Category Archives: Coffee

Top 5 So Cal Coffee Shops: A Coffee Klatching, Caffeinated Road Trip

Southern California’s love affair with coffee goes way back to earlier land settlers and cattle-drivers. The pioneers would awake to the rising sun while a blazing campfire is percolating that first pot of mud juice. According to True West Magazine (October 2001), “Cowboys were undoubtedly the most devoted group of coffee drinkers in the West. As a rule, they liked it strong, scalding hot, and barefooted (black).”

Almost two centuries later, coffee houses are a fixture on every well-driven, So Cal street – although mostly emblazoned with a green mermaid logo. True to the western American ingenuity way, the Golden State still has some independent shops crafting luscious java jolts in small batches. Coffee connoisseurs in So Cal have a myriad of baristas fashioning joe in unique ways. Here are some of our favorites, from Palm Springs to Orange County and into Los Angeles. With a full tank of gas and a thermos of rocket juice as fuel, high-octane lovers can make a road trip visiting them in a single day. Go get your jitter on!

Top 5 So Cal Coffee Shops: A Coffee Klatching, Caffeinated Road Trip

Portola Coffee Lab (Costa Mesa, Orange County)

Found in an Orange County hipster strip mall called OC Mix in Costa Mesa (in the same place as famed Taco Maria), Portola rose to prominence when the coffee industry’s major publication, Roaster Magazine, honored the caffeine maker with its 2015 “Roaster of the Year.” While already beloved by locals, the award catapulted the four-year-old shop into a nationally known bean-lover mecca. Noted for their lack of syrups and additives while using only mocha and milk for additional flavors, the single store has branched to six locations, all within Orange County. Furthermore, they use three distinct brewing methods to get to the only-in-OC taste: a manual pour-over, a siphon, and the trifecta (a combination of the siphon, pour-over, and French press). For an espresso made from a single origin bean, it’s a one-shot deal with a one-of-a-kind machine. Be prepared to stand in line for your cuppa, but It’s good to the last drop.

Rose and Cardamom Latte at Portola.Top 5 So Cal Coffee Shops: A Coffee Klatching, Caffeinated Road Trip

Portola. Top 5 So Cal Coffee Shops: A Coffee Klatching, Caffeinated Road Trip

LAMill Coffee (Silver Lake, Los Angeles County)

When LA Mill first opened a decade ago, there was nothing quite like the coffee roaster and maker. For one, it cemented Silver Lake as a destination for good eats. Menu was crafted by Chef Michael Cimarusti of Providence fame, in conjunction with the LA Mill owner Craig Min. The interiors designed were commissioned by their next-door neighbor by Silverlake decorator, Rubbish Interiors. It personified early hipster-hood. And there still is nothing quite like it, as far as coffee shops go. Coffee may be the thing to try, but you’re spending your time here because, well, the grub isn’t just an afterthought. It’s a reason to eat. Coffee is made four different ways, and then there is the $11,000-dollar espresso machine. That’s almost as much as your electric Smart Car.

Outside LA Mill. Top 5 So Cal Coffee Shops: A Coffee Klatching, Caffeinated Road Trip LA Mill. Top 5 So Cal Coffee Shops: A Coffee Klatching, Caffeinated Road Trip

Koffi (Palm Springs, Riverside County)

For those who have traveled to the Palm Springs area for two decades, Koffi is as much a destination for coffee as is tramway travel to the top of the San Jacinto mountains. The flagship spot located as drivers enter the resort town is a welcome relief. Although the line winds around the counter, it moves quickly, giving the legs movement after an hour and half driving from LA or San Francisco – which can clock in at five to seven hours depending on traffic. What started off with only one roastery has clovered into three locations, with the original, a Rancho Mirage location, and another mid-century outpost on the edge of Cathedral City. Stopping at Koffi and partaking of their java is as important as a warm desert pool on a chilly night or a hike into Joshua Tree.

Koffi and Cake. Top 5 So Cal Coffee Shops: A Coffee Klatching, Caffeinated Road Trip Koffi. Top 5 So Cal Coffee Shops: A Coffee Klatching, Caffeinated Road Trip

Alfred (West Hollywood, Los Angeles County)

Most coffee lovers would bypass Alfred, as they serve the yummy but ubiquitous Stumptown beans. Alfred, though, with its two chic shops – located just two blocks from each other – is unique without the coffee roastery…and is why it’s on this list. Made in West Hollywood, the liquid energy is chock-full of L.A.’s pretty people, tourists checking out the nearby luxury shopping, and a mélange of neighborhood folks. Matter of fact, if you felt the subway rumble or heard car horns slamming, one might feel they were in New York or Paris. Yes, it’s that cosmopolitan. Yes, it’s that fashionable. And yes, it’s as much a part of the sartorial coffee scene as City of Light’s Les Deux Magot or Manhattan’s Balthazar. If you happen to be in Japan, Alfred lovers can find two Tokyo outposts – making it even more tres, tres chic. Plus, Stumptown, a Portland roastery, is nothing to sniff at – no matter where you are.

