Jihye Chang

August 2011

Great Cafes in America #4, Stumptown NYC at Ace Hotel

I took a short trip to NYC in November 2010 to check out a few of the New York’s Best Cafes (mainly for their espresso drinks). I chose about seven cafes recommended and rated by various magazines and New York Times), and visited Abraco, 3rd Rail Coffee near NYU, Joe’s Art of Espresso, 9th Street Espresso (the Chelsea market location), Cafe Grumpy, Stumptown at the Ace Hotel, and Blue Bottle in Williamsburg. They were all good and great, but my favorite were 9th Street Espresso and Stumptown. It would be better if I visited all of them more than once before writing about them, but then good places should be good at any time for any visitors, eh?!
Stumptown Espresso hails from Portland, but New Yorkers can enjoy it at the lobby of Ace Hotel in Manhattan.I once ordered the “Hair Bender” espresso blend from Stumptown and did not like it at all as it was too acidic. So I hesitated a little bit before I made the trip downtown after getting super caffeinated at the Blue Bottle. But then I thought, “I am in NYC for only 3 days, so why not get super-duper caffeinated?” The baristas at Stumptown Manhattan were quiet, skilled, and professional.

I ordered a double macchiato – my favorite drink, and something that I order to see if the cafe is to my liking or not – with a bottle of sparkling water. Stumptown’s macchiato was really superb – acidity was very present, but in a very pleasant way. Mouth-feel was heavy and balanced,  and there was a bit of sweetness.  My memo states “Very nice! Mellower and better than what I remember. More edgy and has some smokiness. Also a bit of strange woodiness..maybe jasmine?”

Excited by the macchiato, I ordered a double small cappuccino. This was also good, but I liked the macchiato better.

Overall, it felt like a great cafe with really cool and unpretentious atmosphere and well skilled baristas doing a good job. I would love to go to their original location on the division street. Maybe next year.

http://www.stumptowncoffee.com/locations/nyc-ace

MSP Greats #4, Quang’s Deli

Minneapolis – St. Paul (Twin Cities라고 흔히 부르죠)에는 주로 스웨덴, 노르웨이 출신의 이민자가 많지만 의외로 베트남 출신 이민자들 숫자도 꽤 많습니다. 제가 좋아하는 Little Szechuan (http://blog.naver.com/jhjascha/110035232189) 이 위치한 University Avenue에는 중국 식당보다는 베트남 식당 및 식품점이 즐비하고, Hmong Cultural Center라는 곳도 University Avenue에 위치해 있지요. 오늘은 그 수많은 베트남 식당 중에서도 남편의 사촌형이 강력히 추천해준 Quang’s 라는 곳을 추천해볼까 합니다.

Quang’s는 New York Times에도 소개된 적이 있고, Minneapolis의 각종 잡지에서도 최고의 베트남 레스토랑으로 뽑힌 적이 많은 레스토랑입니다. Pho 가격은 6.95 – 8.95불 사이이고, 짜죠는 두개에 2.95불, 스프링 롤은 두개에 3.25불이니까, 이것저것 실컷 시켜 먹어도 한사람당 15불 이상 넘어가기가 힘든 가격이죠. 어딜 가나 미국의 베트남 음식점들은 이 정도의 가격대를 유지합니다.

일단 Quang에서 맛있는 음식으로는 번팃짜죠 (Bun thit cha gio)를 꼽을 수 있습니다.

베트남식 스프링롤인 짜죠와 숯불구이 쇠고기 (불고기 맛 비슷한 달달한 쇠고기 구이), Pickled carrots and radishes, 쫑쫑 썬 파, 땅콩을 쌀국수 위에 얹고 베트남식 피시소스-라임쥬스 드레싱을 뿌려 먹는 국수 샐러드인데, 여름에 먹으면 참 산뜻하고, 포만감도 있지요. 단순한 것 같아도 국수 양이 너무 많다던가, 피클 종류가 맛이 없다던가, 쇠고기 구이가 맛이 없다던가 등등 조금만 밸런스가 어긋나도 그 감흥이 덜한 요리인데, 쾅에서는 갈 때마다 맛있게 먹었습니다.

