Coffee Shop Review #21 Bellwether

Down in Denver, exploring new coffee shops per usual. Categories out of 5.

Location-3.5(Way down on East Colfax Bellwether stands alone as a destination rather than a spot to stop in on a walkabout. However, Bellwether serves as a four stops in one shop featuring a cafe, small racks of clothing, a barbershop and a whiskey bar at night. The neighborhood is definitely up and coming and there are some emerging restaurants. as well as, the three great Denver music venues: The Bluebird, The Gothic Theater, and The Ogden. However, you will need to drive anywhere you are trying to go so it is best to square away some quality time and stay in rather than order coffee to take).

Barista Cuteness-4(The baristas at Bellwether are 1 for 1 so they are batting a 100 so far. The man serving us was so pleasant and in lieu of other customers hung about our table to discuss the changing Denver scene and tell us about the cafe. He was very well-dressed, which reflected the aesthetic of the store and clothing for sale very well. A peak in the back barbershop revealed well-coiffed attractive hipsters as to be expected).

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Coffee Knowledge/Expertise-4.5(We ordered two cappuccinos and a Kenya pour over to sample the coffee selection for taste, variety, and consistency. Bellwether serves coffee from Boxcar Coffee Roasters, a well-known Boulder/Denver roaster that is on the rise.  The cappuccinos were a bit dry (more foam) and the espresso did not have an unctuous taste, it was drier as if the beans were older and roasted to be more bitter. The Kenya pour over was served in a massive tin camping mug which was a great start. The coffee was flavorful, full bodied and was carefully prepared to bring out the fruity flavors).

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Ambiance-5(The design is where Bellwether truly shines. The all black and white color palette oozes a coolness that is very effortless. Simple chairs and tables complement focal design touches like the sewing table desk, overstuffed Winchester sofas, and fantastic Ducati motorcycle. Floor to ceiling windows on the street-facing wall let in ample light to brighten the dark features. The whiskey and coffee bar is very simple, neat and uncluttered which confirms the crisp, unfussed vibe).

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Food/Pastry Selection-3.5(A very meager single glass pastry stand held a few savory and sweet muffins, scones, and cookies. The selections did look appetizing and sound original but clearly was an afterthought for the cafe. Without having sampled any particular baked good I would ventrue to say they looked like they would tast very good but will need to confirm).

Overall Rating:4,1

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).

 

A tale of two cities: Three Days in Berlin

Ra ra Berlin. This historically rich, techno infused town has a wide range of activities and outings to cater to every traveler, especially those operating within a budget. A couple of things that make Berlin such a bargain. First, transportation if free. Well…errrr…not free per say but payment is optional. There is no turnstile or tap in/out system so you can get away with using the S-Bahn, U-Bahn, Street Cars, and buses for free. If you get caught there will be a fine so ride at your own risk. Food and housing is also more affordable in Berlin than in other parts of Germany because it is still developing and emerging from its soviet or half GDR shell.

To Eat: Berlin has a very diverse population which is very favorable for food finds. A must in Berlin is doner, essentially shawarma and a famed great place to check out is Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebap. We stayed in Kreuzberg so a majority of our eats were in the Middle Eastern hood with a growing food scene. The first place we dined was Baraka. A fantastic Moroccan restaurant with great spiced dishes and tea. You can reserve seats in advance to get a table on the floor with cushions for the full experience. Another great place off of Goriltzer Park is  Bar Raval, This tapas joint brings surprisingly great Spanish cuisine to Berlin in unique dishes. Bar Raval is known for their extensive wine list and weekly paella nights. The vibe is very lively with a sleek ‘canteen-like’ feel. I’d recommend the shishito peppers and homemade flan. For authentic German food that is served on plates as big as your torso check out Tiergartenquelle. It is literally underneath a S-Bahn stop which makes the restaurant convenient although off the beaten bath. Try any dish they have with spaetzle, that’s their thing and make sure to get a giant liter of beer to accompany your meal.

