It’s a warm, breezy afternoon in summer and my grandpa and I are strolling along New York City’s High Line park.
We’ve walked about 15 blocks when we come across some vendors selling art and a few scattered food carts. One is Blue Bottle Coffee, a California-based organic coffee brand that also has a few shops in Manhattan and Brooklyn. You probably shouldn’t judge a coffee shop by its barista, but the guy behind the cart has that scruffy, indie look that makes me think he takes his coffee seriously.
“Let’s try it out,” Papa says. “I’ve heard it’s good.”
Of course, I’m not going to object. It smells amazing. I wonder though, realistically, how anyone has time for Blue Bottle.
There is no line when Papa and I order our Three Africans Blend drip coffees, but it takes almost five minutes to make them. Not exactly conducive to New Yorkers on the move, but I guess when you’re strolling on the High Line you’re supposed to be relaxed.
With our coffee slowly dripping through the filter, it’s awkward not to make small talk. The barista starts telling us how the Blue Bottle brand has a “cult-like” following in San Francisco, but is just beginning to catch on in New York City.
“In San Francisco,” he says, “Where people only have to be at work at ten, ten-ish, they’ll wait on line forever for a cup. It’s different here.”
Honestly, I can’t imagine people having the patience for that in New York. After all, a cup of coffee is a cup of coffee, even if it’s a really really good cup of coffee.
But we have plenty of time today, and by this point I’m pretty sold by the scent of the coffee grounds, picked up and swirled around by the High Line breeze.
We finally get our coffee and sit down at a little table in the sun near 15th street. It’s about 75 degrees — if it were any warmer drinking hot coffee might not be enjoyable, but it’s perfect in this weather.
Papa takes a sip first.
“It almost tastes like beer it’s so good,” he says says, smiling.
I start laughing. My Irish grandfather loves his beer. I actually know what he means though — the coffee is so thick and rich-tasting, it’s almost filling.
I take a sip.
“Wow, this is good.”
Now I have to rationalize the high price.
“Starbucks lattes are like $3.75,” I say. “I mean, $2.90 for a cup? It’s still not as bad as being a latte person.”
We talk and talk about how delicious this coffee is. One of the best things about loving coffee is talking about how great your cup of coffee is with another coffee-lover who is genuinely enjoying his or her cup.
“I think this is one of the best cups of coffee I’ve ever had,” Papa says.
“Really?! The best you’ve ever had?”
“Well, not the best, but close.”
Papa has never been a gourmet coffee drinker, preferring a cup of Dunkin’ Donuts black or the dark roast from Wawa. His all-time favorite — a 7-Eleven blend — was tragically discontinued a few years ago, and he’s been searching for a replacement ever since. He would never willingly step foot in a Starbucks; he thinks their coffee has too much of a burnt taste, which I agree with even though I buy it all the time.
Needless to say, I’m pretty happy about his newfound love for the trendy Blue Bottle.
We continue walking along the High Line, savoring our Three Africans Blend for the next 15 minutes until the coffee’s the same temperature as the outside air. It still tastes good.
That night I arrive home to an email from Papa, informing me of Blue Bottle’s dangerous new Rockefeller Center location.
“How can any one be able to save money working near a Blue Bottle coffee kiosk?” he writes. “There ought to be a law against this type of temptation.”
Walk into Quincy’s Café on any given afternoon and the first thing you’ll notice is the people.
Students clad in oversized headphones, hidden behind their laptops and towers of textbooks. Professors holding an orange coffee mug in one hand and a newspaper in the other. A poet scribbling down thoughts in his Moleskin.
Ismail Egilmez, owner of the café, says Quincy’s has something for everyone.
“I have 90-year-old women … playing cards games down to students studying, to locals who’ve been in town forever to artists to musicians sitting in the corner,” he said. “It’s what we are, the environment that I’ve set out … if you build it, they’ll come.”
Located on the corner of Edison Road and Route 23, Egilmez credits Quincy’s success over the last year in part to its central location.
“I’m at a good crossroads,” he said. “We’re next to the campus, obviously, which we totally love, we’re next to downtown, also next to Granger, which is very popular, and everybody moves through here.”
Egilmez opened Quincy’s Café one year ago with his father, Philip Egilmez, a Notre Dame alum. Ismail Egilmez had previously owned an art gallery in Chicago, which he was forced to close when the economy spiraled downward.
Opening his own café, he said, had always been a goal.
Now, the timing was right.
“It was harder and harder to find anything to really depend on … so the best answer to that was just to work for yourself,” he said. “So we came together, brought our heads together on it, and this is what came out of that.”
