Milano Espresso Lounge (Gastown) – Vancouver, BC


Milano Espresso Lounge (Gastown)
36 Powell Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 558-0999

The coffee scene on the west coast is a pretty vibrant one and Milano explains their heritage on their website in proud terms, noting their long Vancouver legacy and family traditions.  Their location in Gastown is a fairly spacey lot, with high ceilings, clean lines and a mix of industrial, artsy and comfortable concepts, textures and patterns in their lounge’s design.  The base of their operations – their roasting facilities – is situated in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood, not too far from the likes of Menya, the busy MEC flagship and the fun to browse Dunlevy Food Equipment store.

Claiming to be dedicated to the old school Italian coffee tradition, Milano notes their key differentiator when it comes to their coffee product is their knowledge and dedication to a unique roasting and blending method – one that is not openly taught.  And with their belief that what makes a great espresso is the blend quality.   So much so that they even jack it up by using up to 11 beans in a blend, formulating options that run the full roast range (dark, medium, etc)!
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Kakao – Seattle, WA


Kakao Chocolate & Coffee Cafe
415 Westlake Ave N
Seattle, WA
(206) 833-5467

I admit freely to having some cravings for sweet stuff and giving in.  The times are few and far between though, so thankfully I’m not on a permanent sugar high like some people I know who guzzle litres of pop a day or never are without a sugary doughnut with their morning coffee, a candy bar at their work desk,  or pass on a daily dessert at dinner time. When I do crave something with chocolate as its primary ingredient, its often a dark variety bar.

Earlier in August, I was exposed to a variety of sample product from a Vancouver-based XOXOLAT ahead of a private function.  The use and dedication to serving single origin chocolates struck a chord with me, as it reminded me of what a segment of the coffee scene is like with its strive to procure ingredients from reputable and solo operations.

While on this recent trip to Seattle, we came upon the Kakao Chocolate & Coffee Cafe, located right by the Tesla showroom and an outpost of Serious Pie.  A very large and open concept space, outfitted with a mishmash of comfortable looking and more stiffer wooden furniture.  Big bright windows and high ceilings, led me to think this used to be some kind of industrial or commercial storage facility before it was transformed to the people-friendly business it is today.  While primarily concentrated on the chocolate realm, they do give ample attention to their coffee beans as well for their espresso (provided by Seattle roaster Herkimer Coffee) and the loose leaf tea on the menu is from Miro Tea.

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Stumptown Coffee – Seattle, WA


Stumptown Coffee
616 E Pine Street
Seattle, WA
(206) 324-6755

The Capital Hill area of the Emerald City is an intriguing one to go for a stroll around in.  Bars, live music venues, theatre houses, fashion boutiques, bookstores and coffeehouses abound.  I think you could spend a full day up and down the main streets of this area and get in a complete day of good eats and entertainment.  One of the most popular places to unwind and get a solid cup of coffee is Stumptown‘s location on the steeply inclined East Pine Street.

My only previous experience with their coffee was when I picked up some of their roasted beans in Vancouver’s Chinatown district.  So I was keen on actually going to one of their two cafes in this part of Seattle.  With limited seating outside and big glass windows leading inside, it was quite inviting from the sidewalk when you approach it.  Stepping inside, you are in direct line of sight with the main service counter.

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Uptown Espresso & Bakery (Queen Anne) – Seattle, WA


Uptown Espresso & Bakery
525 Queen Anne Ave N
Seattle, WA
(206) 285-3757
Mon-Thu 5am – 10pm, Fri 5am – 11pm, Sat 6am – 11pm, Sun 6am – 10pm

I’ve come to discover that one of the best things of having a base in Vancouver is its close proximity to the United States and a decent sized city that is very much like the one in B.C.   In less than three hours, you can be in Seattle, and have a chance to explore new sights and places to eat and drink, and still be able to get home and sleep in your own bed.  Can’t say I could do the same living in two major centers in Alberta like I did over the years.

