Re-Doing the District

I (Daniëlle) am sitting at Dolcezza, at the new DC Wharf, contemplating how much DC coffee has changed since I left for Alaska last summer. When I knew I was returning I asked Lauren where I should go first – what HAD to be my first stop back in the District? Since I got here in January, I’ve made every effort to visit as many new places as possible. What’s crazy? That using Lauren’s last post as a guide, it’s taking nearly two months to make some progress! A few other places have also popped up just since she published her post early January (Elle, Bluebird, Bluestone Lane)

Allow me to run through a few of the beautiful cafés I’ve had the pleasure to get to recently:

Qualia. We were excitedly anticipating this opening practically from the first time we wrote about them – it had been a long time coming. An early Saturday was the perfect time to soak up the sun through their big windows and take over the arm chair corner and linger. With tons of single origin offerings just like at the at their first location, it added up to a perfect morning.

Blue Bottle in Georgetown. DC became the hub for West-Coaster ‘Philz’ to start launching its East Coast expansion, so it was exciting to see Oakland-native Blue Bottle make its way down. They opened in Georgetown last summer, and are set to open a second location soon, near Union Market. If anyone has ever flipped through James Freeman’s book, you’ll know he takes his coffee, and his cafes, very seriously. They didn’t skip a beat in creating a beautifully simple and bright space in Georgetown to sit and enjoy some millennial toast and a pour-over.

Velo Café. I don’t know how bikes and coffee came to be a thing, but it certainly is a thing. Serving up Vigilante Coffee alongside their bikeshop and small hardware store is the perfect one stop shop. District Hardware has been around for decades and their warm and friendly staff reflects this mom-and-pop feel.

Bluestone Lane in West End. Reportedly the largest Bluestone Lane in the US, their newest café co-located with the West End Community Library is stunning. When I visited, some of their corporate managers were there and it was delightful to hear the Australian accented individuals talk about their passion for coffee. I think it’s part of the culture. Flat whites, avo toast, and table service all around.

The Cup We All Race 4. Instagram photos of this café led me to the Line Hotel in Adams Morgan – I may not have found it, were I not actively searching for it! Perhaps the mystery is part of the allure. The Cup We All Race 4 is in the front lobby of the hotel, but you are welcome to enter through the doors into the main lobby and linger while you sip on your Counter Culture cappuccino. Super friendly bar staff will even come by and bring you some water to sip on. The hotel also boasts two bars and a restaurant.

Little Pearl. I have been a fan of the coffeeshop part of Pineapple and Pearls since its inception, and the beautiful space at their new location came at no surprise. Paired with some of their famous baked goods, adorable cutlery and bright openness, our morning there was heavenly. And they serve wine in the evenings, so win-win! 

Café Chocolat. They serve La Colombe coffee here, but do yourself a favor and also order the drinking chocolate! They come in three different varieties and they’re as beautiful as they are delicious. If you have the chance, engage in conversation with the shop owner about craft chocolate- I’m a relative newbie to the culinary category but I can tell you I’m here to stay. Craft chocolate is in my future!

Pluma by Bluebird Bakery. It’s no secret that I have a slight obsession with croissants and I’ve always held the bluebird bakery ones with the highest esteem. I was thrilled when I heard they were opening up a store front, and it met all my dreamed-up expectations. Beautiful décor, Stumptown coffee, and perfectly situated in the seriously exploding Union Market area.

Dolcezza at The Wharf DC. All the Dolcezza locations are so instagrammabe and their newest location is no exception. Giant windows with spectacular views, I can’t wait to see it during Cherry Blossom season! Dolcezza also serves Stumptown and they make all their gelato from scratch.

Gregorys (three locations). Did Gregorys kind of sneak into the District without a big fuss? Allow me to add a little fanfare by explaining that DC is the first place outside of the New York City area where Gregorys is making its mark. That’s NY- 26, DC -3 . Pretty impressive that they saw the DC market as being the one to focus on next. Try their mylks – activated charcoal is on the menu folks!

Swing’s on G Street. Swing’s closed their oldest location about 18 months ago due to renovations being made to the building, but they sure did their best to keep with the classic charm of the original while sprucing up the broader space. They also have bins and bins full of whole bean coffee where you can customize your blend.

I did make it to Crimson Diner (with Lauren!) but we got there too late for espressos. Fried green tomatoes anyone? (they were amazing. And HELLO there’s a whisky bar downstairs!)

