A passion for food + fashion

Posts Tagged ‘COFFEE’

Do You Take Your Coffee Wet or Dry?

In Drink on March 12, 2012 at 9:12 am

Earlier this year, I ordered a cup of single-origin Verve Ethiopian Worka to-go and grabbed a bag of the same beans from SO (which stands for Single Origin) in the Original Farmers Market. Despite my protest that I don’t like super fruity coffees, the barista assured me it was “amazing.” And amazing it was. But not in a good way. At first I thought the fancy pour-over technique must be to blame for the drink’s curiously familiar nuances, but when I got the beans home and brewed a pot myself, my 3 year old confirmed what I was already thinking. “Mommy, I smell poop.” More specifically, it smelled like a dirty diaper, a sentiment I uncharitably tweeted later that day.

But I’d had enough. Single Origin. Coffee Cupping. Pour Over. Cold brew. Coffee culture was, to my mind, spiraling out of control—and this coming from a wine writer! Don’t get me wrong. I love coffee, and I love GOOD coffee. But I hate that at the serious coffee joints in San Francisco and New York that a cup of joe is accompanied by a condescending sigh when I ask to add a splash of milk to a sludgy cup. So it was with great surprise that I opened a friendly email from Colby Barr, owner of Verve Coffee Roasters in Santa Cruz, in response to my unfriendly words about his elite beans.

“Sooooooo, you didn’t like the Ethiopia Worka. Cool,” he wrote in an email entitled “Worka no Workie.” And thus began my education. The Worka, he explained, is what’s known as a “dry-processed” coffee. Dry processed coffee beans, or cherries, are dried with their skins on, which leads to an influx of sugars and fruit compounds into the coffee. “Wet-processed” coffees are stripped of their skin and fruit (i.e. pulp) before the beans are dried, yielding cleaner, crisper coffees—the kind of coffee I like to drink. He sent me these photos to illustrate:

Wet-processed coffee beans

Dry-processed coffee beans

“I think it’s safe to say that you do not like dry-processed coffee,” Colby concluded. “They can be love/hate for sure.” So I decided to give one of Verve’s wet-processed coffees a try and got a pound of Don Mayo from Costa Rica, which I served at brunch that weekend to a bunch of neighborhood girls. Everyone—myself included—loved it. Creamy and smooth with honeyed notes, it was perfection. And I’ve tried several more of Verve’s wet-processed coffees and am one smitten customer. And for those of you who like fruit bombs (and, I’m sure, all sorts of nuanced molasses complexity that is lost on me), do give the dry-processed beans a try. Thank you, Colby!

Show a Little Love

In Drink on March 2, 2011 at 5:53 pm

By no means do I have the perfect marriage (mostly because I am one half of that equation). But I am married to the perfect partner, one who reminds me that it’s the little things that matter most. A couple Sundays ago before I had woken up—and after a particularly stressful week—my husband brewed a pot of Intelligentsia Tanzania Edewlweiss coffee and brought me a copy of the New York Times in bed. He then offered to take our two-year-old son to the Santa Monica Airport observation deck for a couple hours to watch the planes take off and land so I could have a quiet morning to myself. If I think about it, it has probably been, well, over two and a half years since I’ve enjoyed a Sunday morning that way. It was a wildly grand gesture—one that cost nothing and one that reminded me how lucky I am.

Talking Coffee with Oliver Strand, Coffee Curator for the New York Times

In Drink, Media on October 19, 2010 at 8:13 am

Chemex coffee maker © Dan Neville / The New York Times


One of my favorite columns in the New York Times “T” Magazine is Ristretto by Oliver Strand, an arbiter of taste in every sense. I am fascinated by individuals who take obsessions to new heights, which is why Strand’s coffee missives are so completely delicious. This morning, Strand takes a few moments in between cups to dish on his coffee habits with The Foodinista—so grab a cup of your favorite joe and settle in. Spoiler alert: I can already tell you that I’ll be spending the next few hours debating whether to splash out on the handblown glass version of the Chemex coffeemaker with a wood and leather belt (at first glance you’d swear it was an Alexander McQueen corset belt), though I think we probably know the answer…

What’s your typical coffee order in a restaurant?
I rarely order coffee after a meal – I don’t drink coffee at night, so that’s out, and because most restaurant coffee is phoned-in there’s little point. That said, I’ll sometimes have an espresso after lunch if I need to jump back into work that afternoon. Or I’ll go with what the restaurant does best. Recently, I had a terrific cup of coffee brewed in a Chemex at a groovy taqueria here in New York.

