Got the burned coffee blues? Try the stove.

3 Comments

I am as proud of Stumptown (the coffee) as the next Portlander, and we’ve been drinking the Hair Bender blend for years as proof. However, in recent years, I had begun to sour a bit on Stumptown. At cafes around Portland,┬ásometimes the Stumptown brew tasted burned. At home, we started drinking the delectable Ristretto, our local neighborhood roast.

Then this summer, I read a tweet from the PDX Food Dude about an article in Salon.com on how Americans are ruining Italian espresso. Even though Stumptown is roasted at the end of the article, the blame goes mostly to the too-hot-machine (excerpt from full article here).

Maybe that explains why the coffee we serve from our trusty little stovetop espresso maker from Italy is so good. If temperature counts, “cooking coffee” (as my East European English students used to say) on a gas stove offers a consistently good-tasting espresso.

18 years and still cookin’

Advertisements

At Village Coffee, it takes a village

2 Comments

Years ago, we lived near Multnomah Village in the hills of Southwest Portland behind downtown, and though a large Starbucks greeted visitors at the top of the road that wound through the village, our coffee-stimulated hearts beat for the little bedroom-sized cafe called Village Coffee. At Village Coffee, you could — and still can — curl up with a heavy white mug of coffee and a dog-eared magazine from the wall rack, share a toasted bagel with your kids or dog and watch the Villagers and visitors meander along the lazy main street. Where Starbucks a block away bustles with busy customers like businesspeople, Girl Scout troop leaders and runners who hurry in and out with their triple-shot fancy drinks, Village Coffee offers a slower, more familiar pace — like settling down in an old friend’s kitchen.

One of my favorite Village Coffee stories has nothing to do with the coffee but everything to do with its laid-back, neighborly feel. When my child was a toddler, she used to clutch a small, fist-sized stuffed animal in each hand on every outing or at bedtime. There was a hippo called “Hippo,” a bird called “Birdie” and a pig called “Mousey” because it bore more of a resemblance to a naked lab mouse than a pig. One day, these little stuffed friends went missing. We searched every inch of the car and stroller and re-traced our steps, all to no avail. Until one day, several weeks later, I walked into Village Coffee, ordered my single latte and looked up at the tall glass case that holds the baked goods and dog treats and saw Hippo, Birdie and Mousey perched atop the case. I exclaimed loudly and excitedly that those were my child’s stuffed animals and then found myself awkwardly asking the barista if I could have them back. This particular coffee slinger, whose dreamy eyes and deep voice made the Village’s sleep-deprived new moms swoon, smiled and said with a puzzled shrug: Why not, they’re yours, aren’t they?

Notes on Village Coffee…

Where: Village Coffee is smack in the middle of the sometimes elusive and bucolic Multnomah Village at 7781 S.W. Capitol Highway, next to one of the Village’s iconic antique stores and across the street from the awesome Thinker Toys toy store.

Coffee: I don’t recall what Village Coffee served when I was a new mom and living in the neighborhood. Whatever it was, it tasted fine and kept me awake. I recently stopped by Village Coffee for a cup of coffee in one of their signature heavy white mugs and discovered they now serve Cafeto, an organic, fair trade, independently roasted coffee from Eugene, Oregon. The Americano I had had a mild, smooth flavor, and what’s not to like about organic and fair trade?

Cool stuff: Lots of magazines to read, old-fashioned movie theater seats with a view out the front picture window, old guys from the Village hanging out and playing guitar, very kid and dog friendly.

Not so cool: When the weather turns wet, Village Coffee gets humid and the picture windows fog up and condense like a badly ventilated 1968 VW bug.

Lost and found at Village Coffee

The trail to 10-Speed East

4 Comments

In countries around Europe, taking a hike or a bicycle ride often leads to a reward at the end of the trail. For hikers, it might be a little hut in the woods with a warm bowl of lentil soup and a cup of hot tea spiked with the local spirit. For bicyclists, the ride often finds its way to a village cafe with open-air seating on the plaza or a gelateria.

