Category Archives: New York

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.

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.

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.

Coffee + Chicken Combo at Birch

Birch Coffee, 5 E. 27th

Five stops on the 6 train deposits me at 28th street, within walking distance to Birch Coffee (5 East 27th). This Flatiron spot is great if ever you crave a good sandwich and an anti-Starbuck’s environment.

Admittedly, my first visit to Birch wasn’t all too impressive. I blame it on the cappuccino, which was sloppily made and topped with sorta foamy milk that looked like something a bird regurgitated. But I went back, curious as to whether my initial cup was a fluke.

It turns out that Birch baristas could use a lesson or two on how to craft real latte art. The coffee is still worth sipping though. In fact, it’s actually quite delicious. It’s smooth with just the right amount of boldness to kick you awake for the rest of the day. And if that doesn’t do it, the farm-to-table menu will. One word: nutritious.

The menu is quite healthy, serving up lots of fresh ingredients like red leaf lettuce, toasted almonds and a simple vinaigrette, or arugula with scallions and beet puree.

Then there’s this number: a chicken sandwich topped with salsa verde, goat cheese and arugula. This is my go-to, and I can’t believe I actually prefer it over a cap. Trust me, it’s worth it.

If you arrive for breakfast, you can even score cage-free eggs. It’s the kind of place where no matter what you order, you won’t be disappointed by how it tastes.

Birch is also a great space if you want to catch up on work. There are a number of two-top tables and more seating is available in the library located upstairs.

If for some reason you can’t grab a spot, just stroll down the hall to the connecting Gershwin hotel lobby. Oh, and if you so happen to need a condom, there’s a giant fishbowl full free for the taking.

The Gershwin hotel lobby’s free for all

My Coffee Cup(board)

I don’t know why I have more than one plate, bowl, spoon, fork and knife. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not really necessary in New York.

For one, my tiny overpriced apartment can only hold so much. Two, I’m pretty sure I have the smallest kitchen counter on the planet—it’s so tiny, there’s no point in having one. And if I don’t have a counter, dishware isn’t needed. Three, like most New Yorkers, I eat out way more than I should.

Needless to say, most of my dishware is on a staycation in my cupboard. I haven’t used a knife in weeks, and I find myself washing the same breakfast bowl and spoon.

Now you may be thinking, “type-A woman, why don’t you just chill out and leave the dishes in the sink?” True, because I’d have reason to maintain my set of dishware. But then I realize that my kitchen sink is too small so I have no choice but to wash my dishes everytime.

Add to the pile, of course, coffee mugs. Why do I have a dozen coffee mugs sitting in my cupboard? That’s precious space.

Really, I rotate three. There’s the “S” mug from Anthropologie.

Mug Shot 1

Then there’s the diner mug from Intelligentsia’s Venice Coffeebar.

Mug Shot 2

On days when I want to control my espresso intake, I’ll use one of the porcelain French cups, a vintage find from a friend in West Hollywood.

Mug Shot 3

The other mugs are useless. They just sit in my cupboard collecting dust. And that’s shameful.

So I decided it’s time to clean house. I’m going to slip my mugs into the office kitchen one by one and then delightfully watch everyone walk around sipping from cool cups. Hey, why not?

FIKA: Take a Coffee Break

Fika Espress Bar (West 58th)

There’s nothing quite like awaking at 8 a.m. on a Sunday due to your neighbors having wall-banging sex. True story. This happens quite often.

Forget my morning coffee. Said scenario is motivation enough to get out the door and go for a run, work out, whatever — anything to split from the awkwardness of my neighbors shouting phrases that I can’t bring myself to share. Two words: triple X-rated.

Last Sunday was the worst, and I had to bolt all the way to the West side. It was only after a 12-mile run with my friend Ed that I figured it was safe to venture back to the Upper East.

On the way, I discovered Swedish espresso bar FIKA, which translates to “taking a coffee break.” Naturally I ventured inside where I was greeted by two baristas, an insane amount of decadent pastries and chocolates along with an endless supply of strong, smooth espresso.

That’s only half of what makes this spot worth a halt. The aesthetic is inviting — elegant white and a little Design Within Reach.

Back to the goods, FIKA’s pastry chef, Sara Hultberg, makes everything from scratch each morning —I recommend the toffee espresso biscuit (and pair with a skinny cap).

If you’re in the mood for something hearty, FIKA has a small menu — a couple of soups and a few sandwiches. Speaking of which, try the avocado and tomato, and don’t be surprised when it arrives plated between raisin bread. I wasn’t quite sure why this happened, but it was interestingly delicious.

FIKA also sells a few items worth noting like gourmet chocolate bars.

There are also chocolate covered nuts packaged in prescription bottles “for instant happiness.” Smart.

If that doesn’t do it for you, perhaps the pumpkin jam will or the house-made granola — a little random, but delicious-looking none the less.

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.

The Coffee Project: Part II

As I was walking home from the market, I had a convincing idea. I’m going to wake up at 6 a.m. and go for a run in Central Park.

It’s the same idea I’ve had for the past three months. I think that makes me crazy.

Every single day, like clockwork, I wake up and hit the snooze. “Forget that. Running at dawn in the cold is for fools,” (this isn’t really what I say, but you get the idea).

I’ve been a runner for 12 years, and it wasn’t until I moved to New York that I found myself hitting the road less and less. Talk about a downgrade—I went from running 4-5 times a week coupled with yoga 3-4 times a week to maybe, maybe running twice a week to yoga? What’s that? It kills me.

What kind of coffee would it take to shake me awake early enough to get in a morning run so I don’t continually skip my stress reliever. Whatever it is, I’ve yet to find it, though I imagine it’s in the form of espresso.

Fortunately enough, I’ve been able to experience a pick-me-up with the continuation of The Coffee Project.

Round two brought in a taste test with Joyride, a NYC-based company that distributes Stumptown Coffee direct to offices.

Never in my life did I imagine I’d have the opportunity to take part in a coffee taste test featuring Stumptown, one of my all-time favorites. This was the kind of appointment I wrote in my day planner in permanent marker.

And it all went down at 11:30 on one joyful, joyful morning. In walked brothers David and Noah Belanich. Let me tell you what they brought to the table: Pourover-style coffee made with filtered water.

This was the taste test? Serious?

David and Noah made a batch of Hairbender along with a Guatemalan roast. I’m not going to lie. The other two roasts escape my memory because once I saw Hairbender, no further convincing needed.

It was too exciting, and naturally I drank myself silly and quickly got a headache. But it was 100 percent worth it.

The coffee wasn’t what impressed me. I know Stumptown. I know it’s quality coffee. What I found impressive was seeing David and Noah in action. I can say these two are incredibly passionate about Joyride (and I now realize this is quite an innuendo). The company’s whole set-up is exceptional. Joyride offers customized plans for every office along with professionally installed equipment. Not only that, once a month, the crew will come to each office and clean the equipment.

Gone are the days of a dingy and bottom-burnt coffee maker. A company like Joyride is a golden idea. I only wish I would have thought of the idea first!

Two thumbs up.