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Made in San Francisco, California.

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Separated at birth

08.17.15 Posted in Movies by

Rachel McAdams parkerposey


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Provender Postulates Potrero caffeinapocaypse 

08.07.15 Posted in Espresso by

Marzocco check.

Sightglass check.

Hexagonal white tiles check.

Air plants check.

Provender recently opened on Potrero’s frequently changing 18th St strip. It brings the best coffee on the hill, to date by serving that Sightglass with just the right pour length. It’s a bit too bright for me but more integrated than the surrounding espressos at Farley’s and Chatz. Even if you like what they offer you have to wonder at the density of decent espresso on Potrero Hill. The Dogpatch side is bustling with Neighbor Bakehouse, Piccino, Front, and Dignita. The North side has Papa November‘s permanent trailer pop up.  The Mission side has Sightglass, Blue Bottle, and Coffee Bar. And there are rumors of yet another Potrero Hill caffe up on 20th. For what used to be a quiet residential neighborhood that’s quite a lot of coffee.

Provender replaces Bake which was great, especially for breakfast pastries, but the formula appears to be good espresso + good baked goods + sandwiches for lunch, at least until we see this location rotate along with the rest of the strip. The sandwhiches at Provender are commendably light, especially the beet sandwich. Just don’t expect to eat in. It’s literally a store front so you either eat on the bench out front, drink your espresso at the bar in the window or take it to go.


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Scarlet City Roasting

08.05.15 Posted in Espresso by

Pin ball machines go with craft beer, why not espresso? Maybe, especially espresso given how well Scarlet City works. It’s situated on an Emeryville corner surrounded by the out-of-control generic condo developments that are rapidly consuming every bit of open space in the Bay Area. The location isn’t exactly gemütlich, concrete is the governing architectural material, but Scarlet is about coffee, science fiction, and pin ball so you can easily distract yourself. They even have a trailer.

Coffee is in evidence through the central bar which, in contrast to the trend of hosting espresso blends, Scarlet roasts its own. The default Warp Drive blend is rich, sweet, and is rendered with a thick crema by the resident Marzocco. In even starker contrast, they only serve espresso drinks. These are people worth knowing, perhaps even loving. Their roasting schedule is posted on the web site so that you can buy it fresh but really, get out of the house and leave your computer at home because there’s no wi-fi here, and experience a cup of well made espresso. Savor it then proceed to the science fiction theme.

The bar is lined with models from science fiction films, Star Wars and Star Trek are well represented but I’m guessing that Gene Roddenberry is the patron saint since the bar is in the shape of a Star Trek insignia and not the Millennium Falcon. The back walls are lined by science fiction pinball games. On my last visit Terminator 2 and Demolition Man consumed the most quarters which, at a minimum of fifty cents a pop, go faster than when I was young and flipper happy. The Space Invaders pin ball game is the most vintage dated, covered with H.R. Giger inspired/ripped off drawings.

H.R. Giger's influence abounds.

H.R. Giger’s influence abounds.


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20th Century Cafe

07.10.15 Posted in Espresso by

20th Century Cafe in Hayes Valley conjures up a swelling false nostalgia for Hapsburg era Trieste, or is it Zagreb? It could just as easily be Vienna but this sliver of a elegance along Gough Street wouldn’t countenance those comparisons. The ladies that run it come straight out of San Francisco and the menu, while inspired by Eastern European, is clearly contemporary. It’s such a tiny place filled with a grand atmosphere that recalls Tosca and Trieste in their prime.

Lindzer Torte at 20th Century Cafe

Come for the incredible sweets including their justly lauded Russian Honey Cake but if you have the appetite or partners then wander through their Sacher and Linzer Tortes.  The nostalgia shades into the convivial environment composed of marble tables and a plush banquet that runs the length of one wall. These features induce strangers to share quite frequently or you can drift on the background music which quite frequently features the piano.

Espresso at 20th Century Cafe

As for the espresso, they have a vintage machine that produces a very soft and rounded cup which is, appropriately enough, served in delicate china.


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How your coffee is made

04.07.15 Posted in Espresso by

Sweet Maria’s has a great video of the post fermentation processing in the middle of an Ethiopian night.


