Posted Tue Feb 14, 2012, 11:16am Subject: The Java Sojourner - Town 6 - Seattle, WA
The home of *$ might rightly be called "coffeetown USA". The popularity of coffee in this city grows out of the number of rainy and overcast days and the number of scandanavian settlers whose families populate the Pacific northwest. As the Java Soujourner always disclaims, there isn't time to review a decent number of coffee houses, or even the 'top ten'. What follows is merely an anecdote of my experiences to be shared.
Seattles Best (too many locations) Every SB cafe looks like the one before it, down to the clueless young clerk (I avoid the term 'barista') behind the counter. Overlit and garish, the décor is your first clue that the drinks here (I avoid the term 'coffee') are not going to satisfy. The second clue is that nowhere on the extensive menu of flavored and gimmicky drinks is there an entry for an espresso. A simple espresso. I made my request of the clerk, and I asked for a 'good hard tamp', seeing that both of the clerks were slight of build. I avoided any kind of technical demands such as pulling the shot short because I attempt to be polite and I am interested in what kind of espresso they pull, not what kind of espresso I can pull out of them. My request got handed off from one clerk to the other without mention of my tamping request. The cup had good crema but the body was thin. The first taste was nutty but after that the profile was just flat – nothing more. Pretty much what I expected. My tasting companion's hot cocoa was sparse on chocolate taste, as well. For all the bad press that I read about *$ in these forums, Seattles Best makes *$ look good. At least *$ doesn't have the arrogance to put a superlative in their name and then sell out the entire concept of coffee quality.
Honoré (1413 NW 70th Street) is an excellent pastry shop. Probably the best croissants in North America. Unbelievably flaky, nicely crispy, nicely buttery and tender. They know how to pull a good espresso, too. The cup had good crema, was toasty with a berry note, then salty, then finished with a bitter chocolate note. They buy the espresso blend from Lighthouse in Wisconsin.
The Volunteer Park Cafe & Marketplace (1501 17th Avenue E.,)is more of the former and not so much the latter. It is a cozy, woody place, the kind with urethane-sealed posters on the surface of their wooden tables. It is the only decent place to eat near Volunteer Park and the museum. The food is casual, comfort food. Their espresso had good crema with a flavor of toast, then nutty, with a citrusy finish. They pull Stumptown Hairbender. They also offer french press brew but when I asked for one as a chaser, they pointed me to an air pot. Evidently they make their french press in large batches. Won't anyone tell them?
Blackbird Bakery (210 Winslow Way East, Bainbridge Island, WA) OK, not in Seattle, but a pleasant drive or ferry ride away. While not a coffeehouse, they sell espresso and are therefore at risk for a visit from the Java Soujourner. Their espresso was flat. To their credit, they were just changing over to Phinney Ridge roasters from a previous supplier, and so there might have been a learning curve standing in the way of a great cup of espresso. They were pulling Herkimer Espresso Blend. The cup had good crema. They first taste was salty (I do not know why more reviewers do not comment on this mineral-ly taste, which I find present to some degree or other in most pulls and brews), followed by dusty, then acidic sour, finishing with a bitter chocolatey taste. Definitely needs adjusting, since no pleasant high notes were evident. They have savory sandwiches that seemed very well received but we were into pastries on this visit. The plain croissant was very good. The outside was nicely flaky and crispy while the inside had a nice texture and flavor. The inside was slightly too chewy and the butter favor was very good but not outstanding, which kept it from a rating of excellent, but please believe me that it was well above the average croissant offering and I would order another on my next visit. The chocolate mousse cup was creamy with adequate but slightly diminished chocolate flavor. I asked the very pleasant counter person if their choice of using a multigrain flour really 'worked' in their pecan rolls and I was assured that it did. I was told that it was very popular and that I could get a refund if I didn't agree. The result was that I did not have the heart to take them up on their refund offer and I should always be suspicious of the term 'popular' as meaning 'common'. They had many other delicious-looking breads and pastries to choose from. This bakery deserves a visit anytime you are near Bainbridge Island.
The espresso at Caffe Vita (several locations - we were at 4301 Fremont Avenue) does not deserve a mention in a review. Neither does the hot chocolate. Neither does the disinterested service. Perhaps their other locations are wonderful. Perhaps they have very satisfying food and drink. Perhaps other shifts are welcoming and engaged. We just didn't encounter any of these.
Four-and-a-half reviews seems a pitiful selection from coffeetown, USA, but I'll be back.
Symbols: = New Posts since your last visit = No New Posts since last visit = Newest post
Forum Rules: No profanity, illegal acts or personal attacks will be tolerated in these discussion boards. No commercial posting of any nature will be tolerated; only private sales by private individuals, in the "Buy and Sell" forum. No cross posting allowed - do not post your topic to more than one forum, nor repost a topic to the same forum. Who Can Read The Forum? Anyone can read posts in these discussion boards. Who Can Post New Topics? Any registered CoffeeGeek member can post new topics. Who Can Post Replies? Any registered CoffeeGeek member can post replies. Can Photos be posted? Anyone can post photos in their new topics or replies. Who can change or delete posts? Any CoffeeGeek member can edit their own posts. Only moderators can delete posts. Probationary Period: If you are a new signup for CoffeeGeek, you cannot promote, endorse, criticise or otherwise post an unsolicited endorsement for any company, product or service in your first five postings.