Vintage Amaro

Wipe Off the Dust and Drink the Old Amaro

drink, Vintage

Infatuated with the bittersweet, syrupy allure of the Aperol spritz, Americans have rediscovered a taste for aperitivo and digestivo bitters. Enter amaro. While Campari is the ruby red king of bitter aperitivi, other darker, herbaceous digestivi have resurrected in it’s wake, ready to tackle cocktail menus and bar carts across the country.

But the history of amaro goes back. Waaaay back. And in cleaning my great grandma’s house my grandma found a cardboard box of amaro from yesteryear. You see, my great grandma didn’t drink. Her amaro stash grew from generous house guests who graciously brought a bottle upon each visit. Stubborn enough to not indulge in a drop but kind enough to hold on to each bottle, my great grandma unknowingly bestowed a treasure trove of flavors unto me. Thanks Grandma Maria.

Now normally I would not condone eating old food. Don’t eat the candy you found in your closet from a Halloween of yore. But properly stored vintage alcohol? Dive in. A barrel aged bourbon develops its unique flavor because of age. A vintage red wine has subtleties that a younger wine has not yet developed. Not to say all old alcohol remains drinkable, proceed with sensible caution.

What’s in amaro?

I realize I’ve been drinking this stuff for a while and have no idea what’s in it. Oops. Each one is different, ranging from sweet like caramel to bitter like licorice, with unique secret recipes like mystical potions. Some even taste medicinal.

I’m lucky to have two vintage amari in my house: Amaro dell’Etna and Cynar. Amaro dell’Etna‘s ingredient list contains orange peel, licorice and vanilla. The recipe dates back to 1901, but is still available new in sores today. Cynar, a name derived from the latin botanical name for artichoke, is surprise surprise made of artichoke along with 13 other herbs and plants. Younger than Amaro dell’Etna, Cynar debuted in Italy in 1952.

The bitterness makes them adequate swaps for bitters in classic cocktails. Each unique blend also can suffice as the base for a contact and/or enjoyed on it’s own or with seltzer. The versatility alone makes a no-brainer case for keeping amaro in your home bar. Don’t worry, there’s one for everyone.

Is old amaro safe to drink?

Short answer, yes. Finding a bottle of Campari from 1950 is an incredible feat for negroni aficionados. But proper storage can make or break a vintage. Like Campari and Cynar, liqueurs don’t need to be refrigerated due to the sugar content. Approach vintage vermouth, lillet and any other fortified wines with caution. Opened or unopened, when exposed to light and heat, fortified wines can lose umf.

Where to store vintage amaro?

To reiterate, amaro’s sugar content keeps it shelf stable. So room temperature storage should not be a problem. However, take caution when drinking an old amaro that’s already been open. While oxidation won’t harm you, it will impact the thickness as the sugars turn into glycerin. It’s just a recipe for meh amaro experience. Best to keep vintage amaro unopened and out of direct sunlight until ready to drink.

What happens to the flavor?

The resulting flavor of aged amari varies greatly between styles. Additionally, due to changes in machinery and ownership, while ingredients might be the same every time, amari can vary between decades as well. Flavor can become sweeter and more syrupy or mellow as the bitter herbs meld together further. It’s an adventurous way to taste beyond switching between styles of amaro. Trying today’s version of Cynar, for example, alongside my beloved found bottle can showcase how the flavors evolved over time.

Let’s talk labels

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve had an infatuation with vintage alcohol labels for a very long time: the art nouveau styles of absinthe ads to the futurism era Campari posters shaped my appreciation for the liqueurs. The text and colors of these labels tell so much about when they were conceived. The Amaro dell’Etna, with an older formula, uses embellished text and a painted landscape paying homage to a classic style, while the Cynar label uses block text and a modern design ringing in the 1950’s idea of the future. While both labels now reflect the past, each exists in its own era forever, reflecting the art and sentiment of each era.

Cocktail connoisseurs and vintage collectors can appreciate the impact these liqueurs have had on the culinary and advertising worlds. If you aren’t lucky enough to inherit a dusty cardboard box of amaro, you can taste older bottles at specialty wine shops and cocktail bars. If you’re curious to try an amaro at all, the next time you’re interested in an Aperol spritz at the bar, ask for one with a different bitter liqueur instead.

We can’t storm Area 51 anymore so I stormed Area 2

beer, drink, Travel

I hate it when someone tells me something is overrated after I express interest in going. Let me find that out for myself. Or not. I felt that way about Two Roads Brewery in Stratford, CT.

