I Preferiti di Boriana or Simply Boriana’s Corner

Last fall while I was visiting San Fransisco, I stayed at a hotel that was within walking distance to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. It was there that I discovered Boriana’s Corner, a delightful little stand owned by Boriana S Dimonte. Her products are imported from Montepulciano in Tuscany where she spend quite a bit of her childhood.

The store, of which the sign labels the place as “I Preferiti di Boriana” which can be translated as “Boriana’s favorites” turned out to be one of my favorite little Italian specialty food shops in San Fransisco. Both times I went there, I didn’t really pay too much attention as to where she got her coffee beans from. One thing that I did know was that the lattes there were great… I enjoyed the latte enough and actually bought a couple of pounds of beans that I brought back with me to Seattle.

And so I find it interesting that on this particular website, Boriana’s has been getting really bad reviews for their bombolonis and also their customer service… yet that is not the experience that I had when I was there. The bombolonis that I had were fresh, soft and extremely delicious, and lady who served us was extremely outgoing and friendly and for these reasons we actually went back there a couple of times. I found this blog post which actually mirrors my experience. This makes me wonder if management changed or whether the folks on the website who are complaining are simply grumpy and whiny… I don’t know…

Next time I am in San Fransisco, I will certain pass by there again and see for myself if indeed the place has changed or whether it remains as I remember, a place to hangout and enjoy a great espresso and a bomboloni…

Getting Back to Posting on a Regular Basis

It has been a while since I have been able to do any decent blog posts. Since I have been working on other projects, consulting and personal and I have just been too busy to update this blog… but I am back…

To start off, I have been thinking about a couple of programming languages, more specifically Python and Ruby on Rails and wondering if I should take some time out to learn them. I was checking out a rather interesting blog post by Amy Hoy that is kind of getting me interested and leaning towards Ruby on Rails…

Yet at the same time I have my PHP/MySQL project that I had sort of set aside to turn my attention to other things of a higher priority, but now I am just about ready to pick up where I left off and continue to work on my web app…

At the same time I have started doing a little more SharePoint, MOSS 2007 stuff and that I will be posting shortly some how-tos.

Sip & Ship and the Dancing Goats

Ballard Mail & Dispatch Sip & Ship in Ballard (of course) is a great place to stop by and get a great latte. As the name would suggest, offers mailing and world wide shipping and packaging services… and as the name sort of hints, serves espresso drinks…

I don’t often hang out in Ballard, but when I do go there, I will sometimes stop by here to get my usual latte, time and hunger permitting. I like the place for one because they always seem to have baristas who not only make good coffee, but also engage in pleasant conversation. The last time I was there a few weeks ago, I inquired about the source of their beans. The barista told me about Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roasters, whom they get their beans from.

I think Batdorf & Bronson are pretty interesting cause the name does not really jump out to you as a coffee roasting company but one thing I can say for sure, they do make some good coffee blends. But what I think is even more interesting is their Dancing Goats coffee blend… the name which I just think is simply pretty cool… and so is the logo featuring two dancing goats. And I don’t know why, but the dancing goats sort of remind me of the The Chronicles of Narnia book series… I don’t know why.

But alas, the Dancing Goats blend is not the blend they use for their espresso. They actually use the Vesuvio blend, which I must say is actually pretty good. Now if I remember well, the barista told me that they use Omar’s organic blend for their drip and I think they simply sell the Dancing Goats beans for home use.

Anyway, if you happen to be in Ballard, go check it out… I think you’ll like their coffee…

Getting Back to Normal

These past couple of weeks have truly been a whirlwind. After having experienced that I think was an pretty adverse reaction to a tetanus shot I took two Fridays ago, it has only been in the last couple of days that I am starting to feel somewhat back to my old self, albeit, I still feel rather tired and a little run down. Part of that is also due to a whacked sleep schedule and just getting back into the swing of things at work having been away for three weeks.

One of the things I was bummed about missing was the martial arts demonstration that was held at the Miller Community Center two Saturdays ago. I remember clearly, that Saturday I was in bed the whole day! The day before I was psyched to go check out the Japanese sword demonstration… I was hoping that it would include Iaido. But when Saturday evening rolled around, I knew I was certainly not going anywhere…

This week, I attended my jujitsu class and did a low key workout. I try to go to yoga once in a while but I think this week I will be taking it easy and trying to fully recover. The only thing that is pressing is the Michael and Stephanie’s wedding rehearsal that’s taking place tomorrow and the wedding itself on Friday…. That should be fun!

