Category Archives: California

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.


The Coffee Project: Part III

The coffee sampling saga continued with round three when a couple bags of beans arrived from three thousand miles away.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “A little hardcore, SG. You’re taking this office coffee selection process a little too seriously.”

Yeah, and everyone can thank me later when they’re suddenly more productive after becoming addicted to delicious coffee.

Anyway, among the list of prospective vendors, I had to include my favorite spot based in Santa Monica, Caffe Luxxe. You know all about it by now, because I’ve shared it here, here and here.

Needless to say, Caffe Luxxe ranks among my top five coffeehouses. I like the boutique for its warm ambiance, ’lette French macarons, Testa Rossa espresso and the company’s super dope creative director, Gary Chau.

Naturally, I felt obligated to let everyone know about it via a taste-test, which occurred in the form of French Pressed Testa Rossa. The premium espresso is dangerously good.

I brought in my officemate Mel S. for round three, during which I gave her a French Press tutorial. True story, Mel once attempted to make a Press by putting the coffee grounds on top of the filter. I can’t imagine how it must have tasted. (For those not aware, the coffee grounds go in first followed by hot water, stir, and after four minutes of steeping, you then press down the filter).

After the 101, I poured a few shots of Testa Rossa and bottoms-up began. No convincing needed for me. The question was, would everyone agree with my grade-A approval?

Two testimonials that went down:

After Mel’s first sip, her expression looked like she’d bounced to the moon and back. Initially she was speechless, but managed to say, “Out of this world.” Check.

On to the next — co-worker Angel S. who looked in desperate need of some kind of drug. Keeping it legal, I handed him a cup of caffeine and matter-of-factly stepped aside. Countdown. Five. Four. Three. Tw…

“This is the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had.” Check.

Case closed.

Pannikin’s “Hip”pie Coffee and Desserts

My friend Eddy talks a mile a minute. One might presume he is:

A. On speed
B. Nervous
C. Caffeine-crazed

The answer is D. None of the above. Eddy just has a lot to say. And I love it because mostly what flows out of his mouth is joke after joke. He’s honestly one of the funniest people I’ve ever met.

What I don’t find funny is the fact that never in his life had Eddy tasted a sip of what I like to call “liquid heaven.” Naturally, I persuaded him to break his coffee aversion during a visit to San Diego. It all went down at a little place in Encinitas called Pannikin Coffee & Tea.

Berkeley hippie. Really, there’s no other way I’d describe this local favorite, a can’t-miss custard yellow house located at 510 N. Highway 101. Pannikin has been in the coffee biz since 1968, an era still evident inside with its vintage decor and incredibly chilled-out vibe.

A quarter of the space is dedicated to a store with knickknacks, mugs and beans for purchase (and who knows, maybe even some kush if you ask the right person). Though slightly cluttered, other parts of the café are spacious and perfect for sitting with a cup of coffee.

That said, don’t expect fancy latte art adorning your order. This isn’t that kind of place. What you will get, however, is a fresh cup of pretty decent brew that you’d drink enough of to at least leave a lip stain on the mug. What did Eddy make of his coffee intro? “Mmm,” he says of his mocha. “This is really good.” Let’s be real — chocolate makes everything better. His order is slightly void, but that was as far as he’d let his palate venture. Not quite a bull’s-eye, but at least on target.

Truthfully, the pastry offerings are far more impressionable—they’re of eye-popping, gargantuan portions. That alone convinces me to convince you to stop by, and I suggest three things. One, get the carrot cake and kill every bite. It’s a thick slice of bliss worth the caloric splurge. Moist and sweet with a hint of spice, topped with exceptional cream cheese frosting and a dusting of toasted coconut.

Two, leave fido at home. He’s not welcome inside, and even if he was, he’d attack your carrot cake.

Finally, bring a journal. This is the kind of place where, for some reason, you’ll feel compelled to write about something. There’s a nook perfect for doing so—Pannikin’s patio, which is accompanied by several two-tops and complementing red folding chairs.

If ever the place gets too crowded, across the café resides a spare chair, kept out of danger on a roof (so kidding. I’m not quite sure why that chair is on the roof).

The café closes at 6 p.m. daily. Get yours.

Follow me on twitter this weekend, and find out where’s my next cup.

Caffé Calabria’s Espresso Concoction

Pietro Ferrero was an innovative man. Double fist pump to this former pastry maker for fashioning the chocolate + hazelnut concoction famously known as Nutella.