Two Roads is Connecticut’s largest brewery occupying 10 acres of land for brewing, tasting, entertaining and growing. Pretty impressive. The building’s post-industrial aesthetic and the collection of branded Air Streams gave the OG Two Roads an injection of 2010s zeitgeist. The tattoo event and french fry food truck added to that millennial vibe. So yeah, I guess if you’re over that crowd, then this place isn’t for you.

However, who cares what the place looks like when the beer is this good. Now, Two Roads is fun and the standards are abundant whether you like IPAs, sours or even hard seltzer, but if you want a wild time head over to Area 2, Two Roads’ experimental facility accessible via walkway from the brewery. While Two Roads might be perfect for tossing a frisbee, crushing a beer and dog watching, Area 2 is ideal for finding something rare and new.

In my 5-beer tasting I tried a farmhouse ale, a saison and a “hard kombucha” among the long list of uniquely funky and off-beat varieties. Of course, this is a lot of beer to drink without having any food so be sure to grab some cheese and crackers while you’re sippin’ and maybe pack a snack so you aren’t like us, waiting for french fries to sober you up.

Now for the run-down of all the beers:

  • Norwegian Farmhouse Ale (5% ABV) – this beer satisfied a craving I had for months. After leaving the Hudson Valley, a land abundant with beers and wines that taste like a full on barnyard, I needed a refreshing beer that still delivered that sour, earthy stink. This was it.
  • Table Terroir (3.7% ABV) – table wine feels like a lost tradition. In Europe, it’s easy to walk into a restaurant or tavern and grab a cask of inexpensive table wine. It goes with everything in a complimentary way, not an overpowering way. This low ABV, easy drinking beer is a three-way crossroad between an IPA, a wheat beer and a saison.
  • Brett Saison (6.6% ABV) – dude, I know I love sours and fruity beers, but the french farmhouse saison is really rocking my world. As I constantly yearn for funky flavors, I find myself ordering saisons more frequently and finding more to love with each sip. You’ll want to tuck into a wheel of brie after taking one sip.
  • Hard Kombucha (4.5% ABV) – did someone say pink beer? This deep magenta rooibos and sour cherry concoction tasted just like unsweetened iced tea. My mom introduced me to rooibos years ago and it always had a magical quality to it: earthy and beet-like. This felt remarkably healthy to drink, justifying its name.
  • Crooked Roads (5.7% ABV) – AKA the fried chicken beer. Now, I’m not sure if its because this was our last beer of the day (after a full pour AND 4 tastes) but we took a loopy turn upon tasting this. “It tastes like fried chicken.” What? Nick said this and I was confused at first until it hit me. It tasted like fried chicken. A thigh. Right off the bone. I deduced that this was from the oak aging, giving the sour ale a woody, meaty flavor.

These were only five of the 16 possibilities and you bet I’m going back for more. Area 2 can abduct me into their spacecraft of dope beer any weekend of the year.

Obercreek Brewing

Hudson Valley Hidden Gems

Travel

Diamonds in the rough. Underdogs. After living in the Hudson Valley post-college, I ventured to those smaller places off the beaten path that promise personality and uniqueness compared to the busy hot-spots covered by big New York City publications. Though those spots deserve the coverage they receive and I adore them, let’s give it up for the little local spots that more than hold a candle to competition.

Obercreek Brewing Company

Located on Obercreek Farm, this brewery barely distributes which makes my proximity EVERYTHING. I first visited in the winter and remember the beers were deep gemstone colors. The style I tried was deep magenta and flavored with currants. The IPAs are refreshing and floral, unlike the bitter IPAs that I tend to avoid. Some beers are peachy and sour and some are thirst-quenching, but all deserve a taste. A newcomer to the craft beer scene, only in the game for just shy of 2 years, Obercreek is a contender against Hudson Valley Brewery and Plan Bee, two phenomenal breweries in neighboring towns.

Palace Dumplings

Honestly, I thought this place was just called “dumplings.” From where it’s visible on route 9, the large block letters against the green background are all that’s legible. The exterior is underwhelming. It looks like a run-of-the-mill take-out spot. But there’s wizardry in that kitchen. Plates of steamy dumplings arrive, wrapped in the thinnest dough wrappers so the plate of 12 is manageable. The pork and scallion are classic, but the flavors get more interesting: lamb, egg and sour cabbage are only some of the options from multi-page menu. You’ll wait a long time on a busy night, but the result is worth the wait ten-fold.

