Archive for the ‘Coffee’ Category

Water Avenue Coffee – So Good Its WAC

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

So I wanted to take a brief second to gush over a new coffee company that one of my fave cafes Voltage recently turned me on to.

These guys call themselves Water Avenue, and are imported from their West Coast roasting operation in Portland – an area that is becoming remarkably good at producing liquids (read pinot gris and pinot noir).

Since Voltage started pouring WAC’s Peru Kikira I have been sleeping in a box outside their shop begging passerby for change to get another fix. It is that good.

As described on the back of the bag I recently purchased:

“This offering comes from the Quechua and Aymara Peoples of the Puno Region of Southern Peru. Grown at 1500 meters, this cup is wonderfully complex, featuring sweet melon and berry balanced by lively acidity and spice, finishing with a silky smooth body.”

If coffee is anything like wine – the more specific the information about where the raw materials (coffee beans) come from, and the more details about the people who grew them – the better.

Though the description of the flavors sounds more like one of my past one-night stands than the mouthing of a swig o’ Joe, I can dig it. All I know is that from Sip #1 of this stuff I knew something was special – and I drink a boatload of coffee from lots of micro-roasters.

Grind on Water Ave., and please bring more of your goods to a coffee shop near me.


Dwelltime – Coffee Nerds, Your Time Has Come

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

Location: Cambridge, MA

The Foodie: Strongly Recommends

Dwelltime was conjured up during a coffee geek’s dream.

Here’s what has many a bean dweeb staying up later than usual:

  • An espresso machine that looks like it was jettisoned from a lunar spacecraft. That would be the La Marzocco Strada EP they are rocking up in here. This thing seriously looked like it was pimped-out by a tatted-wife-beater-rocking car detailing specialist rather than a bespectacled old Italian man in a small Florence-based workshop. One version of this machine goes for the price of a small car ($15,000) so I guess that makes sense.







  • In other coffee-gadgetry, Dwelltime makes their brewed coffee via the pour-over method utilizing a unique auto-drip device that looks similarly Martian. Pretty cool.

Take me to your leader...

  • The final piece of café-wizardry happening here (and the one I’m most excited about) is the legit tap for  “cold brew” iced coffee that will be chilled constantly. The “Dwellers” (as staff here are presumably called) are even promising “barrel-aged” cold brew as well. Who needs their local pub anymore?

What's on tap?

All this futuristic coffee gear is housed in a very attractive space complete with tiled ceiling, brick walls, sexy copper-plated bar…just an all-around cool spot. Check it:

I’ve saved the most important part for last – how was the friggin’ espresso you ask? Well, in a word, heavenly. I wouldn’t expect any different from the kind chums at Barismo in Arlington who are behind this operation. You’ll find what must be every variety of their locally-roasted outstanding beans for sale. My quadruple latte (the lattes come in one size) was silky-smooth and very enjoyable. I’d say these guys are in the running for the top three lattes in the Boston area judging from the first sip.







Dwelltime is the café for baristas, coffee roasters, and all-around Arabica fiends. If you had any doubt up until this point that coffee appreciation and roasting technique in this country was nearing the fine craft and artistry of wine-making and craft beer, that doubt is no more.

Coffee nerds – your time has come. Dwell in it.

Sofra – A Slice of the Middle East in Eastern Mass

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

Location: Cambridge, MA

The Foodie: Recommends








In a court of food, a raw-yer (get it?) could argue that Ana Sortun is the chef to most successfully bring Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine to Eastern Massachusetts and the North Atlantic.

So a few years ago when I discovered she had opened a bakery and café in a remote corner of Cambridge to build off the success of Oleana I was particularly jazzed.

I’ve been over here several times and never left disappointed – they manage to squeeze fistfuls of culinary delights into a small space. Think amazing falafel and shawarma, a slew of baked goods, spices for purchase, and even fresh eggs (presumably from the farm that Sortun and family runs).

A recent trip here brought joy upon joy in the form of Turkish coffee, a little sausage and broccoli rabe sandwich, a nice quiche-like pastry and the ever-famous egg shakshouka (find out about that one on your own).

Sortun offers you all this and more in a well-designed (yet tiny) space. Sofra is best enjoyed in the following formats:

  • Order a sandwich for take-out. Sip a Turkish coffee while you wait.
  • Bring a slew of pastries home to gorge upon
  • Come with a small crew and hover over people to grab a seat for weekend breakfast
  • Experience Sofra in warmer weather and chill in a small space for outdoor seating

In any form of edible excursion here however – you will be found guilty of gluttony.

