I’ve had a breakthrough. Well, maybe not a bona-fide breakthrough, the heavens didn’t open up and I didn’t really see anything different. But I did manage to walk through the Lower East Side without wanting to cry and cower in a corner, which certainly feels like a mini-breakthrough for me.
The LES is probably one of the coolest parts of New York, that is if you define cool as a gritty neighborhood where you can never quite tell if the people around are sane, rich, insane, poor or brilliant actors (as pretty much everyone around me seems to do). It’s a place where someone can look simultaneously hip, out-of-fashion, rich and destitute. I don’t really fit in. In fact, I would argue that in my summer time uniform of jack rogers, a loose white shirt and shorts, I stand out.
Luckily, that’s not what I was wearing when I headed over to Lost Weekend after eight am yoga at Strala. Instead, I was decked out in my yoga finest with my green mat sling over my shoulder. I like to pretend that carrying a yoga mat helps you blend in, in this city. It’s hip, it’s cool and I don’t care.
My feet led me to Lost Weekend (my mind was engaged in the age old debate of which cafe to try, Lost Weekend or Cafe Grumpy?), which is a cafe/gallery shop at the neighborhood’s hip-hip epicenter. I thought I had walked too far into Chinatown by the time I neared the cafe, it was a surprise (and a relief) when I finally came upon it. There were a couple of painfully cool guys sitting out front drinking their (surprise, surprise) Blue Bottle Coffee.
To me, Blue Bottle Coffee is the it coffee of the moment. Right now, it’s the coffee that marks you out as knowing something about beans. It marks cafes as being high quality, or hip. Of course, that also means that it’s everywhere. The hippie grocery store my parents shop at (sorry, had to say it) even stocks it.
I wouldn’t mind so much if I loved the coffee, but every time I tasted it, it has tasted average. As I walked into the glass-fronted store, I hoped this time the barista would be able to change my mind about these uber popular beans.
While many shop/cafes seem to have their coffee service as a quasi-after thought, Lost Weekend really puts the focus on the coffee. You could easily forget that it’s a store with the amount of seating they have. There’s a big, low, wooden table in the center of the shop that could easily fit ten people around it. There are a couple of stool at a bar in the front window and some seats outside. There’s even a little dog-bowl if your french bulldog (possibly named Adriano) wants some water whilst you sip on that cold brew.
I ordered a gibraltar (as it should be called, in my opinion, anywhere that serves Blue Bottle) and waited as the antipodean barista made my coffee. Taking the small glass, I sat down in a window and relaxed for a bit. There weren’t many people walking past, but when they did, the people watching was certainly excellent.
My gibraltar (or cortado) was good and tasted exactly as I remembered blue bottle coffee to taste like. It’s a soft, subtle and light coffee taste. It doesn’t hit your over the head and there aren’t chocolate-y notes. This also means that it tends towards sweetness with no hints of bitterness. It was good, but I was underwhelmed. I guess I just have to face the fact that this coffee of the moment may pass me by without proper appreciation.
Or does it? I think that the reason blue bottle coffee has always left me underwhelmed is because I have always tasted it in milk. Since the coffee is light, I think it would shine drunk as either a macchiato, an espresso or a simple pour over. Next time I get blue bottle, that’s definitely what I’ll order.
I think a trip to Blue Bottle Chelsea is more than in order!
Does your city have a “uniform” or something that every wears? What are the trends sweeping through your neck of the woods?