Coffee Shop Review

Eater.com publishes PDX’s Best Coffeeshops and Roasters each year with an ever-growing and changing list of the newest it places and the long-standing neighborhood fixtures.  I decided to try as many places as I could and judge them all on an arbitrary scale that I, of course, made up just now.

Here’s how it works:
Each category is scored 1-5.  Scores are added and divided by number of categories to give an overall ranking.  And the categories are…

Decor (tables, chairs, lighting, do-dads)
Ambience (is it a place you want to hang out in)
Location (parking, neighborhood)
Ease of ordering / seating (is there a crazy line, plenty of seating, is it hard to figure out who takes your order)
Price (1 being most expensive)
Innovation (stand apartedness)
Food offerings
Taste (double scored out of 10)
Presentation
Pretentiousness (1 being highest)

The obvious ones on the list have also made top coffee shop lists when compared to others in the US.  These are Stumptown, Coava, Barista, and Water Avenue.  The not-so-obvious ones on the list are Extracto, Heart Coffee, Bipartisan, Case Study, Satellite (because I was in New Mexico,) Christopher David, Either/Or, Fresh Pot, and Sterling Roasters.

Coava is the leader in presentation and innovation, being one of the only coffeshops in Portland to brew all coffee through the Chemex slow drip system.  They’ve perfected simplicity, not even bothering to offer additional accoutrements that might dull the flavor of their exceptional cup.  Water Ave Coffee is my pic for taste, presentation, and lack of pretentiousness, offering a beautifully roasted and brewed cup in the southeast industrial area steps from the waterfront.  A gleaming neon sign that reads “COFFEE” lures patrons in like moths to the flame.  Stumptown is a staple, winning almost every category everywhere and being one of the only local Portland Roasts to go mainstream.  The problem is, there are too many Stumptown coffeeshops and too many coffeeshops that serve Stumptown to award them as my pick for best coffeeshop, so I *politely* deny their application.  Bipartisan is my standard, go-to coffeeshop every time, always.  It’s delicious (Stumptown) coffee, they always have the latest Willamette Week, and I like their food.  Extracto and Heart Coffee were my lowest scores.  Heart because my mediocre 12 ounce Hazelnut Mocha was $6.50, making it the most expensive drink I tried.  Extracto because it seemed like it was trying too hard to be hipster and the taste didn’t outweigh the enormous sigh rom the baristas.  I tried the Fluer Noir vanilla latte at Case Study Coffee and was blown away by the rich depth of flavor and the eccentric decor.  Christopher David had similar scores in decor, for much different reasons.  They share their space with an amazing homegoods retailer, which translates into thinking you’re drinking delicious coffee in your cool (rich) friend’s living room.  But my pick, the winning overall score for best coffeeshop in Portland is …. STERLING ROASTERS.

I walked right past Sterling Roasters on my way to find it.  The tiny, 300 square foot space is the smallest coffee shop in Portland, and maybe the world.  There is room for about 10 people total outside of the employees who are dressed in bow ties and aprons.  They look like old-timey barkeeps who are perpetually wiping down the bar and slinging the towel over their shoulder.  You would think this would translate into higher than average pretentiousness, but you’d be wrong.  I asked a couple of questions about the offerings and was treated to a wealth of information about the operation, roasting capacity, bean origin, architectural details, and got to sample a couple different roasts for the day.  I decided to get a cappuccino, which was on the more expensive side, but it was definitely a treat.  If you’re in the mood for delicious coffee, but need more space, they also feature their micro blended roasts at Coffeehouse Northwest.

 

January – Coffee Month

It feels like I have a beverage related month about once a year… Wine, cider, and now coffee. It’s cold and rainy this January and I want to curl up with a warm cup of joe. Good thing I live in a town filled with some of the best local roasters – Stumptown and Water Ave are the current favorites, but there are so many more to try! I hope to use some new brewing techniques (Chemex and the trusty French press) to brew some amazing cups. Then, I’ll pin Portland’s best against other cities in a (completely biased) death match. May the best (Portland) win!

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Best Of – Cider

cider sorbetI know I just had Cider Month in October, but my favorite artisan ice creamery Salt and Straw has a Bushwhacker Spiced Cider Sorbet.  As I’m sure you all remember, I visited the Bushwhacker tasting room for Ciderfest and it was fantastic!  The sorbet was just as incredible.  How could it not be?  Mixing ice cream and booze is always a good combination.

