Tag: Coffee

Restaurant Review: Cup & Bar

Cup & Bar | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

A few months ago, driving south on MLK Jr. Blvd from my house as I often do, I noticed a beautiful industrial space with high ceilings, white walls, and a garage door. Not long after I first spotted it, I was happy to read that it was going to become Cup & Bar, a coffee and chocolate tasting room, production facility, and café opened by Trailhead Coffee Roasters and Ranger Chocolate.

More delicious coffee PLUS luscious chocolate? What more could you want? The real beauty of it, though, is that the two are paired together in the most spectacular ways. Yes, there are lattés and chocolate bars for sale, but there are also mochas, dirty charlies (a macchiato gone wild, topped with chocolate shavings), flights of drinking chocolate, and coffee mocktails as well as beer and wine. The spot takes it a step further with refreshing bites like avocado toast and small sandwiches, plus house made syrups in flavors like orgeat, anisette, and cardamom mint.

Cup & Bar | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Cup & Bar | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Cup & Bar | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Cup & Bar | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

My first visit, a work date with fellow bloggeress’ ErinMeredith, and Mary, was lovely. It was just after lunch, so my sweet tooth was aching for a treat. The Ranger Brownie was delicious – the perfect balance between fudgy and cakey, and the gal working even dug around in the stack of them to find me a corner. How sweet is that? After a couple hours at my laptop, plugging away on some podcasts, I needed a pick me up, so I went for the Cold Fashioned – a mocktail based on the Old Fashioned, but with cold brew instead of whiskey. While I can easily see how it wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea – or coffee, as it were – it was funky, cold, and caffeinated, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

On my most recent visit with Jonah, we both got a dirty charlie. Right as we sat down, one of the miniature garage doors in back opened up, and a gentleman bearing two tiny spoons dipped in chocolate offered us a taste of Ranger’s most recent chocolate blend, called Wildcard, which was dark and delicious.

I highly recommend a visit to Cup & Bar for an afternoon pick me up of chocolate and coffee. I hear they also do tours and tastings, so you can bet I’ll be back to learn more about the roasting processes!

My Caffeinated Office: Working from Coffee Shops in Portland

As someone who works 99% of the time on her laptop, and can therefore work from anywhere with internet, it’s important to still get out of the house and interact with other humans. It sounds silly, but I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to who work from home and feel the same way. Yes, maybe I get to stay in my pajamas all day, but there are also times that I don’t speak to another person until Jonah gets home at 5:15 p.m. Not great.

So I’ve always made a point of finding coffee shops in Portland that are good for working. The requirements are (fairly) simple: good internet connection, ample seating, plenty of outlets, preferably not too much noise, but also good taste in music (for those rare moments when my ears aren’t full of podcasts). There’s this handy website, Workfrom, that can help me find those spots. While good beverages are a plus, I also love places where I can grab a treat to snack on. Here are some of my favorites:

1) Case Study Coffee on Alberta

Case Study Coffee on Alberta, Portland, OR | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Photo from Google+

With this new location, Case Study finally came to my ‘hood. While I first fell in love with their fleur de sel caramel latte, they have lots of other tasty house made syrups and things for you to expand your coffee horizons. Past the beverages, they’ve got the fastest coffee shop internet I’ve experienced, not to mention incredibly nice staff and fantastic music choices (lots of Paul Simon, Elton John, and indie rock). In this new space, they’ve got a loft with plenty of seating, and I love the long communal table.

2) Tea Bar

Tea Bar, Portland, OR | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Kombucha and a Matcha Shake on a recent sunny day

This is quite possibly the most Kinfolk-esque establishment I have ever been to. A beautiful, open space on NE Killingsworth with a curated tea selection and blank white walls, big windows, and everything displayed just so. Tea Bar has some delicious tea lattes, like a Matcha Latte and a London Fog, as well as some other beautiful teas, which owner Erica Swanson is happy to tell you about. There are tables along the east wall, which also has a few outlets, but you’ve got to stake your claim. The communal table in the back is awfully appealing, but alas, there are no outlets there. It’s also important to note that between the blank walls and the concrete floor, it can get a little echoey and loud. You can read more about Tea Bar over on some friends’ blogs: Bakery Bingo and Martha Chartreuse.

3) The Sugar Cube

The Sugar Cube, Portland Or | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Photo Courtesty of the Portland Mercury

I’ve written about The Sugar Cube before, but it bears repeating: this place is great. While there are only 4 tables plus some counter seating, and the outlets are few and sometimes require crawling on the floor to plug in, I come here All. The. Time. Why? It feels like you’re sitting in a friend’s kitchen while they make you cookies. Except that friend is super talented baker Kir Jensen. I love the music (you’ll often hear Sharon Jones or old Motown favorites), the big windows offer plenty of natural light, and for some reason, the sound of mixers and kitchen timers in the back is so comforting to me. Oh, and you can get some of the most delicious treats in town. My favorite is the toast plate with house made lemon curd (available only before 1pm).

