For our first morning in San Francisco the boys and I headed over to the Mint Plaza location of Blue Bottle Coffee. An impressive space, with lots of coffee geek equipment, I was curious to see if the results in the cup were equal to all the eye-candy laying around.
Having purchased 120lbs of the Tuktant I was tempted to go for a shot and a pourover just to compare to my roasts/extractions but the Yirgachefe and Honduran Cerro Gacho COE caught my attention so I went for those.
The Siphon was really nice. I got to chatting with the fellow behind the siphon counter (I think it was Steven?), he was a really good guy and showed obvious care and attention in all things he did.
Unfortunately the espresso got away from him a bit, thin crema and under 1oz in the cup that tasted, uhhmmmm... not so good. I raised an eyebrow at the first sip and he noted it and said it looked like it might have been a bit out of spec and he wanted to pull another shot to improve upon it. The second shot was completely different, coming in close to 1.75oz and much improved. Really nice coffee. We chatted for a while about a few things, gotta say I would let this guy pull my shots any day of the week and be happy about them if they matched up to what he pulled in that second shot.
Next it was on to Sight Glass to meet Chris, an online roaster friend I know from a coffee forum (GCBC) and another chap who we were both meeting for the first time, Tom a barista working in the San Fran area. Overall a bunch of good discussion about coffee, covering several subjects. I enjoyed some good coffee at Sight Glass, the espresso was quite good, an in-house blend that I'm told has recently changed to an almost old school shot. Kinda bass heavy front end with a bit of smokiness which shifted to a buttery caramel and finished with some bright citrus. The dregs were a bit harsh but overall it was a good shot for a four day post-roast and I would happily drink that again, preferring it to be a couple of days older perhaps. A bit of chatting with the barista and it became apparent he was competent and calmly professional, handling any questions with ease, and poise, a good host. The Rwandan pourover was quite good as well, nicely sweet, I would buy that cup again.
After coffee the boys and I headed for a walk around town, ending up at Miss Saigon for some Pho.
Later that evening we drove out to SF International to pickup up Doreen who grabbed a one-way ticket to hook up with us for the last week of the journey.
Since the Pho was good the first time around I figured Doreen would like the place as well, plus they had some Banh Xeo on the menu that I wanted to try out. The boys were full of stories of course, with lots of 'and then the roller coaster did this, and then it did that' sort of stuff.
The next morning I wanted to check out Phillip Ma's shop a few blocks from our hotel, the name of the place... MA'velous. I went for a comparative two shot approach, one shot of the Stumptown Hairbender and one shot of the 49th Parallel Kenya Tegu (I think it was the Tegu?). Both were very good shots, certainly the best Hairbender shot I've ever had, I've never had the Kenyan before. Phillip is a contemplative and humble guy, who pours good espresso. He makes it look easy, I like his style and I could see myself spending time in his shop if I lived in this city.
Here's his Strada in the background, after I'd already taken a sip of the Hairbender.
After MA'velous we headed off to a park so the boys could run around on grass in the sunshine. With Doreen now part of the trip and running around with the boys, I finally got a few minutes to myself and just laid down on the grass and relaxed. Ahhhhhhh...
From the park we continued on to the Hayes Valley location of Blue Bottles Linden St shop. I had an espresso that was under 1oz and a bit ashy/not very good. The pourover of their Bella Donovan to go was better for sure.
Next it was off to a Yelp hot spot, Brenda's French Soul Food restaurant for brunch. As good as or maybe better than anything we ate in our five days in New Orleans. Go there, now. It's that good.
From there we walked up to 'that crooked street' which the boys thought was pretty cool.
Then down to Fisherman's Wharf.
Then all the way down to Pier 1 for a bit of upscale Farmers Market shopping and some wandering around. With a Blue Bottle location in the Pier 1 building I figured why not, a late afternoon coffee which turned out to be the worst coffee I've had in San Francisco. The drink that went out before mine was a latte and as I stood in line waiting to order my drink I mentally counted out the shot he was getting - a 65 second shot extraction time, yikes. The barista who should have been watching the shot was busy fiddling around with a milk container and just let it run out of control. As the cashier took my order I said 'I just watched that fellas drink go out with a 65 second extraction, is that normally how you pull your shots?' the response was 'sometimes for decaf but not usually', end of conversation. I only mentioned to the cashier hoping they would grab the drink from the poor guy in front of me who was about to put a lid on his latte, but no such luck for him. I ordered my Gibraltar and then moved away from the line of sight of the espresso grouphead, crossing my fingers it would be good... but it wasn't... it was bad. The staff were so busy trying to keep up with the line I drank half of it and walked away without saying anything more, figuring they didn't care that much anyway.
From Pier 1 we walked up to Union Square and did a bit of wandering around. At some point we bumped into a couple playing dominoes at a cafe who recommended we head over to Tu Lan for some real hole in the wall Vietnamese. I'm always down for Vietnamese, the six weeks we spent travelling in Vietnam has made it part of my permanent culinary search pattern. I'd noticed this place on Yelp earlier in the day, apparently Julia Childs ate there. For sure it's a sketchy part of town at night and inside is a bit of a dive but the prices were good and the food was decent, not good but decent enough.
Tomorrow we check out and my plan is to hit Four Barrel some time in the morning, then food for the family, then some wandering around. Eventually making our way to the Berkeley Farmers Market which opens up at 1400hrs. Last time we were there for a Saturday market it was a lot of fun, apparently the Tuesday market is quieter than the Saturday market but in a good way. From there it's on to Santa Rosa, why Santa Rosa? Because Doreen and the boys have been sleeping for the last 3hrs and since I'm the trip planner, driver, hotel deal seeker and all around figure it out guy, I'm thinking three things are working in it's favour:
- Santa Rosa has a pretty good ring to it.
- I just got a decent Hotwire price on a nice hotel there.
- And... I heard a rumour there's a brewery in Santa Rosa called Russian River??? Anyone heard of them? ;-)
Mar 20, 2012