In the Columbia Gorge, about an hour outside of Portland, bikers and walkers alike are in luck when taking the Two Tunnels Trail from the outskirts of Hood River 4.6 miles along the Old Columbia River Highway to the tiny berg of Mosier. At the end of the trail awaits the 10-Speed East cafe, an inviting wooden coffeehouse with a porch, comfy inside seating and great food and coffee.

I first discovered 10-Speed East not on a bike or by foot but by good old-American car as we headed for a camping trip along the Lower Deschutes River and stopped for a last civilized treat before heading into the wilderness. Since then, Mosier is on our list of places to stop for coffee whenever we head up the Gorge. At the rate we’re going (about once or twice a year), my 10-Speed East coffee punch card will offer a free cup of Joe sometime in the next 4-6 years.

Notes on 10-Speed East…

Where: In a town of just over 400 in habitants, the brown-and-red wooden coffeehouse is hard to miss at 1104 1st Street in Mosier (Exit 69 off I-84 East).

Coffee: 10-Speed East serves what it calls its “top secret Kickstand” blend, roasted by 10-Speed Coffee Roasters, an independent roaster in Hood River whom I haven’t had the chance to visit yet but that boasts delicious locally roasted beans and French press or espresso-style coffee.

Cool stuff: Surprisingly good coffee for the out-of-the-way location; healthy-tasty sandwiches and salads sourced from local, organic suppliers; cozy coffeehouse vibe; large black-and-white photo on the wall of bicyclist pulling an Airstream.

Not so cool: Grumpy baristas. I know it can get busy at the counter and we’re all a bunch of out-of-towners, but your food and coffee make us happy, so smile. Also uncool: Riders who don’t wear helmets. The day we biked to 10-Speed East, one helmet-less cyclist was life-flighted back to Portland after falling.

The view from the Two Tunnels Trail. Only 2 more miles to coffee.

Next stop, Caffe Viale

Leave a comment

When Portlanders started tweeting in mid-August that there was a new stop for coffee in town — a “recycled, 1970s-era bus shelter,” to be clear — I had to make the trek to the shady, diesel-infused downtown transit mall to check it out. Even before I saw Caffe Viale’s new digs, it was easy to picture the plastic-bubble-roofed Trimet bus stop of my youth with the symbols in bright 70s color palettes denoting various bus lines.

In fact, I’d probably waited at the very shelter where Viale now stands on one of my journeys riding from the Westside suburbs on the NW line (symbol: Orange Deer) before transferring downtown to the NE line (symbol: Yellow Raindrops) to visit my grandmother across the river. Once, as a frizzy-haired tween, I had gotten homesick after a night at Grandma’s and wanted to go home early. The old lady put her foot down: there would be no 12-mile ride back to the ‘burbs in her massive green Chevy Impala for me. Instead, she gave me a handful of change and sent me back home on the bus.

Funny enough, as I ordered an iced Americano from the proprietor of Caffe Viale two days after their grand opening in the bus stop this summer, we got to talking about the last-retro-looking bus shelter design of the mall (the city saved one for retail while replacing all of the others with a modern glass-and-pipe look) and the funny symbols like the Beaver and Leaf, and realized we both grew up as riders of the Orange Deer line.

Notes on Caffe Viale…

Where: Caffe Viale is located at 1001 SW 5th Ave., between SW Main and Salmon in a dark-bronze, bubble-roofed structure that screams bus stop 1977.

Coffee: Caffe Umbria is the roast of choice at Viale, a decent, mild-mannered coffee that is served in many Portland restaurants. Coffee lovers from the 90s may remember Umbria, roasted out of Seattle, as the coffee from the now-defunct Cafe Torrefazione, where you could sip cappuccinos at the NW 23rd location and listen to the chatter of real Italian exchange students, who may have come for the name or the authentic Tuscan ceramic cups.

Cool stuff: Original bus direction signage and symbols still intact; friendly staff who seem to be overjoyed to be out of their previous location in the lobby of a nearby office building; good coffee at reasonable prices.

Not so cool: Waiting at Caffe Viale for your next bus transfer; passing it by entirely because you think it’s just another bus stop.