Japanese Ceramic Beehouse Dripper

How do you enjoy your coffee at home?
A friend recently said: you like the method you’re liking. Meaning – for the coffee-curious — if you’re playing around with a bee house dripper (which is a ceramic filter cone from Japan), you’re probably liking bee house drippers, and if you’re messing with your Chemex you’re liking Chemexes. I’ve been on a Chemex tear for a while, though I’m also messing with the Aeropress right now. Sometimes I’ll pull out my V60. All of these gadgets are in the $20-$40 range, which makes it easy to be promiscuous.

Are you loyal to one bean? Or do you like to mix it up?
You mean one cultivar? (Don’t let my coffee geekiness frighten you.) Cultivar is graduate-level coffee talk. Many coffees these days are labeled as “single origin,” a general term that refers to a region, or a farm, or a part of a farm. In certain circles, it’s no longer enough to call a coffee an African or even an Ethiopian. Instead you talk about a Sidamo, which is a region, or a Yirgacheffe, which is a village in Sidamo, or even better: a particular Yirgacheffe cooperative.

Maybe it sounds too obsessive. And just because there’s a place-name on a bag doesn’t mean it’s great. But most of the great coffees I taste have a place-name on the bag. Right now I’m working my way through the last of Aida’s Grand Reserve, roasted by Counter Culture Coffee. It’s Bourbon, Kenia and Typica beans all grown on farms owned by Aida Batlle, in El Salvador. It’s one of the most expensive coffees you can buy, but I’ll argue it’s worth it. In fact, this is my second batch. In September, I bought one of the last of Aida’s Grand Reserve from Stumptown Coffee Roasters.

I think what you’re getting at is: do I have any favorites? The answer is yes, but coffee is a seasonal crop, so I go by what’s on the shelves. If I like something I savor it, then I wait until it’s available next year. Just like produce at the greenmarket here in New York: tomatoes ended three weeks ago, but the pears and grapes are crazy right now. I’ll see what coffees are around next week. I’m already looking forward to Aida’s Grand Reserve in 2011.

Where were you most surprised by a good cup of coffee or espresso?
Most recently, at the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. There’s a kiosk by the gate to the alcazaba, the fortress that looks out over the city, where I had a beautiful cortado. It was break time for the groundskeepers, and there were dozens (I want to say hundreds) of workers mobbing the counters, and even though the shack was cramped — it was built around a well and had trees growing through the roof — the coffee was immaculate: saucer, glass, spoon, water on the side. Everybody served in order. There was this breezy sense of ceremony, that coffee should/could be elegant even if it costs $1 and you’re outside and leaning against a wall next to a dude in a dusty jumpsuit.

Plaza de Armas en la Alcazaba in the Alhambra of Granada, Spain

Do you have any guilty pleasures at, say, Starbucks?
I like my mochas, especially after the first cold snap. That’s not as much a Starbucks thing as a coffee-wide impulse. I’m just balancing the summer, when I’ll go out of my way for a Carvelanche.

Where is the coffee capital of the world?
New York, of course. And the Yankees are going to take the Rangers in six.

In all seriousness, New York is becoming a great coffee town, in part, because there’s no dominant roaster – this is the only place in the country where you can get an exceptional shot of espresso made with beans roasted by Counter Culture Coffee, or Intelligentsia Coffee and Tea, or Stumptown Coffee Roasters. Blue Bottle Coffee started roasting here this year, and now PT’s Coffee Roasting Co. is making a run at the city, then you have local talent like Café Grumpy, Dallis and a dozen more. There are few cities anywhere with such a broad selection. Just as important, the baristas here are good and getting better.

It’s an exciting time for New York. Though to be fair, I should say that Seattle, Portland and San Francisco all have deeper benches. Then you have cult coffee cities like London and Melbourne, Oslo and Copenhagen. Notice I didn’t say Paris.

Favorite movie moment with coffee?
Pulp Fiction. Five Easy Pieces. I Am Love.

How much do you drink daily on average?
Two cups in the morning, then more depending on the day. I’m the author of the Filter, a guide to New York coffee from the New York Times for the iPhone and iPad (it’s free and available on iTunes – not coming on too strong, I hope?), which means I’m always checking out new spots, popping in at old places to see if they’re still up to it. It’s done wonders for my mid-morning social life. My dance card is full from 9:30 am to 10:30 am.

Coffee Talk with Herman Miller

In Drink on July 9, 2010 at 1:16 pm

Herman Miller’s LIFEWORK blog has a fun new feature called Morning Coffee in which we learn how the duo behind Unhappy Hipsters, Design Milk, Apartment Therapy and more take their morning coffee. Today’s post features……..The Foodinista! Or more accurately Ristretto Roasters‘ unbeatable beans…

Friends and Pho

In Food, Media, On Location: Out and About in L.A. on May 19, 2010 at 6:55 pm

Is there any better way to spend a lunch hour than slurping pho with a favorite friend? Today, my friend Lizzie (author of awesome new blog, Tomboy Style) and I hit Pho Cafe on Sunset for some steaming bowls of Vietnames pho—beef soup with rice noodles, basil, lime, bean sprouts and peppers. I like to get the #13 with free-range chicken instead of beef, and a side of Silver Lake hipsters in requisite knit caps on a sunny LA day:

Pho Cafe also serves a mean iced coffee with condensed milk.

