Much Ado About Oats

If you need a good laugh, let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, I was born without a baking skill in my body. This rainy evening, I attempted to make oatmeal raisin cookies using a recipe that didn’t require vanilla extract. A traditional baking necessity, no doubt, but I operate by the rule, “Don’t have it? Don’t need it!

Naturally, in true SG fashion, I combined a couple recipes. One called for 3/4 cup of butter; the other specified 1C. OK, I’ll go with the latter, I decided. Why not? At the end of the day, everyone loves more butter.

I didn’t have a mixer to beat the room-temperature butter (yes, at least I let it warm up). So, into the saucepan it went, until it melted down like the Wicked Witch of the West.

After a generous pour of granulated sugar, I added brown sugar, sea salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. The liquid mistake joined the marriage of ingredients, followed by whole-wheat flour — a half-cup too short.

I could tell the “dough” needed something…something important, like more flour. Instead, I added shredded sweetened coconut and eyeballed a half-cup or so of sunflower seeds.

One recipe specified to bake at 375 degrees; the other didn’t even present directions, (which is probably why I liked it. I guess it wasn’t so much a recipe as it was a bunch of ingredients that mirrored a grocery list).

The first batch nearly burned. But, I managed to “save” the pancake-flat cookies by quickly rolling them into balls, nearly scorching my hands in the process, before I rebaked until they were hard as rocks.


In transit, I’d stuck the bowl of remaining “dough” in the freezer before rolling little balls and placing onto a cookie sheet. Into the oven they went, and out came flat cookies…yet again.


So I improvised.

With my bare hands (they were clean), I scooped the dough into my palms and slapped small portions down into a muffin tin as if I was playing basketball with wet oats.


And this is why I should never bake. #measuringisforfools

Actually, I look at it this way: I’m just meant to eat healthy. Hence, I never seem to destroy this Blue Bottle Coffee granola recipe. It’s true. Blue Bottle not only offers foxy coffee, but the most incredible granola ever to greet your tongue.


Sounds intense, but try it, and you’ll understand why. Find the recipe courtesy of Pure Wow. I switch canola for olive oil because it offers a better flavor overall. Not that you’ll be convinced, given the above fun surprise (in my defense, my guinea pig tester said she actually liked my coconut-sunflower-seed-oatmeal-cookies-turned-muffins). I’ll pawn the byproducts onto my brother and fellow co-workers.

The end.


Sightglass Coffee, Pour One

Apartment hunting in New York City is the absolute worst. I’d rather watch white paint dry on a wall than go through the frustrating and stressful process that defines Gotham shoebox searching.

In this city, you walk into a place, you want it, you sign on the dot on the spot. Contracts move lightning fast — you better know how to deal or game over son.

I remember last year as I was going through “the process” my blood pressure would skyrocket every Saturday afternoon. It was the kind of jolt that only comes from slamming many shots of espresso before getting punched in the stomach.

Every apartment I toured seemed smaller and smaller and yet more and more expensive. That’s funny slash not really.

In normalville, for my amount of rent, I could have a pimp house with stainless steel appliances, a washer and dryer and a garage safekeeping a dope car. Reality slaps all of that I realize as I’m out of breath from climbing three flights of stairs daily and question where the heck I’m living.

“You should move to Brooklyn,” says my brother.  You’re funny, Cass, slash soooo right.

C’est la vie. I understand why Manhattan adults still have roommates of the non-marriage variety. There exists a double-edged sword.

The city is crazy intense. Naturally, one can appreciate a shoebox space because it’s yours. Do what you want, when you want.

If you want to throw your laundry all over your living room / bedroom / kitchen, you can do that. Ain’t no one gonna tell you to pick it up.

If you want to leave the dishes in the sink for days, you can do that. Ain’t no one gonna tell you to clean it up.

If you want to jam your esoteric music, you will do that. Ain’t no one gonna tell you to turn it down.

And if you want to stand in your kitchen eating grape jelly on saltine crackers while reading Vogue, yeah, you can pull a Carry Bradshaw and no one will judge because you’re the boss.

I actually don’t do any of the above (I prefer strawberry jam…kidding). But the point is if I want to I can. That’s the beauty of living solo — you can be wildly inconsiderate and the only person you bother is yourself.

So if I want to grind my coffee at 6 a.m., I will because I like the noise, and I’m not concerned with waking anyone up but my incessantly sleep-deprived self.