The quirky ambience of Quincy’s helps distinguish it from what Egilmez calls “sterile” coffee shops, chain stores like Starbucks and Seattle’s Best that have spread across the country since the early 1990s.
He said Quincy’s is an entirely different kind of venture.
“Just because the coffee associates us two doesn’t mean the whole idea of the business is [the same,]” he said. “This is more ‘take a break.’”
With its wooden tables, mismatched chairs and abstract artwork lining an entire wall, the atmosphere of Quincy’s is a major draw for creative types who find the South Bend area lacking in similar venues.
“It does build community really well, because people talk to each other and connections happen, it’s just great for the artists to be able to do that,” he said. “That way [I can] support doing the art, without completely depending on it, and still give back in that way.”
All of the artwork displayed is by local or regional artists. Egilmez also invites local musicians to play on a small wooden stage in the back of the café.
“There’s some weeks we have [music] Wednesday through Sunday, other weeks we have it just Thursday Friday and Saturday, but always Friday and Saturday and 90 percent of the time Thursday, Friday, Saturday, so yeah we really try to keep that going,” Egilmez said.
When it comes to food, Quincy’s also goes for local flavor.
“I think the signature thing is the ingredient,” Egilmez said. “I mean every restaurant is going to have a turkey sandwich, I mean we can’t patent that … it’s how you do it.”
All of the food is locally or regionally made, he said, and none of the ingredients are “skimped on.”
The coffee served at Quincy’s — on the pricier side at about two to five dollars a cup — is high quality and regionally sourced.
“We do Intelligentsia coffee because they’re a smaller business. I [found out] about them when I went to Chicago, basically I tasted that and I said I won’t go to any of the ‘other’ places,” he said. “It really is night and day.”
Egilmez said that despite doing very little advertising, numbers show Quincy’s has grown steadily each month since it opened last April.
But he said the timeline for possible expansion “kind of dictates itself.”
“We want to see if the cup keeps overflowing to see if that’s needed and so right now we’re at just about the right capacity with our shows and everything, so [eventually] expanding the venue so we can offer more, a little bigger of a stage,” he said.
Egilmez said he does not want to be the kind of owner that “sets and forgets,” failing to keep up with increased demand or customers’ needs.
“You have to keep moving with it a little bit, and change, but still keep the very main core,” he said. “I’m never going to lose what I’m about. Just [add] to it a little bit.”
Published in The Observer
If you’re anything like my friends and me, Starbucks downs your flex points just about as fast as you down its tall vanilla lattes.
I don’t even drink coffee just to stay awake. There are so many other great reasons to grab a cup: to fill an awkward break between classes, to catch up with friends, to procrastinate studying and to keep warm when the temperature goes subzero.
We live in a caffeine culture, and the ridiculously long coffee lines between classes prove that. You can even tell a lot about a person based on their caffeine preference.
We have the Waddicks types, who linger at the coveted red booths, reading Chaucer or discussing philosophy, slowly sipping large pumpkin spice coffees.
You know someone’s got a long day when their tumbler is filled to the brim with Grab and Go coffee and secured in the net pocket of a protruding backpack.
And then there are those who are perpetually holding Starbucks — never straight coffee but always with an excess of adjectives like nonfat, extra whip, unsweetened, light ice and no foam.
I may be stereotyping, but at Notre Dame getting coffee is a more social thing for girls than for guys. You are much more likely to see four PW girls in LaFun gossiping over coffee, than to see four Siegfried guys crowded around a Burger King table, chatting and sipping their nonfat lattes.
On the other hand, unlike guys, girls don’t typically purchase energy drinks to have fun with their friends. Let’s take the case of Five-Hour Energy shots. Girls never brag about taking them. In fact, most girls will down them in the privacy of a Subway booth or in their own rooms. But when guys pop open that small bottle, they have to broadcast it to whoever they pass by. It’s always like, “Dude, I’m so ridiculously awake now, I just took a Five-Hour Energy. Love that stuff.”
Addiction? Possibly. Problem? Not really.
But the Five-Hour Energy shot poured into the coffee? Yes, I’ve seen it done. Now that’s a problem.
At Notre Dame, we like to think that while we “play hard” on the weekends, during the weekdays we are studious, diligent and in control. However, our coffee drinking habits are oddly reminiscent of our weekend drinking habits. Why else would we order a double shot of espresso on a Monday morning, or claim that “one more cup” of coffee won’t hurt us? Why else would we suffer through headaches at 11 a.m., just because we didn’t have that morning cup?
Whether you’re a social coffee drinker, a caffeine addict, or, gasp, you “don’t like coffee,” there’s no denying that we live in a caffeine culture.
Of course, there are those out there who claim to survive without any caffeine at all. On good, old-fashioned sleep, they say. I still think there has got to be some method to that madness, but for now, more power to them.