For brunch and coffee I have three recommendations. First, Bateau Ivre is a kooky breakfast spot that sports vibrant art and a large array of mismatched lanterns. The cafe serves up classic European breakfast which consists of an array of meats, cheese, and fresh basket of bread. The meal is simple, hearty and a good start to the day. Next, Factory Girl! (exclamation included in the name) is located in a great part of the city called Friedrichshain. Here you’ll find lots of cafes and small boutiques. Factory Girl! is great for breakfast and lunch but most famous for their sweet treats. I got a deconstructed cream pie, which was basically fresh clotted cream with bits of dark chocolate bark all served over macerated berries. I’d also recommend the Sicilian sandwich. Finally, Neumond for a breakfast buffet that will make you believe in the concept of a buffet again. At first, you are going to think I am crazy for recommending Neumond because it is in a hotel but you have to trust me. For about ten euros you have an all you can eat breakfast where everything is homemade and they will make perfect farm fresh eggs to order. Plus the cappuccino is pretty good too. The brunch serves up fresh bread, spreads and great jam (so good that I even bought too small mason jars of it). Fresh salads and fruit are also on the laden banquet along with a great meat and cheese selection.

To Visit: Berlin is known for it’s checkered history and there are powerful reminders throughout the city. Two world wars have left the city with a host of interesting cultural sites and several should not be missed. To begin with The Wall business we found that the Black Box (History of the Cold War) mini museum next to Checkpoint Charlie had a great interactive history of the time during the divided city. One must also check out the East Side Gallery, while touristy it is a impressive strip of beautifully decorated murals on The Wall from artists all around the world. The backside of the “gallery” also has some amazing graffiti and a solid view of the River Spree.

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Mitte is aptly named and contains the heart of the government and Berlin’s cultural sites. The area is marked with the beautifully ornate Brandenburg Gate. We did a cheap hop-on hop -off bus tour that took us around Mitte and our favorite spots were the Vicotry Coulmn, which was actually moved by Hitler’s urban planners and boasts a mini musum that pays tribute to monuments around the world. You can also climb up to the top for a good view of the Tiergarten. The Holocaust Memorial and museum underneath is very moving and the memorial pulls you into a maze of grey that is chaotic and very moving.

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For two incredible views of Berlin that have awesome audio guides that provide an incredible amount of information check out the Reichstag and Berliner Dome. Both contrast each other very well and provide quality sites. The Reichstag Dome is a modern glass globe that is an incredibly enormous indoor-outdoor space designed by the famed architect Norman Foster. the audio guide is timed as you work your way up the curved walkway of the dome and gives commentary on each point of interest in the 360 degree view. The Berliner Dome is a classic cathedral dome with a steep winding staircase and a narrow indoor and outdoor passageway. You get a great view of the church itself looking out to the spires and gargoyles as well as inside to the alter below. We went at night and managed to capture a great sunset over Berlin.

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Some final tour stops include a free show at the modern Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester. The Symphonie puts on free lunch time shows several days of the week which are a fun informal gathering of tourists, businessmen, and art patrons. Also, depending on when you visit Berlin it is absolutely necessary to hit up a traditional German Christmas market. Drink gluvine (mulled wine), eat tasty baked goods and be merry. We fit in three markets in our three days in Berlin.

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To Drink: There are a lot of places to get beer in Berlin, make sure to consult a local for their favorite beirgarten. For some alternative choices I’d recommend Roses Bar, Prinzipal Kreuzberg, and SO36. Roses Bar is tiny gay bar that was perfectly described by my flatmate as “the inside of tacky 70s furniture.” Why this odd description? Because the bar is literally vinyl, studs, and pink furry walls all put together. The place is also electric, not just with the friendly crowd but the literal electric hum of fluorescent lights and other colored bulbs that cover entire walls. Prinzipal is a burlesque bar that has high quality drinks (be warned they have high price tags attached as well). Stop in for one drink to feel fancy and see the speak-easy style decor, very 20’s and Baroque inspired. Finally we stumbled upon S036 accidentally when coming out of Roses. Turned out it was a dance hall that hosts a variety of different events each night. Once a month they have a Roler Disco, which was, you guessed it, the day we went. Grab Roller Skates and stumble to the bar, have a drink for courage then skate around the disco ball lit rink to German techno and old R&B because what could be better?