Eat on,

Nick the Foodie.


3 Little Figs – Once Upon Some Thyme…

Monday, January 16th, 2012

Location: Somerville, MA

The Foodie: Recommends








I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll pull a mean espresso shot while placing an amazing pastry on your table.

A new little cottage with walls made of muffins, a roof made of scones, and a door made of spinach pies is luring hansel and gretels off highland ave. for amazing baked goods and legit coffee. You’ll have to leave a trail of pebbles to find your way back to a subway station from their location, but it’s totally worth the hike.

For one, 3 Little Figs produces a fig and pear scone that tastes like something Snow White would have worked up if she owned a bakery. The thing is so good I wouldn’t be surprised if seven dwarfs were hidden in the back room churning butter and manning the kitchen.

In fact, their tiny location is charming enough that it looks like Snow White may have done the decorating (with a little help from goldilocks and little red of course).

And this little gem cooks up more than just little baked “beauties” – they’ve also got some “beast” on their menu – rock the egg and feta sandwich, have them slip prosciutto in there, and break a curse while getting a food buzz.

All fairy tales aside – this new bakery justifies all the hype they’ve received and is a nice addition to the ‘ville.  Spend a morning meal here and live happily ever after.

Voltage Coffee & Art – Avant-Garde Espresso Meets Modern Art

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

Location: Cambridge, MA

The Foodie: Recommends

It’s been a few days…I’ve been shaking from too much coffee lately. But I’m back, with an art history lesson…

We can be certain that all the paint-slinging greats sipped their share of good beans. I mean – how else could Picasso deconstruct the world into cubist shapes? How could Monet blur any scene into an impression? How could Seurat dissect any landscape into 1,000 individual points? And all the neo-uber-modern stuff out there these days – they’ve got to be riding high on Colombian roast to fuel their inspiration, right?

Voltage has discovered this well-known artistic muse and married lover and love-drug under one roof in a bright wide-open Kendall Square storefront. Observe:









Their latte would make a good Van Gogh, and they’ve really nailed down a few other factors that make them unique:

  • All brewed coffee is produced via the pour-over method. Takes longer. Tastes better.
  • Featuring “exotic flavored lattes” with cool names like Devil May Care (Molasses and lemon zest), Beyond the Sea (Homemade caramel & salt), and Atticus Finch (vanilla with burnt sugar).
  • Walls decked-out with really talented works by featured artists – fun to take in as you wait for your “Thieving Magpie” almond rapture latte.

For a taste of Brancusi’s brain, Van Gogh’s vision, Pollock’s perceptions, hit Voltage – and get a zap of arts appreciation.

The Best in Class – Cafés – Simon’s

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Location: Cambridge, MA

The Foodie: Strongly Recommends

As the self-proclaimed consummate foodie, I have rarely been a “regular” anywhere, people.

At Simon’s, they know me as the “Friday triple medium latte guy,” I’ve spent enough to put one of Simon’s kids through college, and I’ve become buddies with many a barista.

Nick the Foodie rarely gets all sentimental on the personal aspect of dining out (I’m really first and foremost a food guy) but Simon’s and I have a close relationship spanning three different apartments, multiple women, and several jobs. That’s devotion folks.

The one thing that remained constant was the loving touch with which the espresso drinks here are produced.

Sure, they use a La Marzocco machine and some of the best roasters (think Barismo and Terroir), but the transcendent quality here is the care and attention unrivaled by anyone else.  I swear the lattes are just a little sweeter, slightly smoother, a bit more refined than anywhere else.

Call it brand affinity, call it loyalty, call it a coffee-crush, but Simon’s delivers something special.

I’ve spent the last 6+ years enjoying primarily the following few drinks and loved every minute of it:

  1. Triple medium latte (my signature bev)
  2. Cappuccino (si)
  3. Espresso (bold, ballsy, beautiful)
  4. Yerba Maté Latte (beautiful grassy herby flavor sweetened with a little honey)

…And I keep discovering more with my friend Simon. Take my recent eureka about the fabled “Gibraltar.” They serve espresso with a bit of milk and foam in a small glass suitable more for a shot of whiskey than a glug of caffeine. A perfect afternoon portioning of espresso with a nice balance and great overall flavor.

I can go on and on about the goods, but Simon’s is one of the few neighborhood spots left where you can look people in the eyes and connect on a personal level…where they’ll remember your birthday, your upcoming vacation to France, the fact you’re getting married, and that you’re embarking on a new step in life. They actually care.

As someone recently said to me, “good coffee isn’t magic.” Good people are not magic, they’re real, and they’re rare.