4) Bushel and Peck Bake Shop

Bushel and Peck Bakeshop, Portland, OR | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Tasty pastries and cute mugs at Bushel and Peck

This is my favorite neighborhood spot. The perfect distance for hopping on my bike, or taking a stroll if it’s sunny. There aren’t a ton of outlets (they’re all nestled in one corner near a two person table) or tables (3 plus a long communal table along the window) but gosh do I love it. The people working are always so kind and genuine, it has a nice little buzz, and there’s a nice energy in the air. The staff makes a delicious latte, and the internet works just fine. If you’re hungry, I highly recommend the biscuit (perfectly flaky and specked with black pepper) with whatever jam they’ve whipped up, or if you want something sweeter, the double chocolate orange cookie is chewy and perfect.

Runners up: Arbor Lodge, Coffee Division, Coava Coffee on Hawthorne, Tea Chai Te in Sellwood, Breken Café, Heart Coffee downtown, Townshend’s Tea on Alberta

I am always looking for new spots to try, so let me know in the comments if you have a favorite in town!

A Vietnam Teaser

A Taste of Vietnam // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

A Taste of Vietnam // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
A Taste of Vietnam // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

I’m coming back, I swear!

I know it may seem like I’ve been gone forever (though it’s really only been two weeks), but I am currently sitting in the airport in Soeul, South Korea, waiting to board a flight to Tokyo and then a flight home to the beautiful and much missed city of Portland, OR. I will write a more in depth post about our trip around northern Vietnam at a later date when laundry has been done, photos have been uploaded, and jet lag has been conquered, but in the mean time I wanted to give you a little preview of some tasty moments from the trip. Enjoy!

All over Vietnam, we saw women selling little plastic bags of sliced fruit – usually green mango, pineapple, or something else slightly more mysterious – and on the 6 hour train ride from Hanoi to Lao Cai (from where you take an hour bus to get to Sapa), I was craving some fruit. This bag of green mango came with a little pouch of what we figured was MSG to sprinkle on top, and cost a whopping fifty cents. I loved the sour fruitiness of the green mango. It was a perfect snack.

When we arrived in Cat Ba Town, we were slightly underwhelmed at the options for food. We ate our first dinner at Bamboo Café, and what with the town being on an island, and looking out over the water, Jonah decided to order crab with tamarind sauce. The crab was relatively small, and we had to do a lot of work for not a lot of reward in terms of cracking the shell and digging out meat. But the meat in the tart, jammy tamarind sauce was delicious, and as we sat finishing our Bia Hanoi, we picked the tamarind seeds out of the sauce and peeled the rest of the fruit off of them. I have a new resolve to use tamarind more often.

Vietnamese milk coffee is basically very strong coffee, almost espresso, with a nice layer of sweetened condensed milk at the bottom that you stir in before drinking. You can order it hot (it’ll come with the little filter sitting atop your cup, the coffee still dripping through) or iced. We found ourselves having afternoon coffee nearly every day. It was not only delicious, but it gave us a moment to sit down amidst the hubbub and look around us to really enjoy the fact that we were nearly halfway around the world from home. The photo above was taken at my favorite café, which we visited twice: Café Pho Co. You go through a silk shop down a long skinny hallway to get to it, order off a menu at the bottom of the stairs, and then climb up about 4 flights to a open air rooftop overlooking Hoan Kiem Lake and a busy intersection.

Restaurant Review: Blend Coffee

Blend Coffee // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Blend Coffee // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Blend Coffee // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

A couple of weeks ago, my former co-worker Elaine called me up and asked me if I’d like to have coffee with her at Blend Coffee, a spot in my neighborhood I hadn’t been to since moving up to NE Portland. Blend is a new client of hers (she is one of the masterminds behind KEEL Creative), and had done a little revamping after a new owner came in with a new vision for the space.

I had been to Blend a couple years before, and the previous owners had kept the space pretty simple. Don’t get me wrong, I really liked it (and actually wrote a Yelp review saying so) – the big windows lent lots of light, there were lots of tables, and it was just really peaceful there.

There has certainly been a redesign since I was last there. The space has a much more designed vibe, with concrete floors, soothing slate grey walls, and some really beautiful wood tables. The art is really neat and modern (not sure if it’ll be rotating or not), and it looks as though there is a fireplace coming soon to the front room. The flowers and prints of the chairs and pillows brought a really chic vibe, and kept the space from feeling cold.

Elaine and I were there for about an hour, talking in hushed voices, because it was definitely a hub for worker bees – lots of people on their laptops, plugging away. When I mentioned to Elaine that it seemed like a great place to work (I love places with big windows and lots of natural light – it counteracts the artificial light from my computer), she noted that the new owner had outlets put in all over the place, making it more friendly for low-running batteries. Huge bonus.

Blend Coffee // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Blend Coffee // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Blend Coffee // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

She also informed me that at some point (I’m hoping in the near future), the owner is thinking of using the back room, which is a little longer, for an event space. I cannot even tell you how great of an idea this is! The vibe of this place would certainly lend itself to a dinner club or office party. I can even see it with a long table down the middle for a small rehearsal dinner. The possibilities are endless, and I really hope the new owner opens it up to the public like that. Who knows, maybe a food blogger or two could use it for some events…

Let’s not forget the coffee! They served me a great latte (Stumptown, of course), with some very impressive foam. I am a lover of a delicious, thick foam – it’s the sign of someone who knows what they’re doing behind the espresso machine. It also looked like they had a nice little pastry and bagel selection.

Overall, the sense I get from the new Blend Coffee is hip, chic, and contemporary – a cool space to grab a great cup of coffee and snack while you sit back and enjoy the beautiful new space.