I still have a handful of cafes to explore and while initially I was in a rush to get to them all immediately (clearly, and I had to get this blogpost done!), I’m going to slow down and revisit a few of my other favorites too. And a couple more are slated to open soon, so I’m not running out of new places yet! It’s good to be back, even if just for a little while.

 Let us know which of the newest cafes have tickled your fancy!

 Stay grounded,






Dutch in DC

Usually when my European relatives visit they shake their heads at the size of a cup of coffee served at cafes. It’s true, everything in America is bigger, but many places are catching on that it’s about quality not quantity.

Now I am armed with the knowledge to take them to a couple places without complaints!

Grace Street Coffee.

Double Dutch – 2 reasons why Grace Street Coffee was a good idea: I recently asked manager Angel if they were getting any resistance running a specialty café and he explained that generally people are excited to learn more about their coffee but sometimes people complain that they don’t offer larger sized coffee. Sounds like the perfect place for small-coffee-loving Dutch people. Coffee profiles change as the temperature drops and the concentration of the coffee/water ratio are important to really taste specialty coffee. No 20 oz sized coffees here! I had no issues popping in there to order a cappuccino and take a few pictures of their Dutch-made Spirit espresso machine. It ain’t much if it ain’t Dutch!


Dutch people love their markets. Like really. So we headed to Union Market where I knew Peregrine would serve us up a delightful cup. As you all know though, most DC-ers love Union Market too so it was a tad crowded! Lucky for us Dolcezza Gelato Factory is now open on weekends. Here is what is interesting: one of my guests ordered a Macchiato. I’m sure everyone remembers how terrible it was when Starbucks came out with the caramel macchiato and it was scandalously not anything like a macchiato.. Well apparently in the Netherlands they are used to a latte macchiato served in a tall glass with lots of milk. At a specialty café in DC a macchiato is the strongest milk-based drink there is, with mostly espresso and just a splash of dairy goodness. So it was a big surprise when we received a short espresso cup rather than a smooth  mild milky drink! But I was assured it was still delicious.

So there you have it, a small roundup of Dutch-approved coffee in the District. Can’t wait until the next visit to savor more of the approving reactions as we continue to drink our way through DC.

Where do you take your foreign visitors for a cup of coffee?

Stay Grounded,


All About That Affogato

Can you tell we’re on a little bit of a gelato kick? And considering how hot it is outside, can you blame us? So sticking to our theme for the week…

The first time I walked into Love ‘n Faith Community Cafe on 14th Street, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Was I in the mood for ice cream, or did I really just need a coffee? Well, the smoke wafting from the liquid nitrogen made me giddy like a child, inviting me to press my face against the glass to witness everything behind the scenes. My mind was made up – ice cream it is! But wait. I still wanted a little caffeine boost, and since Danielle and I were meeting to discuss coffee, it would feel inappropriate without it. The solution to my delicious dilemma: an affogato.

Liquid nitrogen is used to make the ice cream right in front of you at Love ‘n Faith

Affogato means “drowned” in Italian as the gelato is literally drowned by a shot of freshly brewed espresso. Traditionally made with vanilla gelato or ice cream, it is often served as an after-dinner dessert. Also, because of the mixture of hot and cold, it remains a popular treat throughout all seasons.

The first time I tried an affogato was on vacation in Rome, and I was surprised at the bittersweet taste that transpired as the cool gelato began to give in to the piping hot espresso. I felt like I was supposed to like it, I wanted to like it, but I remained unsure, wishing I had just stuck to my usual order of stracciatella. It was not until I moved to D.C. several years back that I decided to give affogatos another shot, now knowing a bit more what to expect. I remember waiting patiently (it might have been impatiently) in line at the Pitango in Penn Quarter and once it was my turn to order asking the person behind the counter what he would recommend. It did not take him long to suggest a chocolate hazelnut affogato. The rest, they say, is history.

Pitango Gelato Penn Quarter

A variety of other gelato shops offer affogatos, such as Dolcezza and Dolci Gelati, as well as several local coffee shops, like Qualia and Vigilante. Oftentimes they’ll provide a variety of flavor options for those wanting to branch out; however, if you find yourself dining in an Italian restaurant, don’t expect an affogato in anything other than its traditional form. One of the most memorable affogatos I’ve ever tasted was at Momofoku in CityCenter. After inhaling one of their famous bowls of ramen, I decided to indulge in the affogato provided by its sister bakery, Milk Bar – it came in the form of cereal milk soft serve topped with a fresh double shot of espresso. It was just as sweet as I imagined it to be, and it offered a different vehicle in which to participate in the recent cereal milk soft serve craze I had been seeing on social media.