Lately, the best part of waking up is Owl’s Howl in my cup.

The coffee is from San Francisco-based Sightglass, and the company is absolutely on point with this espresso. It’s flavored with notes of butterscotch, mango, honey and chocolate-covered cherries. Word.

The unexpected marriage has a subtle degree of sweetness and tastes surprisingly light and buttery. It makes waking up early in a shoebox apartment a far more pleasurable experience.

And if you have the opportunity to scope out Sightglass in person, go, go, go. The spot is mad cool. It’s like the ultimate independent coffeehouse on roids — two stories tall, a bar at the front and piles of coffee beans sealed in burlap bags all over the space. It made me foam at the mouth. Just kidding (or am I?).

Part deux to come.

Cold Brew Coffee, a Hurricane Necessity

New York City is turning into a crazy puppet in prep for Hurricane Sandy. People are running around like mad getting last-minute staples such as water and bread — and if you’re not smart, raw beef.

True. I saw a woman buying several packages of ground beef at the grocery store. How that comes in handy if the power is out and there’s no way to cook it is beyond me. Maybe she’s just really crafty.

As New York City subways and buses grounded to a halt, I did some grinding. Forecasting a potential mass power outage, me still need coffee. So as part of my hurricane preparation, I made cold brew coffee. The recipe is simple and made up with a tip from cold brew Drew, who swears by using a French Press.

The organic bean of choice is from Chiapas, Mexico (graciously gifted by my friend, Mario). Since the description on the bag is in Spanish, and I only speak broken French, I can’t fully detail the coffee. I can say it smells like a light to medium roast, and it isn’t particularly sweet, but has a slight tang.

For the cold brew processing, I used eight generous tablespoons of beans for a six-to- eight serving French Press (I generally like one scoop of beans per cup, but obviously adjust the amount for desired strength). Use a course grind to extract the full flavor. I added filtered water along with a dash each of cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir once and rest.

The press is steeping overnight in my fridge alongside oversized Zico coconut bottles and enough water for a kiddy pool.

And if the storm gets really bad, I just might dip into the Veuve Clicquot, which is actually an overdue wedding gift for a friend that I haven’t yet sent. I gave him a heads up though.

Order your way

Two words: iced coffee. Simple, right? The order takes as long to make as reading this entire sentence.

Ain’t no fancy machinery needed, and the joe even came with a side of attitude for free.

It was all due to the fact that I complicated the drink by requesting skim milk.

Circa last summer, the barista at La Colombe in TriBeca looked at me as though I had two heads. No words were needed. For her furrowed brows and agitated eyes said it all, “Come on, 8 percent is fine. Everyone’s doing it.”

But I like skim milk. It doesn’t tangle a coffee’s flavor the way I find whole milk responsible for doing.

And truthfully, I’d rather cut unnecessary calories and spend them on something purposeful like dessert — specifically carrot cake or French macarons. That sure seems a lot better than wasting them on full-fat milk. Don’t blame a girl for her mad sweet tooth. I was born this way.

Same holds true on a date. Here’s how you know the end result before it happens. When a guy denies the dessert menu, deny him.

If he can’t have a little fun with his diet, just imagine the future — it’s shaped like a square.

This is a point worth noting because if lady wants dessert, lady gets dessert. Admittedly, it’s gonna be a little awkward to delve into something deliciously awesome, like salted caramel ice cream with candied peanuts and popcorn—Jean Georges’ whimsical offering at ABC Kitchen.

When your dessert arrives, you’ll still have to upkeep the conversation in front of you, which more or less sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher because the plated sugar is what holds your attention.

Here’s where you must take a moment to envision going out with him again, which basically goes like this: you’ll feel a little awkward, maybe even resent him, for the fact that he makes you feel unforgivingly obligated to pass on trying something cool, like the hazelnut milk chocolate mousse with cocoa streusel from Mas (farmhouse).

Dessert is sweet and freeing. A life without is not one I want.

Now, 351 words later, what does all of this have to do with coffee? Lesson learned: don’t compromise or settle for what you want, even if there’s a line of people equally as thirsty standing behind you. Order your way, pair it with a smile and walk out the door.

Toby’s, the one that does not disappoint

Dating in New York ain’t easy.