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To Party: While we were on too much of whirlwind trip to put in the time to enjoy Berlin’s famous club scene. I will pass down some words of wisdom from a fellow ex-pat who took up residence in Berlin for a year. According to Mathew Jones “if you wanna dance to some great techno music; Check out Sisyphos (if its open) it is the best club in the world in my opinion. If closed I would also recommend Greissmhule or Kater Blau. As with most clubs in Berlin, doors don’t open till after midnight Friday and are open till Sunday or Monday, but be ready to wait in a line.”

A Little Something Something

My poor forgotten blog, I am revisiting you at last. First, let me say that the past month has been absolutely craziness but I am proud to say You are HERE has officially moved international! It’s safe to say I am settled in London by now so ya’ll can look forward to cheeky posts from England’s hustling and bustling capital.

My overall impressions of the city are as follows: traffic, drinking on the sidewalk (yes, it’s cooler to be outside the bar than in), queuing, so much queuing. and green space. The royal parks alone are out of this world. (Look for individual park breakdowns in the future). I’m going to get to coffee shops, ramen, museums, and fashion in a minute but first I have to acknowledge the amazing jewel in my own ‘hood-The Somerset House. 

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The Somerset House is a sprawling complex on The Strand that houses galleries, cafes, a massive courtyard, and so much more. I can’t really do the history of this grand manor justice so I’ll leave it to the comprehensive history page on Somerset’s site.

When you step into any part of the Somerset House it is as if you have stepped out of contemporary London and into Vienna in the early 1900s. The air is rich with bourgeoisie knowledge from the King’s College students criss crossing with arts enthusiasts. The “house” is enormous and the exhibitions are constantly changing so it is impossible to grow bored. There are five eateries and countless galleries to traverse along with terraces and special events.

So far I have found Fernandez and Wells to be an amazing spot to curl up and do work with a coffee and a delicious sandwich or bowl of soup. Full on review to come soon.

I have made my way through Out of Chaos Ben Uri: 100 Years in London an awesome exhibit celebrating London’s rich immigrant communities. The exhibit was nicely curated with works that were thoughtfully put together in each small room. This made for a very intimate look inside the lives of London’s multicultural landscape. The range of works spanning many different time periods is very dynamic and is supported by crisp graphics portraying the climbing number of immigrants in London.

I also walked through Courtauld Gallery which houses a permanent collection of medieval and impressionist works, as well as, revolving exhibits. On display currently is Bridget Riley: Learning from Seurat.  In this show, Riley copied Seurat’s famous Bridge at Courbevoie and than created her own works. Riley’s new perspective on pointillism is quite vibrant and striking. It was refreshing to see an artist celebrate a classic painter rather than hide behind murky plaques that say “he/she was inspired by…” and hen produce a grim modern copy.

The permanent collection includes paintings, drawings, and sculptures residing in stately rooms that are artful in their own right. The collection has a surprising amount of classics but doesn’t overwhelm the visitor with volume. Each painting has room to breath on well-lit walls. Some of my favorites included Nevermore by Gauguin and Adam and Eve by Lucas Cranach the Elder,

I have just scratched the surface of all there is to explore at the magnificent Somerset House but it is right down the road so I am sure to return a couple dozen times this year. However, this quick review of a cafe and two galleries should be enough to entice anyone to take a look. There’s something in Somer for everyone,

 

 

 

Coffee Shop Review #19 La Colombe

La Colombe is a Philadelphia based coffee roaster that has expanded to New York City, Chicago, and D.C.

Location-4(La Colombe’s DC location is located in the Shaw neighborhood that we are constantly being told is up and coming, which it is. Don’t be fooled by the N Street address however, the cafe is located in Blagden Alley. I biked right past it the first time so some signage would have been nice. Upon finding the tucked away building, the secluded location was very enjoyable).

Barista Cuteness-4(The baristas at La Colombe are all smiles, although not the most helpful when it comes to coffee selection. I appreciated when a barista came by to take my finished dishes instead of watching them stack up. I was even startled out of my Pharrell work mode by an employee coming up to complement my ring).