Sweet cereal milk affogato

There is one thing that I surprisingly have not tried yet… Did you know some places give you the option of adding liqueur to your affogato?! Danielle brought this to my attention. She was once served an affogato in Sydney with a shot of amaretto, and it is now actually how she prefers it. Now that sounds like the perfect after-dinner treat!

Returning to my visit to Love ‘n Faith, I decided on an affogato with cookies ‘n cream ice cream. As I waited for it to be prepared, I sat down at one of their handmade tables decorated with thoughtful quotes. The smoke from the liquid nitrogen began to dissipate throughout the cafe, and one of the employees kindly delivered my order to me. I loved how my drowned ice cream was still smoking when it got to the table. Love ‘n Faith just provided another experience in which to enjoy an affogato.

I’d like to know, where is your favorite place for an affogato? Any cool flavor combinations I should try?

Keep caffeinated,


Cookies ‘n Cream affogato at Love ‘n Faith

Espresso and Gelato – a Match Made in Dairy Heaven

My father, nearing retirement age, is a bit like a young boy when it comes to frozen treats in the summer; when he visits not a day goes by that we don’t have ice cream. So last summer when we were out and about and he requested ice cream but all I wanted was a cappuccino, I naturally took him to Dolcezza: the best of both worlds.

Photo Mar 10, 2 33 16 PM
Something for every palette

I’m not sure I was fully aware of this relationship between gelato and coffee but it makes sense considering how seriously Italians take both (though interesting that Dolcezza is modeled after an Argentinian café). Recently at Pitango Gelato I asked store manager John Lim how he thought the two came to have such a marriage and he pondered that it was a natural evolution considering the pairing of milk and coffee in cappuccinos and lattes – gelato is made of milk after all.

Gelato has a lower fat content than ice cream, and is stored at a higher temperature to make for easy scooping (and consumption)! Places like Dolcezza and Dolci Gelati experiment with different flavor combinations (adjusted to what is in season – think lime-cilantro and banana-bread- pudding, respectively) and often only have specific selections available for a few days before rolling out new ones (check their social media often for what they are serving). The folks at Pitango Gelato prefer pure flavors and few ingredients (like chocolate noir or hazelnut). There are merits to both philosophies!

Apparently one critique the gelato establishments in DC often hear are the high prices of their offerings (admittedly I’ve gasped aloud on social media about the cost of a small cup of gelato) but now that I’m more informed (ahem) I humbly revise my exasperation. At Pitango Gelato they explain that there are no preservatives and stabilizers in the frozen goodness. All three cafes mentioned in this post pride themselves on sourcing the best ingredients – from their local dairy to their seasonal fruits (and sometimes imported specialties), I understand that they are choosing to provide only the highest quality.

Whether you agree with this marriage or not, it is apparent that the idea to cater to different audiences was a good one (all the cafes covered have an expansive wholesale business), and it keeps things covered through all seasons. In May when we were going through a cold spell, I posted on Instagram that I had been looking forward to some gelato but walked into Dolci Gelati for a cappuccino instead!

Pitango Gelato’s John Lim also joked that his latte art skills were a bit rusty as Peregrine was serving most of Eastern Market’s coffee needs, but come fall and winter he’d be back in full swing again (for the record, his latte art was still lovely). The Pitango at Eastern Market serves Vigilante Coffee bringing in many coffee enthusiasts who are loyal to the local roaster (Dolcezza serves Stumptown, Dolci Gelati Italian coffee, most other Pitango Gelato locations serve Counter Culture Coffee).

Dolcezza and Dolci Gelati serve manual brew specialty coffee, but both started as gelato producers. While doing my homework I have found this to be the case for other gelato/espresso establishments. The owner of Dolci Gelati actually has an impressive resume as a pastry chef, and still experiments with a variety of baked goods for all their cafes. Dolcezza and Pitango have also branched out to more versatile storefronts, Dolcezza’s Mom + Pop in the Mosaic District (Fairfax) and Pitango’s Bakery + Café on the waterfront in Baltimore (the outdoor seating has great harbor views). Based on my mouthwatering research, I am looking forward to visiting both!

What do you think about the natural progression from gelato to coffee? Legit or random?

Stay grounded,