For years, I’ve been wanting to try the delicacy known as Kopi Luwak–or Civet Coffee–which comes from the islands of Sumatra, Java, and Bali. The coffee is made by feeding beans to wild civets and then, after digestion, collecting the beans (along with the feces) which take on wonderful flavors because of fermentation in the digestive tract. Sadly, tracking down civet coffee in Los Angeles is highly difficult; and wild civets are hard to come by. Which is why I had the bright idea of feeding coffee beans to my cat, Lolita Roberts-Johnson, to see if I could make Kopi Luwak here at home.
You can divide coffee shops, these days, into two categories: those pushing the sugar (Starbucks, The Coffee Bean, Dunkin’ Donuts) and those scorning the sweet stuff. Most of us start out in the former camp–I began my coffee-drinking habits with Frappuccinos–and migrate to the latter camp, the independent coffee shop where the beans are of the finest quality and the baristas glare at you if they see you shaking Sweet N’ Low into your iced macchiato. That glare, though, isn’t necessarily encouraged by coffee shop owners: at most of the indy coffee shops I frequent in New York and L.A. (Joe, Gorilla, Commissary, Intelligentsia) sweetener is offered up in a myriad of forms: blue, pink, white little packets and a big bottle of simple syrup to address your iced coffee drink needs. Last week, however, I visited a coffee shop that L.A. Weekly just named Best Coffee Shop 2013–Handsome Coffee–and discovered that sweetener isn’t offered in any of its forms. No pink packets, no blue packets, no sticky syrup bottle. If you want sugar in your coffee, you’ve got to go somewhere else.
There’s a funny website called “Is It Iced Coffee Weather?” that determines, based on your location, whether it’s iced coffee weather. The current prognosis for me is: “No. Try it hot.”
This is a question I’m often asking myself because I enjoy drinking coffee every day, so much so that I drink tea in the morning in order to save my coffee drink for later on when I can get it from a coffee shop. And when I get to the counter I have to decide if I want it hot or cold. Lately, I’ve come up with a good strategy.
I hate repeating myself on my blog, so if you’ve been reading for me a while, you know that Joe is my favorite coffee shop in New York. The location on Waverly is where I wrote my first book and most of my second; it’s where I’d meet friends to chat about projects or lives, it’s where I first laid eyes on Craig before we started dating. The place positively glows with good energy and the coffee is always top-notch, some might say (and I’d agree with them) the best in town.
Now Jonathan Rubinstein and his sister Gabrielle have collaborated with food writer Judith Choate on “Joe: The Coffee Book,” a charming collection of essays and pictures and how-tos that demystifies the process of making excellent coffee at home. What follows is a Q&A with Jonathan about the book, the process of writing it, and how he stays relevant in a city swarming with new coffee shops.
At the new bakery Short Cake, I encountered a drink that’s so absolutely brilliant it deserves fireworks or a parade but that’s simply presented without any fanfare or fuss. If it were a Starbucks, you’d see signs all over the place advertising the Salted Caramel Latte. As it stands, you sort of have to discover it for yourself–it’s there on the menu, below the mocha and the vanilla bean and across from Aunt Nancy’s Shakerato (named for Nancy Silverton, I imagine)–but it’s not highlighted or underlined in any way.
Back To Our Favorite N.Y. Haunts (Joe, Joseph Leonard, Bar Centrale, City Bakery, Grand Sichuan & The Burger Joint)
I took a tumble outside of Joe on Waverly, the coffee shop that was a second home to me all those years that I lived in the big city. It was kind of embarrassing: rain was beating down, Craig ran inside the front door, and as I approached the first step, I totally slipped on the wet pavement and crashed down on my knee, slicing my jeans open and tearing the skin. I got myself up as quickly as I could but it was one of those disorienting experiences that made me feel like I was a stranger on my old turf: only a tourist slips on a wet New York City sidewalk.
Last week was such a hectic week searching for an apartment in L.A., I wasn’t able to do my usual business of researching restaurants, plotting dinners and constructing photo essays for you, my hungry readers. (Exception: Loteria & Gjelina.) We did, however, enjoy many random bites that I photographed, dutifully, in the hopes of writing a post like this one you’re about to read. So buckle your seatbelts!
Following my coffee trials on this blog must be like having a petulant four year-old child who wants soup then wants pizza then wants soup again and so on.
See, at first I told you not to worry about grinding your beans fresh in my post: “How To Make a Good Cup of Coffee.” Then Amanda Byron, director of coffee at my favorite coffee shop in New York, Joe, held an intervention (see here) where she told me I was crazy not to grind my beans fresh. I ignored her but felt guilty as time wore on.