Coffee Knowledge/Expertise-4.5(This was my first taste of La Colombe coffee so per usual I started with the cappuccino test. I was happy to be offered my choice of espresso and a recommendation of which would stack of best against milk. La Colombe’s coffee is robust and doesn’t try to be anything to fancy, which I can appreciate as a change of pace).

Ambiance-3.5(There are hits and misses for La Colombe when it comes to their cafe design and environment. The long narrow space is very interesting but the seating is a little stagnant. Simple wooden chairs are not too comfortable and they don’t match the exposed brick aesthetic. La Colombe also does not believe in posting menu boards which is an extreme form of pretension that is difficult and inconvenient. While you probably enter knowing what you are going to order you have no idea how much it is going to cost and for those who are not as coffee savvy it poses an even bigger problem. The best part of La Colombe’s DC location is the outdoor buildout. Wide wooden benches are covered by the entrance and provide a very nice shady place to enjoy your coffee year round).

Food and Pastry Selection-4.5(The best part about La Colombe is the beautiful pottery that food and drinks are served on. You’re immediately going to fall in love with anything you get because of it. The pastry selection mainly consists of classic french baked goods including olive oil cakes, canelles, and macaroons. The one issue is that they don’t get enough pastries so you have to make sure you get there in time to sample a good treat. I chose a Nutella morning bun with a fancier name. The crunchy glazed top was delicious and the delicately intertwined layers of buttery dough and Nutella were fantastic).

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Overall Rating; 4.1IMG_3750

Coffee Shop Review #18 ThreeFifty Bakery and Coffee Bar

Adams Morgan and U Street have received some special exploring attention now that my boyfriend has moved there. He showed me this sweet spot with ratings out of four.

Location-4.75 (ThreeFifty Bakery and Coffee Bar is located on U Street and 16th. It is a prime location, right below the heart of Adam’s Morgan and to the West of trendy 14th Street. The bakery is tucked under an apartment building amongst other houses giving it an intimate charm. At ThreeFifty you are in a residential haven in the city. Coming from Chicago, I sometimes miss the neighborhood feel of local shops and cafes so ThreeFifty sits perfectly outside the busy main streets of Adam’s Morgan and Logan Circle. The only thing that would make ThreeFifty the ultimate spot is if it were a tad closer to a metro stop, then again, it could loose its charm).

Barista Cuteness-4.0(Forget barista cuteness and let’s talk about patron cuteness. No, I am not biased because I went there with my boyfriend, he is not counting in this scenario. There were so many peacoat adorned dapper gentlemen in and out of the coffee shop on my few visits.  In addition, I sat next to an exceptionally attractive and friendly Kate Hudson look-a-like on my first visit. Pivoting back to the Baristas, they are sweet and come off as very humble, a quality I don’t often see).

Coffee Knowledge/Expertise-3.5(The baristas at ThreeFifty are seem knowledgable and know their coffee stuff. The bad is the coffee stuff itself. ThreeFifty serves Illy coffee and espresso which is received better by some more than others. For me, Illy is far too bitter. Illy coffee is imported from Italy and is straight up coffee. No-nonsense, not too many flavor notes, very dark. After having a cappuccino and an ice coffee I needed to switch it up so I ordered a London Fog. A London Fog is Early Grey tea with steamed milk and a drizzle of honey. The two London Fogs I have had at the coffee bar are the best I have ever had. They serve a very high quality French Early Grey tea with the perfect ratio of hot water to milk. The Jasmine tea is also smooth and lovely, so I would recommend the tea side of things).

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Ambiance-5.0(The ambiance of ThreeFifty is in line with it’t neighborhood feel . The decor is rustic and simple. The wood floors make the small space all the more cozy and warm. The prime seating is at the huge bay window in the front where light pours in on you as you do work. The first time I was there, I was sitting in the window as flakes of snow danced about, it was utterly fantastic. The amount of seats is very small, but people move in and out fairly quickly. The patrons of the cafe are very local, as one has to be to find such a tiny spot).