Armadillo

I remember the first time we ever visited Armadillo. It was our first time in Kingston and we were hanging out at Rough Draft (a noteworthy spot) looking up places to eat. Stomach rumbling, I said “fine, let’s just go there.” Enthusiastic, right? I should’ve been. Hands-down the best house margarita, neither skimping on quality nor tequila. Portions are huge and of equally high quality. I remember the burrito I ordered fed me for days and I only craved more. The creamy green sauce served with chips? Life-changing. It’s just the perfect low-key spot meant for nothing but good times.

The Vinyl Room

We all know I love multi-functional spaces. Maybe it’s from Alton Brown’s aversion to uni-taskers and my affinity for Good Eats. Regardless, this vinyl shop/bar combo is genius. The beer on tap is a mix of stellar local beers and in-the-moment craft brews. You want food? There’s a pizza window. There’s constantly good music spinning, creating the ideal ambiance for flipping through rows of vinyl. Not looking to buy? The arcade games are already loaded and ready for play. So yeah, you could go there, drink beer and play PacMan.

Kettleborough Cider House

So I’ve only been able to visit this location once, but it’s somewhat of a seasonal treat. One crisp fall day we wanted to try some of the smaller cideries in the area. No offense to Angry Orchard, but we wanted a quieter experience with a different cider variety. This honestly came up in a quick map search while we were driving through New Paltz, and I’m so glad it did. The orchard sells donuts and apples, but the shack out back does cider flights. The seating area overlooks the beautiful Shawangunk ridge, an unexpected, breathtaking surprise, and the cider selection ranged from farmy to dry. Next time, I’d bring a blanket and sit outside overlooking the foliage all day.

I move out of the Hudson Valley in a week. It’s a bittersweet feeling, but I’m so fortunate to have been able to find these places and support the amazing work of the folks who put their whole hearts into a craft. Do me a favor and keep these places packed while I’m gone. Okay?

Mexico City Pyramids

Five Days in Mexico City

Travel

I’m so so so sorry it’s been so long. If you follow me on Instagram (which, duh, you should) you’d know that I left my last job and have been in non stop motion since updating you last. You’d also know that I took a break from commuting and moving to go to Mexico City with my family. While the vacation was anything but relaxing, it was everything about culture. It’s undoubtedly true that Mexico’s history is part of America’s history, but we as Americans fail to learn about much other than European conquest. This trip illuminated so much about the country, like the hundreds of languages still actively spoken throughout, the many other civilizations besides the Aztecs and Mayans and the incredibly vibrant food.

After landing in the mid-afternoon on Saturday we all made a b-line for El Huequito for towers of al pastor tacos and stoneware of molten cheese and chorizo. The al pastor, being sliced from  a shawarma-esque inverted cone of pork, starred in this culinary experience, but the limes and platter of sauces were being passed around the table as we all could not decide which was the top. Naturally, we came back two days later for more sauce. Saturday was mostly a day of walking and eating. Street corn and churros made appearances on the day’s itinerary, and I’m happy to report that both changed me in different ways. The street corn just handed me an essay on why chili and lime belongs on everything (see: chili and lime on mangos) and the churros kicked any other doughnut or fried dough treat to the curb and became number one in my heart.

We knocked out that night because Sunday would be longer. We began the day at Panederia Rosetta and I’m different. The best croissant I’ve ever had made into a bowl to cradle guava jam accompanied by a cappuccino fueled our first stop: the palacio de bella artes. This art and architecture museum had Diego Rivera murals and a special exhibit on Francisco Icaza, but the physical building, completed in the 1930’s, was the masterpiece full of art deco-style interiors and multiple domes with sunset-colored roofs. In the city center (the Zocalo) a marriage of antiquity, tradition and modernity gathered between the Templo Mayor, the unearthed ruins of a civilization, the cathedral and street vendors fleeing whenever a cop entered the area. In the beating sun we ate tamales and coconut agua fresca amid street rituals and incense burning in the summertime chaos around us, a typical Sunday in Mexico.

In the evening we returned to the palacio de bellas artes for the ballet folklorico, but not before a margarita. At Miralto, at the tippy top of a sky scraper, the margaritas lived up to the view of all of Mexico City. However, the margaritas paled in comparison to the artistry and musicianship displayed at the ballet. Traditional song, dance and costume was paraded, and I swear I would’ve given all my money to watch the same two men duel on harps. I never wanted the dancing to end.