Perfect fare for discussing our home office routines, namely what Lizzie listens to while she works. For the inside scoop, head on over to Herman Miller’s LIFEWORK blog, which today features Lizzie’s home office and play list. Rock out.

Photo by Lizzie Garrett Mettler

Home, Sweet Home

In Drink on March 21, 2010 at 11:31 am

While I will dearly miss starting the day with a strong little jolt of espresso—like this one enjoyed high in the hills of Minerve (and how sweet is that little heart-shaped sugar???)—before heading out into the rocky vineyards and heady garrigue, there is nothing quite like waking up in your own bed in Los Angeles to a large cup of freshly brewed Ristretto Roasters coffee. It’s almost enough to make you forget that Air France lost your luggage AGAIN (that’s two times in a row)—and that you have to drive back to LAX to retrieve it since they won’t deliver it to your home, sweet home…


In Drink on January 29, 2010 at 10:11 am

This morning I wanted to share a few snapshots from writer Nancy Rommelmann (below) and roaster Din Johnson’s (bottom, right) recent expedition to Panana in search of the best coffee beans for their excellent café, Ristretto Roasters in Portland, Oregon. More pics on Nancy’s blog, nancyrommelmann.com.

Nancy writes: Panama was wild! Mountain roads that, when you turn a corner, the road has eroded away so that you are a foot from plunging hundreds of feet into a river; I would have trusted no human but my husband to be driving. Tropical storms with winds I have never heard the likes of; amazing coffee farms being farmed by the local Indians, including 12-year-olds with their babies strapped to their chests. A rental house with a huge deck in Bocas del Toro, where, in the midst of a storm, the howler monkeys started their undeniably primate screaming in the jungle just behind the house, and playing on one of the world’s prettiest-ever beaches, Playa Bluff, where my husband smashed us open a coconut. Only thing Panama NOT good for is eating; we came back skinnier! That’s okay.

Advantage: Home Office

In Fashion, Media on January 28, 2010 at 1:50 pm

One of the greatest perils and perks of working from home is the potential for procrastination. Today I blogged over on HERMAN MILLER LIFEWORK about my favorite flavor of procrastination, namely watching the Australian Open with a cup of freshly brewed Mexican Santa Cruz coffee. The item includes commentary on the genius color scheme Nadal wore vs Murray the other day (click here to read). But what I didn’t get into was my disappointment in Murray’s, I mean Judas’s, sartorial selections. Murray is the highest-ranked Brit to swing a racket since Fred Perry, who was #1 in the world from 1934-1938, and Murray paid tribute to his predecessor by donning the laurel logo until last November, when Adidas came calling to the tune of £10 million. Sorry, Murray. You may play like a champion, but you no longer dress like one:

Andy Murray for Fred Perry: Awesome

Andy Murray for Adidas: Not Awesome

I’m Lovin’ It

In Drink on January 10, 2010 at 11:41 pm

Fueled by my husband’s totally delicious Clams in Spicy Pernod Sauce from last night’s dinner, I ran the Los Angeles 13.1 Half Marathon out at the beach on this gorgeous, sunny morning in 2:17:58, a personal best for me! A heartfelt thank you goes out to everyone who generously sponsored my race. And thank you to Andrea and Henry for cheering me on at Mile 12 when I was running out of steam!

My sister, husband and Tiny G all met me at the finish line. On our drive home from Venice to Windsor Square, I had my husband make an unorthodox pit stop. What was I craving at the end of 13.1 miles? Please, don’t judge. Because an iced nonfat McLatte with no sweetener has never tasted quite so delicious.

Check back tomorrow for results on the soufflé my sister made for this evening’s superb celebratory dinner.

A Slice of Heaven

In Drink, Food on November 28, 2009 at 10:19 am

This is pecan pie perfection, complete with boozy bourbon whipped cream and a toasted pecan atop. The filling comes from this awesome Bon Appétit recipe for Bourbon-Pecan Tart. My sister made this heavenly pie as well as a pumpkin pie featuring her secret spice blend. So while, I don’t have her pumpkin recipe, I can give you a behind-the-scene glimpse of Claire’s pie prowess, starting with the pecan:

And while the pecan pie bakes, check out the fancy dough work with the leaves on the pumpkin pie crust:

And then a liberal splash of Maker’s Mark into the whipped cream, which complements both the pumpkin and pecan pies.

Best of all, the spiked whipped cream makes for a delightful pick-me-up in coffee the next morning: