What do you mean you don’t have filter coffee? A Guide to London Coffee Shops

I wish I had been diligent enough to do a proper coffee shop review of every cafe I visited in London but at this stage in the game that would be simply impossible. I am going to attempt to backtrack through all the coffee shops I have visited giving them quick scores and pointing out the ideal features of each. Coffee is truly blossoming in London so don’t be intimidated by the perceived ‘only tea’ culture.

As the title of this posts hints at, the one thing yet to develop is strong cups of black, filter coffee. Artisanal shops that will be explored in this post do have pour-over, chemex and V60 options but they are simply lacking good ready made coffee–paper filters, large batches, hot mugs you can wrap your hands around simply do not happen in most London shops which is a huge shame. Looking past this, visiting cafe is an awesome way to see London, each neighborhood can be characterized by they handful of coffee shops that reside in it. So I’ll break it down by region, trying to record every coffee shopI can recall. It’s going to look like a daunting list but life is better when drinking good coffee. The Southbank and East London have unfortunately been painfully neglected in my coffee pursuits but I will try to outsource some recommendations for these areas. The greatest London coffee blog for filling in the blank map spaces is Cups of London Coffee. They have an interactive map that has displays the massive density of London’s coffee shops allowing you to zoom and click cafes to display recorded times and information. It’s brilliant!

As a reminder coffee shop reviews go a little something like this: cafes are marked out of 5 on location, barista cuteness, coffee knowledge/expertise, ambiance, and food/pastry selection.

Convent Garden/Aldwych

  1. Lundenwic-4(Lundenwic is a newer shop on Aldwych that is teeny tiny. the place has two tables and a three-seat counter so not ideal for working or hanging out but if you do snag a table you are right in the middle of the action, merging with the queue of people and baristas bustling about from the mysterious kitchen downstairs. From this basement emerges a selection of toasties and salads for lunch. I have had hits and misses with lunch but highly recommend the cranberry sauce, chicken, and squash toastie if they have it. The sandwich tastes like Thanksgiving dinner between two slices of sourdough bread. Be wary of the amount of kale and fennel in the salads, it’s a lot of kale and fennel. The location is ideal if you are a uni student at LSE, which this writer might be. Unfortunately if you our not headed to lecture there is really no reason to be walking along Aldwych as it has no tourist appeal and is crowded with students and professionals. However, Lundenwic is near some theatres so if you are headed to a play and worried you will not stay awake either because it looks to be extremely dull or you are very tired, grab a strong flat white, and chat with the extremely handsome baristas before the show).
  2. Fernandez and Wells-Somerset House-4.5(There are two things keeping F&W from receiving a 5 much to my dismay. First, the coffee is just simply not that good. The espresso is often burnt and flavorless so it is best to get tea because they will top up your pot with hot water, give you honey and even steamed milk if you like. The service is certainly not lacking at Somerset House that is for certain. Second, while the Spanish-style savory options at F&W are divine, their pastry selection is weak and very expensive. Now that we have those critiques out of the way let’s move to the highlights. Somerset House, is one of my favorite places in all of London and you can see my full post here. The setting of the cafe is minimal and airy, the light wood furniture and large tables makes it a fantastic place to spread out and do work. Their music selection is consistently on point, playing an eclectic mix of soul and indie songs. Most of the the baristas are incredibly friendly and the table service for food is quite enjoyable, I highly recommend their soup specials, particularly the chicken tangine. The soups come in a huge steaming bowl with some crucial pieces of sourdough bread for soaking up the last bits).      13102718_10208147040907100_3434636631585142432_n
  3. The Black Penny-4.5(The Black Penny will always hold a special place in my heart for the lunch deal they used to have which included three salads and a protein for under 10 quid, although the lunch deal is no longer the food selection is still expansive and delicious. The coffee is top notch quality as well. The place is nicely situated off the dense crowded Convent Garden area closer to Holborn station. It’s ideal for a longer uni lunch or a break from the tourist scene. The inside is very rustic and warm Edison bulbs hang from the ceiling and the back has a large communal table and several squished two-tops.There are shelves adorned with books and magazines  situated over built in cubbies for single seating. The exposed brick wall adds to the Brooklyn chic vibe. The baristas and servers match the warm interior and are very friendly, and always more than happy to point out their favorites of the day).
  4. New Row Coffee-4(This tiny kiwi-owned coffee shop sits on New Row Street in Convent Garden. New Row rivals Lundenwic in it’s size as it only has two tables and two counter seats. The pastries are all homemade daily by Tom, the owner of the shop. The coffee quality is stellar and the small space is not over designed or sparse. There is a coffee grinder serving as an expensive flower pot. The teal dishes add a little quirk and brightness. I’d recommend getting a cappuccino and specifying without cocoa powder because it tends to overpower things. The tall lanky baristas are the essence of the London aesthetic so no need to worry about that. I recommend the Anzac cookies and almond croissants).img_4253
  5. Fleet River Bakery-3(Fleet River is not in a very idealic location sandwiched between Kingsway and Lincoln Fields Inn, in a non-descript part of Holborn. Again, for an LSE student it is pretty convenient. Known for their pastries, correction expensive pastries It’s best to run through either to get a goof cup of coffee or quick lunch. I have never been too impressed with their offerings but people swear by their toasties and salads so I’ll leave a little hope. The space is very drafty and unadorned, Fleet River is packed at lunch so try to grab a spot quick or check out their downstairs area. If you are in a hurry, Fleet River is also not the most expedient so be aware).
  6. Fleet Street Press
  7. Notes-Convent Garden

Soho

  1. TAP No. 193-5                                                                    12809736_10207890381890785_2470534023979204042_n
  2. Flat White-4
  3. Nordic Bakery-3.5
  4. Foxcroft and Ginger-3

Fitzroviia

  1. Kin-5
  2. Attendant-5                                                                                                                                                   13184660_10208941295280255_1076025989_oimg_4319 img_4321
  3. Kaffeine-4

7 Dials

  1. Monmouth Coffee
  2. Timberyard
  3. Department of Coffee and Social Affairs

Shoreditch

  1. Fix 126(Fraser’s Pic)
  2. Attendant
  3. Shoreditch Grind

Clerkenwell

  1. Workshop

Islington 

  1.   Vagabond No. 7 4.5(This coffee shop tucked away in Islington is a hidden gem in the London coffee scene. The narrow space is bigger than it appears with repurposed wooden spools as tables in the front area and  a cozy back room. Studying in the back room, you can work amongst the roaster, espresso machines and sacks filled with coffee–ideal for any person who literally runs on coffee. You are also working on a suspended wood table that has ample room to spread out your books, coffee, and food. On to the food, the almond croissant I had was the best almond croissant I have ever had in London, let me repeat—the best. That is saying something. The prepared sandwiches are also simple and hearty. There is also a kitchen tucked away that manages to pump out full English breakfast among other brunch fare served all day long. On my last trip to Vagabond, I discovered the secret side courtyard that is quaint and peaceful. Filled with mismatched iron furniture, the outdoor space is somehow sandwiched in a small, awkward corner between two buildings, Vagabond is an architecture marvel that seems to expand after you enter. The coffee shop also has a derelict appearance with crumbling walls and vacant fireplace stuffed with a combination of junk and books, it almost resembles the ruin bars of Budapest. A friendly staff serves high-quality coffee to match their impressive food fare and interesting space. I am only docking it for its location, north Liverpool Road is not quite a cultural hub but the hipsters are sure to come).

 

True Grit

The city of Philadelphia has long been allusive to me as I have ranged up and down the east and west coast. Unlike my native connection to Chicago, I really had no reason to check out the inland City of Brotherly Love. Curled on the Delaware River, the city does not have appeal as a coastal destination, making it a unique outcrop of urban culture in a somewhat dull landscape. As I slowly make my way to and from Philly I’m picking up the lay of the land and a few key sights to see.

I call Philly True Grit because it’s definitely rough around the edges. Philly has not had the dramatic force of Chicago and New York City mayors who have aggressively polished their cities up. In Philadelphia, it seems like there is a layer of history and grime that has been better brushed away in some spots rather than others. What I’m getting at is a little friendly caution to Philly that it can’t rest on it’s liberty bell laurels any longer.

I am a Philly novice at this point and very much open to suggestions but here is what I have found so far that gives the city some cultural edge.

Coffee Shops: Elixr Coffee Roaster (see review here), and La Colombe (review on the way).

Museums and Cultural Sites: Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens are a must. They stand as a good example of when city grit is correctly buffed up into something sparkling. The Barnes Museum is also a must. Classics, upon classics, hung in the most eccentric way in a beautifully designed building.

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Food: The Redding Terminal is a great food hall next to the convention center. The amount of stalls make choosing your meal quite difficult. Finally Federal Donuts are a must. They rival top donut shops such as Doughnut Plant and Doughnut Vault if I do say so myself. The donuts are made hot and fresh right before your eyes and fall into two categories: Hot Fresh and Fancy. The favors are have some variation and are very unique. The Hot Fresh selection includes Vanilla Spice, Strawberry Lavender, and Cinnamon Brown Sugar.  The Fancy include a mix of classics. It’s best to get a mix of the two and the the great thing is Federal always has some samples out. The freshness and subtle flavors push the donuts to the next level. The West Philly location has cute desk like chairs that make you feel even more like a giddy child when gleefully enjoying your treats.

As I said, this is just a start and I expect more in-depth reviews to follow. Readers: I am definitely seeking suggestions of where to go next.

Moving North to South on the West Coast Update x1

Note: this post will be under construction on and off. There is quite a comprehensive list to capture in this California escapade. Check back for future updates.

Leucadia is a small surf town 45 minutes North of San Diego. Leucadia rests along the Pacific Coast Highway and is perfect for a five day surf trip or peaceful getaway. The town is almost an untouched relic of the past. The stores are locally owned and everyone walks or roams around on beach cruisers. The vibe is far removed from San Diego and LA, as it is slightly isolated from the two large cities. My five days there were devoted to exploring, relaxing and, of course, eating. Here are some of the places of notes. If you are in the larger Encinitas area, this strip of the PCH is definitely worth a stop whether you are driving through or pausing to relax. All the spots in this post are concentrated around a 10 mile North/South line along the Pacific Coast Highway. Having a car is necessary if you want to explore other areas and beaches.

Bakeries/Cafes:

 French Corner: The French Corner is a great cafe that serves parisian breakfast and lunch. We begun our stay at Leucadia here and it was a great start. They have baskets of traditional pastries made in house along with crepes and quiches. We started the day with an Almond Bearclaw that was flakey and light. The savory Caprese Quiche and Spinach Frittata were also very good. They both had a perfect darker brown crust on top that added so much flavor.

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Taste and Sea Cakery: This custom cake store and catering has a small storefront as well serving up very unique cakes, cookies and pastries. the shop also has a beautiful espresso machine that just needs the love and attention from a good barista. The owners were so friendly and had a sample of almost every offering, this made it both harder and easier to decide on what to order. The decor was very sea inspired and was extremely comfortable. A great spot to start the day or grab an afternoon snack.

Leucadia Donut Shoppe: The classic donut shop fits the surf vibe of the town perfectly. The old school donut counter has all the classic offerings. We sampled a Long John donut and a blueberry buttermilk. The buttermilk was a nice departure from a typical sugary donut and had a interesting biscuit like quality.

Boutiques: 

You don’t have to be scouting for a new surfboard to find success at the local shops in Leucadia. If you’re a surfer girlfriend like me there are two killer shops to browse for unique goods and wares.

Seaweed and Gravel: This store is rooted in vintage clothes and motorcycles so it’s a little rock and roll mixed with hippy sunshine. On the rock and roll side, check out all Seaweed and Gravel’s fine denim wear from Crawford Denim. The jeans and tops are 100% American made and are of superb quality. When you’re ready to get back to your natural roots check out the Juniper Ridge soaps and perfumes. Each batch of product’s plant oils are pure and  harvested by hand in Mojave Desert or Sierras. No batch is alike and this scents are potent. The aesthetic of the shop is just as unique as the products in it. Smiling pictures of the Partridge Family line the walls along with  brightly upholstered vintage furniture. The garden in the back is a little oasis and a good place to enjoy the free espresso that is offered upon entrance.

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Bing Surfboards: I know this says surfboards and yes Bing is a surfboard shaper by trade but their store is a little bit more. The Bing branded apparel is simple and well made but this goes without saying from a surfboard manufacturer. The real details are in the other store stock. Of which my particular favorite was a brand called Krochet Kids.  The non-profit knitwear is handmade in Uganda and Peru and the company works very hard to give back to those communities. The products sort of celebrate their homeland with rich, deep colors like saffron scarves and oxblood beanies. The chunky knits are warm and cozy so you will literally feel good buying them.

Fish Taco Central, Proper Restaurants, and more, coming up soon!

Hey, Go Call Your Mother

Another fantastic post by my brother and guest blogger Jesse Hartman. He adds a certain wit and joyous humor to my sometimes cynical blog. He wished he could have continued my breakfast bagel exploration but alas a bacon, egg and cheese bagel is as un-kosher as it gets. Enjoy! 

Although Vassar College is situated roughly 90 minutes away from New York, I rarely take the opportunity to venture out of the Vassar bubble. As luck would have it, I needed to go to the city for an interview, and it would be a crime against my taste buds to ignore the extraordinary kosher food scene, especially as my trip encompassed both breakfast and lunch.

A quick sidebar- I’m the type of rube that street vendors and those guys that sell bootlegged movies in Chinatown (do they have an official name?) would drool over- this will become apparent in my first stop.

Against all common sense, my train required a 6:30 AM wake-up call and by the time I arrived at Grand Central I absolutely had to put my morning research to work. First stop within the parameters of walking distance of GCT was Zucker’s for bagels. I ordered my favorite poppy-seed bagel with plain cream cheese and lox, just like a good Jewish boy should. However, I was shocked, nay even crestfallen when the cashier rang up my order at $10.80. $10.80?! For a bagel?! This better be the best dang bagel I’ve ever had, or maybe, to quote Maude Lebowksi, “I was being taken for the proverbial ride”.

I’ll start with the least valuable member, sorry to break it to you cream cheese. It was pretty plain, but I appreciated the fact that it didn’t overpower the rest of the other components. Next up, the bagel. Now this was a great, dense, and flavorful New York-style bagel. Tasty poppy-seeds that picked up the oniony flavor perhaps from being next to an everything bagel added a pleasant effect. The real star of the show was the fish of course. It had all the requirements of great lox: a nice smoky flavor, vibrant color and a very tender feel to it, but without being chewy and bland.

After my interview I had worked up my appetite and walked over the Ben’s Kosher Delicatessen on 7th Ave. and 38th Street. Their “overstuffed” sandwiches beckoned me into ordering classic- pastrami on rye. At the avoidance of sitting awkwardly alone, I took my sandwich to go, opting to eat at Grand Central while I waited for my train. The sandwich became a bit soggy, but this was sublime nonetheless. The pastrami was incredible- melt in your mouth (who would order it lean? My bubby wouldn’t). With the right balance of saltiness and brine from the in-house pickling. The accompanying deli-style mustard was lovely and flavorful without overwhelming the meat. A garnish of deli pickles, lovely full pickled mini dill and a half-sour, topped off the incredible lunch.

This was a superb day of kosher and Jewish-American foodstuffs, and yes I called my mother on the way home too.

This is Bowie to Bowie

For those who don’t know the obscure reference to the band The Flight of the Concords and their even more unknown song Bowie a few lines of the poignant pun filled song do a great job of capturing David Bowie’s essence:

“This is Bowie to Bowie
Do you hear me out there, man?
This is Bowie back to Bowie
I read you loud and clear, man, ooh yeah man”

“Do you have one really funky sequined space suit, Bowie
Or do you have several ch-changes?”

Recently, I went to the exhibit David Bowie Is at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. This comprehensive exhibit also did a fantastic job of profiling David Bowie’s eccentric and incredible career. David Bowie Is is the vision of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, with the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago as the only US venue.

The retrospective spanned six rooms at the MCA and included a diverse range of artifacts including letters, handwritten lyrics, videos, stage costumes, posters, and even original paintings by Bowie. The content of the exhibit painted a rich picture of David Bowie and included not only, the inspirational figures in his life, but also, how he inspired others, leaving his own mark on pop culture.

One of the most phenomenal parts of the exhibit was the audio companion that was motion activated. Your headset would start playing as you approached certain objects or entered rooms then fade out as you drifted from one place to the next. The effect may sound chaotic and a little disorienting but it proved otherwise. The audio system made the exhibit almost envelope you and created a visceral experience.

The pieces included in the retrospective seemed thoughtfully chosen and I didn’t feel inundated with stuff as I sometimes find in larger exhibits. The path and chronology of David Bowie Is was clear and pretty focused. Overall, I think the first retrospective of David Bowie’s life was hugely successful. I strongly encourage a visit to the MCA or wherever the show might be rolling to next. Going through the entire exhibit does take time and I would recommend at least a two hour tour to absorb all the content.

While photography was not allowed in the museum we snapped a few pictures outside the grand entrance banner and side poster. In the photos I am rocking my new-found love of street style with my full flowy skirt paired with a crop top and new  Supra kicks. On another (rare) men’s fashion note, my father is sporting some Cole Haan’s with colorful soles that we are all in love with and he exclusively buys.

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Blogs within the Blog

Creating some inception here, I wanted to point out some of my favorite websites that help me research the people. places, things, and all other surrounding nouns that I traverse in YOU are Here. I have three sites to share that all have been killing it in the blogosphere, but not without some helpful criticisms and guidelines from moi.

Refinery 29

I have been consulting this site for about a year now and it is filled with almost an overwhelming amount of information covering a vast amount of topics.

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 6.54.02 PMMy favorite feature of Rifener29 is the ‘local’ section that gives in depth dining, shopping and entertainment tips for NYC, LA, SF, London, and Chicago. You can literally search best iced coffee Brooklyn or antiques in West Hollywood and an exact match will come up. Most of the information is formatted in slideshow format, which is very digestible. The graphics on the site are also very cutsey and creative.

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When not consulting for travel tips I usually check out the fashion and living section. Be wary when following Refinery29 on Facebook because they post like the dickens and most if it is pop crap (my word for popular celebrity culture).

Uncrate 

Uncrate is a new site to me that a work colleague made me aware of. He was a technophile and uses the site to stay tech savvy. I checked out the site and found a curated paradise of quite a random amalgamation of goods. The simplicity and clean layout of the site is very attractive and user friendly. I also like how the site routes you right to the wholesaler of the goods when you click ‘buy now’

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 6.51.40 PMThe web design does have a few flaws. Drop-down menus would enable easier navigability of the site so when you enter a subset of a larger category like ‘Knives’ in ‘Gear’ you can not get back to other subsets of the category.

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 7.18.19 PM Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 7.18.44 PMAlong with curation come exclusion, and the prices of some of the products are certainly for the elite. So be careful getting too excited about anything before you see what the price tag is. Finally, while the site has a vast amount of items, it is designed exclusively for me. I obviously still use the sites but I find myself getting very jealous of the fine men’s outfits laid out under ‘Style’ with no female counterpart.

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Gallivant

Gallivant is a sister (or in this case I should say brother) site of Uncrate. The feel is similar but a little warmer then Uncrate with glossy photographs and some serious sepia overtones. There are many ways to search which is helpful and also a bit overwhelming. The site is also supposedly “For men’s eye’s only” and offers up the slogan “Travel Like a Man.” Honestly, the phrase for this site is completely unnecessary and ridiculous because none of the suggestions are strictly for men. Gallivant encompasses cities from around the world so don’t be fooled by the 25 or so listed because there is many more if you poke around other headings. I checked out Gallivant’s suggestions for Chicago and DC and I do approve of what I see for suggested destinations. I look forward to using it on my travels near and far.

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Brooklyn Baby Part 2

And the Brooklyn outings move on to new locations…

Greenpoint

After spending time in Bushwick it was time to meet back up with Maddy in Greenpoint. Maddy had told me she had a secret surprise that combined two of my favorite things.  We met at McCarren Park, a comprehensive green space that has a track, football field, work out areas and that is opposite the street of the physical park with paths and trees. We ambled along bustling Franklin Street looking at unique boutiques and cafes. We grabbed macaroons at Cookie Road, which we both agreed was a stupid name for a cute bakery. Since the macaroon is my favorite dessert I had to see how it stacked up against the many other samplings I have had. Cookie Road’s macaroons were decent but were a bit too chewy for me. However, a bunch of the other cookies and pastries looked quite good. We stumbled upon Alter, a boutique that mixed vintage and new pieces. The clothes and shoes were very clean and simple, featuring a nice array of niche designers.

After going in and out of a few more stores we arrived at the big surprise, Budin. Budin is a nordic coffee bar and their in lies two of my beloved items-coffee and anything Scandinavian/nordic. I have grand dreams to live in Stockholm or Copenhagen one day, two truly extraordinary cities. Budin was quintessentially nordic with a sleek slate bar and simple Ikea inspired wooden tables and chairs. If you continue to the back, you are greeted by a small offering of accessories and an outdoor patio with delicate wooden folding chairs. The extra special-ness we were trying to be there for was a free cupping of Norwegian coffees that had occurred the previous week. While unfortunately the tasting was not happening this weekend the super kind barista let me sample the cold brew before I purchased it to make sure I approved. All the offerings were light roasts and this one was an Ethiopian rosted by Tim Wendelboe out of Oslo, Norway. The brew was crazy fruity and aromatic, it was almost slightly acidic too-so interesting, different, and good. I absolutely must revisit Budin in the winter so I can sample some more of their imported offerings.

Williamsburg

A short walk from Greenpoint takes you to the allegedly ultra hip Williamsburg but after the neighborhood’s four predecessors it seemed less than impressive. The trying too hard Greenwich Village snobby art students seemed to be reincarnated as adults who are not any more or less cool than when they had started. We did find a lovely bakery, Caprice, that had fresh baked goods and a flakey, buttery croissant as big as your head.  along with delicious pastries. There was also gorgeous backyard to relax in that is walled off from the outside world.

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Park Slope

Sunday, brunch day brought us to Park Slope, a neighborhood very reminiscent of Brooklyn Heights. We spied the Brooklyn Public Library from the subway stop, an impressive building flecked with glimmering gold leaf. We headed down Union Street to Rose Water, which blew us away with an exceptional brunch. The prix fixe menu including a drink and entree was a very reasonable $16. Maddy got the Challah French Toast with fresh fruit, creme fraiche, pistachios and cherry chutney. The sweet dish was a very harmonious melding of all the different sweet, nutty and tart flavors. I decided to go savory and ordered the Roast Chicken sandwich with tomato, swiss, bacon, lettuce and a basil aioli served on ciabatta bread. The dish also came with pimenton herb fries which happened to seal the deal on this choice. While seemingly basic the dish was executed flawlessly and the basil aioli and french fries with homemade ketchup were a huge hit.

Before heading off to the airport I again ventured to Park Slope in hopes of visiting the Botanical Gardens and Brooklyn Museum, both being closed on Monday I had to adjust my plan but I did take time to walk around the “mini-Metropolitan” Brooklyn Museum. I headed to Breukelen Coffeehouse to get one last cappuccino before I left. Technically in Crown Heights, the cool, narrow coffeeshop was again serving up Stumptown so my drink was pleasant but not outstanding. I grabbed a slice of bacon and gruyere quiche that was incredibly smooth and rich due to the use of local duck eggs. Wandering on, back down Union Street. I was craving something refreshing and light after my heavier breakfast so I stopped into Union Market and grabbed a Bruce Coast Ginger Ale. Ginger Ale has become my most recent obsession and the unfiltered pomegranate with hibiscus version  from Bruce Coast is a new favorite of mine. I have tasked myself to try some others and will begin some diligent reporting. Bruce Coast is based in Brooklyn so it was a rather fitting selection. I turned on “the other” 5th Avenue where there are also many clothing stores but ones that are far more economical than their Manhattan counterparts. I stepped into Mavi, a premium denim store, Mavi, which is the word for blue in German was started in Istanbul and has a few stores around the world. At Mavi, I found a denim shift dress that was is going to make the perfect transition piece from summer to fall. The shirt dress is easy to wear now with simple wedges and will be smashing with thick tights and a scarf.

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Coffee Shop Review #15 St. Mark’s Coffeehouse Denver

The long-awaited next coffee shop review installment has come at last. If you can still recall, from way back when, categories are out of 5.

Location-4.5 (Taking a break from the coffee wasteland that Boulder has become, I headed down to Denver to meet my awesome friend Serena for an after work cafe catch up. We drove to St. Mark’s Coffeehouse which is near City Park in Northeast Denver. This parkside neighborhood is super cute and has lush trees covering up small, ornate houses. The neighborhood is not the most easily accessible from say downtown Denver and parking can be hit or miss but it has carved out it’s own little niche of the student/worker vibe).

Barista Cuteness-5 (For the first time, I think in my coffee outing lifetime I saw a single barista behind the bar handling everything from ringing up customers, doling out baked goods, and, of course, finessing the espresso machine. This single barista was also quite handsome and very personable. He executed all of his jobs with great ease and he served up perhaps the most efficient service I have ever seen. Sometimes less is indeed more).

Coffee Knowledge/Expertise-4 (The simple menu yielded the standard cappuccino test but I did see a line of jars of coffee beans that I will be eager to scan more thoroughly on my next visit. The barista made some cute and comical attempts at naming his coffee art blobs and the espresso had a bit of a singed, bitter taste. This saddened me, as I had high hopes for the amazing creamsicle colored espresso machine and the man behind it).

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Ambiance- 4 (Both inside and out were eclectic and humming with a nice relaxed tone. One table was paired with two chairs with insanely large sculpted backs that almost connected to make a canopy over the table. A bar very reminiscent of an Italian stand-up espresso shop sat empty and a touch out of place in the middle of the room. The outside was very pleasant with lots of umbrella coverage and sturdy iron tables. However, the creaky, metal folding chairs were in dire need of some love and oiling. The huge open sliding window gave a great view into the front of the cafe which had perfectly reasonable tables for working and chatting with Edison bulbs strung over them).

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Food/Pastry Selection-4.5 (From the case of glistening cookies, cakes, scones, croissants and more we elected to share a peach tart. The pastry was extremely buttery and light while the peach filling was nice and tangy, not too sweet. It was quite a hard choice to make so another trip back will surely be needed to satisfy further pastry indulgences. The panini menu looked simple and was actually quite affordable as far as coffee shop standards go, with sandwiches ranging in price from $5-$6. A group across the way got a savory treat that smelled very good so I have a feeling that the taste probably lined up).

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Overall Rating: 4.4

 

 

Sports Edition: Three more Awesome Days in Israel, including Lacrosse Highlights

Day 3 Continued-

We ended up conducting an impromptu youth lacrosse clinic due to the tardiness of the Israeli National Teams. It was amazing to watch kids who had never been exposed to lacrosse in their life pick the game up so naturally. It was a surreal moment. We proceeded to start our game after watching our women whip the Israelis. The field was scruffy, and our team equally so, we took the loss but managed to make it a one-goal game after a bad half. Not bad for players that have never practiced together. Afterwards we returned for our final night at the Kibbutz where we once again enjoyed the pub, this team with many of the players staying the night.

Day 4-

In the morning we wake up early to head to the town of Ramlah. It is in the center of the country and extraordinarily hot. Our game at 10:30 in the morning, on an artificial turf field gave us the thrilling opportunity to play in 100+ degree weather. I’m running long stick midfield (LSM) exclusively, which is exhausting, yet I seem to be one of the few guys in fairly good shape. The game was perhaps one of the most physically challenging things I think I’ve ever done, but we prevailed in a thrilling 12-11 victory in overtime much to the thrill of three Ramlah locals. Guys on our team were super dehydrated and dropping like flies, so after a short welcoming ceremony for Jerusalem we had some free time before dinner to rest. For dinner we had a very nice Shabbat activity and the hotel buffet was pretty solid. Just your usually meats in sauces, boiled assorted starches and of course fresh salad and hummus. Later in the evening, after some rambling, we found a lively bar district. It was an excellent night that included sampling another local beer called Tuborg and an anise liqueur called Arak. The Tuborg is lighter than Goldstar and very refreshing while the Arak was basically the essence of licorice, I liked it a lot but it wasn’t for everyone. Our first night in Jerusalem was a success.