Before moving to the city last October, I had a wondrous thought that the game would be comparable to jumping eyes-closed into a Chuck E. Cheese ball pit. Fun, entertaining and exciting!

In reality, it’s more like jumping into a Chuck E. Cheese ball pit that’s unknowingly bottomed out with rocks. Misleading, dissatisfying and awkward.

Let’s put it this way, New York men are mutated, bred to be unpredictable, intense, too busy, and they operate off their rockers.

There’s the guy who’s interested in you — along with five other women.

There’s the guy who says he’ll call and actually does…way, way too much. Calm it down, son.

Then there’s the guy you go out with a handful of times, and he suddenly pulls a Houdini-disappearing-act. Umm?

Oh, and let’s not forget the guy who can’t make up his mind as to whether he wants to be a friend or a boyfriend. Actually, forget him.

Then there’s Toby.

At least Toby doesn’t disappoint, likely because Toby isn’t the Manhattan type.

In Toby’s presence, prepare to be pleasantly taken aback by mellow, smooth and genuinely appreciated company.

Toby’s world is uncomplicated, cultured and flavored with an endless supply of coffee.

No wonder it’s full of voracious consumers. Who wouldn’t want that? And if you haven’t encountered Toby’s Estate, here’s the number to help you enter it: 347.457.6160. I recommend an in-person one-on-one to 125 North 6th Street (yep, Brooklyn), and order a flat white.

If the date goes well and you’re ready for more, go for the pour over Costa Rica El Alto along with a salted caramel coconut macaroon. You’ll be smitten.

Get after it.

Sweet Relief for Sweetleaf

View of Manhattan from the Williamsburg waterfront.

This Uptown girl has recently developed a compulsive affection for Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I seem to venture here as though I’m a resident. True story.

Let’s start with the Flea Market, an urban oasis situated south of East River State Park between North 6th and 7th. The hip bazaar offers vintage, handmade and antique goods, ranging from art, clothing, jewelry, postcards, soaps, and even rustic picture frames (and this is far from random).

Don’t even bother wearing a watch. Fact: you will spend an ample amount of time here, during which you can feast on artisan foods along the east perimeter. Deluxe delicatessen Mile End—yes. Crafty confections from Kumquat Cupcakery —yes. The dangerous-and-necessary Milk Truck Grilled Cheese —why, yes. All you have to do is forget the meaning of calories and unforgivingly dive in.

Or, if you’re a health nut, don’t live a little and just steer yourself to the sliced mango and watermelon stand.

Arrive via the East River Ferry on 34th street, a welcoming alternative to playing a forced game of standing Twister on the L train.

Williamsburg reason deux. I’ve fallen for the grilled kale Caesar salad at Isa. I immediately know what you’re thinking: you’re the health nut who doesn’t live a little. This is not true.

The creation is one of the best salads I’ve ever eaten in New York. It competes with Print’s heirloom tomato offering married with opal basil, feta and champagne vinaigrette; also in the running, Café Mogador’s plated Greek garden, which is delicately dressed with the right amount of tahini and Israeli spices.

Back to Isa, the kale is charred, producing a smoky flavor that’s complemented with a simple Caesar dressing, emphasis on the lemon and salt (I’m convinced it’s pinched with an extra something special). Really, it’s that simple — and easy to devour without regret.

Alright, thanks for reading this far. The big reason I love Williamsburg is for all the amazing coffee houses on offer, Sweetleaf in particular.

Draw yourself to the corner of Kent Avenue and North 6th street, where “Sweetleaf Espresso Bar” stares in white paint stamped along the bottom of the entrance.

Sweetleaf Espresso Bar

Sweetleaf Espresso Bar

Inside, the décor immediately consumes your senses. From the flooring, oversized chairs, small round two-tops and wood trim — everything is espresso-colored. It’s not overwhelming though, more like mesmerizing and comfortable.

Behind the barista bar large white bags of Ritual coffee are shelved out of reach. Not to worry. Purchase the beans, along with Stumptown coffees, upfront alongside vegan and gluten-free goods made in-house. If you like cinnamon and nutmeg, go for the carrot cookie.

My drink of choice: Iced Rocket Fuel, a concoction of cold brew fused with chicory, an herb especially popular in New Orleans-style coffee. The bev also includes maple syrup.

