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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 with Eat This Poem author Nicole Gulotta and Energizing Orange Smoothie Recipe

i8tonite with Eat This Poem author Nicole Gulotta and Energizing Orange Smoothie RecipeNicole Gulotta is a writer, editor, and tea enthusiast. She’s the author of Eat This Poem: A Literary Feast of Recipes Inspired by Poetry (Roost Books, 2017), and pens a blog by the same name. I first discovered Nicole’s website years ago, when looking for travel guides that encompassed both bookstores and great food. What gems Eat This Poem’s literary city guides are – written by those in the know, so it’s a local’s guide to goodness, when you travel. Nicole’s website is fill of musings on cooking – and life, and is one that I turn to again and again.

i8tonite with Eat This Poem author Nicole Gulotta and Energizing Orange Smoothie RecipeImagine my elation when I saw Nicole’s new book being created, published, and released (next week!). I caught up with Nicole in sunny California, while snowbound in Michigan, and asked her about writing a combination of food and poetry. She noted that while she had been writing the blog for several years, and had felt rooted in the combination of food and poetry, she was approached by an editor about starting the book – and it felt like the right project at the right time. And while the gestation process for Eat This Poem: A Literary Feast of Recipes Inspired by Poetry was long, she had been writing of these topics for years, had found her footing with it, and was excited to do something more substantial with it – for which I am grateful.

When I delved into her history, I learned that while poetry arrived early in her life, food came much later – and so it wasn’t a natural fit to pair the two. But Nicole noted that when you can step away from your life experiences and look at them, it enables those insightful moments to happen.

The Eat This Poem cookbook features more than 75 new recipes paired alongside verse from 25 of America’s most beloved poets. Forage mushrooms with Mary Oliver, then wander into your kitchen to stir creamy truffle risotto. Study the skin of a pear with Billy Collins while you bake a warm vanilla-pear crumble. And honor the devoted work of farmers with Wendell Berry while snacking on popcorn dusted with rosemary and drizzled with brown butter.

i8tonite with Eat This Poem author Nicole Gulotta and Energizing Orange Smoothie Recipe

You know me – when I asked what she hoped readers take away from the book, Nicole said, “The idea of being still in a kitchen, and having food and poetry be an opportunity to do something that takes care of yourself and the people around you as well. Our lives are so rushed and busy and we have all these things to do…and I want people to feel like they can indulge in poetry and food and ENJOY that, even if only for a brief moment.”

And, when I asked about poetry, Nicole (a life-long poetry lover) remarked, “Poetry is so great because it really keeps you rooted in the moment/present, and if you read a poem it might take a short time (or longer), but it is a special, be-present time. You can do this and inspire your day!”

Indeed – food and poetry are the perfect combination for stillness, thoughtfulness, and a good life.

i8tonite with Eat This Poem author Nicole Gulotta and Energizing Orange Smoothie Recipe

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook?
Something Italian, like bolognese that simmers for hours

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Homemade almond milk, Dijon mustard, a wedge of Parmesan, and eggs from the farmers’ market

What do you cook at home?
I keep things simple, especially Monday through Friday, like quick bean tacos, lentil curry, and pasta with whatever fresh vegetables are in season.

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
A good appetite

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Chewing with your mouth open

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine

Your favorite cookbook author?
Nigel Slater’s writing is so welcoming and poetic

i8tonite with Eat This Poem author Nicole Gulotta and Energizing Orange Smoothie RecipeYour favorite kitchen tool?
My Japanese chef’s knife

Your favorite ingredient?
Garlic. It’s the beginning of everything.

Your least favorite ingredient?
Dried fennel

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Empty the dishwasher

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Italian, Indian, and Mexican. But these days, anything I can get on the table in under 30 minutes.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Beef, medium rare, with a touch of flaky salt on top

Favorite vegetable?
I know they’re technically a fruit, but tomatoes have my heart every summer. I also love roasted cauliflower.

Chef you most admire?
Suzanne Goin

Food you like the most to eat?
Always pasta, preferably spaghetti with a slice of garlic bread alongside

Food you dislike the most?
A poorly dressed salad

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Spend time with my son

Who do you most admire in food?
Anyone who helps support local farmers, treats animals and the environment with respect, and values seasonal cooking

Where is your favorite place to eat?
My kitchen table, or Bestia, in downtown Los Angeles

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
Zero.

Recipe: Energizing Orange Smoothie

i8tonite with Eat This Poem author Nicole Gulotta and Energizing Orange Smoothie Recipe

In a high speed blender, add 2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice, 1 chopped carrot, 1 banana, 1 cup frozen mango, 1 small piece of peeled ginger (1-inch), ½ teaspoon ground turmeric, and 1 cup ice.

Process until smooth, and garnish with chia seeds, if desired.