Day 5-

Yom Shabbat lived up to its name as we were permitted to sleep in until 11:15 Saturday morning. The group gathered once again and we walked over to a different hotel to attend a seminar-like lecture on the state of affairs in Israel. Simon, a British ex-pat and to my delight a Tottenham Hotspurs supporter, did a wonderful job explaining the history of Israel and the current situation domestically and with its neighbors.  Then, we had a long walk to Old Jerusalem to perform our Havdallah, end of Sabbath, ceremony. It was very nice and at long last we finally went to the Western Wall. Seeing, touching, smelling and hearing this hallowed ground at night was simply stunning. I was crying with joy and I’m certain I wasn’t alone. A delicious and cheap shawarma cheered me up even though Alon and I agreed it was a little on the dry side. We had a sober night to prepare for Yad Vashem tomorrow but ended up having a rowdy sing-a-long that attracted another neighboring Taglit group and eventually hotel security.

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Sibling Talk: Jesse Hartman’s 3-Day Recap

Day 1

The trek begins with a 5:00 AM wake-up in Denver. A not so quick skip to JFK and an even slower jump later we arrive in Tel Aviv. It should be mentioned that the food on El Al was fairly good. Chicken and rice for dinner was doused in a tasty sauce and the hummus provided on the side was actually quite delicious. After arriving and get orientation from Rachel the program director, we head north to Farod. Along the way we stopped at a gas station convenience store and I had the opportunity to sample some local Doritos. The flavor was “the worst kind” according to Elad our guide but I enjoyed the ‘Hot and Sour’ chips. Driving through the north of Israel is beautiful, very reminiscent of the American West, and the heat was just as stifling. When we arrived at the Kibbutz we were put into groups of 3 and I roomed with Max who I had met at JFK and Ben. Both real mensches. Dinner at the Kibbutz was rather disappointing pasta and meatballs but the fresh vegetables and hummus were lovely and refreshing. The night program was more icebreakers and talking about the trip. Afterwards, we enjoyed some duty free alcohol that was purchased and had some Goldstar at the pub. Goldstar is a macro-brew of Israel and it’s actually very nice, though the pub’s price of 28 NIS a beer was unfortunate. I’m still working on everyone’s names but so far, so good.

Day 2

The next morning we woke at 7 for breakfast and started the day. Israeli breakfast is really nice, with fresh vegetables, pickled herring and oddly enough chocolate pudding. We embarked up north the Tel Dan to go on a nature walk. Elad explained the importance of the stream there and that the ruins had evidence that King David had actually existed. After the history lesson we traveled to Mt. Bental, overlooking the borders of Syria and Lebanon. The story of the conflict with Syria was fascinating and thought provoking. Next we stopped for lunch. Some friends I’m becoming closer to (2 brothers, their cousin, and a former teammate) went to Café Café. It was pretty terrible. I had the ‘Fish Shwarma Wrap’ which was just bland whitefish and lettuce in a tortilla, and the small sample of the ‘Smoked Salmon wrap wasn’t good either. A corrective experience was needed and luckily we were off to a tour of a winery, which included a tasting. We sampled a Cabarnet Sauvignon, a Chardonnay and a desert wine. I thought all were pretty great, but the red was especially fantastic as was to be expected from the rich volcanic soil of the area. After the wine, we drove a bit more to kayak on the River Jordan. It was more of a lazy stream at this point, but fairly fun nonetheless. Dinner at the Kibbutz back in Farod was a very nice fried chicken, accurately described as “chicken parm without the redsauce”. Another night, another rambunctious evening drinking Goldstar and watching the World Cup.

 

Day 3

Tonight I will be playing in an exhibition lacrosse game with the rest of the group. All the members in this birthright group our NCAA athletes of varying abilities from Division 1 through 3. This, however,  didn’t stop us from touring our tucheses off. After a breakfast that saw more familiar faces and foods, we started off with a 2-hour downhill hike on the Nachal Amud trail. The views were beautiful and the hike gave us a chance to warm up our legs and of course learn more Israeli history. We then drove to the old city of Tzfat. At long last I got my hands on some very flavorful shwarma. It was fantastic. The laffa was fresh and hot, the sauces I added were perfectly spicy and of course the meat was well seasoned and freshly shaved. With full stomachs we toured Tzfat learning more about Kabbalah and Halacha, as we visited two historic synagogues. Upon our return to our last night at the Kibbutz in Farod, we rested and got ready for the game.