Bun Bo Hue라고 불리는 Spicy beef noodle and pork hock soup도 정말 맛있습니다. 돼지 족발이 들어간 매콤한 국수인데, 이 국수는 Hue라는 지방 특유의 음식이고 취급하지 않는 식당도 꽤 됩니다. 혹 메뉴에서 발견하면 꼭 드셔 보시길요! (식당에 따라, 매운맛이 좀더 강한 곳도 있고 새콤한 레몬그라스 맛이 더 강한 곳도 있어요~)

Quang’s 의 번보후에는 면발이 보통 포와는 달리 굵직합니다. 6.95불이라는 가격인데, 건더기도 엄청 충실하죠? (옆에 보이는 건 미리 포장된 베트남신 아이스커피. 음.. 베트남식 아이스 커피는 천천히 내려서 연유랑 섞어서 먹어야 맛있는 건데.. 좀 아쉽더군요.)

국 수의 질에 비해 쾅의 Fresh spring roll은 그다지 특별하진 않습니다. 말린 모양새도 그냥 그렇구요. (단단하게 말려 있으면서 길다란 부추가 밖으로 살짝 빠져나와 있는 것이 맛있고 보기에도 좋은데 말입니다.) 그래도 한국에서 먹는 단무지, 맛살 들어간 스프링 롤보다는 훨씬 더 맛있습니다.

아 래 사진은 엄청 진한 국물의 Pho dak biet입니다. 양지, 사태, 미트볼 등이 골고루 들어가 있는 모듬 국수라고 보시면 되지요. 푸짐한 양과 건더기에 역시 푸짐한 basil, mint, cilantro, 숙주, 풋고추, 라임..! 국물맛이 너무 진해서 다 먹기가 조금 힘들 정도예요. 얄팍하고 달기만 한 육수보다는 물론 몇배 더 맛있고, 약간의 달콤함과 시나몬 향과 양파의 맛이 아주 조화로운 육수입니다.

My Favorite Restaurants in Montgomery, AL

I lived in Montgomery, AL, for about a year (2006 -7 ) and visited quite a few times after moving up north. It’s not a huge city but has enough good restaurants to feed a hungry visitor.

La Jolla – located in the East Chase shopping center. This is a huge restaurant with modern deco and sophisticated menus. Their lunch is better than the dinner. Ahi-Tuna salad with Asian vegetables and seaweed was my favorite, and their dessert is also very good. Whenever you see something “Southern” on the menu, grab that! (6854 East Chase Parkway/ 334-356-2600/ www.lajollamontgomery.com)

City Grill -I ate here only twice, as this is one of the most expensive places to eat in Montgomery (along with the Olive Room and ) but I really liked what I had. It’s a quiet and elegant place. (8147 Vaughn Rd./ 333-244-0960)

Olive Room – located downtown. A huge place with elegant deco, good service, and good menu. Probably a good place to take out-of-towners or first-time-visitors. (121 Montgomery Ave/ 334-262-2763)

Michael’s Table is also cute and nice. Some things are Tapas-inspired, and they use good ingredients. Creative (sometimes a bit pretentious) menu, and friendly staff. Some inconsistency in the dishes, but I think it’s worth a visit.(2960-A Zelda Place/ www.michaelstable.net/ 334-272-2500)

Cafe M at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts has a beautiful view and big windows, and their chicken salad is good. It’s a lovely space with lovely staff, if not the best food in town. And I love the Shakespeare park! (One museum road/ 334-240-4338)

Derek’s Fillet and Vine sells fried chicken, vegetable sides, and selection of soup. I love their seafood gumbo, although it’s not made everyday. (431 Cloverdale Road/ www.filletandvine.com/ 334-262-8463)

Oh, and if you have a friend who has a membership to the Wynnlake Country Club, their food is excellent. (Better than the Montgomery Country Club, in my opinion)

Montgomery has quite a few Korean restaurants (thanks to the Hyundai plant), Japanese, Thai and Chinese restaurants and an Indian restaurant plus a Vietnamese restaurant.