 

Find Nicole on social media:

Twitter: twitter.com/nicolegulotta
Instagram: instagram.com/nicolegulotta
Facebook: facebook.com/eatthispoem
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/ngulotta/

 

  – The End. Go Eat. – 

i8tonite with Wisconsin Supper Clubs Author & Filmmaker Ron Faiola & Recipe for Onion Pie

i8tonite with Wisconsin Supper Clubs Author & Filmmaker Ron Faiola & Recipe for Onion PieWisconsin Supper Clubs are a Midwest tradition like no other – a celebration of excellent food in a friendly, homey atmosphere. From thick-cut steaks to fish boils (a Great Lakes tradition, especially popular in Door County) and Friday fish fry, the food at supper clubs here is high quality – and there are some standard items that all supper clubs feature. The relish tray (cut vegetables, dip) and club cheese are standard, and come first.

Then you sit and chat, have a cocktail out on the deck or at your window-side table, and the friendly waitress (who always treats you like an old friend) brings your excellent dinner. For that’s what a supper club is about – socializing and eating in a very friendly and welcoming atmosphere.

i8tonite with Wisconsin Supper Clubs Author & Filmmaker Ron Faiola & Recipe for Onion PieWisconsin has hundreds of supper clubs – how to choose? Well, Milwaukee author & filmmaker Ron Faiola has come to our rescue with advice for both travel planning and restaurant picking. He’s an author and filmmaker who has produced and directed numerous critically acclaimed documentaries. He is the president and founder of Push Button Gadget Inc., which has been specializing in audio visual and business theater production for nearly 20 years. And, most importantly for us, he is the author of Wisconsin Supper Clubs and Wisconsin Supper Clubs: Another Round, both published by Agate Midway.  In these books, he profiles excellent supper clubs throughout the state – and gives us a glimpse into this unique Wisconsin tradition.

i8tonite with Wisconsin Supper Clubs Author & Filmmaker Ron Faiola & Recipe for Onion Pie
Dining Room, Four Seasons Supper Club and Resort, Arbor Vitae

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
Cheese burger pizza made from scratch, complete with pickles and ketchup.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Cheese, butter, milk.

i8tonite with Wisconsin Supper Clubs Author & Filmmaker Ron Faiola & Recipe for Onion Pie
Fish boil, Fitzgerald’s Genoa Junction, Genoa City

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Their sense of adventure food-wise.

i8tonite with Wisconsin Supper Clubs Author & Filmmaker Ron Faiola & Recipe for Onion Pie
Birthday party, Kutzee’s Supper Club, Stanley

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Being too food-fussy.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Beer, cocktail, then wine.

Your favorite cookbook?
Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Potato masher.

i8tonite with Wisconsin Supper Clubs Author & Filmmaker Ron Faiola & Recipe for Onion Pie
Steve cuts steaks, Club Chalet, Green Bay

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Mexican breakfast, French omelets.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Mostly chicken (and seafood), but I love to make some great tofu dishes.

Favorite vegetable?
Asparagus.

Chef you most admire?
Jennifer Paterson and Clarissa Dickson Wright of the Two Fat Ladies show on BBC.

Food you like the most to eat?
Pizza.

i8tonite with Wisconsin Supper Clubs Author & Filmmaker Ron Faiola & Recipe for Onion Pie
Chef Alison Nave sends food out. The Village Supper Club, Kenosha

Food you dislike the most?
Chicken gizzards.

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Train travel.

Who do you most admire in food?
Kyle Cherek, host of Wisconsin Foodie.

Where is your favorite place to eat?
On my back deck when it’s nice out.

i8tonite with Wisconsin Supper Clubs Author & Filmmaker Ron Faiola & Recipe for Onion Pie
Dining Room, Four Seasons Supper Club and Resort, Arbor Vitae

What is your favorite restaurant?
Any local family restaurant.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
I don’t, but I know a girl who has the M&M guys on her arm.

Recipe: Onion Pie

i8tonite with Wisconsin Supper Clubs Author & Filmmaker Ron Faiola & Recipe for Onion Pie

Every Thanksgiving my family asks me to make my updated version of this Pennsylvania Dutch recipe.

Ingredients (for 8″ Pyrex pie plate):

1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
4 tbs butter
2-3 medium sweet onions cut into rings or strips (not diced)
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1 cup shredded sharp (or mild) cheddar cheese
Salt & pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cook onions in two tbs butter and a pinch of salt & pepper on medium low heat. Onions should be soft but not caramelized.
Melt 2 tbs butter in bowl and mix with 1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs. Press mixture into bottom of buttered pie dish.
Combine beaten eggs, milk and cheese in bowl. When onions are done, layer them on top of the bread crumb crust, then slowly add the egg mixture from bowl. Additional cheese (parmesan, asiago) can be added to the top (optional).

Bake on center rack and check at 25 minutes, inserting a clean knife in center. If it comes out clean, the pie is ready. Most likely it will need another 5 or 10 minutes, checking every 5 minutes. When done, remove from oven and let it sit for 5 minutes. Cut into pie wedges or squares.

 

Read more: Behind the Scenes of Wisconsin Supper Clubs: Another Round

– The End. Go Eat. –

 

Author Photo © Art Mellor. All other Photos © Ron Faiola