these, this is the spot for you.


Deadstock has my favorite sound system, bar none. Custom made by a friend of the owner who turns old suitcases into speakers. Sounds great and the chalkboard works.






Just about every shop in Portland hand stamps their cups.

Now there is no point in a coffee shop unless the coffee is good. Deadstock's is. Their beans are roasted for them by Dapper & Wise in Hillsboro, OR. No surprise, the packaging is dope.




My personal coffee shop test is the cortado. They make a great cortado. They do cold brew and are proud of their tea. The owner has also created his own mix of lemonade and cold brew which he calls a LeBron Palmer. Yeah.


Cortado!


Coffee, LeBron, sneakers and hoops. This is as far away from your coffee shop tropes as you can get. But wait, there's more. They offer  sneaker cleaning services. They have a sneaker themed blog on their website. To be clear, I am not a sneaker fanatic, and I am a lukewarm basketball fan. That did not stop me from loving this shop and its infectious personality. Hopefully it will inspire a new wave of personal, and personality driven shops. And the coffee is really good.









Deadstock Coffee - 412 NW Couch Street, Portland, OR - http://www.deadstockcoffee.com/



Friday, October 10, 2014

A weekend getaway packed with good wine, food and nature - The North Fork

Summer is finally giving way to fall, but the desire to be outside remains strong. Trips to the beach and backyard barbeques give way to apple picking and leaf peeping. We all know winter is just around the corner, so the desire to eek out a few more fun filled days outdoors is strong.

One of the best excursions I can recommenced is a wine tasting tour of the North Fork of Long Island. The North Fork is home to more than forty vineyards, producing everything from Chardonnay to Cabernat Franc and Sparkling Wine. Almost all of the vineyards have tasting rooms and on the weekends a number of them feature music and food along with their wine tasting. There are some really nice wines being made on Long Island. The following are a few favorites, some well known, some out of the way. Use them as a trusty starting guide then feel free to experience others. The worst thing that will happen is that you have some okay wine with friends in a beautiful setting.

In addition to the vineyards, you will find fantastic farm stands brimming with local produce, good restaurants and some of the prettiest countryside you will see. If you have spent any time on the South Fork and wondered what East Hampton or South Hampton looked like before the mansions, money and celebrities rolled in, the North Fork will give you a sense. It will send you back in time. It has that kind of magic.



Shinn Estate Vineyards


Shinn Estate Vineyards, one of the most well known and well regarded of the North Fork Vineyards,  was started By Barbara Shinn and David Page in 1998.  The couple had found success in New York City with their restaurant Home when they decided to buy twenty acres and an historic homestead in Mattituck. Not content to just try their hand at making wine, they wanted to use sustainable farming practices to do it. Today the vineyard is certified sustainable and is completely powered by solar and wind. But make no mistake, the wine making comes first.


Shinn Estate has a lovely patio and tasting room. Tastings are available by the glass or in flights. Small snacks, like a nice cheese plate, are available as well. In addition to their wines, Shinn makes an eau de vie, alembic brandy, grappa and grape vodka. 



Shinn Estate 2013 Coalescence, 2013 Rose & 2010 Cabernet Franc. This was not taken at the Vineyard.


Of the wines I have tried my three stand outs are: the 2013 Coalescence, a light and drinkable blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling, the 2013 Rose, dry and light with nice character and the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, which is one of the best Long Island reds I have had and begs for a grilled steak







In addition to the vineyard and distillery, Barbara and David run The Farmhouse, an Inn on the grounds of the vineyard in the historic homestead. If all this is not enough to entice you there is one more thing. Shinn Estate Vineyards sits at one end of Oregon Road, perhaps the loveliest stretch on the North Fork, which runs past farms, vineyards, old houses and some of the last potato trucks on the East End. You will be hard pressed not to find the beauty of the North Fork here.


Shinn Estate Vineyards - 2000 Oregon Road, Mattituck, NY, 11952 - http://shinnestatevineyards.com/




The Old Field


The Old Field is aptly named. It sits on land that was farmed for hundreds of years by Native Americans before European settlers bartered for it in 1640. The Baiz family has been farming the land since 1918. In 1974 Christian Baiz, the fourth generation to farm the land, decided to plant the first grapevines and transition the land into vineyards. Today The Old Field produces ten wines, all available to taste at the vineyard. This is a family affair, with the fifth generation joining their parents in running the vineyard. This family dynamic makes The Old Field one of the most welcoming vineyards you will ever visit.

The setting of The Old Field feels more like a family friendly farm than serious vineyard. The grounds are dotted with picnic tables that play host to big family gatherings. Small children run around, playing games and chasing the chickens that call the vineyard home. The tasting room is in one of the several picturesque old barns. It is as comfortable and bucolic a setting for tasting some wine that you will find.



