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,

Daniëlle

 

 

 

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Table Service

With Slipstream opening their second location this weekend and Vigilante rolling out “Table Service” full time in their café, we thought it high time to talk about it. What is Table Service and how does it fit into DC coffee?

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Slipstream on 14th Street. Credit: @mrpaulop (Instagram)

Part of the Third Wave of coffee is the concept of offering higher quality everything for customers: coffee, water filtration, food pairing, atmosphere.. The Second Wave was about convenience, but now people want to offer more of a third space for their customers – a place away from home and work where they can commune with others.

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The menu at Vigilante Coffee

In regions like Europe and Australia, table service is seen more often than not – it’s the norm and the anticipated. Leave the hurried life behind for a moment while you enjoy a delicious cup of coffee with a friend and unwind. On a recent trip to New York, in fact, I was reminded of the concept at the Australian café “Citizens of Chelsea,” and time slowed down for a few moments.

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This lovely latte art was brought to my table without a worry

Cafes like Slipstream and the Busboys and Poets on 14th Street NW naturally have table service as their menu is a bit more expansive than a typical coffee shop (I bring up that particular BB&P because it has a large café-type area in addition to their restaurant with couches and coffee tables). Coffee-focused cafes like Tryst and now Vigilante also offer a different coffee shop experience, one that is meant to be relaxing and stress free.

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No waiting around for this avocado toast at Slipstream.                                             Credit: @momentofmeaning (Instagram)

As Austin pointed out in Vigilante’s blog, no more pacing around the drink bar waiting for your coffee, hoping no one else accidentally snatches yours. (Don’t worry – if you’re in a hurry you can still order your drink to-go!). You no longer feel the pressure to blurt out your order as you’re trying to read the tasting notes of the single origins on the menu. Another plus: chat with the barista when they bring you your drink, they will be less rushed than if they were just working on drinks all day.

What do you think about table service in DC? How does it affect your workday or your meet-up with friends?

Stay grounded,

Daniëlle

 

Neighborhood Crawl: Dupont Circle

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Oh Dupont Circle! Home of the High Heeled Race, weekend chess games, and turn-of-the-century rowhouses. It was my first introduction to Washington DC as an adult (well, twenty-something college student) and while so much has stayed the same in 13 years (2 a.m. empañada shops and getting lost in Kramer Books), there have been welcome additions to the area as well.

It would be overly ambitious to name all the places worth a visit next time you’re in Dupont Circle but let us take you to a few places worthy of your taste buds and a feast for your eyes.

1. Begin your stroll by popping into DGS Delicatessen where Colony Club is hosting the pop-up/collaboration, “Sadie’s Weekdays.” DGS Deli pays homage to the District Grocery Stores that adorned the corners of the District early in the 20th century, and the architecture and design will tug on your nostalgia strings. Grab your Bullfrog breakfast bagel and a beautifully crafted specialty coffee drink in this inviting space to start out your day. {Note: if you’re coming by after 11 or on weekends we also really enjoy En je ne sais Quoi a few doors up – while more a bakery than a coffee-focused cafe, the croissants and other specialty baked goods are serious business).

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2. Walk northwest along Connecticut Avenue to Dupont Circle. Fact: the fountain itself was designed by the same duo who designed the Lincoln Memorial, Henry Bacon and Daniel Chester French. On weekends you are sure to find entertaining chess games along the outer rim of the park but one guide suggested bringing your own board games if that suited better! [Has anyone else noticed a surge of “Settlers of Catan” games going down around town??] While the water is not currently on, there is plenty of life around the fountain and great people watching opportunities. Or sit and read the paper on the grass for a while and place bets on which squirrels are the boldest.

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3. If you are there on a Sunday stop into the Dupont Circle Farmer’s Market. A great opportunity to purchase a bag of Zeke’s coffee to take home with you as well as some pickles and a plant and whatever else might be on your list!

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4. Walk over to the Phillips Collection (“America’s First Museum of Modern Art) and experience the most intimate way to view a Van Gogh or Georgia O’Keefe in the city. Walking through the building itself is worth its admission price (check out their website for pricing as it varies by time and circumstance) although the rotating exhibitions always aim to impress. [Note: the main house will be closed for renovations beginning 23 May so head over there quickly or you’ll have to wait until 2018!]

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5. Two blocks directly south will find you at Emissary. A basement cafe that opened last fall, it serves light bites and bar drinks at night, and during the day it’s a third wave coffeeshop begging for you to meet up with a friend on the terrace or read a book over their marble design.