If I could recommend one place to visit in Mexico, go to Teotihuacan. I remember reading about these pyramids in fifth grade, unable to pronounce the name of the civilization. The pyramids, once colorful, were stone steps up to a high platform. The pyramids of the sun and moon (misnomers, by the way) were both sights to behold and behold from. From the tops of each, you can see the expanse of the archeological site as well as Mexico’s diverse landscape. Between the small temples lining the “street” between the pyramids, friendly wild dogs roamed protecting the space and posing politely for photos. The hike was intense up hundreds of narrow and steep steps, but it wouldn’t be right any other way. We managed another meal full of al pastor and a night of beer and mezcal to celebrate our triumph over the hike.

On our last full day we experienced some colonial beauty at the park and castle of Chapultepec. The park, like central park, opens up in the midst of the bustling city and the castle, perched atop a hill, feels like slices of Versailles stacked upon each other and dropped in Mexico. The anthropology museum, at the opposite entrance of the park, holds that massive “Mayan Calendar” that is neither Mayan nor calendar. Tired and weary, our trip was coming to a close and we had one last sight to behold.

After a 45 minute Uber drive we all arrived in Xochimilco to embark on a ride through the swampy lagoon on a vibrant boat. Sort of like a Mexican party gondola. Mariachi sang on boats floating by while other boats, packed to capacity, became floating fiestas. The celebratory boat ride signified a successful trip and a bittersweet end to a week of better-than-expected weather and planning.

Lastly on the fifth day, we returned to Panederia Rosetta for one last buttery, flakey croissant, just so sad to leave.

I know you didn’t come here for a Rick Steves Tour, so here is the best of the best: my top 5 foods from Mexico City (plus some honorable mentions).

  • Tacos al pastor
  • Mango with chili, lime and salt
  • Pulche (a traditional fermented drink)
  • Churros from El Moro
  • Guava roll from Panederia Rosetta

Honorable mentions:

  • Mezcal with the dead worm floating in it.
  • Street corn ‘con todos’ (with mayonnaise, chili, queso fresco and lime)
Tap NY Beer Fest

5 Beers You Don’t Want To Miss

beer, drink

A muddy tent, 12 beers and three hot dogs. That’s it, that’s the scene. I attended Tap NY at Hunter Mountain on Sunday, April 28 and that basically sums up my day to anyone interested in the short version. The rain couldn’t stop us from touring through tents filled with tons of attendees and brewers. Also hot dogs. There were so many hot dogs.

Tables were stocked with some of the best beers New York has to offer from Long Island and NYC to Western New York State. After rounding up all 12 beers (requiring some detective work) I’m here to give you my top 5 in no particular order. These are the beers you absolutely have to try.

Brown’s Brewing Company – Cherry Razz

Picture a Jolly Rancher. Now make it beer. That’s basically it. Cherry Razz is the adult version of Kool Aid and I’m not mad about it. This pink beer was refreshing and clean but also very sweet like candy. Drink this outside, maybe with a dog because this is just happiness in a glass.

Clemson Bros. – M-Town

Paying homage to their brewery hometown in Middletown, NY with the name, M-Town tastes like a damn mimosa. It’s the blood orange that does it. It’s light and fruity with enough bubbles to make you giggle at brunch. Drink this with a cheesy omelet and don’t forget to wear a wide brimmed hat and a sundress.

Equilibrium – Peregrinas

Another Middletown brewery! Equilibrium has a scientific edge to it’s beers and this peachy saison perfectly balances sweet and sour notes. It looks like Sunny D but is worlds better and should be enjoyed out of a stemmed glass with some cheese (because cheese would be great).

Interboro – Fluff & Stuff

The only Brooklyn brew I tried at Tap NY. Fluff & Stuff, another pink beer, was a dry style kinda like a rosé. It was fruity but not super sweet and really more akin to a wine. It even looked like rosé in color with its pale pink hue. I definitely would drink this at a barbecue but like a fancy barbecue with steaks or something.

West Kill Brewing – Please Acknowledge Me

Probably one of the best names for a beer – this was light and floral. Maybe too pretty to drink because it looked like pure sunshine in a glass. Another saison but unlike the Peregrinas this was a little earthier and tasted like kombucha. If you could do yoga and drink beer at the same time this would be the beer to drink.

While these are my top 5, all 12 beers were satisfying in their own right. Here’s the rest of the beers I tried during my day at Tap NY:

Barrier Brewing – Shadows and Dust

Catskill Brewery – Barrel Aged Barleywine

Gilded Otter – Blueberry Gunks

Industrial Arts – Spring Landscape

King’s Court – Mind Bender

Mill House Brewing Company – Cucumber Blessings

Roscoe Beer Company – Brown Ale

Tofu, meet the omnivores

food, lifestyle, vegetarian

My first encounter with tofu was neither pleasant nor life changing. I ordered a miso soup that accompanied a sushi dinner. I remember dunking my spoon into the cloudy amber liquid and lifting jiggly chunks of tofu out from beneath the brothy surface. The flavor was nothing spectacular but the texture was just a little off-putting. I had little to no desire to give tofu a second chance.

But this wouldn’t be a good blog post if I didn’t try tofu again. Many years later I tried tofu in a rice bowl, cooked until crispy and drenched in creamy coconut curry sauce. I thought “man, this is good.” For a second I thought vegetarianism was possible for me.

But the truth is, I love meat. I grew up in an Italian household and that meant fish for Christmas, lamb for Easter and fresh vegetables on the side. The comforts of a Sunday sauce simmered with meatballs or a fried chicken cutlet at my grandma’s house could never be replaced by vegetarian alternatives.

Though I love meat, I have no desire to try something marketed as a “meat alternative.” It’s not meat, don’t try to make it meat. What do I want? I want to highlight plant based proteins and meals for their naturally, non-meat flavors, which brings me to tofu. Let’s edit the dialogue…

While some “meat substitutes” capitalize on tofu’s ability to crumble like ground beef, I prefer to savor this jiggly soy protein for its naturally appealing qualities, and that means heavy handed seasoning and crisping the edges until golden brown. Since tofu is a blank canvas seasoning is everything. It’s not the time to be timid in the kitchen. In my experiences, tofu tastes best with a sweet and salty sauce (like here in this vegan noodle bowl). The tofu’s creamy texture also compliments a bit of spice nicely, so go ahead and add those chili peppers.

When cooking tofu, at least for a crispy result, it is imperative to really squeeze that liquid out. Put the block under some weights and let it just release liquid for as long as possible before cooking. This will ensure maximum flavor absorption and minimal spongey texture.

The downside to tofu? Not great for leftovers unless eaten cold. In my experience reheating tofu results in that rubbery texture. Certain things (like the aforementioned noodle bowl) don’t taste spectacular cold or reheated, but a cold tofu dish tastes great. These shawarma spiced tofu pitas tasted arguably better the next day cold: the tofu maintained crisp edges and didn’t seize up and become little morsels of rubbery nightmares.

Takeaways to this tofu rant: vegetarians and non-vegetarians can enjoy tofu. Period. If you try tofu and it’s spongey or jiggly, give it a shot elsewhere. Season it aggressively and don’t expect a meaty flavor. Instead, approach tofu with open-mindedness and interest to try something new. You might be an omnivore like me and begin incorporating more plant based meals into your diet too, no disguise needed.

Natty Wine

drink, food, lifestyle

I’m a lady that loves wine. The words “natural wine” make me think one sip will turn me into this picturesque woman drinking wine on horseback at sunset. Or something. I don’t know, just my brain illustrating my impressions.

Nonetheless, I finally explored the realm of natural wines this weekend when I picked up my first bottle at Kingston Wine Company on Saturday. While intimidating to invest in a new wine that you may or may not love, this particular wine shop made it easy with friendly, knowledgable staff and handy labels on certain bottles marking flavor and whether staff recommend it. This bottle was a shop favorite and a customer favorite and I was lucky enough to snag the last bottle.

We decided on a French red. Domaine Le Briseau Coteaux du Loir Patapon Rouge (wow, a mouthful). Since the natural part makes this a little tannic and quite funky, the light red had dry elements without it being heavy. Without carbonation, it had a effervescent feel, like kombucha. In fact, it tasted like if someone made kombucha from grape juice. Does that sound bad? It was gamay-like but this is not a wine you want to chug on it’s own. That would be a crime. Food deserves to be paired with this wine. This is a wine I can drink with a big fat (phat) bowl of pasta or a lot of cheese and salami. Salty, cheesy foods need to have a real love affair with natural wine. It really be like that.

