Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Lulu Carpenter's

Location: 1545 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz

Reviewed: May 24, 2006

Espresso: Although I requested a single, I was given what appeared to be a double of probably 2.5oz. volume in a cappuccino cup. The cup, of course, did not help the persistence of the thin crema, which was medium-brown and dissipated very rapidly. The shot didn't seem to be specifically ground to order, although they were running the grinder periodically. In the cup, the primary tastes were smoky and bitter, so this was obviously a quite dark roast; there were some underlying hints of plum as well.

Atmosphere: Lulu's is on the northern end of Pacific Ave., and so isn't as tourist-impacted as some of the other locations to the south. There is seating out front and on a small patio out back, as well as standard cafe tables inside. The front of the store is dominated by the counter to the immediate left. There can be some degree of confusion as to which way the line is stretching.

Verdict: Not great, but not bad either.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Another digression

I think anyone who reads this at all will already know, but I have passed the California Bar Exam!

Alyis-N-Rose Bakery & Cafe

Location: 1686 Lafayette St., Santa Clara

Reviewed: May 19, 2006

Espresso: My single was served ~2oz. with no crema whatsoever (to be fair, there was a very thin ring of what appeared to be nothing more than a FP-style bloom on the coffee, but I wouldn't call this crema). Strangely, it was given to me in an Irish Coffee mug of ~8-10oz. capacity (they didn't appear to have any other style of mug). It had a dark-roast bittersweet flavour, but nothing else really distinguished it at all. Basically indistinguishable from darkly-roasted drip coffee.

Atmosphere: Alyis-N-Rose is a fairly small and comfy neighbourhood cafe. There are a couple of couches centrally located in the room, while the cafe tables & chairs are relegated to the periphery. The walls are decorated with what appear to be quiltwork, and there are various figurines scattered about that appear to attempt to portray an image of African art. Overall, the place is kinda cool in its own way, although not a place for everyone.

Verdict: With 'espresso' that tastes just like drip coffee, I'd stick with the drip.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Coffee To The People

Location: 1206 Masonic Ave., San Francisco

Reviewed: May 14. 2006

Espresso: CTTP uses a grinder (I think a Swift) with an autogrind and tamp feature, so at least the coffee was freshly ground. They also brewed directly into the cup. However, the barista simply pushed the auto button on the machine and let it brew unattended. The resultant shot was way too long (pushing 2oz. for a single, and with the other half of the pour going into the drip tray, it was decidedly a single). The lungo pour resulted in a pale yellow-ish crema that, although initially quite thick, dissipated somewhat quickly. The shot was thin and slightly astringent. The primary taste was something that I just couldn't quite pin down. It was somewhere between cedar and anise with hints of sassafras thrown in. Quite unusual, and it might have been an interesting cup if it had been poured correctly.

Atmosphere: CTTP is a large shop just off Haight St. It's fairly clean and open. A plethora of various sorts of stickers representing the political viewpoints of (presumably) the owners and most of the clientele are affixed to everthing. It doesn't actually look as bad as it sounds. Free wifi is well taken advantage of.

Verdict: All they really have to do is pull a proper length shot, and the coffee wouldn't be all that bad.

Steps of Rome

Location: 348 Columbus Ave., San Francisco

Reviewed: May 14, 2006

Espresso: My single was served in the proper volume (~1oz.). It had some thin wisps of what might have been crema on a better day; these wisps did not even so much as cover the top of the beverage (which was in a proper espresso cup). Although quite hot, it was not bitter. It was full-bodied and tasted mostly of caramel notes. At least the barista tamped, although the shot was not ground to order.

Atmosphere: Even though it seems to suffer from a schizophrenic disorder in that it can't tell if it's a restaurant or a coffee bar, Steps of Rome is arguably the coolest cafe in which I have ever been. It's just, well, fun. Loud Italian music (on this particular day, hip-hop) plays over the background, and the employees dance about whilst engaged in their various duties. The space is large-ish and contains an elevated rear of the store. There is also ample outdoor seating.

Vedict: The place is so incredibly cool it makes up for the shortcomings of the coffee.