Indian Palace is pretty good. I have a friend who lives in Troy, AL (45 minutes drive) who drives frequently to Montgomery just to eat their food! (3007 McGee Road/ 334-281-1200)

Among the Thai places, I think Ala Thai is the safest choice. It has three locations, and my favorite location is the one on the railroad. Good Pad Thai, spicy and tasty Num-Ttok, and spicy basil stir-fry dishes. Some people preferred Lek’s, which also serves sushi items.

Arirang – their kitchen does not seem to be too clean, but this restaurant serves BBQ on the table grills (and the BBQ items are better than other items on the menu). Try the Galbi or Spicy pork. Their dishes tend to be salty, but it’s a little better than the other Korean restaurants in Montgomery. (1633 Eastern Blvd./ 334-215-3251)

There is no good Chinese restaurant in Montgomery, though. Everything is like fast food Chinese or sad buffet. Emperor’s Garden on McGhee Road was the only place I and my husband would go when it was absolutely necessary.

For sushi rolls, I liked Miyako the best. (I would not order any nigiri or anything fancy like Uni in any small cities in America. Just rolls or other cooked Japanese dishes.) I like the Lobster roll (although it has a lot of mayonnaise) and spicy tuna rolls. Miyako also makes “Hoe-Dup-Bap,” if you special-order it! It’s a Korean style sashimi dish with rice that comes with a lot of raw fish, lots of thinly sliced vegetables, and spicy sweet and sour Gochujang. (8173 Vaughn Rd/ 334-215-2275)

Montgomery did not have a good bakery or a coffee shop that served good espresso. Cafe Louisa or Cool Beans downtown are the closest thing you will find. (Their espresso drinks are far from being excellent, but the best in Montgomery.)

Cool Beans – It’s in downtown. A good place for a quick lunch and coffee. I loved their morning orchard muffins! (115 Montgomery Street/ 334-269-6200)

Cafe Louisa – walking distance from the Huntingdon college. This place has nice smoothies (a bit expensive, but made with real fruit and yogurt) and great bread pudding. Their sausage-cheese biscuit is excellent, too. This place uses Higher Ground organic coffee beans, but their beans tend to be a bit over-roasted and give burned flavor. (1034 E. Fairview Ave/ www.cafelouisa.com/ 334-264-4241)

Tomatino next door to the Cafe Louisa has nice pizzas. (www.tomatinos.com/ 334-264-4241)

P.S. I used to like Nancy Paterson’s Bistro, but it appears that they have closed the restaurant. That’s too bad.. I will miss the mocha cake!

P.P.S. I also never ate at any of the BBQ joints or a true Southern places with meat and two..but people seem to like Dreamland. Also there is a popular seafood restaurant called Jubilee in Old Cloverdale. Straight-forward fresh seafood, and fun staff.

Jeonkwangsoo Coffee in Myung-Dong area

Again, I introduce a gem in a very busy area without decent coffee culture – that is Myungdong. It’s always jam packed with young couples, tourists, and shoppers of all ages.

Of course there are a lot of coffee shops in Myungdong, but they are mainly chain cafes such as Starbucks, Beans Bins, etc. There is an old fashioned cafe called “Gamu,” but it’s a place to visit more for the nostalgia not for excellent coffee. (They serve “Vienna Coffee” which is strong coffee with lots of whipped cream, not made from milk fat)

For someone who’s looking for a decent single-serve coffee or a good cup of macchiato using the micro-roasted beans, Jeonkwangsoo coffee is a safe choice. Mr. Jeon is one of the so-called “2nd generation coffee people,” and has almost 20 years of experience in the coffee business. Well trained baristas work here, and the price of the “hand-drip” coffee is between 5000-6000 won ($5-6), which is pretty good for the location and the style. They roast their own beans, and there is a coffee academy next door. Their espresso machine is Dalla Corte.

