Tag Archives: drinks

Nice try, Brooklyn

4 Mar
Canada bars, Communist bars, even trailer park bars ... but nothing Midwest-themed (or at least deserving of the term).

Canada bars, Communist bars, even trailer park bars … but nothing Midwest-themed (or at least deserving of the term).

When I first moved to the NYC area, I had this crazy idea that I would mingle amongst other Midwesterners at some kind of Iowa-themed bar. Silly, I know, but I have “How I Met Your Mother” to thank for that. One of the main characters, Robin, ventures to a Canadian-themed bar if she ever feels homesick. She got the idea from Marshall, a boy from Northern Minnesota who visits a Vikings bar whenever he feels the same. TV shows don’t ever spread lies, I told myself, so there has to be a Minnesota or some kind of Midwest bar in NYC! Canadian bars, yes, even trailer park bars are available for refuge. Green Bay Packers have their own bar, but I am not a big sports fan. I just wanted a bar that would give me that “close to home” feel. So I found Burnside, located in Brooklyn. I had read some good reviews in various articles, and ventured there yesterday with great expectations.

Fail.

Walking in, I immediately felt like it was a Pinterest-inspired 1900’s farmhouse – if hipsters lived during that time period. Faded wallpaper, sandblasted wood, dim lighting through candles and old-timey lanterns – yes, if Laura Ingalls Wilder was trying to be ironic, in a really painstaking way, this would be considered Midwest. (There was a shuffleboard, so they get an up vote for that.)

Their beverage collection. Well … they had Milwaukee’s Best in cans, a Stevens Point lager, and Leinenkugel. And lots of microbrews from the NYC area. Ahem. Oh, I spotted a small bottle of Templeton Rye (shout out Iowa!) behind the counter. The same size I usually spot in a personal liquor cabinet, but eh.

Food? There were bratwurst and burgers, and portobello mushroom sandwiches (something I enjoy, but never consider an Iowa fare). But they had fried cheese curds. A saving grace, thank you God. I have been missing fair food, something I don’t eat a lot of but miss it intensely. You could buy a bag of jalapeno poppers or something fried and heat it up at home. Or just go to Leon’s Pizza and taste their decadent cheese balls with homemade ranch dressing … okay, now I’m drooling. But not here, they don’t have the same respect for fried food as some of us Midwesterners do. So we ordered two baskets, no reason to waste time when fried food is on the line. No side of ranch or ketchup (come on people!), and they tasted more like funnel cake then greasy, beautiful breading-wrapped cheese.

This was a disappointment.

We didn’t stay long, like we thought we would have. Instead, we headed home for supper, not wanting to even imagine what their burger tasted like.

It was decided that The Machine Shed would make a killing in NYC. Seriously, if something farmer-themed came here, I would predict it would be an instant hit. If I had a ton of money, I’d definitely try to finance something of that nature here.

So what I guess I am saying is that I’ll have to wait for a trip home for old-fashioned beer lights, good Iowa food, and an actual Midwest bar. No more of this hipster crap for me.

Coffee snob confessions

4 Nov

It’s quite beautiful, right? Tears are pouring at the sight.

When I can be, I am a self-professed coffee snob. I completely blame it on my past.

My mother frequently took an hour drive from our home to a gourmet coffee bean store in Des Moines. I tried to accompany her on the journey as many times as I could. The aroma from the giant wooden bins of beans was heavenly. On the way home, the hazelnut fragrance from the small paper bags would fill the car. When our Bunn coffeemaker would start the brewing process, I knew that I would grow up intoxicated with the smell and taste of such pure goodness.

I started having small sips of coffee in middle school and by the time high school rolled around, I was dabbling in harder stuff: caramel lattes and mochaccinos.

College came and while other students used their extra cash on hamburgers at the food court, I studied the menu of our campus coffee shop.

After working three years as a barista, my tastes have become quite snobby. While I enjoy a flavored beverage once and awhile, I prefer to stick to mostly premium dark roast coffee of the French press variety, Americanos, and small cups of espresso.