Joe Bar, Coffee Good

Joe Bar Coffee Art in Fonte Cup

Joe Bar is this small, almost quaint little place that is somewhat across the street from the Harvard Exit Theatre… this is on the north end of Broadway on Capital Hill… I tend drive by it a lot since it is the easiest route for me to take when I am headed down to South Lake Union, Eastlake or even Queen Ann. I have only been there three or four times, not because they have bad coffee, but because of the parking situation. Sometimes you’re in luck and can get great parking, sometimes you may have to park a little further out.

Regardless, Joe Bar is actually pretty popular with its regulars. You will always find folks sitting indoors enjoying their coffee and other goodies… and certainly when its sunny, seated outside in the shaded, tree lined narrow sidewalk enjoying the company and the view. Thus you know they probably do have good eats in there. Checking out Yelp, I find that the general consensus is that the coffee and the food is excellent and the baristas are great! I couldn’t agree more… at least on the coffee and the baristas… I haven’t tried the food yet.

Now since I hadn’t been there for a while, I decided it was about time that I stopped by and got a latte. I was pleasantly surprised to note that they actually used Fonte coffee beans for their espresso. But what was even more interesting to me was that in the glass counter case, they had for sale, Dancing Goats coffee from Bartdof & Bronson Coffee Roasters. I just think that Dancing Goats is a brilliant name for a coffee bean roast. I also noticed that they had in the case Sol Colibri Fair Trade coffee beans which he told me is what they use for their drip coffee.

And what about my drink? All in all, I really enjoyed my latte. I thought the barista made me a good latte… and it was nice to be able to compare his with some of the other places that also serve Fonte. I think his was certainly much better than the Chez Dominique… although Chez is not bad actually.

The barista was pretty friendly and when I told him I didn’t know much about the place even though I was on their website and so he volunteered to tell me a little about their history and background. Well my understanding is that the place was founded by a couple, JoAnne and Michael (I hope I am spelling the names right)… and that is how the name Joe Bar came about as it was a play on JoAnne’s name and the fact that they also sell alcohol too so you have a coffee/alcohol bar. Eventually JoAnne and Michael sold the place to Wylie whom from what I gather, 1. used to work there, 2. apparently plenty of ladies think he’s hot… ok the barista didn’t tell me that, but check out this entry on Yelp.com

I will certainly be going back… I really want to try out the crepes that I am hearing so much about too..

Bauhaus Books for Great Coffee

Bauhaus Books + Coffee is an old favorite coffeehouse of mine. Located on the lower part of Capitol Hill, this used to be one of my coffee hang out spot especially since it was only about 3 minutes walking from the condo I used to rent.

I remember how the place used to rather dark and scary, and people would hang out upstairs drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. Five minutes in the place was enough to get the smell of coffee and cigarettes clinging tightly to your clothes. What was even scarier were some of the people who used to hang out there. After a while it also got to me so rather than hanging out there, I would simply walk in, order my latte then walk out… still smelling of cigarettes. But then, all that changed. The management at Bauhaus decided to ban smoking indoors and the place literary changed overnight.

Then maybe 4 or 5 years ago, I was rather surprised because I remember walking into the place after not having visited the coffeehouse for a while and the place actually looked brighter and airier. What was even better was the patrons were not as scary looking as in the past. At that time I asked the barista what happened and his reply was rather interesting.

Before the smoking ban, some people were not just hanging out and smoking in the place, but they were also taking drugs and doing other unsavory things… this of course was scaring away the normal clientele since the ‘normal’ folks didn’t want to hang out at the place. And as soon as they banned smoking in the place, things changed immediately and the riffraff stopped showing up. I thought that was a really good move on their part since I really liked their coffee but didn’t like the atmosphere. Anyway, ever since, Bauhaus has been a great place to hang out and enjoy good coffee and a book.

