03 February 2010

Coffehouse Crawl

Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, my blood naturally loves the cool damp air. Seattle was where our holiday festivities took place this year--I layered up and loved the respite from Bangkok’s humidity. The holidays are over and 2010’s newness has started to wear off. This blog post is about four weeks overdue, but the memory of the experience lives on.

On New Year’s Day, while other people snoozed off the champagne from the previous night’s celebrations, a group of us gathered for our second annual coffeehouse crawl. In celebration of my father’s birthday (which lands on January 1), we assemble a list of artisan coffee houses and visit them early in the morning, sipping and slurping shots along our merry way. By the end we’re all buzzing and gather for a lunch made up of a lot of starch to soak up the caffeine. At each coffee house, we order drinks, then huddle around the biggest table the shop owns and test our shots. We then rate, on a scale of one to five, four separate categories—taste, presentation, ambiance, service.

On our last tour, we ranked Seattle-based local roasters--meaning the shop had to roast their own beans. This year, we chose neighborhood cafes—stores that were getting all the buzz as a favorite local hangout serving great, great coffee. So without presenting an exact scoring tally, and keeping any snarky comments written on the scoring cards private, here are four wonderful shops that you might want to visit when in Seattle…

First stop: Fuel Coffee in the Wallingford neighborhood. Only a couple years on the scene, this coffee house managed to capture my heart. You just feel good holding a cup of Fuel coffee. Fuel has created an accessibly artistic space, with a cool retro vibe. You know, the kind of retro where you are not concerned about fleas jumping out of the cushions, but instead where you admire the bold graphic painting on an exposed brick wall and the artfully mismatched furnishings. And, they serve Hi-5 Pies… essentially pocket sized bundles of dough filled with throw back fillings—mac n cheese pie or s’more pie anyone?! Winner: Ambiance

Second stop: Trabant Coffee & Chai in the University District. Okay, I’ll admit it right away… I know this is a coffeehouse crawl, but I had heard so much about their chai that I had to order one. (critics: I tasted the coffee too!!!!) The chai is hands-down the best I have ever had. Order the spicy vegan… warm, frothy heaven in a cup (even if you’re not a vegan). And, the service at Trabant was spectacular. A knowledgeable, friendly, unpretentious barista shared our excitement at the store’s clover machine and served us expertly pulled shots. Winner: Favorite overall stop.

Third stop: Herkimer Coffee on University Avenue. Yes, it's sleek. Yes, it's well designed. But, the service during our visit left a bitter taste in our mouths. After I ordered a single shot of espresso for my father, the barista refused to make it stating that it was a short shot (exactly what I wanted to order!) and made a double shot. Her explanation: He won't even notice. The crummy Herkimer service continued to rain on our New Year's morning as we observed the barista's delicate* handling of the customers following our order. However, on a positive note, the espresso was served with a side of soda water to cleanse the palette and the doppio espresso con panna was everything one should be... hand whipped vanilla bean spiked cream dolloped beautifully atop two shots of inky espresso. Herkimer actually pulled through the lousy service to (barely) win our presentation award. Although, carry you're own soda water and I'm certain you could find a beautiful con panna, extraordinary service and beautiful presentation elsewhere. Winner: Presentation

Fourth stop: Victrola. Not officially included in this year’s coffeehouse crawl, but far to good to be missed by several members of our party. A favorite from our previous year's coffeehouse crawl, Victrola's expert roasting provides a beautiful cuppa. After several bags of beans were purchased and our veins were running at maximum caffeination, we headed home for a home cooked meal and further discussion of the morning's events. Winner: Place we love to return to over and over and over again.

*Oh, how I wish their was a universally recognized "Sarcasm Font".

Cooking in Thailand, entry no. 77:
Oatmeal Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies
In case your new year's resolution for healthy eating is still going strong, I've injected these with whole grains, antioxidant-rich dark chocolate and the ever healthful dried fruit. (Just omit the butter and sugar from your brain and enjoy!)

3/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped (save pod for another recipe)
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup raisins
2 large bar of dark chocolate (choose your favorite with 70 percent cacao content), chopped into generously sized pieces

Cream butter and sugars thoroughly (leave that mixer on for a few extra minutes and let it get extremely creamy!). Add egg and vanilla beans. Mix to incorporate. Add flour, salt and baking soda. Mix just until combined. Working by hand with a wooden spoon, add oats, raisins and chocolate. Form dough into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Place on parchment paper and wrap, securing the ends with twine. Place into freezer for 20 minutes. Remove and slice into 1/4 inch thick rounds. Place rounds on greased, or silicon baking mat lined, cookie sheets. Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven for approximately 10 minutes or until the cookies are very lightly browned. Remove from oven. Allow to rest for 3 minutes and move to a cooling rack.


  1. I had a similar experience at Herkimer. The barista wouldn't make me a non fat latte and said I'd prefer a 2% latte instead. I haven't been back since.

  2. I didn't know you were from the Pacific Northwest! My wife and I live in Tacoma.

  3. Shelby, great to hear your voice in your writing. I don't drink coffee and I have never visitied any of the places you wrote about, but I found myself smiling and laughing reading your thoughts!
    Dan Hayden

  4. @Dan! Thank you so very, very much. So great to 'see' you here!

  5. How I miss the northwest. I grew up in Seattle and miss these type of adventures, but not the rain.

  6. I love the idea of this coffee crawl, but would have to do decaf, since my BP doesn't like caffeine so much. It sounds very interesting!!

  7. I saw your tweet and was curious to learn about a coffee crawl. What a cool idea! I'm going to try this out with some friends who love coffee. I've only been to Fuel in Seattle and loved it. I'm happy to see them listed here!

  8. hmmmm...these look good! I am going to try it...

  9. I'm up too late tonight but enjoying catching up on your blog. When can we expect to see a Loving Rice cook book? I'd buy a few!


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