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Food/Pastry Selection-4.75(ThreeFifty’s claim to fame, or at least to my high rating and four visits in two weeks, is definitely their bakery. I first had the ricotta muffin from the bakery and it was amazing. I typically despise muffins, agreeing with those who call them bald cupcakes but not this muffin. The creamy ricotta on the inside was a fresh bite that added flavor, moisture and texture to the wonderful muffin. Other pastries that I have consumed include a ginger scone and blueberry lemon pound cake. Both had very subtle flavors from their main ingredients but were perfectly balanced. My boyfriend has also ordered two of ThreeFifty’s quiches. The savory side of the bakery has also had great results. The crusts of the quiches have constantly been buttery and flakey. The mini quiches also pack in quite a lot of ingredients into each little bite, more filling then their size would indicate. The only reason why I marked the bakery down a quarter of a point was due to the fact that they were out of my precious ricotta muffin not once, but twice! Oh the horror! I suppose it did force me to review other treats, however it was still upsetting).

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Overall Rating: 4.4

Coffee Shop Review #17 Elixr Coffee Roasters

What came out of the briefest stint in Philadelphia was this wonderful coffee shop and roaster. Five points for five categories holds true in Philly.

Location-3.5 (I am forced to discuss location based off of feel and recommendations because I did not get a chance to traverse the whole city myself for the coolest areas. I would put Elixr Coffee Roasters in the SoHo of Philly, with high end boutiques and a random Chipotle flanking the Sydenham Street location. So if your Uniqulo bags are weighing you down or you are staying at one of the many hotels on Broad Street stroll on over for a relaxing visit).

Barista Cuteness-5.0 (The men behind the counter at Elixr were charming and very friendly. After explaining my own affinity for coffee and sharing that I also worked at a coffee shop wonderful discounts and conversation streamed in. The baristas were very in tune with the DC coffee scene and loved swapping restaurant and gelato recommendations. Stellar personality and attractiveness should garner the three bonus points but a five will suffice).

Coffee Knowledge/Expertise-4.5 (As the name suggest Elixr Coffee Roasters is not only a cafe but also a roastery and they serve up their own single origin beans ad espresso blend. I started with a Cafetin pour over from Costa Rica. The cup was slightly bitter and not my favorite cup of coffee. For those who like fuller bodied coffees with darker roasts this is a fitting selection. I did enjoy the earthy taste of the coffee but it was a little one note. I grabbed a cappuccino on my way out which was made very well but the espresso could have been a bit more robust. On my trip back to Elixr the next morning I scooped up a bog of Konga, a single-origin Ethiopian. This coffee has proven to be extremely delicious with a bright, natural acidity and interesting floral notes).

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Ambiance-5.0 (I spied Elixr before even going in by the large plated glass windows that looked in to the cozy wood interior. The coffee shop was bustling, warm, and cozy. My three favorite things. In addition, the charcoal and blue tones were demure yet still very interesting. The large mural over the cushy seating pit was striking and is apparently changed out every so often. Wooden tables and chairs provide sturdy tools for work while the couches have a thoughtfully placed backs that provide outlets and spaces for cups of coffee. There seemed to be a mix of families, students, and professionals all seamlessly blending in a rich and vibrant sea of sweaters, saucers and coffees).

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Food/Pastry Selection- 3.5 (I am hoping the quaint pastry selection quality aligns with the rest of Elixr but I am purely judging on the options I saw. The fresh croissants were certainly calling to me in the morning but a prized doughnut shop awaited (review to come). I will have to sample on my next trip or maybe some write-ins can attest to the treats’ greatness).

Overall Rating: 4.3

Coffee Shop Review #13 Big Bear Cafe

Big praise for Big Bear out of 5.

Location-4(Big Bear Cafe occupies an island corner at First and R Street NW, just off Florida Avenue. The location is a little odd and it is hard to determine where the hoards of people are coming from. There is a lot of residential apartments around but not much else in terms of shops and restaurants. It appears that as the Shaw-Howard area is developed more there will be more spill over to old corners such as Big Bear’s).

