Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Four Barrel Coffee

Location: 375 Valencia Street, San Francisco

Reviewed: September 7, 2008

Espresso: Four Barrel has some relation to Portland's famed Stumptown Coffee Roasters. My understanding is that they roast (or will be roasting shortly) Hairbender under license. In any case, it's the classic stuff here. Light-bodied by design, bright, honey and citrus. It almost goes without saying that they grind/tamp to order and pull short shots.

Atmosphere: Four Barrel is a large shop with the back half cordoned off for use by the roasting operations. It has a tall, open, wooden-plank ceiling, tables attached to the walls, and various other devices to make it trendy. What's more interesting here is the setup. Two Mistrals, six groups in total, very open bar area so you can watch the baristas at work. I spotted a Clover back in the roasting area too.

Verdict: It's really a must-visit.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Bittersweet: The Chocolate Cafe

Location: 2123 Fillmore St., San Francisco

Other locations in Oakland and Danville.

Reviewed: September 1, 2008

Espresso: Bittersweet uses coffee from Blue Bottle. Although they do a decent job with it, one gets the idea that it's really more about the chocolate (and possibly the chocolate-based drinks) here. Nonetheless, they appear to have been trained properly; my shot was ground and tamped individually, and was poured directly into a fairly wide-mouthed cup with matching saucer. The crema was a medium-to-pale brown color, but was fairly thick. The shot, unusually for Blue Bottle's coffee, was not at all on the sweeter side, but had a bit of a not-unpleasant bitterness to it. The body had a creamy texture, and the tastes were a fairly complicated mixture of herbs and roots and, not surprisingly, chocolate. The aftertaste tended toward a singular chocolate.

Atmosphere: Bittersweet is a small shop in the Fillmore district. It's long and narrow, with high ceilings, hardwood flooring, and two levels. Most of the seating is in back and upstairs, but there are also some window streets facing the street.

Verdict: Not the best, although far from the worst. Worth a visit if you're in the neighborhood.