Sweetleaf Rocket Fuel

Sweetleaf’s Iced Rocket Fuel

Initially, I was skeptical, but that lasted for a spell, broken as soon as the sweet and creamy combo flowed down my throat like a river of caffeine and unprocessed sugar.

The order immediately warrants a punch card because you’ll definitely be thirsty for more.

Irving Farm Coffee: Order to Stay

Irving Farm Coffee

Irving Farm Coffee

Hawaiians aren’t immune to sunburn. The proof is written all over my lobster-red-colored chest after my first voyage to the beach all summer (shameful, right?).

I didn’t mind that my skin was surprisingly allergic. It’s nothing a little aloe vera can’t soothe, and the reaction was 100 percent worth it in exchange to see anxious waves rushing to greet my feet.

Even despite grains of sand unforgivingly pelting my face thanks to restless wind, the environment provided a simple refuge that allowed me to reset for a few hours.

If only I could escape the concrete jungle a little more frequently to appreciate this natural sanctuary.

Enter life, heavily tipped in an exhaustive direction that keeps me in the eye of the storm. I feed on coffee to keep up with the stimulating pace characteristic of New York City.

Fortunately, I recently discovered a sweet little haven docked along Irving Place. If ever you want a peaceful break complemented with caffeine, there’s a Gramercy brownstone safekeeping the perfect hideout.

The reference is for Irving Farm Coffee, a vortex that sucks you into a hypnotizing environment.

Before I knew it, I spent an entire Sunday afternoon reading The Alchemist alongside a cappuccino. I didn’t even mean to stay so long, it just happened.

What I like about this spot are the intimate tables suited for pairings — a friend, a good book or a laptop. Exposed brick near the entrance and rustic wood floors infuse a welcoming vibe. It’s the kind of place where you’ll feel so at home you’d be compelled to take off your shoes (please don’t though).

The party is hosted by a tall dark order of Joe, the beans of which are roasted on a farm in the Hudson Valley located 90 miles outside the city. The purpose is to cultivate a “farm fresh” taste, which you can even take home with a delicately sealed single-origin bag of coffee.

I selected whole-bean Ethiopian Yrgacheffe, known for a smooth, medium body and sweet notes of honey. The coffee has a citrus profile, and the clean finish goes down easy, charging you with a dose of energy to seize the day.

Coffee that makes you smile

What do you do if it’s pouring and cloudy outside and everyone you know is busy? One option is to make a honey-oatmeal mask, and let it rest on your face as you respond to a sea of neglected emails.

This is hypothetical, slash not really.

It’s true — Tuesday admittedly welcomed my curiosity for a natural remedy. New York is a draining city. This is a fact. Sometimes no amount of caffeine can slap you awake enough to rally. So, once in a while, it’s necessary to step away from the noise and find stillness in solitude.

The aforementioned concoction is worth investigating, by the way. My face looks dewy and feels refreshed. I also no longer feel guilty for the incessant reminders of electronic letters that pack my Gmail (this will all revert in a week or so).

Now option two would be to take the 6 train down to Bleecker, where upon surfacing from the musty underground, immediately direct your feet to the left, and then a sharp right onto Bond Street. Stop when you get to “26”, home to The Smile.

I call this NoHo’s sweet spot, a rustic restaurant supported by a farm-to-table-inspired menu. I will recommend this place for the rest of my life.

That’s a confident statement supported by many reasons, but I’ll specifically cite three.

One, the fig, goat cheese and arugula sandwich delicately dressed with truffle oil. This causes an eye-widening reaction because it’s unbelievable food porn.

Reason two, you might run into Scarlett Johansson returning from Planet Cool where wearing sunglasses indoors is the only way to be seen.

And reason three, The Smile is where you’ll find the city’s Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie. I say Ultimate because it’s appropriately-sized and lightly dusted with fine sea salt. Your mouth will no doubt water, and not just because that’s the obvious consequence of ingesting salt. The cookie is a delicious recipe that forms the right amount of decadence and easily turns a frown upside down.

The Smile’s Ultimate Chocolate Cookie

Actually, let me state 3.5 reasons, since Scarlett doesn’t fully count. Other grounds to venture here is for the grounds. The Smile serves Plowshare coffee based in Ramapo Valley. I don’t know the specific blend the restaurant serves because I was too busy savoring the chocolate notes and smooth body to even pay attention. The flavor is so angelic and ranks among my top three favorite cups of coffee in New York City.  Sip it once, and the reaction is comparable to meeting a handsome, charming guy who’s 100 percent genuine. You’ll be pleasantly taken aback.