The Italian household staple has been around for more than five decades. Its inception dates back to World War II, when cocoa was rationed. To extend the supply, Mr. Ferrero used hazelnuts, found aplenty in Northwest Italy.

Use of this genius creation is practically limitless—on bread, in a crepe, with fruit, even spoon-fed. It’s an especially good baking ingredient (for some delicious Nutella recipes, check out A Hungry Spoon). The hazelnut spread even pairs well with espresso. Add a little steamed milk and you’ve got a “bicerin” (pictured below).

The layered trio, served in a small glass, makes for a great after-dinner drink. Where to find it? Try San Diego’s Caffé Calabria, which serves a wildly good version. A single-shot is just $2.45, and it tastes like liquid gold. This drink alone makes the trip to 3933 30th Street well worth it.

Here, you’ll spot seasoned baristas creating many exceptional drinks, like the Caffe Viennese, a combo of espresso, honey, steamed milk and a dash of cinnamon. Or, the Caffe Mexicano, featuring espresso, steamed milk, chocolate, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar. Sure, it seems a little cavity-causing, but decent if you can’t do coffee or espresso solo. If you’re a step ahead of amateur status and want your order a little more raw, go for the Hammerhead, a coffee + espresso combo that easily slaps you awake.

Time for Another Cup

Life is all about timing, and when it comes to making my coffee, it’s eight minutes well spent each morning.

Step one, pour filtered water into tea kettle. Step two, patiently await for water to boil and grind coffee beans for step three, which entails pouring hot water into a four-cup size French Press. Step four, four minutes of I’m-thirsty-already-waiting. Step five, sip and savor.

This is how I typically start each day (along with 10 minutes of core work and 75 Push Ups. And yes, I already recognize that I’m a strange being). A recent trip to Southern California, however, didn’t allow for the a.m. routine. But, I found a comforting cup at Bird Rock coffee.

BR is located in La Jolla, a place so beautiful it’s  sickening. Let me tell you, BR baristas are incredibly serious about coffee, so expect a multi-star-worthy rating at this spot. A reason why: Hario Pour Over. Yes, much to my delight, Bird Rock is one of very, very few, if not the only place in San Diego, that serves such coffee. Extraordinary is the only way to describe the flavor explosion your mouth will experience. And yet, that’s hardly what makes Bird Rock a worth-while visit. The spot has a very local vibe, “where everybody knows your name.” Even man’s best friend is welcome.

The menu is decent, too. Two interesting drinks: “Sugar Daddy,” a Mexican chocolate mocha concoction; then there’s the “Trophy Wife,” a macadamia nut latte topped with whipped cream. But naturally, I gravitated toward my staple (a skinny latte) while my friend, E.C., ordered a Mexican hot chocolate. It was insanely good. Sweet cocoa with what tasted like hints of cinnamon and a little secret something that will have you coming back to the joint in attempt to keep your taste buds wondering what exactly makes it so delicious.

Happy Anniversary, Caffe Luxxe

Caffe Luxxe, Santa Monica

Today marks the fifth year anniversary of my beloved California coffee spot, Caffe Luxxe. To celebrate, all three caffes will be toasting with free espresso, coffee and tea drinks between 12-2 p.m. I only wish I would have stayed in California just a little bit longer so I could partake in the offer. But, at least I was able to pay a much-anticipated afternoon visit last week to the Santa Monica location (925 Montana Ave.), where I was once again reminded why this space is, hands down, the most elegant coffee shop I’ve ever been to.

The stunning contemporary decor is ever-so-inviting that you’ll easily spend a couple hours chilling out while drinking cup after cup of handcrafted perfection. Inside you’ll find a wall aligned with sophistication, from Compagnie de Provence hand lotions, stylish greeting cards, fine olive oils and, of course, coffee.

But it’s not just the said lovelies and beautifully framed photography that captivate me. Caffe Luxxe happens to serve the most unbelievable French macarons, exquisite creations from pastry chef Paulette Koumetz of ‘lette in Beverly Hills. And actually Caffe Luxxe is the only spot outside of ‘lette’s store that sells these rainbow delicacies, which are hand-made daily (hint, easy way to my heart).

I recommend the madagascar vanilla with a caffé latte, a complementing pairing that doesn’t disappoint (obviously).

SoCal Coffee

Just returned from a much-needed Southern California rendezvous. While there, I hit up some of the best coffee spots SoCal has to offer. Preview a few favorites posted below. Words TK.