Meandering toward the Tasting Room






Tasting options

Tastings are done by flight. Each person can choose the wines in their flight so if you come with a few people and you are willing to share you can taste all the wines The Old Field has on offer.

My favorites are the 2010 Cabernet Franc, The 2011 Chardonnay and the 2007 Blanc De Noir, a sparkling wine made with the Pinot Noir grape. 





Ask about the history of these cages in the tasting barn.








Sip some wine, meander down the farm road and take in land that has been cultivated since before Columbus completely missed the East Coast. These are the pleasures of The Old Field.


The Old Field - 59600 Main Road, Southold, NY, 11971 - http://www.theoldfield.com/




One Woman Wines

The one woman in question is Claudia Purita, a native of Calabria, Italy and a veteran of Long Island Kitchens. She started tending 16 acres of land in 2004 and her first vintage was 2007. The operation is small, with just a few hands helping Ms. Purita. The tasting room is the size of a chicken coop. A few picnic tables sit out front.



One Woman's tasting room.

One Woman's size allows Ms. Purita to be as hands on as possible and to focus on her wines. The proof is in the glass. One Woman produces, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Merlot, but the reasons I keep coming back are her two wines with Austrian roots, Gruner Veltliner and Gewurztraminer.

 




One Woman is the only producer of Gruner Veltliner on Long Island and one of the few making Gewurztraminer. She has two vintages of each, the younger 2013s, which are light and drinkable, and the 2012s, which have more depth and character and are excellent. The Gewurztraminers are crisp with floral and herbal notes. The Gruner Veltliners are dry with tastes of fruit and citrus.  In fact, they are my two favorite whites from the North Fork. If you are unfamiliar with these grapes One Woman's wines are an perfect place to start. They would be welcomed in any restaurant in Austria and Germany. For proof I give you my mother, a native of Germany, who visited One Woman with me and walked out with half a case. Mom knows best.





One Woman 2012 Grüner Veltliner, 2012 Gewürztraminer, Dessert Wine. Again, photo not taken at the vineyard.


One Woman also makes a delicious dessert wine from their Gewurztraminer grapes. Definitely try it while you are there. Tastings are by the glass or in flights. There is a standard flight and a reserve flight. In a nice touch, and one more vineyards should offer, tastings are free with the purchase of two or more bottles of wine. You will buy at least two bottles, I promise. One Woman also hosts tastings "Under the Stars" on Saturday Nights from Memorial Day to Columbus, with a free family friendly movie, bonfires and s'mores. One Woman is more proof that good things come in small packages (or parcels).




One Woman Wines and Vineyards - 5195 Old North Road, Southold, NY, 11971

www.onewomanwines.com 




The Winemaker Studio

Tucked in an old house on a small lane in Peconic is The Winemaker Studio. The Winemaker Studio is a cooperative tasting room started by Anthony Nappa, the winemaker for Raphael Vinetards. The studio focuses on private label wines by local winemakers. Mr. Nappa's Anthony Nappa Wines are featured but wines by other local winemakers like Russell Hearn of Lieb Cellars, John Leo of Clovis Point and Erik Bilka of Castello di Borghese  are represented as well. . The Winemaker Studio gives you the chance to experience personal expression from some of the top local winemakers in a single, cozy setting. What's not to like?






In addition to the private label wines The Winemaker Studio also focuses on local, small production wines and unusual wine styles. It even offers a few local spirits and beers. If you are a wine geek, The Winemaker Studio is for you.




Mr Nappa and his wife Sarah, a chef, recently opened Provisions & Ingredients in the adjoining building. The store is stocked with gourmet food from New York and Italy and offers a small menu of tapas, plates and pressed sandwiches that are can be eaten in The Winemakers Studio. This is one stop shopping and the perfect place to relax for an hour with friends.





The Winemaker Studio - 2885 Peconic Lane, Peconic - http://www.winemaker-studio.com/tws_home.html




A man's gotta eat, especially if that man (or woman) keeps tasting wine. There are a lot of good spots on the North Fork but, if you are like me, and you are this close to the water,  you want seafood. Luckily for you, Southold has one of the best seafood spots around.



Southold Fish Market





Formerly housed in the Port Of Egypt marina, Southold Fish Market, which has relocated to new digs just down the street, is a seafood store and restaurant in one. The market features fresh, locally caught fish and shellfish. If you are spending time in the neighborhood and are planning on grilling, this is your place. If you are just spending the day, or a weekend, this is also your place. The restaurant features all that great seafood on their vast menu. All the fried seafood staples, like fish and chips and fried clams are available as well as healthier but no less tasty items like grilled tuna sandwiches and fish tacos.