Unfortunately, due to a teeny weeny budget as I look for employment, I can’t be that picky. My bags of gourmet roasted beans have quickly become replaced with more economical choices for the time being. Even with my limited prospects, I don’t have to settle for just whatever is cheapest at the store.

Here is a list of caffeinated drinks that I have come to enjoy. You don’t always have to sacrifice taste for your wallet:

While I would rather buy beans roasted from a local coffee shop or bagged premium coffee from the supermarket, I have learned that buying in bulk is my only option at this point. We have tried a few brands and flavors and this has become our favorite:

Folgers Black Silk coffee. The best of the dark roast canned coffee.

It has a smooth, dark roast taste. While it took a while for us to get used to, we have come to enjoy this caffeine mix every morning.

Hurricane Sandy threw us for a loop when it came to coffee. We knew we would have to give instant coffee a try (I never have before).  All I can say is yuck. The only way we were able to chug it down was with our International Delight coffee creamer. (We also didn’t want to waste the creamer as our electricity was off so we used healthy quantities.) One thing we did pick up was Nescafe’s Mementos cappuccino.

Not bad for an instant beverage.

If you don’t want to go out of the house, it’s blizzarding or whatever, you might want to give this a try. I have tried other instant mocha and cappuccino beverages, and this is definitely the best. It has much more of the foam and thickness associated with coffee-house drinks. While it doesn’t hold a candle to the real thing, it is flavorful. Warning: If you want caffeine content, I would stick with regular brewed coffee. Not a wake-up solution.

We have a French press that we enjoy using time from time. Target has provided us beans that we are happy to use, as they are Free Trade (which is important to us) and delicious. Not only that, but the Archer Farm brand usually has coupons available and is on sale frequently.

Don’t get me wrong. I cannot go a week without coffee-house coffee. It is an uncontrollable habit of mine, that I have learned to limit. If I am in a huge hurry and want cheap, delicious coffee — there is no choice. Dunkin’ Donuts is king. Seriously, out of all the coffee that I have consumed over the years, my favorite is from this chain. Oh yeah, their bagged beans are also super great. Their turbo and dark roasts are my favorites.

I could write endless love letters to Dunkin’ Donuts that they would find creepy.

The chain I miss most from the Midwest is Caribou Coffee. They make THE BEST white peppermint mocha. Whether I was in Omaha, Neb. or Minneapolis, Minn., I was never unsatisfied by their coffee or service. If you are near one and have not tried their coffee beverages, please head there now. You won’t be disappointed. Speaking of the Midwest, if you ever are in Omaha, visit Crane Coffee or Scooters. Just do it.

How I miss you so (see you soon!).

I have found another new favorite cheap coffee locale. Pret A Manger. The chain is based out of UK, but there are currently chains in NYC, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. Not only is it organic and fresh, but the quick cuisine available is AMAZING. If you have a coffee there, please pair with their harvest cookies. Super yum. I just wish they had coffee cup sleeves because their coffee is super hot.

Really good coffee.

And while I have found new coffee shops to venture to, I have a hard time avoiding the most famous of these places. Starbucks. Dang their advertising! I am not a huge fan of all their drinks, but I have a few favorites. I have experienced their pumpkin spice latte a few times already this fall season. If you want regular coffee, you can’t go wrong with a Pike Place Roast. What is my favorite of their drinks? A white-hot chocolate covered in whipped cream. There is a Starbucks really close to our apartment, so if I am in the mood to read a book and unwind, it is my accompanying beverage choice.

I love going into a Starbucks during the holiday season. Pretty consumerism!

There are other coffee shops and chains, such as Panera, that I should list. But I haven’t really ventured out to them lately. Once and awhile, I decide that I must have really, really good coffee. In such cases, I just walk around the corner to Dames Coffee Espresso Bar. Probably some of the best cappuccinos and lattes I have ever had. Complete with heart or leaf drawings on top!

Pure beauty.

And last (but definitely not least), I am looking forward to visiting my favorite central Iowa shop, Mornin’ Glory Coffee Shop, when I come home for Thanksgiving. Many great memories and the coolest baristas around! And don’t get me started on their dark roast coffee. So, so good! (And definitely try their sticky toffee caramel latte, WOWZAS!)

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