The other thing that really strikes me about Bauhaus is that no matter what time of the day or night, no matter how hot or cold, no matter how dry or wet, no matter now calm or windy, there are always folks sitting outside drinking coffee, some smoking, and generally hanging out on the outside seating. What I have come to conclude from this is that either these folks are pure java junkies and cannot do without their coffee, or the coffee drinks at Bauhaus are that good and the following is absolutely loyal to the coffeehouse.

And I can attest to their coffee. It was hard for me at the moment to properly describe the coffee that I had there today because I was (and still am) feeling the side effects of a tetanus shot I took on Friday morning so I not quite up to all my taste buds yet. But I can tell you one thing for certain, they certainly do a great job with their coffee. I have always enjoyed their lattes. They pull a nice strong but not too strong cup and they use good whole milk. I have some friends who used to live in Seattle and this was always their favorite coffeehouse, hands down.. even to this day.

When I was talking to the manager this morning she told me a bit about the coffee they use. Now Bauhaus doesn’t actually roast their own coffee beans, rather, they have a special blend that they created and have Lighthouse Roasters up in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle so the roasting to their exact specifications.

One other reason to go to Bauhaus for your coffee… they serve Top Pot doughnuts!

Down and Out for the Weekend

Wow, what a weird weekend! I just spend the last 48 hours basically in bed with a 100 degree F temperature, body and muscle aches, pounding headaches and lots of sweating. No, I wasn’t really coming down with malaria or anything like that. This was simply the side effect of the tetanus vaccine shot I was given on Friday morning. So what’s the deal with the tetanus shots? This is in preparation for my visit to Kenya next year. I am simply making sure that I have all my shots and my immunizations up to date before I leave on my trip next year. I didn’t expect the shot to really give me such a reaction, and make me bed ridden for 24 to 36 hours, but I suppose that is better than actually contracting tetanus.

I think Friday night/Saturday early morning was really the worst because I would keep waking up totally overheated and sweating and thinking to myself, I really need to get all the windows open and some cool fresh air in. Yet, for some reason that I will not explain here, I couldn’t fully open the window, but I was also glad to note that it was just me and not the room that was overheated.

Saturday morning came and I knew that I was not going to make it to my monthly meeting, nor was I going to make it to the martial art exhibition that I was looking forward to attending that evening at the local community center. Bummer! So I lay in bed and tried to catch up with a number of DVDs that I had borrowed from the local library. As a side note, ‘The Kingdom‘ was a great movie but The Bee Movie sucked! I couldn’t finish watching it no matter how much I tried. ‘RV‘ was rather silly but fun and a Night at the Museum was not as bad as I thought it would be.

Its Sunday now and I did go out to run a couple of necessary errands plus shopping. And though I feel much better, I still plan a relatively ‘early’ night tonight, and sleep in a little tomorrow morning. I hope that I am fully recovered by tomorrow so I can get back into the work week mode.

Top Pot for Good Coffee and Exceptional Doughnuts

Top Pot Coffee and Box of Doughnuts
Top Pot Coffee and Box of Doughnuts

This past Saturday morning, I had just woken up and was lying in bed and watching The Travel Channel. They had on a show called Donut Paradise which was basically about the best doughnuts in the US. As expected, their featured doughnut shop in Seattle was Top Pot, which is my favorite Seattle area coffee AND doughnut shop. After spending close to an hour checking out all the different types of doughnuts from the various famous doughnut shops (Voodoo Doughnut in Portland was another pretty interesting doughnut shop) I suddenly had the cravings for Top Pot doughnuts and I thought, maybe today was a good day for donuts!

So I took a quick shower and headed out to the Top Pot store located on Summit Avenue on Capital Hill. Now typically I would go to Top Pot with my wife and I would wait in the car while she popped in to buy doughnuts and coffee to go so even though I had eaten their doughnuts relatively recently, I had not been in the store for quite some time. It certainly felt good to be back at there after an absence of a number of months.

Top Pot have at least five locations in Seattle including one on 5th Avenue, this is the modern stylish location that was featured on the doughnut show and another location on Queen Ann Hill which I have passed by but haven’t been inside yet. Finally, they have a location in Bellevue and another in Wedgwood but I have no idea precisely where these two shops are located. To be honest, even though the newer store s really nice, I actually prefer the look and feel and the ambiance of the original store. I mentioned this to one of the baristas and she agreed with me. The one on Summit Ave really does have a homely, welcoming feel to it. It is small but cozy and comfortable. It is a little darker with softer lighting and I especially love the huge wall to ceiling bookshelves they have on the two side walls running the length of the room.