Cakes at Aroma. Top 5 So Cal Coffee Shops: A Coffee Klatching, Caffeinated Road Trip Alfred Coffee and Donuts. Top 5 So Cal Coffee Shops: A Coffee Klatching, Caffeinated Road Trip

Aroma Caffe (Studio City, Los Angeles County)

Another mainstay of the entertainment set is Aroma Café on Studio City’s treelined Tujunga. Aroma, which started as a small house and grew into a house with a garden, patio, backyard, and sidewalk café, has served up frothy cappuccinos, bracing espressos, and sipping lattes for 20 years. That’s a long time for a television series (only The Simpsons can beat that) and a restaurant. While delicious java juices and herbal teas can be imbibed on site, the coffee house is a hybrid of a one-time java house which morphed into a full-blown restaurant. Mud-drinkers can fulfill their need for high-octane lattes while filling up on fortifying salads, crusty paninis, and savory egg dishes throughout the day. If in the Los Feliz area, the independent coffee and eatery has another tree-lined outpost on Hillhurst, serving up a twinned menu for the artistic side of the hill.

Cakes at Aroma. Top 5 So Cal Coffee Shops: A Coffee Klatching, Caffeinated Road Trip Aroma Coffee and Tea. Top 5 So Cal Coffee Shops: A Coffee Klatching, Caffeinated Road Trip

 

– The End. Go Drink. –

i8tonite: The Case for Mesquite Coffee with Food Person Monika Woolsey (Or When the Apocalypse Happens)

i8tonite: The Case for Mesquite Coffee with Food Person Monika Woolsey (Or When the Apocalypse Happens)“I want people to realize that when they walk out their front door,” says Phoenix-based nutritionist Monika Woolsey, “that they have a whole world to choose from not just the same six foods that we always eat.” This statement starts the conversation about how do you define Woolsey, named in 2016 by Phoenix New Times as one of city’s 100 Tastemakers. Unsurprisingly, she was the only registered dietitian on the alt-weekly’s restaurant heavy industry list. By i8tonite’s definition, she is a quintessential food person, making a mark in her community through her work. According to her website, she is the team nutritionist with the Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Organization, maintaining the needs of 150 athletes from a dozen countries, keeping their energy so they can reach home plate;  and the Caesar Chavez Leadership Academy Garden Project focusing on hunger relief and blogging on community gardens.

She can be thought of as keeper of “indigenous plants” and foods to eat maintaining healthy diet for all. Woolsey states, “We eat the same foods, but it’s important to eat what you know. Recently, I was working with a young Mexican athlete, who’s food consists of corn. We needed to implement that food into her diet, making it easier for her to sustain a balance.”

i8tonite: The Case for Mesquite Coffee with Food Person Monika Woolsey (Or When the Apocalypse Happens)Woolsey has a degree from the University of Boulder, Colorado in kinesiology,but began nutrition when approached by the Chicago Cubs, who needed someone who knew food and was a fluent Spanish speaker to talk to the team. (Woolsey does both and has traveled throughout Latin America.)

Winding down the conversation, Woolsey says, “I’m making mesquite tea.”

With surprise, I quip, “I’ve never known you could drink mesquite as a tea.”

“Oh yeah. During the Civil War, Texan soldiers didn’t have any coffee so they would drink this (brew). They called it ‘apocalypse’ coffee.”

I know who I’m hanging out with when the last day comes.

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
Slow cooker meals that get better as they sit: chili, ropa vieja, minestrone soup, sauerbraten.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
At least 8 different seasonal vegetables. Ricotta cheese, milk, and eggs. Sofrito, salsa, Dijon mustard, sriracha, and curry sauce.

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Someone who can simply enjoy the meal, and the meal environment, without taking a picture of it, commenting on its nutritional value, or lack thereof.

i8tonite: The Case for Mesquite Coffee with Food Person Monika Woolsey (Or When the Apocalypse Happens)

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Excessive special requests for the host that remove the love and thoughtfulness that went into its creation.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
I’m German. It’s going to be beer! Nothing better on a hot Phoenix day than a Weissbier with a spritz of lemon!