The Breukelen Way

The Breukelen Coffee House, Franklin Ave.

You know you live in a studio when it takes max 15 minutes to clean your apartment. This is both a pro and a con. The plus is obvious — done with cleaning in 15 minutes (who wouldn’t appreciate that?). The downside is that you live in a place so small you only need 15 minutes of upkeep.

This is what makes me entertain the idea of leaving Manhattan for Brooklyn. There. I said it.

I’m not ready yet, plus I’m still under lease. However, whenever I visit Brooklyn (operative word, visit), I’m amazed at the differences in space, lush green grass, trees, cleaner air and locovore living that abound the borough.

Brooklyn’s a convincing idea, but feels a little far away. I would know from experience because I spent my first month shuffling from Carroll Gardens to Madison Avenue as I started a new job and searched for a brother-free living quarter (Cass, I still enjoy your company).

Should I ever make that move, it’s assuring to know that Brooklyn is brimming with good coffee spots, like the Breukelen.

This Prospect Heights house makes my list and makes me laugh for multiple reasons. One, the Notorious B.I.G. lyric turned motto front and center on the coffee spot’s website, “Spread love. It’s the Breukelen way!”

Two, one does not often see chocolate mint growing from a wall. Yes, there’s a little corner where herbs like pineapple mint, lemon balm, basil and parsley are carefully nurtured. It’s strangely sweet.

Three, the multiple bird feeders by the outdoor patio are refreshing (I’ve been around too many pigeons in the city, so I fully appreciate seeing real birds).

And four, the S word — Stumptown. Yep, it seems like I can’t turn my head without spotting the hottest bean around. So far Stumptown’s integrity has remained (the company rapidly expanded thanks to a major investment from a private equity firm last summer).

Stumptown is still hip at the Breukelen, which boasts an uncomplicated menu—basics like drip coffee, cold brew, espresso, caps, cortados, and then there’s hot chocolate for those who don’t know how to order. Or you can sip loose-leaf tea.

Menu aside, the Breukelen is the kind of spot perfect for a laptop so you can crush procrastination, or at least fake like you’re doing so—an observed trend from a Sunday rendezvous.

The interior’s exposed brick and mismatched wooden tables and chairs add to the vintage feel of the place, which is comfortable and inviting.

Also, if you appreciate good music, the baristas have a good playlist going.

Blue Bottle Buzz

New York City High Line, Chelsea

There’s a lot of foot traffic stomping through West 15th these days. The area houses one of the entrances to Chelsea’s High Line. And all it takes is one visit to understand why this spot gets so much action.

The High Line is an elevated public park. Originally built in the 1930s, the space was used to lift freight traffic and transport meat, produce, milk and manufactured goods without disrupting city streets. Come the 60s, part of the High Line was demolished; and in 1980, the last train pulled through carrying loads of frozen turkeys.

This is all beside the point, which is if you’re in New York City, the High Line is a must. The area gifts your eyes with the most beautiful views of New York City, not to mention a place to entertain your ears with dozens of foreign languages. But before you even make your way here, a stop to 450 W.15th is in order.

Just shy of one of the High Line’s entrances is Manhattan’s first Blue Bottle coffee house, born in February.

Chelsea's Blue Bottle, West 15th

Blue Bottle is mainly a West Coast haven, originating in Oakland, Calif. Of the eight+ main locations, three are on the East Coast — Manhattan’s big sister is in Williamsburg, and Rockefeller Center recently welcomed a small shop.

Recall Blue Bottle spoiled me during a previous trip to San Francisco. I’ll never forget my first impression — totally in awe of the coffee house’s simplicity, devoted baristas and delicious coffee.

What you’ll find inside the Chelsea cafe are two guys passing out one contagious cup after another in exchange for cash only (yes, stop by an ATM before paying a visit). The most impressive part of the cafe is located upstairs, where an intimate area representative of a Tokyo coffee bar awaits.

Six stools accompany a narrow counter perfect for tasting single-origin coffees and brioche toast. Rewind. What?

Between 10-5, Blue Bottle serves Siphon and toast. Maybe it’s me, but I think this is a peculiar combo — and one I’ll of course try during my next visit. Stay tuned.