Simon’s  – thanks for being there for six years and making my mornings better.

Hi Rise Bread Company – The Sun Also Rises on Mass Ave

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Location: Cambridge, MA

The Foodie: Recommends

In a few words: Hi-Rise takes on the café thang with legit coffee at a new location

Store Front

Counter & Ordering Area








Oh it’s on Starbucks.

The makers of Boston’s best baguette, slammin’ challah, bomb brioche and baller sandwiches have decided to add espresso to their resumé.

After shutting the doors on their Harvard location (was never a huge fan of that one anyway), Hi-Rise has set up shop in a new ‘hood with a different formula than their Concord Ave digs. Here, they’re focusing more on espresso drinks and a chill café vibe.

Some things you’ll notice that are different than the Huron Village operation:

Chicken Cubano - Yum

  • Fewer Sandwiches. Though I was slightly bummed not to see my “Andi’s Loose Knit Crew” sammich here, I was quite pleased with my grilled chicken cubano (ham, pickles, cheese, and special sauce on Concord). They’ve brought over some of the killer breakfast sandwiches to this locale as well (like the Hi-Riser). Finally, my eyes also lit up with intrigue at a gourmet bahn-mi inspired creation that includes paté, ham, veggies, and sauce. Can’t wait to sample that one.
  • Very respectable espresso drinks. La Marzocco espresso machine? Check. Good beans? Check. Hipster indie-styled baristas? Check.  Good latte? Check. The technique behind the coffee bar here is pretty amazing and Hi-Rise is bringing in the big guns of local roasters with excellent stuff from Barismo  right in nearby Arlington. I’d definitely put the coffee here somewhere around Crema and Bloc 11 based on quality.

    La Marzocco + Barismo = Love

  • Fewer fresh-baked goods. You’ll still be able to buy one of those orgasmic baguettes here and a variety of other loaves but don’t expect to find all the same stuff as the Hi Rise original.
  • Little more space. If you’ve been squeezed into the corner of a colonial-era room at the Harvard location, or basically sat on someone’s lap at the huge communal table at the Concord Ave spot, you may be pleased by the outdoor seating, standing room bar-style eating at the windows, and cozy café nook area to post up with your laptop for a few hours.

In the end I’m pumped to have these guys in the area given I don’t make it out to Huron Village as much as I’d like. I think what I’m going to do is hit Hi-Rise Mass Ave up for breakfast/brew, but still frequent the flagship locale when I’m on the lookout for stuff like a brioche and to-die-for sammies. I suggest you do the same, dear reader.

In the meantime, Starbucks will definitely feel the heat from another local café that makes better coffee than they do. Anti-corporate coffee types out there, take joy.

Bloc 11 – Passed Dr. Nick’s Formula for Good Coffee-ology

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Location: Somerville, MA

The Foodie: Recommends

I’ve been around the coffee block in the Boston area and gotta say this spot has been on my “Top Three Latte” list for quite some time. Below you’ll find all the coffee shop essentials as broken down using Dr. Nick the Foodie’s patented methodology for evaluating caffeine beans:

BEANS: Intelligentsia 

These roasters are out of Chicago (I think) and really have some have some tasty coffee, not to mention really stylish orange bags and a well-branded product. We all know that good beans are at the heart of good coffee, even though water (or milk) makes up the bulk of what you’re drinking.


I have pretty much scientifically proven a correlation between excellent espresso and this make of espresso Machine, made in Florence. Literally ALL of my “Top 3” joints own one of these bad boys, and Bloc 11 is no exception.

BARISTA STAFF: Earthy-crunchy, alternative, indie, cool (whatever that means)

There must be a style guide somewhere or some official “vogue” for baristas because the good ones seem to all follow the same fashion advice. Beyond a laser-focus on their trade, the best of baristas look the look. Walk out the door if you see a polo shirt on your coffee jock.

LATTE-OMETER: Velvety-smooth look, brown of the espresso nicely rising to the top, patterned milk-foam

My standard of comparison across coffee shops is really their latte. Involves the right mix of art, science and technique to get the milk and espresso just right.  The good lattes look something like the one from Bloc 11 pictured below.









The other notable fact about this bloc of Somerville (though it doesn’t have a bearing on the taste of the latte) is that they really strive to be carbon neutral – think bio-degradable everything, green power sources, and composting. Size-wise they’re also one of the most spacious coffee hang-outs around with plenty of seats inside and a small courtyard with room in the open air as well.

Fitting that they’re housed in the former space of a bank too – ‘cause the coffee really is money.