Your favorite cookbook author?
Gran Cocina Latina by Marcicel Presilla. The author is a chef with a PhD in Mediieval Spanish History, and her book approaches the entire Latin continent from a historical perspective. I read it cover to cover last summer, and plan to do so again this summer. This book completely launched my confidence in creating healthy recipes for the Latin athletes I work with.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
My garlic press! I am constantly pulling it out of the dishes, washing it, and using it for the next project!

i8tonite: The Case for Mesquite Coffee with Food Person Monika Woolsey (Or When the Apocalypse Happens)Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Most of my audience is people new to cooking. I enjoy creating simple renditions of complicated recipes that leave anyone feeling like they can succeed in the kitchen. Recently I’ve been focusing on Latin American cuisine. Not just Mexican, but Caribbean, Venezuelan, Central American, each one is different and each has introduced me to delicious ingredients I take back to my other recipes.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Anything, anything, but tofu!

Favorite vegetable?
With a business named “Hip Veggies,” it’s hard to play favorites. But I suppose it would be homegrown tomatoes. Mine are ripening right now, and they rarely make it inside to the salad. I love snacking on them as I pick them. But then there’s corn. Who doesn’t love a fresh roasted elote? Oh my, I had best move on to the next question before you get a dissertation.

i8tonite: The Case for Mesquite Coffee with Food Person Monika Woolsey (Or When the Apocalypse Happens)

Chef you most admire?
Tamara Stanger, of Helio Basin Brewing Company, here in Phoenix. She’s blazing her own trail, daring to use native desert ingredients I have not seen other local chefs know how to use. And every time she steps up, she wins awards. Tammy is very quickly raising the bar for the definition of “local food” in Arizona.

Food you like the most to eat?
I like what’s grown locally, in season. Food that was pulled out of the ground the day I get it. My CSA box has sharpened my awareness of what tastes best at different times of year. And I have learned that when you eat with the seasons, there’s always something coming up, just around the corner, that I haven’t had in awhile. It keeps my kitchen interesting.

Food you dislike the most?
Anything with ingredients piled together in some way that suggests they’re only there because they are trendy. I love kale, quinoa, sweet potatoes, avocado, blueberries, and salmon. But please, don’t pile them together in a Superfood Bowl. Been there, seen it on Instagram a million times.

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Anything related to nature. Hiking, photography, biking, visiting a zoo or botanical garden.

Whom do you most admire in food?
The farmers who put it on our table. They work so hard for so little credit. If it were not for their love of the land and willingness to be out there 7 days a week, often in brutal conditions, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. We take them for granted. They deserve better.

Where is your favorite place to eat?
Anywhere that is likely to create a memory. On a log while hiking a beautiful trail, with family on a holiday, any environment that encourages savoring the experience as well as the food.

What is your favorite restaurant?
My family has been eating at Casa Molina in Tucson, Arizona for over 40 years. The menu hasn’t changed, the décor is the same. Good things stick around for a reason. Try a carne seca tostada with a margarita on their patio, and you’ll understand.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
I have never intentionally tattoed myself. However, food has had a way of tattooing me! I have a nice scar on my left forefinger, a souvenir from a bout with a cantankerous bagel. A few marks from splattering grease, touching hot baking sheets I thought were cool. I wear each one with pride.

Recipe: Grilled Butternut Squash with Mexican Pipián Sauce

i8tonite: The Case for Mesquite Coffee with Food Person Monika Woolsey (Or When the Apocalypse Happens)

Serves 2

1 butternut squash
1 tablespoon peanut oil
Salt
1/2 cup 505 Southwestern Green Chile, Tomatillo, Cilantro, and Lime Salsa
¼ cup raw, unsalted peanuts
¼ cup pumpkin seeds

Clean the squash

Peel butternut squash and cut into thin slices; set slices in a small mixing bowl. Set aside the seeds you recover while cleaning and preparing the squash.

Make the pipián sauce

Place reserved squash seeds in a ¼ cup measuring cup. If you do not have ¼ cup of seeds, add enough pumpkin seeds to measure as ¼ cup. Add these seeds and the peanuts to the skillet, and toast them over medium heat. Stir frequently.

When the seeds and peanuts start to pop, turn off the heat and let them continue to cook in the heat remaining in the skillet.

Place seed/peanut mixture in a spice grinder, a coffee grinder, or a food processor and grind thoroughly.

Remove mixture from grinder and set aside.

Cook the squash

Add peanut oil to the squash; toss to evenly coat slices with oil.

Salt lightly.

Place squash slices on a grill (or in a cast iron skillet over medium heat) and cook until both sides are nicely browned. It should take just a few minutes on each side. Remove from heat and set aside in dish.

Assemble the dish

Arrange the squash pieces attractively on a serving plate.

Spoon pipián sauce over the squash slices.

Garnish with cilantro.