It has become a bit too famous during the past 1-2 years, and they have a few branches all over Seoul and one in Wonjoo. Sometimes the cafe is just too busy (especially when there is a large group of middle-age women. Oh boy they are loud.) But still it’s a cafe where you can be assured of a decent cup of coffee.

They also serve “Thick-Faced Toast” (낯두꺼운 토스트) with butter and jam, but the toast is a bit too thick and dry. Nice jam, though!

Location: Namsan-Dong 2-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, Korea (Take the subway line #4/ get off Myungdong station/ Go out via exit #3/ Take the left fork in front of the Pacific hotel and walk for 1-2 minutes. You will see a small coffee shop with a big window on your left.)

Hours: 10am to 10pm

Website: http://jeonscoffee.co.kr/next

Phone: (82) 2-778-0675

MSP greats #2, Patisserie 46

Early morning with a just-baked baguette or a warm and flaky croissant and a cup of double espresso macchiato – these are some of my favorite things in the world. I get happy just thinking of them. Recently I found a very happy place that makes wonderful baguettes, croissants, and French tarts and pastries along with decent espresso drinks, called “Patisserie 46.” (I found it while reading a magazine about Minneapolis.)

Patisserie 46 is located in a nice neighborhood. A tasteful sign that blends well with the red bricks welcomes you.

46

My first visit to Patisserie 46 was during a sunny, cold weekend in late February 2011. There were a lot of people enjoying themselves and it was quite noisy and loud. I asked if I could take photos, and the manager said “yes, of course – fire away!” There were so many people that I shied away from some details, but I think one can get glimpses of this wonderful place via a few of my photos.

I got a piece of quiche Lorraine with organic salad – crunchy, buttery crust filled with nicely balanced egg, cream and bacon bits. The organic salad had a mustard-y dressing and delicious yellow cherry tomatoes! And this was only $7.  My husband got a corned beef and steamed cabbage on baguette for about $6.5. I loved the jute-string presentation, but this sandwich fell a little short compared to the quiche (nothing special or extraordinary, but still good). I also had a chocolate croissant ($2), Canele de Bordeaux ($2.5), and 3 macarons (Pistacchio, Earl Grey, and Mango with white chocolate, $1.75 each)

 

Their double espresso macchiato ($2.75) was good enough – nothing to compare to famous espresso bars, but good for a bakery. No complaints! And the condiment bar has organic cane sugar packs. They source their coffee from Wisconsin’s Great Rivers Roastery, and they use an Astoria machine.

I got their macarons purely out of curiosity. Macarons have become the next best thing after cupcake fad in Korea, and people are crazy about them. I understand that these little meringue cookies are super tricky to make, and the flavor selection can be very interesting. I liked the mango macaroon the best – earl grey was too strong, and pistachio was a bit boring. I think these make a very good dessert option when you’re so full but still wanting something sweet to finish off a meal.

Patisserie 46’s chocolate croissant is awesome – lots of butter flavor, really moist inside, and crusty outside without being too messy.  Canele was good, too. I took home a plain croissant, almond financier, and l’Opera cake as well as a baguette. Their plain croissant was one of the best croissants I have ever had, even compared to the ones in France. The almond financier was also very good. The opera cake was a little bit disappointing as the sheet was too thin and there was too much syrup. I think I will give it another try next time I visit. I am just happy that they carry this fancy little cake! The baguette was also very very good..crusty outside, yeasty and fragrant inside that is moist. I like the baguette at Rustica a little bit more, but both are very good baguettes. Lucky MSP people..!