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Barista Cuteness-4.5(Barista’s are charming, helpful, and seem to be in a very joyous mood. They often chit chat with people sitting at the bar and will periodically circulate to make sure everyone is satisfied. There is not a clearly defined system for calling out drink and food orders which leads to a bit of confusion, but if there voices weren’t muffled by their oversized chunky circle scarves, they wouldn’t be true hip baristas now would they)?

Coffee Knowledge/Expertise-4.5(I have kept my drink orderings pretty simple at Black Bear, ordering a house coffee and pot of tea thus far. While I have not been able to apply the cappuccino test yet I can comment on the drinks that I have had. Counter Culture Coffee, one of my favorite espresso roasters extremely impressed me with their drip coffee beans. While I do not know the specific name of the house brew being served up I know it was one of the most delicious, house brew black coffees I have ever had. There was definitely blackberry and other fruit flavors present along with a strong boldness and crisp finish. On my second outing my friend and I split a large pot of Jasmine Pearl tea. Our first cup was great but the tea turned soapy in taste pretty quickly and we had no obvious way to remove the over soaked leaves from the pot, sadly).

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Ambiance-5(Big Bear knows hot to do cute decoration and simple furniture choices. The inside look is very rustic with wooden tables and chairs. The colors are rich and dark, burgundy bar stools do not clash with the wooden atmosphere and carved out booths are spacious and comfortable. There is a great, sturdy, communal table that anchors the room and slender windows that perfectly frame cozy two-tops. The outdoor seating is also a treat and there is a canopy of Edison style lights over the entire patio. There is a lot of seating but a pretty high demand, so snagging a table is the biggest challenge).

Pastry/Food Selection-4(Camping out at Big Bear is easy because it doubles as a Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner restaurant as well as a cafe. On my first leisurely Sunday I enjoyed an amazingly zesty pulled pork sandwich that had an incredible sweet and tangy BBQ sauce. The bowl of navy beans I chose as my side was quite cold and sad but they were very fresh in quality. The second trip to Big Bear was all about getting work done via pastry motivation. My friend and I split a brown sugar cookie and vegan peanut butter cookie. The peanut butter cookie was really good and you couldn’t even tell it was vegan, always a plus. The brown sugar cookie was a chocolate chip cookie minus the satisfying chocolate chips, so it tasted great but was slightly disappointing. We decided having standard chocolate cookies would have been far too mainstream).

Overall Rating: 4.4

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Coffee Shop Review #5 BakeHouse

Served in five categories (out of five points ya know).

Location-5 (My friend Abby has named this area ‘lil Brooklyn and whether or not New Yorkers will be outraged by this title, the U Street area is definitely trendy and filled with bars, baby strollers, various coffee bars, and other “hip” neighborhood fixtures. The row houses are beautiful and BakeHouse is off the main drag so it keeps its quaintness. Make sure to check out Taqueria Nacionale for some heartier fare).

Barista Cuteness- 4 (The staff is are super hospitable and friendly. If you don’t know what scrumptious baked good to order they will be more than happy to provide a suggestion).

Coffee Knowledge/Selection-4 (At BakeHouse rather than being soley crazy about coffee, a lot of time is put into the bakery as the name would suggest. However, I was served a very good cappuccino with espresso by Zeke’s Coffee. The barista’s definitely know what they are doing but you can’t come looking for an extensive single-origin selection. Another time I visited BakeHouse I got an iced coffee, which I would normally never, ever, order but it was served with coffee ice cubes, a very nice, thoughtful touch that prevented the iced coffee from getting grossly watered down as it so often does).

Ambiance-5 (BakeHouse’s clean, white, minimalist design totally works for the long and narrow space. The bar seating at the entrance gave a lovely view of the sunset over the cute brick houses across the way. The single couch is also quite comfortable and has a sturdy, modern, wood table that is great for doing work).

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Pastry/Food Selection-5 (This category is wear BakeHouse packs a punch. As expected, the pastries are delicious. I have had a heavenly sticky bun and the peanut butter cookie sandwich should not be missed. The scone/biscuit selection is also beyond and the kitchen has got everyone covered with individual gluten-free flowerless chocolate cakes and vegan cookies).

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Overall Rating: 4.6