Saturday, June 24, 2006

Queen Bean

Location: 1126 14th St., Modesto

Reviewed: June 24, 2006

Espresso: My shot was on the long side, being at least 3oz. The crema was pale-to-medium brown and quite thin. Because of the placement of the machine, it was difficult to watch the barista at work. It was served in a typical "diner-style" coffee cup. Slightly astringent and full-bodied.

Atmosphere: Queen Bean is located inside a converted house. It is difficult to see the ordering counter from the front door. The decor consists of loud reds and overdone trappings. It tries to be elegant but fails. I suppose some people like it.

Questionable decor and less than stellar coffee.

Coffee Creek

Location: 2601 Oakdale Rd., Modesto

Reviewed: June 24, 2006

Espresso: Coffee Creek uses Taylor Maid Farms as their coffee supplier. It is of note that the barista did everything correctly. Ground to order, tamped, etc. It was served a little on the long side (probably just over 2.5oz. for a double), and had a slight paler dot in an otherwise darker, mottled brown head. The crema was thick and long-lasting. The cup had an aroma of vanilla and caramel, but the taste in the cup was overwhelmingly sweet and fruity.

Atmosphere: The Creek is a smallish shop in a large stripmall. Although there is ample outdoor seating, it wasn't getting much use on this quite warm Saturday morning. Inside, it was quite crowded. The interior layout is in an L-shape and features standard cafe tables at two heights (the taller ones being along the wall).

Verdict: Quite good; anyone who is in Modesto should stop in.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Eon Cafe

Location: 24970 Hesperian Blvd., Hayward

Reviewed: June 14, 2006

Espresso: My double was served in a ~4oz. cup, but the cup was half full so it was about the right volume. The crema was thick, medium-brown, and very even in tone. It was full-bodied and well-balanced. The primary tastes were caramel and cacao. The barista did everything right: ground, tamped, etc. He even used a naked portafilter. They are a wholesale customer of Barefoot, and served me the Medan blend.

Atmosphere: Eon is located, fairly uniquely, in a stand-alone building across from Chabot College. The layout consists of three separate rooms (with no actual doors in between them), one of which contains a brick fireplace, a couch, and a couple of armchairs. Of note, my shot was served in a painted-design cup.

Verdict: Quite good; one of the best things to ever happen to the East Bay.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Lowry's Irish Coffee House

Location: 350 W. Julian St., San Jose

Reviewed: June 5, 2006

My request for an espresso turned up a good degree of consternation when the cash register reproduced my request as "Espresso - 16oz."! I immediately sought to clarify the misunderstanding with the barista, who assured me the drink would not be that large. Her reassurance was better than nominal, but the shot was still way too long at nearly 4oz. (presumably a double). The crema was medium-pale, uniform in tone, and quite thin. Table service didn't help, and it was starting to break by the time I picked up the cup to take a sip. The flavours in the cup were quite subdued; it was medium-bodied, balanced, and didn't taste like much at all. This is likely due to the grinds sitting in the doser for however long they'd been there. A wholesale customer of Barefoot, though I'm not certain which blend they use.

Lowry's is an open and well-lit shop with a high ceiling and interesting chandeliers. The walls are painted variously a medium burnt-orange or a darkish moss-like green (the overall scheme looks much better than it sounds). There is a large TV on the far wall that is usually set to CNN.

It is my understanding that the 2oz. single/4oz. double is pretty normal in Ireland, so at least they have some claim at authenticity.

Friday, June 02, 2006

City Bakery & Cafe

Location: 301 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose

Reviewed: June 2, 2006

Espresso: My double was served in a 12oz. to-go cup (I was not asked for my preference of carry out or stay in) and reached ~4oz. in volume. It had a thin yet persistent layer of light brown crema. It was quite hot, and the primary tastes (although they were not particularly prevalent, likely due to the heat and presumed staleness) were bitter and rubbery. The rubber-like taste speaks of the possible inclusion in the blend of a substantial proportion of robusta beans, and the sign in the cafe speaking of Vietnamese-grown coffee would also support this supposition.

Atmosphere: I did a double-take after walking into this place, because it looks like a formal restaurant. The tables are large, covered with white tablecloths and glassine panels. As the location is quite large, there is also substantial space between the tables. Of some note here is that nobody was in the cafe excepting myself and the (apparently solo) barista (who barely spoke English), and it was 8:45 a.m. in downtown San Jose. They may be new, as it should have been far busier than that.

Verdict: If they did as good a job with their espresso as they do with their croissants (mine was straight from the oven and still warm), they'd rock.