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

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!

Coffee Shop Review #11 The Cup Espresso Cafe

What are Boulder’s Baristas serving up? Find out (categories out of five).

Location-5(Located in Boulder, Colorado The Cup Espresso Cafe is competing with a fleet of independent coffee shops on Boulder’s downtown pedestrian walk, the Pearl Street Mall. The main drag of Boulder covers about 5 blocks and includes, restaurants, retail, and lots and lots of coffee options as aforementioned. Ambling on the mall is a Boulder must and the east end of the mall, where the Cup is located, is steadily growing in popularity).

Barista Cuteness-4.5(The barista’s are rocking it at The Cup, as you would expect from a exceptionally fit and healthy town. They are also  very charming and happy to chat. My only note would be that, while yes, good drinks take time to prepare, there always seems to be an exceptionally long wait time for beverages).

Coffee Knowledge/Expertise-4(The Cup is all about their fair trade coffee, so for the environmentally conscious it is definitely a great option.  Conscious Coffees provide all the beans for the cafe, which is kind of a no brainer. The selection of beans is almost overwhelming and you can really get the exact flavor your heart desires. Espresso drinks are good at The Cup, but my main staple is their Florentine-divine! Whatever the swirling chocolately goodness is that they are pairing with the drip coffee is wonderful. The espresso drinks are prepared with the correct quantities of milk, foam, and espresso but the espresso seems to be very mellow in flavor, making the drinks a little flat). 

Ambiance-4(What The Cup lacks in inspiring design they make up for partly in their garage door opening and outdoor seating. Since it is sunny almost every day of the year in Colorado, I would highly recommend basking in the sun and watching the troves of bikers pass by. The interior is pretty basic with very standard wooden tables and chairs. There is a nice area of additional seating in the back of the cafe that is a pleasant, quieter space to do work).

Food/Pastry Selection-4.5(I have only every had one treat miss at The Cup and this can be partially blamed on pure faulty ordering, really you should never order a gluten-free carrot or apple anything-it’s just bound to be dry, chunky, and overall distasteful. However, the rest of the sweets at The Cup are great, and the cookies are massive and exceptional. If the peanut butter cookie is present, which is off and on,you are a outright fool if you don’t snatch one or five up. The Cup also serves up lots of sandwiches and bagels if you are in the mood to make it a meal. Everything is made fresh, in house, which is the benefit of having a full kitchen in a coffee shop, a luxury that many more urban cafes can’t get away with. I recently branched out from my cookie obsession and got a a rosemary scone that was perfectly baked and full of flavor, so make sure to try something new too).

Overall Rating: 4.4

Coffee Shop Review #7 The Wydown Coffee Bar

Still catching up on coffee shops, back in DC and categories out of 5.

Location-5(‘Lil Brooklyn/U Street continues to be the apple of my eye and with the discovery of a host of new vintage and housewares stores it will continue to draw me back. Grab a coffee at They Wydown and take a lovely stroll down 14th Street to see a plethora of even more interesting shops and galleries).

Barista Cuteness-4.5(Baristas are attractive but definitely a little hit and miss with friendliness).

Coffee Knowledge/Selection-4.5(I am still looking for a cafe that serves a Florentine, my secretly coveted drink that I have also heard called “a poor man’s Mocha” because it is chocolate steamed with drip coffee rather than espresso but I prefer it to a Mocha myself. I saw great promise at The Wydown but alas, no Florentine for me. I have gotten a very splendid cappuccino and an Intellegencia Ethiopian pour over which was slightly bitter for my taste).

Ambiance-5(The Wydown is an awesome place to do work or hang out with friends and has a great atmosphere. Two long, beautiful wooden tables flanked with either benches or chairs provide the feeling that you are at a buzzing Bohemian Biergarten. The Wydown is, essentially, a large, open, rectangular box so there are no funky corners and light streams in from the front windows, which one can also sit at. There is additional seating along a wall composed of bucket chairs and milk crates for tables, in classic hipster fashion).

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Pastry/Food Selection-4.5(The baked good selection is small but mighty. I have had a delicious apple turnover that was lightly warmed for optimal consumption. The salted caramel brownies are an absolute must, they are rich, moist and delectable).

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Overall Rating: 4.7

Coffee Shop Review #6 Bohemian Coffee House

While it seems like ages since I was in Baltimore, as promised I am doing an extended coffee shop review of Bohemian Coffee House. If I recall correctly the categories are still out of 5 (hee).

Location-4(First, remember this coffee shop is in Baltimore for all of you local DCists. Bohemian is located in an area deemed Charles North, an up-and-coming neighborhood by the Baltimore Train Station. While there are other restaurants around Bohemian you won’t find any local shops to explore or the feel of an established neighborhood. Baltimore is gritty, embrace the grittiness)!

Barista Cuteness-4(The cluster of baristas behind the bar that seemed to be randomly moving about were cute but  you’ll have to break them from their indy task-oriented trance to order).

Coffee Knowledge/Selection-4(Oddly, when I went to order my standard cappuccino I was told that there was no espresso-based drinks at the moment. Whether this meant their machine broke or they ran out of coffee beans I will never know. I decided to go for an Ethiopian Gelana Abaya pour over from Square One Coffee. My cup of coffee was painstakingly prepared and I believe I may have intimidated my barista by watching her intense preparation of my coffee. She immediately offered to make me another cup right after I tasted my first sip if I found any inadequacy, this was completely unnecessary because the coffee was prepared perfectly. I cannot describe the pour any better than Square One who even use the greatest phrase “Cupping Notes” to preface their description of the beans stating the Yirgacheffe beans as containing a “Ripe blueberry and strawberry sweetness, tart lemon with a dark chocolate finish”–delicious)!

Ambiance-4.5(Where Bohemian lacks in location they make up for in ambiance. The coffee bar with popping red stools is very inviting and sits across from a row of cozy booths. I would imagine that the outdoor seating is also quite pleasant on a Summer day).

Pastry/Food selection-5(I had an Alfajores, a delicate Argentinian dolce de leche sandwhich cookie. The baker went above and beyond to serve my treat in the most elegant manner which made it even more enjoyable to eat. The selection of other baked goods looked equally as inviting and the Bohemian also serves dinner and lunch options that consist of hearty asian-inspired dishes like Lions Head, a traditional Japanese street food meatball dish, that looked quite scrumptious).

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Overall Rating: 4.3