The front counter.




Inside seating.



An appetizer of crab bites, fried mini crab cake balls with a house made remoulade are not to be missed.



Crab bites.




If you are a lobster roll fan, Southold Fish Market's over sized roll, stuffed with lobster meat, is a must.



Lobster roll.




Did I mention the bacon wrapped scallop quesadilla? Daily specials are available, based on what is fresh and what creative spark comes to mind in the kitchen. In a nut shell, they know their way around seafood.





Southold Fish Market is the summer fish shack we all wish we lived near, but with even higher aspirations. It will not disappoint.

Southold Fish Market - 64755 Route 25, Southold


I have just scratched the surface of the joys that can be found on the North Fork. For beer fans, Greenport Harbor Brewing Company has two tasting rooms. The original nestled in the heart of beautiful Greenport and their new, larger brewery, is conveniently located right on Route 25 in Southold, right in the heart of the wine trail.

 http://www.greenportharborbrewing.com/


There are hikes, historic sites, apple and pumpkin picking and much more. The starting point for the North Fork,  Riverhead, is only 75 miles from Manhattan. As you make your way along Route 25 through Jamesport and Mattituck, on through Southold and Greenport and all the way to Orient Point you will feel like you are a world away. Here are a couple of good resources for your trip:

 http://www.northfork.org/

http://www.liwines.com/

http://www.edibleeastend.com/


So go and discover the bounty the North Fork has to offer. You will be hooked quicker than a hungry bluefish.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A little tip - Telegraphe Cafe, a hidden oasis in a retail desert.

The corner of 18th Street and 6th Avenue is one of those places New York City dwellers eventually find themselves. This is the heart of the mass of big box stores that run this stretch of 6th Avenue. At this intersection Old Navy, The Container Store, Bed Bath & Beyond, TJ MAXX, Modell's, West Elm and a Chase Bank all stand. The real Mall of Manhattan. We have all stood there, exhausted, frayed and shopped out with kids who are tired, hungry and probably crying. All you needed was a spot to drop your shopping bags and have a coffee and get something for the kids. Sure, City Bakery is down the street, and we love it, but it is always packed. What else is there?

Telegraphe Cafe.




First the embarrassing part. I believe Telegraphe Cafe has been there for at least 10 years. I just discovered it. I can only wonder how many times I have walked by it, not giving it a second thought. I bet you have too. That is about to change.

Don't kick yourself like I did. Telegraph is tucked off on 18th Street, just west of 6th Avenue. The entrance is off what looks like a side entrance or employee entrance for The Container Store. There is a big red sign above the entrance that is less than appetizing. A glance through the windows does not reveal much. Step inside and things start to change.





The space is small. A counter with stools runs along the windows. Five two top tables are tucked into a corner. People are lined up to order. Then you get that first smile. The folks behind the counter are warm and welcoming. They take your order and pass you down to pay. Quick and efficient. The gentlemen at the register greets you like a friend. A French accent perhaps?

Coffee, tea and espresso drinks are at the heart of the cafe. Small and focused breakfast and lunch menus are available. How about an egg, ham & cheese sandwich? Sure. At Telegraphe Cafe the cheese is swiss and instead of ham they have prosciutto. It does not come on a roll. Your options are a croissant (of course), a bagel or bread. I actually went for the multi-grain roll. I never go for the mulit-grain roll. Something is going on here.



Egg & prosciutto on multi grain, I skipped the cheese. Yes. I took a bite. I was hungry. It was good.




A fruit salad at first glance looks like a bowl of grapes. Digging in you discover blueberries as well as strawberries and apple cut small. Then you notice the hint of mint and touch of honey. Delicious. Once again, there is more than meets the eye.


Not your average bowl of grapes. I may have eaten a little bit of this before the photo as well.




Those five tables tucked in the corner run along a surprisingly comfortable banquet.  Use of the free Wifi is encouraged. It is surprisingly tranquil. You envy the constant flow of people from the neighborhood who flow in. Clearly they come in all the time. How could you have passed by so many times and not gone in? A glance at the lunch menu reveals a nice list of sandwiches and salads. You notice the couple behind the counter. The gentleman with the accent who maned the register. Is that his wife running back and forth from the kitchen? You think so. French? Definitely. Maybe that explains it. Telegraphe Cafe would be a lovely little spot in any neighborhood, but in this retail zone, in a space that would more likely hold a crappy deli or dollar slice joint, it is a welcoming oasis. Now that I know it exists, I will never be hungry or thirsty in this chain store desert again. Neither will you.





Telegraphe Cafe - 107 West 18th Street, between 6 & 7th Avenue, Chelsea - http://telegraphecafe.com/