In honor of my 21st birthday I’m dedicating this post to two vastly different but wonderfully related things: classic literature and classic cocktails.
It’s no secret that 20th century writers of the World War II era were about as dedicated to their drinking as they were to their novels. Cigarettes and alcohol fueled expatriates like Hemingway and Stein as they scribbled down the beginnings of what would later become American classics.
According to David A. Embury in his 1948 book, The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, (a classic in its own right) there are six basic cocktails: Martini, Manhattan, Old-Fashioned, Daiquiri, Side Car, and Jack Rose.
I had the pleasure of trying a few of them last night…
The Hemingway Daiquiri
The famous author is known for his minimalist style, short sentences, and of course his Daiquiri drinking. Hemingway might have sipped this drink from his apartment while looking over the Paris streets. Here’s how you make it:
1 1/2 oz light rum
1/4 oz maraschino liqueur
3/4 oz lime juice
1/4 oz grapefruit juice
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Another Hemingway-related favorite is the Jack Rose cocktail, famous from its appearance in The Sun Also Rises. Jake, the narrator, drinks a Jack Rose in a Paris hotel bar while awaiting the arrival of Lady Brett Ashley.
1 1/2 oz apple brandy
1 tsp grenadine syrup
juice of 1/2 limes
Shake all ingredients with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, and serve.
Sherwood Anderson’s Old Fashioned
Faulkner and Hemingway looked up to Anderson as a literary role model; they also took up his fondness for cocktails. Anderson called the Old Fashioned his “personal poison,” which turned out to be tragically true. He died after swallowing a toothpick at a cocktail party, eventually causing a fatal infection in his stomach.
2 oz blended whiskey
1 sugar cube
1 dash bitters
1 slice lemon
1 slice orange
Combine the sugar cube, bitters, and 1 tsp. water in an old-fashioned glass. Muddle well, add blended whiskey, and stir. Add a twist of lemon peel and ice cubes. Add slices of orange and lemon and top with the cherry. Serve with a swizzle stick.
“I believe that on the first night I went to Gatsby’s house I was one of the few guests who had actually been invited. People were not invited– they went there.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald had a talent for displaying the lives of the fabulously rich, and the hidden moral decay behind them. In The Great Gatsby, parties held every weekend on Long Island offer a glimpse into that fantastic, unattainable lifestyle. The blurring nature of drunkenness fits right in to Fitzgerald’s themes of disillusionment and an out-of-reach American Dream.
1 1/2 ounces 100-proof rye whiskey
1 3/4 ounces sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce Grand Marnier
3 dashes Angostura bitters
1 lemon twist, for garnish
Pour the whiskey, vermouth, liqueur, and bitters into a mixing glass. Add large cold ice cubes and stir for 40 revolutions. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon twist. Drink the Manhattan post haste.
1 1/2 oz bourbon, Cognac or Armagnac
3/4 oz Cointreau
1/4 oz lemon juice
Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice cubes. Shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Dorothy Parker’s Martini
There’s a certain sophistication about a martini that can’t be found in any other cocktail. Martinis have always been a drink of class. But the classic martini is easy to make and equally easy to ruin. It’s also easy to drink too many, as Dorothy Parker admits…
“I love to drink Martinis, two at the very most, three I’m under the table, four I’m under my host.”
2 oz. gin
1 oz. dry vermouth
2 dashes orange bitters
Stir ingredients briskly with ice, then strain into a chilled glass. Twist a small strip of lemon peel over the drink.
If last week’s scorching temperatures keep up this summer, there will be some nights you just want to stay in and avoid the heat. At least in Toledo last week it was just too hot to even leave the apartment and go walking around the area. Solution? Throw a cocktail party at your place. Admittedly, though, staying in can get to be the same old thing.
What other way to change things up than to switch the oversize, dollar bags of ice from Stop and Shop for custom-made cubes?
This is just ridiculous, but I have to admit I would totally have a “gin and titonic party.” It’s definitely one of those cases when girls would say “Oh my God, that’s so cute!” and guys would say, “That stupid titonic takes up way too much room in my cup– give me more gin.” Oh well, if it’s my party you’re getting the boat-shaped chunk of ice.
Pi-shaped ice cubes? I’m not sure if this is socially acceptable. Then again, none of these are, really.
I don’t know what it is about coffee. I like to drink it, I like to write about it, I like to photograph it. Coffee has even found its way into my everyday attire by way of those inevitable spills when I’m walking too fast (which is usually.)
Anyway, since I arrived home from Europe a few weeks ago and am feeling particularly nostalgic for those café au laits, I thought this post would be appropriate. I present you: “Coffee Portraits.”