Friday, November 19, 2010

Coffee Shop Review

Al and I love our coffee!  We have a really good grinder, and really enjoy the scent of freshly ground beans.  We have a drip brewer, a French press, an old-fashioned percolator, and a 'mocha pot' to make espresso on the stovetop 'the way an Italian nonna would'.  Al often laments my decision that we didn't have enough room to keep the espresso maching on the boat, or to carry the amount of milk we would go through to have a daily latte.  Michael appreciated that decision though.

Coffee has long been a part of our relationship, from our 'first date, that wasn't a date' at Starbucks.  And now that we are 'retired', one of our favorite things to do is go to a coffee shop, sip our favorite drink, read the paper or a book, surf the web.  

It's not the jolt of caffeine that we are neccesarily after, in fact, we notice more and more that our bodies really don't appreciate caffeine.  It's more the atmosphere of relaxation.  Hopefully a comfy chair, and an hour to be together, but separate in our quiet pursuits.

We have tried lots of coffee shops in the Portland/Vancouver metropolitan area, and here are MY views of many of them.

Starbucks.  Okay, let's just get the giant out of the way.  What I appreciate most about Starbucks is the consistancy of their product.  You can visit any Starbucks in the WORLD and your mocha will taste the same from location to location.  They produce a huge volume, so they have got the system down, which generally results in speedy service.  When I was working at Pacific University in Forest Grove, I became an almost daily customer at the Cornelius OR location.  Most of the staff knew my name, and knew my usual drink.  In fact, if I planned to have something different, I would have to announce it quickly and loudly, or my usual would be prepared before I got up to the register!  Michele was a shift supervisor there, moved to the Streets of Tanasbourne, then to the 185th connected to Barnes and Noble, where she is the manager--Yay Michele!  Step-son Michael works at the Washington Square location in the new addition.  We also frequent the Janzen Beach, 8th St Vancouver, and 25th & Main in Vancouver locations.

But our favorites are the 'little guys', the small independent shops, many with funky decor and mis-match chairs.  

Maggie's Buns, Forest Grove OR.  Named for the famous cinnamon rolls baked on site, I think this shop's emphasis is the food, but they do make a good mocha.  Very eclectic, and quite busy due to Pacific University being across the street.

Insomnia now with TWO locations in Hillsboro OR.  I like the original store on Baseline with it's funky decor and variety of seating options.  There is live music on the weekend evenings.  I have visited the new location once at the Streets of Tanasbourne, off Cornell.  It seems smaller, with a more 'orderly' feel, but some great artwork on the walls.  They craft fabulous drinks from  Sleepy Monk coffees roasted in Cannon Beach.  Try the coconut latte or mocha, or Pumpkin Spice Chai.

Longbottom Coffeehouse and Roasting Factory off Shute Rd on NW 235th Ave in Hillsboro serves breakfast and lunch (try Ginger's Farmers Strata!) and makes a great caramel macchiato.  There is a large window from the cafe to the warehouse where you can observe the roasting operation.

Bean and Tree at Riverplace in Portland.  Owner Tracey makes the best lattes, steaming her milk with a fabulous thick mouth feel and using Stumptown coffee.  They have vegan pastry options

Seize the Bagel on Mill Plain Blvd in Vancouver WA.  The site of choice for Tea with the ladies on Sunday mornings.  Certainly more of a bagel shop (could you guess?) but they do an okay mocha, and have a bottomless cup of brewed coffee (in addition to Tea, if you wish).

River Maiden Coffee House on Devine in Vancouver WA.  Specialty is any of about 8-10 varieties of Stumptown coffees done on the Clover Vacuum Press.  If you love french press coffee, this is the ultimate!  They call it 'coffee in HD'.  We had 'the best coffee in the world' at this location.  There is a River Maiden Coffee Bar on Main in Vancouver, very small location, more for to-go orders.

Paper Tiger on Grand in Vancouver WA.  Makes a VERY yummy latte.  This makes up for the rather poor selection and quality of the pastries we have tried.  They micro-roast their own beans.

Mon Ami on Main in Vancouver.  Also uses Stumptown coffee.  They serve great crepes with varieties good for both breakfast and lunch.  

Compass Coffee on Main in Vancouver.  Just had our first visit here today.  Even though we have used the credit union across the street, we really had no idea it was there.  We tried it today, on recommendation of neighbor Bob in the marina.  We were looking for lunch too, and had bowls of scratch-made Navy bean soup.  Tomorrow's is a Potato Lentil with Curry.  There were sandwiches, and shop-made pastries.  The coffee was fabulous!  Al had a pour-over brew in a Kenya variety, and I had a hazelnut latte.  They roast their own. We shall return!

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