On my second visit, I bought more macarons, one apricot mousse bomb, and a blood orange tart. The apricot mousse bomb was fantastic! It looked so precious, and it had an amazing construction of custard cream and apricot mousse inside the caramel coating. The taste was so refreshing and complex. I highly recommend this! The blood orange tart, by comparison, was just OK. I also tried three more flavors of macarons – mango and white chocolate, strawberry rhubarb, caramel and orange. These are very well made and just fancy enough (but not too fancy like a foie-gras macaron), but I think I would rather spend my money on more substantial desserts from now on. Macarons are just not my cup of tea. (BTW – someone on an online review site commented that the macarons at Patrick’s are better than Patisserie 46’s. I went to check it out and concluded that really people have different tastes and opinions..)

Other good things: The orange colored walls and dark brown furniture create a warm and playful atmosphere. Nice clerks. They also serve many kinds of chocolates and gelato along with many selections of desserts in the showcase.

Something to keep in mind: Coffee drinks can take a while.  It’s always packed and it’s a very clanking, noisy place. It might overwhelm a first-timer as you need to line up as soon as you enter the store and one of the clerks will ask “Do you know what you want?” before you take a look at the showcase and the tiny little menu items. Oh, and you might experience that many things are sold out as early as 11am.

John Kraus is the owner and the baker of Patisserie 46. Quite famous guy..! I talked to him a little bit on my second visit, and he was so pleasant. (He was the winner of USA Pastry Championship in 2002. You can check out his interview with “Heavy Table” here:  http://heavytable.com/john-kraus-of-patisserie-46/

Also you can check out his short bio here:  http://www.usmenuguide.com/frenchpastryschool.htm

I made a few more visits after my initial 2 visits, and every time I am pleased. I hope this charming neighborhood gem will make many more people happy for many more years!

MSP favorites #1 – Rustica, Minneapolis

I lived in Fargo-Moorhead area for 4 years and visited Minneapolis as much as I could. One of my husband’s cousins lives in MSP, and he gave me a few recommendations including Rustica, Quang’s Vietnamese restaurant, Little Szechuan, Tampopo, and La Belle Vie. I have visited most of them, and finally decided to write about some of them as well as other favorite spots that I discovered on my own. I am starting with the Rustica Bakery.

This bakery is now quite well known to MSP residents. Sometimes the line is too long and the service gets slow, but it’s a pleasant place to visit and enjoy great breads, very good desserts, and simple and good sandwiches. It also serves good coffee- not my favorite, but good enough. The Dogwood coffee used to run a bar here as a part of “Bull Run Coffee”. They used to serve Hario drip and Syphon. Now Dogwood Coffee has their own coffee bar, and Rustica serves only espresso drinks or brewed coffee with a Clover machine. I used to be curious about Clover when it was getting a lot of hype, but I think any coffee brewed with Clover has a bit of muddy texture and unclean flavor.  I think single-serve coffee using Hario or Bonmac has far superior flavor, aroma and texture. Their baristas are well trained and skilled, but the Dogwood espresso blend is not my favorite. (too sour and, strangely enough, soy-bean like flavor..! I think it’s a personal thing.)

If I had to choose, I would pick croissants from the Patisserie 46 (will write about this soon), but Rustica’s croissants are still very flaky and subtly sweet. Any of their breads would make anybody’s day happier. I like their baguette and multi-grain loaves. Try their bread with butter option – you get to choose what you want to eat, except the baguette.

I also like some of their sandwich selections and dessert selections. (Eclairs are good, but a bit too big/ pies good, cookies good.) All in all, this is a great place and I would make sure to visit if I am driving into or leaving MSP. Oh, and don’t forget the fresh squeezed orange juice!

Rustica Bakery: 3224 West Lake Street, Minneapolis/ Tel: 612-822-1119

Monday – Friday: 6:30 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Saturday – Sunday: 7:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Website: www.rusticabakery.com