First stop after arriving in town was at a breakfast place, where we got on the waiting list – to be written about later. We then walked down the street for some morning caffeine.  It was close and convenient, no pre-planning in effect.  A shame I know, given that Seattle is reputed to be a great coffee town.

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Everything Cafe – Vancouver, BC


Everything Cafe
75 East Pender Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 681-3115

Strolling around in Chinatown is an interesting activity.  I see many tourists doing it, with cameras slung from their necks, taking in all this part of Vancouver has to offer.  Not only visually but also the many places to eat.  After all, Chinese culture has a long culinary history and has pervaded its way into North American dining, and has a wide spread familiarity, albeit perhaps not always along the true lines of authentic and regional cuisine that the country has to offer and is yet under-explored by many.  I’d say stick around here on foodosophy, as one of our keen writers GastronomyDomine (aka fmed) is a knowledgeable fellow when it comes to this genre and has posted more than a few reports on places  you should try out.  And hopefully more to come.  (nudge, dudge, wink, wink)

Amid a mainly Asian collection of shops, eateries and other stores, you can find the slow spread of other kinds of places that are merging into this neighborhood.  You can notice is especially if you walk from Gastown towards the heart of Chinatown.  Now whether this is a good or bad thing, it surely is up for debate depending on your stance.  I applaud though from a business perspective to give new things a shot, and inject old areas with new life and different choices.  At least for me, coming across these on random strolls makes things interesting.  Enough so to entice me to stop and go inside.  The Everything Cafe was once such place.

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Coffee Mama – Namyangju, KOR


Coffee Mama
Various locations
Location visited: Namyangju City, South Korea

Asian desserts.  For some they are a welcomed treat.  For others, I’ve heard words like strange, confusing and not appealing as descriptors or reactions.  I will take a stab at this topic despite not being a huge sugar-goodies fan and say that one of the main causes for this seesaw result is the source of the sweetness within many Asian desserts.  That being azuki beans.  I think for most westerners, the concept of sweet tasting beans is unusual and hard to comprehend, given that beans are generally used more for savory dishes in North American cuisine.  This juxtaposition is a concept that for some, that I think is hard to overcome.  Its perhaps more a mental hurdle than anything else, that perhaps more experience can help people overcome.

When it comes to after-meal sweets in Korea, one of the things that pops into my mind right away is the summer favorite known as patbingsu.  In English, I’ve seen it being referred to as red bean sherbet.  But really, its a compilation of shaved ice, ice cream, diced fruit (strawberries, banana, etc.), jelly, bits of rice cake as staple elements and toppings.  And for added texture, some places even add in some dry cereal flakes.  I’m sure there are even more creative approaches and touches that some places add, but these seem to be the standard set from my own experience.  Of course, the a fore mentioned sweet azuki beans are always involved.

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Zibetto Espresso Bar & Manhattan Gourmet 56 – New York, NY


Zibetto Espresso Bar
1385 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY

&

Manhattan Gourmet 56
1377 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY
(212) 246-4410

A sunny 86F day in NYC with nothing to do in the morning.  A perfect setup for a casual walk in Manhattan and to grab a simple breakfast to enjoy on the benches of Central Park.  As a die-hard addict in need of a stiff cup of coffee in the morning, my first stop after bypassing those dreadful Starbucks outlets was Zibetto.  Essentially a long narrow space that couldn’t be more than eight feet wide and anchored by a sleek looking, white tiled and similarly colored marble counter-top bar accented with some metallic touches, it fit with my mental image of an Italian espresso bar.

Staffed with some slick looking, white shirted gents efficiently buzzing around behind the bar, there was already a strong lineup in place, as well as some other customers enjoying their cups of hot liquid at the tiny armrest like shelves jutting out from the walls.  Clearly, its a place to have your drink in a jiffy, no lounging around here sucking up free wi-fi or anything and generally disrupting the business need of turnover on the part of the proprietors.

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