Enjoy!

i8tonite: Patrick O’Malley, North America’s Coffee Man & Holiday Espresso Martini

Patrick O'Malley: Photo by Joanie Simon.
Patrick O’Malley: Photo by Joanie Simon.

Where do you think North America’s leading authority on coffee is located? Seattle? Portland? Boston? New York? San Francisco? If you guessed Tempe, Arizona, you could win Jeopardy. On a small street, not far from Arizona State University and the nationally known brewery Four Peaks, is Patrick O’Malley’s Espresso Italia, a roastery creating some of the country’s most sublime caffeine brews. In a warehouse full of beans and leaves, O’Malley, the leading national authority on coffee and possibly tea works, lives and breathes caffeinated beverages.

O’Malley is unique as he is the only trained individual in the United States and 43rd in the world, allowed to teach Specialty Coffee

Ground Coffee: Photo by Joanie Simon.
Ground Coffee: Photo by Joanie Simon.

Association of Europe’s certification. Matter of fact, mostly Europeans train – with a smattering of Americans — at his International Barista Coffee Academy where they learn every facet of making the perfect cup and cupping. He educates students on a specially created espresso machine that he – along with five of the world’s leading coffee authorities — and Sanremo, the Italian high-end coffee manufacturer produced. O’Malley’s students are much like him, fans of the brew and owners of cafes throughout the world such as Belgium, France, Italy, Turkey, although some do come from the States to attend.

According to O’Malley, his hardest test was passing the Q certification – the system by which all coffee is graded. He ranks number 1043rd in the world out of a little over 3500. “It was harder than a sommelier’s test,” he notes.

Coffee bags: Photo by Joanie Smith
Coffee bags: Photo by Joanie Smith

The good thing for global coffee lovers is O’Malley opened a European-like café in April called Infusion Coffee and Tea. They just have to travel to Tempe.

In i8tonite’s Food People Questionnaire O’Malley talks about his love of soup, dislike for tofu, why he loves butchers and how to create a caffeinated martini, a new tradition for the holidays – sort of like egg nog except with caffeine. Heh.

What is your favorite food to cook at home? Wow. Good one. I would have to say my potato and leek soup because that’s what brings the biggest smile to Bugs. (Devin, my daughter.)

What do you always have in your fridge at home? Butter, white wine for cooking and garlic. My go to base for sauces.

O'Malley grades coffee beans. Photo by Joanie Simon.
O’Malley grades coffee beans. Photo by Joanie Simon.

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal? Adventurous people who will gladly try anything once.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal? If they won’t even try something; how do you know if you don’t try it?

Beer, wine or cocktail? Guinness, Hendriks tonic and fresh cracked pepper. Its stupid good.

Your favorite cookbook author? Anthony Bourdian.

Your favorite kitchen tool? My knives.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Anything where I need to make a sauce. I love making a sauce.

Beef, chicken, pork, seafood or tofu? NO TOFU. I love meat. All meat. Even entrails sometimes. They are the best bits.

Favorite vegetable? Beets.

Chef you most admire? Locally?? No way I can answer that we have so many in this town (meaning Phoenix and the surrounding communities) that deserve to be named. I have to go with my Mom. She was a baker but could cook very well. She raised 6 of us (5 boys, 1 girl and Dad) on not a lot but we ate like kings. Her liver and onions was the best you will ever have.

Food you like the most to eat? Just about anything placed in front of me, but I am a soup guy for sure. So soup.

Food you dislike the most? Tofu.

What is your favorite non-food thing to do? Travel, because I get to try new food.

Who do you most admire in food? Butchers. I love to watch them break down an animal that people can take home and eat, it’s cool to watch a good one work.

Where is your favorite place to eat? Every one of our customers’ restaurants. I rarely dine at a place unless they are an Espresso Italia customer, our accounts are our family.

Treviso Street: Photo by Marta Z.
Treviso Street: Photo by Marta Z.

What is your favorite restaurant? In Treviso, every time I arrive, Carlo, the owner of Sanremo espresso machine factory takes me directly to L’incontro. They have an appetizer bar that opens like a clam’s shell, once open its full of some of the best seafood and pure goodness ever.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? Nope not one, I don’t follow trends. It’s just not who I am. I have never had a desire to have one, and if I did I don’t think tripe or liver would look good on my arm. LOL.

Patrick O’Malley’s Espresso Martini 

Martini: Photo by Edsel Little
Martini: Photo by Edsel Little

Espresso made with Infusion Push blend (blueberry, lime and chocolate profile) or if you can’t find it any espresso will do.

Vanilla Vodka 1oz

Chambord .25oz (or any good quality raspberry liquor)

 

Shake over ice. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Look out! It’s yummy.

 

The End. Go Eat.