I enjoyed this probably because I love funky farm ales, which tend to have tannic qualities and are usually fermented without interruptions or additions. However, this was more akin to a farm cider. Ciders are technically apples wines, and this wine (for me at least) evoked the same feel as Graft’s Farm Flor cider: not-too-sweet, funkalicious and dry without that overbearing, headache-giving mouthfeel.

And hey, just because it’s trendy doesn’t mean you have to like it. I went on a wine tasting and the owner of the vineyard told me something I’ll never forget: the best wine is not always the wine with the award, the best wine is the one you like drinking. For you, the best wine may not be the trendy natural wine, but I highly recommend trying a one to explore that decision for yourself.

Marcella Needs a Beer: Collective Arts Brewing Mash Up the Jam

drink

The week was long. Laundry piled up in the corner of my bedroom. I could no longer ignore my check engine light with a nervous sigh. My fridge was a mess. I didn’t know what to do. So after work I bolted to the craft beer store a few blocks from my office because Marcella needed a beer. I then waited until AFTER doing laundry and getting my car looked at to crack one open.

I was always attracted to Collective Arts Brewing’s cans. First, cans are always well labeled. This week’s pick had the word SOUR in large letters on the side in bold serif font. Hard to miss, and just what I needed. Second, can artwork is an ingenious way to attract new drinkers and support local artists. Illustrations, bright colors and characters make a difference to me. I’m looking for something delicious and something kinda cute and I’m not sorry about it. It’s also just good marketing to make your can standout when so many new breweries are entering the game.

This week’s pick was Mash Up the Jam, a dry hopped sour, which as expected was dry, a little hoppy and very sour. There was a lemony lightness to it and it was very clean. I could guzzle this down (but I didn’t, of course). What I liked about this was it was vastly different from Collective Arts’ other sours, like the Guava Gose which was juicy and a little savory (with the addition of pink Himalayan salt) and the Prophets and Nomads which, to be honest, I don’t remember too much (I gave it a 3.25 on Untappd which means it was fine). Update: as it turns out, Prophets and Nomads is Collective Arts’ core gose so the Guava Gose is just Prophets and Nomads with the addition of guava. This explains why I don’t recall Prophets and Nomads too well.

One thing that unites these sours, however, is how border-line IPA they taste but in unique ways. The dry hopped sour was, obviously, a little hoppy and the Guava Gose had that juicy citrus flavor that New England IPAs take-on, almost like grapefruit. Maybe it’s because I’m starting to enjoy IPAs, but I tasted some similarities which explains why I like IPAs like Sloop’s Juice Bomb and Dogfish Head’s Flesh & Blood. Whether Collective Arts is aware of this or not, brewing sours that resemble IPAs is a smart tactic in a time when IPAs continue to reign supreme and sours are middle of the road. Some people feel that sours taste very unpleasant, just like how some people really can’t stand IPAs. However, the IPA train is packed while the sour bus is looking to fill seats.

At any rate, Marcella got her beer and drank it too.

Every coffee shop in Beacon

drink, Travel

I love two things: coffee and espresso. Luckily I work on Main Street in Beacon, New York, a hub of coffee shops and cafes just waiting for me to tear through them begging for a mid-day cup o’ joe. I’m trying to cut back, I swear. And yet, relapse never tasted so good.

My portal to Beacon’s coffee wonderland was Bank Square, the iconic coffee shop at the western entrance to Beacon’s Main Street. The interior is shabby chic complete with exposed brick and mismatched vintage furniture. I adore the yellow wall and this one chair with the same yellow colored velveteen upholstery on the cushion. Quite honestly, it never looks the same twice. There’s also an outdoor patio complete with string lights, perfect for a sunset date. I like the young, laid back vibe of the entire place. It can get crowded, however. The prime real estate is both good and bad: good for business, bad for the coffee shop intimacy that I love. The coffee is delicious, obviously. I don’t think any place on Main Street serves coffee that is anything shy of perfection. Now I rarely visit Bank Square due to my proximity to other coffee shops on Main Street. Nothing personal.