Best of – Running

Running Month was more like 2. Marpril of 2011. When I went from being winded after running 30 seconds to being able to run a very slow, extremely arduous 5k. Win! In October of that same year, I ran the Portland Half Marathon in 2 hours 15 minutes. Running has never been easy for me. Shin splints and allergies kept me and running at arms length for most of my life. It was something I loathed. Why would I need to run when there will be hover chairs in a few short years?? Eventually a daily allergy pill and specially fitted running shoes would eliminate all my excuses. Except for laziness. That will *always* be a valid excuse.

So I started the Couch to 5k training program and eventually began to love it. The quiet street with soggy leaves under my feet. The treadmill at 11pm with only me and the cleaning lady. The bridges and streets up ahead and far behind. The focused calm of my mind. It was something I craved. My legs would get restless and my mind would wander and I knew I needed to run. I’m still not good at it. A 10 minute mile is my personal best. I’ll go months without running and then, all of a sudden, feel this urge that won’t dissipate. So, for Best Of Month, I wanted to run a whole 5k without walking. It took me 4 tries, but I finally did it in 35 minutes. My new goal for 2014 is to run another half in under 2 hours

A Poem About Bikes In Downtown Portland

i take to the night in cadences unexplored
i do not pioneer or arrive in prime
it feels a sort of slither,
a waltz swung out of time
a dog that catches his own tail
an eighth of a measure
before the metronome breaks the spell.

tonight is a magpie stood in front of a mirror, wondering
how handsome
how black
how near

the wind rushes
(but I do not)
my patience is rewarded
and the city bows at my request,
its green lights flowing
to the emperor in my chest.

of the somnambulisms that I wander there is one I cherish most,
its path a plain, pinched charity to its walking, waking host.

 

Scott Baker, PBM

Bike Ride – VI

Last ride of the month.  Time to go big.  Want to get more than 20 miles in one shot.  It’ll be my longest bike ride yet.  I bring along PBM just in case his personal bike mechanic skills are required and also because he’s kinda cool.

Meet him outside PAM and jet across the river to hop on the Springwater Corridor.  This is a bike/hike/walk path that starts on the Eastbank Esplanade and goes all the way to Gresham.  It’s a really easy path, crosses intersections rarely and has very minimal elevation changes.

We take it out to mile marker 12.5 so that we can hit an even 25 miles.  This was around SE 128th Street.  Not quite to Gresham, but good enough for me.  Took a short water break and headed back to town.

mile post 12.5

 

On the way back, PBM commented that it was nice to take it slow and have time to take in the scenery.  I was pretty sure we were going fast until that point.  My legs felt a bit like jell-o and every time we had to stop, it was increasingly more difficult to start up again.  The ass pain was back and I shifted frequently to find a more comfortable position that didn’t exist.

When I got home and mapped our route, it turned out to be 25.97 miles in a little over 2.5 hours.  I was almost slightly heartbroken that it didn’t reach the marathon length, but I guess that’s a goal for next time.  25.97 miles is a new record for me.  A record that signifies the distance my own exerted energy can take me in literal miles.  My own exerted energy has taken me a lot of places and has done a lot of amazing things, but this is a quantifiable figure.  An immediate gratification for a thoughtful and physical endeavor.  And it wasn’t that hard.  I can do two times that distance, after a bit more practice I imagine.

Cyclepedia

Went to the bike exhibit at the Portland Art Museum this morning.  Pretty excited there just so happens to be a bike exhibit during bike month.  It’s the first time I’ve ever been to an exhibit here and was surprised at the $15 admission fee.  The exhibit took up one very large room and had 40 different bikes hanging from the ceiling with descriptions of how they broke the bike mold or influenced different trends.

I was hoping for more.  I had thought it would be an evolution of the bicycle.  Not to say that it wasn’t informative and cool to see, because it was.  There were several bikes built to fold in half or more to be used as carry-on luggage or be hurled out of an airplane for military use.

PAM Cyclepedia

 

That yellow tandem “buddy bike” can only be used with two people.  The one on the left controls the steering even though they both have independent handlebars.  There was also one so rare and priceless that was blinged out with a gold chain.  So fancy!

biria unplugged