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Trouble Coffee – Bayview

02.12.15 Posted in Espresso by

Trouble Coffee - Bayview

Trouble’s second incarnation is a half block off Third on Yosemite amidst homes and sundry light industrial buildings. It feels like SOMA in the 80’s and 90’s, bedraggled but with creative spark. The city is obviously growing this direction, the sunny weather is already there.

And then there’s Trouble which has carved out its own identity replete with a parklet that provides quite a contrast to everything else on the block. It has a concrete base with steel stadium seating facing the tiny store front. Perhaps it’s a riff on nearby and soon-to-be-demolished Candlestick. It has a very strange effect because you sit with your back to the street and face into the espresso bar.

And it is a bar. It’s tiny with three or four stools that look they were stolen from the Zeitgeist or Benders. Steel and the occasional funky ceramic item which could just as easily have been manufactured in the 60’s as today mesh with an Ornette Coleman album cover, cassette tapes, copies of Basic Rockcraft by Royal Robbins with Tom Frost on the cover, and Renato Poggioli’s The Theory of the Avant-Garde. But they’re all purely decorative: The focus is clearly on the experience.

There is something of a secret espresso menu but in the way of these things it’s not entirely secret because people like me write about it and it’s not entirely novel either with variations on an Americano and depth charges. I didn’t try any of them. I did try their espresso which is a nicely layered experience. Roasted by Intelligentsia on Potrero Hill, it starts in the high range, bright with very little acid. Beth, the barista at the time of my visits, described it as having a mineral sensation which, upon hearing the term, was perfectly descriptive but I’m not sure that I’d ever arrive at it myself. The cup then moves through a nice mid palate nuttiness, finishing with a dark chocolate roundness. It is served in a little hand sculpted ceramic cup with a murky green glaze. The aesthetic is totalizing.

A very engaging barista complements the funny customer base. One day it was steel guys and gear heads. Another it was creative types. Yosemite Place just down the street is full of offices with bland names that stir the imagination so I’m sure there’s some creative ferment amidst its halls. Then again, they may all just be grow houses and money laundering operations. Who knows. Feel free to jump in and write a counter-narrative here. The music drifts from place to place. A Spacemen 3 cassette tape played on a Walkman through an audio jack first complemented, then sparked conversation. The cassette collection inspires with classics like PIL and many a hand decorated mix tape; sensibility to burn.

Should you take a stroll you’ll find lots of crap sitting around for the taking. A friend filled my trunk with shelving and let a few broken pieces of curb stare him down. We didn’t even seriously consider the entire Chevy Blazer center console but only looked for the rest of the car.

There be treasure on that Yosemite.

 


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Pinhole Coffee

01.22.15 Posted in Espresso by

The latest addition to the Bernal coffee scene.

The latest addition to the Bernal coffee scene.

 Pinhole Coffee is one of the more recent additions to San Francisco’s coffee landscape and the latest demonstration that there are many trained baristas with ambition ready to plug the caffeine holes in our urban fabric. The barista is familiar from Blue Bottle, this end of Cortland in Bernal doesn’t have coffee, so the business plan must have been clear.

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The multicolored back wall at Pinhole.

The outcome works well, no financial district blond wood and white tile here, one whole wall is covered in colored stripes.

As with most small caffe’s these days Pinhole has a variety of suppliers:

The espresso shots are thick, almost chocolatey in consistency. They’re served in funky green cups and saucers. There’s a cuddly corner bench with wood stump table as well as a massive communal table.

Espresso in a very hand made environment.

Espresso in a very hand made environment.

It’s a single room with a small bar fun ambiance created by the rotating cast of neighborhood visitors.

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Murals are everywhere these days.


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Dignita in The Hall

01.21.15 Posted in Espresso by

Market Street gets a min-food court replete with a fine slip of an espresso bar.

Market Street gets a min-food court replete with a fine slip of an espresso bar.

The rapidly changing mid-Market area gets its own makeshift food space called The Hall next door to pioneering Show Dogs and it features a tiny stand for Dignita. They push out shots of an acid forward espresso roasted by Thump in Bend, Oregon and sell Dignita’s line of packaged foods plus pastries and pour overs.

