Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Barefoot's "The Boss" Espresso

One of my pet peeves is people who refer to certain coffees as espresso beans, as if beans used for espresso are somehow magically different from other coffee beans. They're not. Espresso is a preparation of coffee. The beans you use to make it can be any particular type. While I wouldn't fault a non-coffee person for not knowing this, I was surprised to see that annoying commentator on Iron Chef referring to some beans during the recent coffee episode as espresso beans, and not just dark roasted beans (in general, beans for espresso tend to be roasted darker than your garden variety beans used for coffee because it mellows bright flavors that can be intense and overpowering in the small cup).

So this little rant brings me back to the original point of my post, which is a description of Barefoot Coffee's "The Boss!" Espresso. I picked this up from their Santa Clara (or is it San Jose? I'm never quite clear on that) cafe earlier this month and have been enjoying it ever since. It's a blend of Brazil Datera Monte Cristo, India Jasmina and Ethiopia Dale.

I found this blend to have a nice presence of blueberries in its aroma and taste. Crema straddles the light-dark brown line, and for me lasted well after the shot was pulled. Can dissipate with a lot of milk, but tasted great as a macchiato.

I have also brewed this blend as a coffee, and am currently sipping the results from a pour over. While lacking a body that lives up to its name, the blueberries are there bright and shiny. Again, the point is, espresso beans can be enjoyed as coffee, and coffee can certainly be pulled as an espresso with great results.

Barefoot, by the way, gives the blend this description: "Dope sweet thickness and chocolate berries con panna. Chocolatey goodness with some sneaked in spice and berry notes. Touch of citrus kiss in the finish. Thick, thick, sticky and gooey. A whole lot of good chocolate and fruit in your cup."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Portable Espresso Makers

I received a press release today from a company called mypressi that makes a handheld espresso maker, called the Twist. From the promo photos, it looks gorgeous. Apparently this device, which can use either pods or grounds, gets 9 bars of pressure, the standard required to officially make espresso. It says it doesn't require external power to work, just hot water and gas cartridges that you can find at kitchen retail stores. Don't see price information, which would be a big factor in how many of these are actually sold. It's biggest claim to fame so far is that it was awarded the "best new consumer product" by the SCAA recently.

While mypressi claims the Twist is the first portable espresso maker, I've certainly seen others advertised elsewhere.

Here's the Handpresso, a device that's currently priced below $90 on

Reviewers seem to like it a lot.

I don't personally travel enough for this to be an issue, although when I do travel, I always try to find a third-wave cafe or roaster at my destination so this doesn't become an issue. Of course, if you're camping, then something like this, or the AeroPress is pretty cheap and easy to use.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

CL Wines 2005 Sonoma Coast Syrah

Continuing, but probably getting close to the end of, my Syrah kick now that it's getting warmer out, I picked up this bottle at Farmstead Cheese and Wine in Alameda, a little shop that has some great small production wines, for about $15 (In doing some online searching about it, I see that it can be had for as low as $9.99 elsewhere).

This wine was totally pitch black in color. It had a nose of dried earth and slightly rotting pine needles. In the glass there was definitely some alcoholic heat, along with blackberries and a blue cheese flavor. There's a nice smoked paprika

Couldn't find a website for the winemakers, but did stumble across this description from WineGeeks: David Lattin founded Craven & Lattin in 1998 when he left Acacia Winery in 1998. His wife, Kendra Craven, is a trained enologist and compliments him well on the business side of the wine industry. They produce 150 to 300 cases of each single vineyard wine they make, with a focus on Pinot Noir from various appellations.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Kim Crawford 2008 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

Kim Crawford's 2008 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
was rated a best buy by Wine Spectator's April 30, 2009 edition, receiving 91 points. I haven't explored New Zealand's SBs, which it's famous for, so when I saw this bottle for $15 on sale at Safeway (normally $19) I quickly picked it up.

What I've read about these wines is the presence of a grassy flavors, which is unique, or at least stronger, than Sauvignon Blancs from other origins.

So what did I find? Well, on the nose, grassy notes and lime leaf. In the glass, I got a nice round mouthfeel, with the acidity picking up half way through and lingers on the finish. Some black liquorish notes are there, as well as pink grapefruit, tropical fruit, but this wine is dominated by lime flavors - what I would describe as lime popsicle. Really strong.

I liked this wine, and can see myself getting again some hot day this summer.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Blue Bottle Ferry Building Update

Had a chance to run over to the Ferry Building during my lunch break to check out the recently opened, third Blue Bottle location. Situated in a corner space, the cafe has two places to buy coffee. On one side, there's a little shop with some beans, machines and cups along with a glass counter containing baked items. There's also sandwiches on the counter for sale.

You can get a pour-over coffee or espresso-based drink from a three head, spring hand pulled lever here, and the baristas were pulling Blue Bottle's Retrofit Espresso blend. In this iteration, I found the scents coming from my mug more exciting than the taste itself.

Pulled slowly from the lever, my shot had nice, light tan-colored crema that didn't dissipate quickly. I found aromas of tropical fruits, chocolate and some muted spice on the nose. In the mouth, however, the espresso was more flat that I expected. It went down without harshness, but did have some flavors of smoked wood.

On the other side of the cafe, you can order espresso drinks from a more traditional La Marzocco. One of the baristas told me they're planning on offering single origin espresso shots at some future date. While some people in the coffee world prefer blends, I personally think having a choice is great because it allows people to truly see the difference growing conditions, country of origin and processed method can have on the end product.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Rosenblum 2006 Rockpile Road Zinfandel

This was one of the wines I received in my March club shipment from Rosenblum. Retails for $35, member price is $28. I have to say, I really liked it, and was surprised at the layers of complexity I tasted. Zinfandel is something of a first love for me, as it was the first varietal I latched onto a decade ago when I began drinking wine on a regular basis. It can be fun, cheap, spicy and juicy without being snobby or pretentious. You don't always need to focus on discerning its characteristics, because it's so pleasant and uncomplicated. Maybe that's why I have a hard time spending a lot for a bottle of Zinfandel (and I consider $30 or more expensive for Zinfandels).

My Zin drinking has been limited over the past few years, as there seems to be a trend of producers making their wines bigger and bigger, with high alcohol levels and high prices to match. I haven't enjoyed many Zins I've tried recently as much as I remember enjoying them years ago (this could just be a nostalgic perspective thing, but that's a psychological question I don't feel like exploring here) so I've subsequently stopped buying them.

Rosenblum is known for their Zins, so it was no shocker that I got one in my club shipment. I've been to their tasting room numerous times to taste some of the dozens of bottles they have (free tastings all the time thanks to the membership) but I haven't purchased any additional wines there because while they seem nice, I didn't feel like putting out $30-$40 a bottle for them.

Then I tried the 2006 Rockpile Road Zinfandel, and my opinion on the matter changed.

Here is a lovely wine with a nose of cedar, spice and blue and black fruits. In the mouth, I found an attack of clean tart berry fruit, which gives way to a beautiful blackberry preserve, blueberries, and finishes with vanilla spice and, on one night, seemed to show shades of grape bubblicious gum flavor.

This wine is big, but unlike lesser Zins, it doesn't devolve into a mix of unreal sugary sweet fruit flavors and vodka-like alcohol heat; instead, it ramps up in your mouth without losing its cohesion. I plan on picking up another bottle next time I visit the winery, as this zin is certainly worth the price.