I ordered my coffee and 5 doughnuts including 2 glazed ring doughnuts, 1 raspberry glazed plain cake doughnut, 1 plain old fashioned doughnut and 1 chocolate icing with peanuts plain cake doughnut. I must say they were all great!

But this being a coffee blog, we must talk about the coffee.

Now I have been drinking Top Pot lattes for some time now but I not really given much thought about it other than I thought that their lattes were not bad at all. So going back every so often was not a big deal. But this time I knew I was going to be talking about it so I had to pay a little more attention to my drink.

What did I think? I liked my latte. I thought they made me a great drink. It had most of what I was looking for, nice strong cup with the ‘softness’ I expect from the whole milk, almost a slightly creamy feel to it without sacrificing the good strong coffee flavor and taste. I thought the flavor and taste was pretty good. I had also known that Top Pot actually roasted their coffee beans which the barista confirmed. And now that I think about it, I should have gotten a bag of beans for home use.

A couple of interesting tidbits about Top Pot I thought I’d share with you. They actually started out as a coffee roaster/shop when one of the founders bought some old doughnut making equipment and as they say, the rest is history. The name Top Pot actually comes from an old sign they had bought that said ‘Topstop’ but apparently the ‘S’ fell on to the freeway and so rather than fix the sign, the founders decided to call the store, Top Pot. That sign is still visible at the store on Summit Ave.

Cafe Umbria in Pioneer Square

Caffe Umbria Coffee Cup
Caffe Umbria Coffee Cup

The last time I had coffee at this particular location was late in 2004.

At that time, this location was the main coffee store for Torrefazione Italia. Since then things have changed, Starbucks through some acquisitions ended up owning Torrefazione and eventually shut down the stores*… I don’t know what possessed them to do so but they decided in their infinite wisdom that was the best course of action to take.

Regardless, this location is now the flagship store location for the Caffe Umbria Coffee Roasters… which it just so happens used to be affiliated with the Torrefazione brand. If you have been reading my blog, you’ll know that Caffe Umbria is one of my favorite coffee roasters and I have been meaning for a while now to pop into this store to try it out. So it was nice after all this time that I happened to be in the area and I was able to finally drop in for a latte.

The Caffe Umbria Ordering Counter
The Caffe Umbria Ordering Counter

The place had changed somewhat from the way Torrefazione had been designed. Gone were the huge wooden tables I remember and in their place were cafe style tables. Also, gone were the shelve selling the Torrefazione ceramics. In the current store, I really liked the three European style stand up tables that were close to the ordering counter. I also really liked what they did with the ordering counter, giving it a more modern and elegant look and feel to it. The selection of eats looked great and I made a mental note to try one of the puff pastries next time I was in the store.

I ordered my usual double tall latte from one grumpy barista. Now I don’t quite know what was eating her but that wasn’t my problem. And just for that reason, I didn’t tip. I think if you’re going to be unpleasant, then please don’t expect me to be generous with the tips. Funny enough, the guy ahead of me ordered the doppio espresso which reminded me of one of the comments made on a previous posting.

Surprisingly, or not surprisingly, the coffee was pretty good. This was in line with my expectations. now I don’t know if I should have expected that the latte should have been better than the ones I get at Caffe Migliore’s. But then I guess I would expect not since every time I go to Caffe Migliore, it is always the owner who makes the espresso drinks. This is also the case with Scuie in that whenever I go there, it’s always the same guy, not the owner, but some guy who really knows his business, who pulls the shots and makes the espresso drinks. But at Caffe Umbria, I believe she was one of the regular baristsa ladies and so I wouldn’t expect her to be at the level of Migliore. All the same, I really enjoyed my latte.

All in all, I like the place and I will certainly be going back from time to time, despite the one grumpy barista… maybe she’ll be in a better mood next time…

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*By the way, you can still get Torrefazione but you are most likely to get it in grocery stores and supermarkets now and some cafes… including the cafes in Swedish Hospital that’s up on Seattle’s Capital Hill.

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