Geographically next despite the approximately ten minute walk is Big Mouth Coffee Roasters. All I have to say is damn girl. Big Mouth stole my heart the moment I stepped inside. The space is that perfect marriage of intimate and social with secluded spaces in the back to have a conversation, a more work-friendly space by the counter and window seating perfect for watching the eclectic neighborhood characters that walk by every day. Their logo is ingenious: a hippo peeking it’s head out of water. They feature local artists and host gallery openings and closings, supporting the art community present in Beacon. And the coffee is, mwah, perfection. I drink my coffee black (which shocks people for some reason) and Big Mouth’s dark roast has those deep cherry notes that just makes me want to bathe in it. Just kidding that’d be gross.

Next is my beloved and convenient Beacon Pantry. Coffee is literally seconds away. I can afford to walk back to my office without wasting a plastic lid! Coffee is quick, inexpensive and gets the job done. While they don’t roast their own coffee like Big Mouth does, they use the dearly beloved Stumptown roasts. Unlike Big Mouth, the Beacon Pantry is not just a coffee shop. They’re a full service restaurant AND specialty market, which is the REAL reason why I love them so much. The curated meat and cheese selection makes me drool almost as much as the wafting scent of bread that enchants my senses daily. Many a daydream have been spent simply thinking of the selection of butter. I’m thinking about it right now.

Next is Ella’s Bellas, a gluten free bakery and cafe just one block east on Main Street. Personally, I like their iced coffee. I’m not sure why. I just do. I must also praise them for their gluten free baked goods, but it is important to remember that glutenless baked goods will naturally taste different than glutened baked goods. Both of those words are definitely made up. After eating my fair share of sub-par gluten free goods in solidarity with my gluten-intolerant friends I can confidently praise Ella’s Bellas for doing something right in the gluten-free baking world.

Last but not least Trax, the easternmost coffee shop on Main Street, is the quiet, brooding guy if Bank Square is the loud, opinionated friend. It’s only fitting that they’re at opposite ends of the spectrum given their opposite positioning on Main Street, however I think they use the same coffee beans. Each location’s cup sleeves feature both logos. Regardless, Trax has the intimacy that I crave at Bank Square, but Bank Square has the decor I love. Trax brands itself as an espresso bar so naturally I tried a cortado. I loved the size of the drink and the barista’s artistry in pouring the milk in a perfect leaf atop the espresso. A perfect pick-me-up and effective remedy for a rainy day. I could spend hours staring out of the wide storefront window at the old brick buildings across the way. It’s definitely a good place to feel inspired.

Life is too short to drink bad coffee so don’t. Whether you’re close to Beacon or not, find a local coffee shop and support that business before resorting to a larger chain brand. Chances are your coffee will be better quality and your experience will be unique every time.

 

 

Day 13 and some

drink, lifestyle

This weekend was incredible. The end to my 13 day nightmarish week felt like a celebration. While my physical body was exhausted on Friday night, mentally I was ready for fun. Here’s some real-time footage of my last day and a recap of my weekend.

I visited 2 cideries in the New Paltz area: Kettleborough and Brooklyn Cider House. Kettleborough exceeded my expectations. I found them by searching “cider houses” on Google and after not recognizing the name I admit, I did not have the highest hopes. How wrong I was. The cider was delicious, to start. Just the qualities I like: tannic, dry and effervescent. Unlike commercialized ciders, that are not bad in my eyes by the way, these ciders display the true transformation in the fermentation process. The flavors are more akin to a white wine than they are to a common cider. And yet the most incredible part of Kettleborough was the scenic view from around the cider house. Suddenly you were perched on top of a hill looking out on the Shawangunk ridge in it’s vibrant autumnal glory. If we weren’t freezing, we could’ve sat there forever. But like I said we were cold, and apple cider donuts beckoned.

The Brooklyn Cider House, while definitely a more well known name, was equally as enjoyable. The cidery’s New Paltz location occupies an orchard, Twin Star Orchard, in addition to a cider house. We chose a bottle of the raw cider which had that farm-y funky flavor that I’ve been really enjoying in farm beers lately. We enjoyed a pizza, a bottle of cider and a walk through the orchard. The full sun made this location a little more bearable in the elements. I stole an apple. No telling.

Really Saturday was wildly special because of my company: I love my boyfriend possibly more than I love myself. He is my best friend, and if you believe in soul-mates he is mine. But Saturday was also special because I took my new-found tasting knowledge out for a spin. I looked past my preferences and prejudices and tried a little of everything, and it yielded new knowledge and a greater variety to choose from in the future. It’s something I’m definitely looking forward to exploring more. I know I can improve on my tasting abilities and descriptions. Maybe a new journal? Who knows.