Intelligentsia, Venice

Caffe Calabria, San Diego

Pannikin Coffee, Encinitas

Bird Rock Coffee, La Jolla

Caffe Luxxe, Santa Monica

How Well Does San Diego Do Coffee?

California. My second home last year, and after a several month intermission, I’m breaking the hiatus for some much needed San Diego sun. I’m lucky that my wonderful friend, E.C., loves exploring just as much as I do. It took about five minutes to plan the trip. Plane ticket. Check. Itinerary. Check. The snippet: kayaking in La Jolla Cove, surfing, a t.b.d. winery, Balboa Park, and a visit to L.A. for Umami Burger. The apparent mouthgasm was voted “Burger of the Year” by GQ’s Alan Richman. I don’t even eat red meat, but I will make the sacrifice because, as my brother and friend claim, “You.Need.Umami.”

There will, of course, be a number of coffee stops (word on the street, Umami serves LAMILL). L.A. is full of hotspots, but what about San Diego? Does the land of loose have a decent cup of Joe? SoCal’s are much too chilled out to be doped up on caffeine, unlike myself. I’m slightly skeptical, but I’ll find out next month. E.C., the SoCal native that he is, doesn’t even drink coffee, so I will be sure to force feed him all the best I can find. San Diego coffee suggestions are welcome. Let’s hear it.

A Luxxe Package

Caffee Luxxe + French Press = A Match Made in Heaven

Last year, the travel bug bit me pretty hard and left me with enough frequent flyer miles worthy of three plane tickets. If it weren’t for endless excursions to Los Angeles, I never would’ve discovered the beautiful and elegant Caffee Luxxe.

Santa Monica’s heavenly café awakened me to a whole new coffee experience, which I detailed in a previous post. I only wish I could savor CL’s exquisite coffee and atmosphere on a regular basis. For now, I’m fortunate to have a vicarious taste, thanks to a weekend delivery, which resulted in a ceremonious Sunday.

This morning, my coffee cup married my French Press. The beautiful union was solemnized by a divine coffee clergy made up of mild, full-bodied Costa Rica-Helsar beans, delivered from 2,300 miles away.

The coffee coupling was made possible thanks to Caffe Luxxe. Traveling with said heavenly brew were wonderful accompaniments: Testa Rossa, Amaretti cookies, biscotti and crème pour les mains, all gifted from Caffe Luxxe co-founder and creative director, Mr. Gary Chau.

The lux package also supplied bountiful Caffee Luxxe bags, my sturdy supplement to the traditional lunch tote. As if said delights weren’t enough, there was an added touch—a handwritten note that included proper use of commas.

A reception will be held post-Bill Cunningham New York. All are welcome to sip, savor and toast Costa Rica’s citrus and cedar flavor—a sweet way to finish off a Sunday.

A Beautiful Cup of Coffee Is Anything But Boring

My lunch bag as of late, filled with...fruits and vegetables

No sugar, no carbs, no dairy…No caffeine. Welcome to Camp No-Fun, filled with boring boundaries. Yet, this is my life for the next 10 days as I undergo an herbal cleanse sacrifice in prep for the Boston Marathon.

Change is good once in a while. I have no problem surrendering the first three items because, for the most part, I already adopt an unprocessed diet, thanks to words of wisdom from food journalists Michael Pollen and Mark Bittman. Caffeine though, I could never give up my happy habit in full. I’d rather be mauled by a cat (and if you know me well, you know all about my avid aversion to felines).

Day 1 (and much to my surprise), I managed to limit my coffee cup to “normal” consumption (i.e., one cup). You can guess how that makes me feel —tired for one, but also cranky and craving. How am I supposed to wake up to the next nine mornings? A cold shower? I don’t think so.

My morning brew bell will be Intelligentsia’s House blend, which I’ve mentioned my affection for in previous posts. If I could change it up, I’d love a cup of Caffe Luxxe’s single origin coffee. Co-founder and creative director, Gary, recently informed me about the Honduras, Costa Rica and Ethiopia coffees for Caffe Luxxe’s drip bar (side note, CL recently opened up a third location at 225 26th St. in Santa Monica). If only I lived on the West Coast! I can just imagine that each coffee boasts fabulous flavor on par with my favorite Caffe (de)Luxxe coffee, Testa Rossa. If I have to limit my crazy consumption to a single cup, this is what I’d choose to drink. I wish I could buy the beautiful brew online, but unfortunately it’s not possible. It sure would help steer me to survival though.