It’s squeezed in next door to the Crab Shack and across from a little bar. Many food choices around the central seating area that let’s you admire the herring bone bracing in the exposed ceiling or the passing parade that continues to define the neighborhood. It’s a terrifically funky building and block: Perhaps it’s technically a trapezoid but the thrust is triangular as it defines the intersection of Market, Golden Gate, and Taylor so it makes for terrifically funky angles. #sfwifi has a signal but it’s weak or there was some problem on my visit because I couldn’t get a connection. You may just have to appreciate Devendra’s latest album on the hifi while enjoying the view.


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Dignita on 3rd: Espresso work life

01.20.15 Posted in Espresso by

This unassuming entrance could be your new espresso fueled workspace.

This unassuming entrance could be your new espresso fueled workspace.

It’s saying something that an espresso bar now is a casual addition to a work space, perhaps even an essential component. Dignita styles itself as an espresso bar and you’d be hard pressed to disagree with the Marzocco pushing out bang on shots from Thump Coffee in Bend, Oregon and pastries by Sandbox.

The espresso is bracingly acidic, much more suited to steamed milk drinks but perfectly palatable on its own. Music is atmospheric pop, inoffensive until someone you know pops onto the playlist.

The style is drift wood with off-the-shelf hardware fittings bedecked with succulents. It’s also a fully modular space. Invention Hub occupies the majority of the building behind modular walls. The espresso bar is on wheels so it can also shift around. Occasionally the walls get reconfigured for meetings and the espresso space has shrunk lately which can make the front cramped. Fortunately everyone seems happy to split tables.

But there’s much, much, more afoot here. They have another location mid-market in The Hall, next door to Show Dogs. And they’re a whole food company, and they do right by their employees, and I’m sure there are plenty of story lines that I’m missing. Suffice to say that it’s a good scene.

It’s a much needed addition to Dogpatch as it oozes towards Pier 70, UCSF, Mission Bay and south towards Bayview. My only real nit is that wifi sessions run less than an hour, otherwise this could be your new office away from home.


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Mazarine caffeinates Market

01.07.15 Posted in Espresso, San Francisco by

Market Street finally gets a coffee bar to write about.

Market Street finally gets a coffee bar to write about.

That cold, wind swept, expanse of Market Street that seemingly only serves as a conduit for flying trash and MUNI now hosts a top notch espresso bar. Mazarine features Upland’s Klatch and San Francisco’s own Ritual. I tasted an incredibly rich, soft, and muddy Klatch Belle which performs one of the greatest tricks of the espresso world, it’s rich without being over roasted and buries all the acid in the creaminess. Their pull of one of Ritual’s single origins was just as expressive as you’d want, great focus on bright acidity.

Mazarine is fully staffed, perhaps by too many black clad wait bariste, and maintains design continuity with bleached wood and white tiled brethren across the world in that they have white marble countertops, a Marzocco Kees van der Westen “Spirit”, and wood but this place is much more urban. Mazarine features lots of finished concrete from the floor up to the counter walls. The entire bar is backed by gun metal, verging on Mazarine, blue tiling that makes you jealous that you don’t have a redecorating budget to blow at Heath (which, as it happens, did Mazarine’s espresso cups) or the Design Center. It even feels like a subway stop.

The Market Street location makes for fantastic people watching. Instead of struggling against the wind and frigid shadows on those expanses of 20 foot sidewalk out front you can just stare at everyone else as they do it in your stead. Should it be a uncommonly calm and beautiful day they even have a seating area on the sidewalk so that you can warm up and enjoy the brick clad expanse before the wind picks up again.

The caffe is saturated by wifi so it’s an ideal work location. They feature a number of nice pastries and serve wine and beer so you could always knock off early here for a drink and tell stories about the lost 7/11 Club across the street.

Update: After publishing Monica Hill from Mazarine kindly informed me that I’d mistaken the machine. It’s not actually a Marzocco, it’s a Kees van der Western “Spirit” which you should read up on here. I’m certainly enjoying the research and thank Mazarine for reaching out with the correction.