Sunday, October 12, 2014

Coffeeneuring 2014 - Weeks 1 and 2

Week 1

As luck would have it, the beginning of the 2014 coffeeneuring challenge coincided with a trip to New York. As I did last year, I made it a goal to avoid chains and seek out the independent coffee shops. Fate smiled kindly on me: when I Googled “independent coffee shop NYC” I discovered a recent NY Times article about the emerging coffee culture in the city. Once I identified the most appealing shops, I had to check for early morning openings on Saturday and Sunday, and then find proximity to a Citibike docking station.

October 4, 2014

Saturday morning dawned drizzly, but that was not going to deter me. I grabbed a bike at 32nd and Park, near the very shabby (and definitely not chic) Community Church of NY lodging that constituted my NY digs and headed downtown on the 2nd Ave protected bike lane. My destination was Box Kite on St Mark's Place, which opened at 7 and had as its specialty the "one and one" - an elegant preparation for the true connoisseur. Using single-harvest beans, the double-shot espresso is split into two preparations: a straight shot in one cup and a thick, creamy elegant macchiato in the second cup. Nestled between the two little cups is a little glass of sparkling water and a tiny cookie - reminiscent of my recent trip to Vienna, where the outstanding coffee is always accompanied by a glass of water.

I have never tasted anything like the preparation, which was sour and green tasting, but packed with flavor. On its own, it was incredibly intense; as a macchiato, it was a delight. Tiny sips alternated with the water and nibbles of cookie made for a memorable and unique coffee experience. My server informed me that the coffee was Kirura from Kenya, and roasted by Mad Cap. I think he could have given me the names of the folks who harvested the beans, if I'd asked! He wanted to know how I liked it. I said it was not an every day coffee, but was wonderful for a special treat, and he heartily agreed.

I had planned to ride back and pick up bagels at my favorite - Ess-a-Bagel - but alas, they were closed for Yom Kippur. I suppose I should have been fasting myself, but a book group reunion in NY gave me an excuse to skip the fast this year.

Total distance: 4 miles

October 5, 2014

Finding an independent coffee shop that was open at 7 on a Sunday morning was more of a challenge; I had to be back in my room close to 8, as I was catching a 9 a.m. train. Also, cheapskate that I am, I wanted to use my same 24-hour Citibike rental, so my ride had to be completed by about 7:40. As a side note, the Citibike app very conveniently allows the user to add coffee shops to the map. However, early on a Sunday morning the bikes have not been redistributed, and a number of locations were either empty or full. Nevertheless, I had everything planned out until I hit a glitch. 

The station nearest me gave me an unlocking code, but I tried two different bikes, and it would not let me remove a bike. Thinking I had, perhaps, remembered the code incorrectly, I tried to get another one. But, of course, the user must wait two minutes for a new code. I didn't have time to spare, so I elected to walk to the next location, where I was able to secure a bike and ride to 47th street. I had planned to walk west to Gregory's, which also made the NYT review, but a block sooner I saw Filicori Zecchini, which was just opening its doors. So I opted for a redeye with kosher organic milk, which was quite good, although nothing exceptional.

Total distance: just barely 2 miles. [Every once in a while the coffeeneuring rules need to be slightly bent. Had my original docking station been functional, I could have completed the short trip by bike, but I feel I should get credit for my walking distance, not to mention my perseverance! I wanted to complete two visits while in NY so that I'd have more variety than I'd be able to find at home.]

October 7, 2014

Bonus ride - I always seem to have a lot of travel during coffeeneuring season, and I suggest that any time the cyclist is away from home should be a coffeeneuring opportunity, any day of the week. I have an annual meeting in Brookline, MA, so I already knew that my hotel would be right across the street from the Coolidge Corner Hubway station. But what a thrill to search for the best independent coffee shop in Boston and discover that the winner was just a mile away, and a block from another Hubway station. At 6:45 the sky was getting light and it was already a balmy 61 degrees. After being in NY, where a day pass on Citibike cost over $10 (with tax), the $6 day charge for Hubway felt like a bargain.

Some readers may disagree, but, having biked in many cities, I consider Boston drivers the worst. Despite some of the most extensive signage, I really don't like riding on major roads in Boston unless they have a designated bike lane. Fortunately my blocks on the very busy Beacon street were few, and I was able to head north on the aptly-named Pleasant Street to Blue State Coffee on Commonwealth Ave. I arrived just as they opened at 7 and asked the barista what drink would best showcase their "best-in-Boston" status. He suggested a cappuccino. Indeed, it was smooth, creamy, and full-flavored, without a hint of bitterness.

The only downside of my adventure was that the ride was too short. I wanted to spend the morning riding around, and would have loved to ride to my meeting at Boston College - but, alas, the Hubway system doesn't extend that far west. So I returned to my room for yoga and a shower before my meeting. The docking station was completely empty, so I imagine another rider nabbed my returned bike within minutes.

Total distance: 2 miles (wanted more!)

Week 2

October 12, 2014

Saturday morning was a rainy mess, so I decided to wait till today for my expedition. Sunday turned out to be one of those perfect biking days: low 60s, clear, and crisp. I biked to yoga and taught my two Sunday morning classes (still waiting for @coffeeneur to show up at Sun and MoonArlington some Sunday morning). It was so gorgeous I decided to bike from there to Georgetown.

My mom had sent me a check for my birthday (which is tomorrow). Even at 62 I guess I’m not too old! So I went to Athleta, where I get a generous 30% teacher discount, and my birthday check was enough for two brightly-colored (are you happy Cycling Yogi) cool-weather tops. Coming across Key Bridge I spied Pie Sisters and decided to add a little sweetness to my hot beverage. Luckily, Revolution Cycles is right next-door, and they provide two bike racks – possibly the only ones in all of Georgetown.

It was a hard decision, but I chose a key lime tart, accompanied by ginger-lemon tea. I ordinarily buy Yogi brand at home, but I must admit – they served Stash, and it was superior.

Fueled by sugar and whipped cream, I headed home along the Custis Trail – an uphill climb that I usually avoid at all costs. But today I had magic pedals. The uphill stretches didn’t seem so bad and I never even got to my lowest granny gear. Maybe 62 won’t be so bad.

Total distance: 11 miles

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