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Note: I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the incredible opportunity to visit some embassies in the area this weekend and over the next several weeks – more info here and here. Filter Coffee and Glen’s Garden Market are mere steps from each other on 20th St NW – both absolutely worth the tiny detour from Connecticut Ave. And the National Geographic Museum is next on my list, also just a stone’s throw from Dupont. Lastly- Dupont Underground!!!! Do some googling and get out there, folks.

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What are some other favorites in and around Dupont Circle? Please share in the comments!

Stay Grounded,

Daniëlle

Roaster of the Month: Vigilante Coffee

 

DSC_0002With so many exciting things rolling out for Vigilante Coffee, we are thrilled to feature them as our Roaster of the Month and share in their progress with you.

In the Beginning…

The concept of Vigilante Coffee began years ago, when Chris Vigilante was living in Hawaii. Quite the opposite of what you often find when cafe owners get into the business, Chris started out seeing coffee grown on the farm, and eventually started roasting, whole selling, and then getting into retail. Along the way he was joined by partners Austin and Ashley who each bring unique perspectives to the team and help the company grow and flourish.

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The original espresso machine, now in the lab

Austin first met Chris when Austin was working the DC scene and Chris was a barista. They became friends and started roasting coffee together in the basement of Austin’s apartment. When they realized they were producing really good coffee they started selling wholesale and farmer’s markets (they’ve been at Eastern Market for five years now). Next they started hosting pop-up cafes and the success there really changed the game.

When a loyal customer caught wind that they were looking for a more expansive roastery, he introduced the team to a bright open space in Hyattsville that he would share with them while he continued to use part of the garage as his office. The community, however, kept inquiring when they were going to serve coffee rather than just roast it, and the friendly pressure gave way to the cafe it is today.

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It’s such a great community, in fact, that when they were looking for a place to expand, that was their number one priority. A great community to grow into, in addition to a good space and an excellent relationship with a new landlord. They landed on College Park, Maryland, and are excited to open in September of this year.

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Finding the Unique in the Second-Most Traded Commodity in the World.

What sets Vigilante apart? We think it’s their dedication to education and their desire to build relationships with their partners.

Austin heads up the education program and they offer classes several times a week in their new lab, both to their wholesale partners and the general public (you can register through the link on their website). They cover everything from different brew methods, to the history of espresso, to basic latte art.

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The bright lab in the same property as the cafe offers the perfect space for classes and cuppings

If you follow Vigilante on social media you’ll notice they spend significant time at origin, sourcing new coffee and growing their coffee community with the producers. Awan and Chris are the green buyers for Vigilante coffee and they’ve seen how making connections with farmers allows the quality of the coffee to skyrocket. The directness of the chain is a major focus for Vigilante.

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Roaster Franklin oversees a batch during a morning roasting session

We’ve seen before how this can be a two-way street and through their relationships they’ve been able to offer programs like harvesting incentives to their producers. Another perk is trying new innovative methods with the producers, like having them ferment the coffee in tea water. When working through importers they can select a certain flavor profiles and the importer might come back with 10 farms that can offer those that season.

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Always Striving for Improvement

In addition to growing their cafes, Austin is also excited to tell us about service style! Called the Vigilante Experience, they are now offering table service in the evenings with the intention of rolling this out full-time soon. Throughout their travels they’ve all seen how relaxing full service cafes are, when their is a major focus on presentation and fulfilling all aspects of the customer experience. In a hurry? Your server will take your order electronically on your way to a table so they can get started on it right away. Prefer a splash of milk in your coffee? Your servers can better help you narrow down which coffee suits your needs and what complements them. We are excited to experience this for ourselves soon!

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The Stats

Take a look at the stats, and let us know what you love about Vigilante Coffee in the comments!

Roaster manufacturer: Dietrich
Calibration Program/software: Roaster’s’ experience and a clipboard!
Capacity: Approximately 25 lb per batch output
Batches/hour 3 – it takes about 15-18 minutes per roast
Lbs per day/week: About 2,000 pounds a week
Bean sourcing (direct trade/importers): Mix – Direct importers like Caravela and Ninety Plus, and personally built direct trade
Cuppings frequency: Daily for the roasters, weekly for staff (keeping it interesting by cupping the same bean 6 ways, cupping defects, etc).
Packaging: Lined resealable bags.
Where to buy: 90+ places offer Vigilante Coffee in the area! Find it at a multitude of stores, bars, and restaurants, as well as farmer’s markets. Sign up for their subscription service on their website!
BONUS:
Personal favorite region (Austin): Kenya, though it sometimes changes with the seasons
Recommendation that’s on the shelf now: Burundi, and the Ethiopian Kemgin

 

Stay Grounded,

Daniëlle