Tag Archives: Coffee

Think Inside the Box

21 Feb

I have been on a French kick lately.  Right now, anything French is cool.  I have this grandiose idea of living in Paris,  I want to learn to speak French, I want to eat French food, I want to bake French pastries, I am currently reading My Life in France by Julia Child – the list goes on and on.  Not sure where all this originated, though I have a suspicion it started after watching Midnight in Paris, which now reminds me of the time I had a very strong desire to live in Spain after watching Vicki Cristina Barcelona… don’t put shiny objects in front of me, I will follow them. 

So I was quite excited to go to La Boite, the French eatery on South Lamar that is housed in a shipping container.  Boite is a French word that literally means box and that is exactly what the place is – a rectangular box.  I love that they have taken the “Reuse Reduce Recycle” motto to heart and used an object that was built for such a specific purpose and repurposed it into something quirky and fun.   Sometimes my imagination can go in all kinds of silly directions and I started wondering:  Where has this shipping container been?  What exotic places has it traveled to and how did it arrive here?  By boat?  By rail?  What precious cargo did it contain?

Well I can tell you what it contains now – a whole lot of yumminess!  And will someone please tell me how I have been alive for 40 years and just now have tasted my first macaron???  Oh my, those little French cookies are like fluffy pillows filled with pure sweetness.  I tried two flavors – Pistachio with chocolate ganache and salted caramel.  If my life depended on it, I still couldn’t tell you which one I liked more.  They were both divine.  I also enjoyed the almond croissant, which was crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside and absolutely wonderful.  In fact, while I was there a person called in to ask if there were any of those croissants left.  Since they only had two, the caller asked to please please please hold them – they would be over immediately to grab them!  So they must be in high demand.

La Boite also serves great coffee, teas and sandwiches, so I plan on making a trip over there during lunch.  Since the box is tight on space (though so cute), the seating is located outside under a shade canopy.  If you’d rather just pick up something to go, the parking is convenient and easy.  They open at 7:30 am on the weekdays, 8 am on the weekends and close at 4:30(ish).  They have also just opened up a second location at 1006 Congress Ave.

So my French obsession has been reinforced, thanks to La Boite.  Hopefully I will one day find myself in France but until then, I intend on eating every macaron flavor they make.  Bon appétit!

 

La Boite Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Caffeine City, Part 2: The search for my favorite cup of jo

23 Jan

Okay, let’s try this again.  If you have read Part 1 of this series (you can read it here), then you know that my first stop on the best coffee shop in Austin tour did not go so well.  But that, my friends, is about to change.  Today I am going to familiarize you with what I think is most likely the place to get the best caffeinated cup of heaven you have ever had.  I’m talking about Houndstooth Coffee.

Houndstooth Coffee is located on North Lamar, near Central Market.  What makes this place a little different from most coffee shops is how enthusiastic they are about coffee.  They are very particular about the coffee they serve – from the beans, to the roasters, to the process that goes into making that steaming cup of jo.  The baristas take their job seriously and consider a cup of coffee like a work of art (which it is).  Every cup of coffee is made to order by either the french press method (my favorite) or the siphon method – no drip brewing in large batches here.  They take pride in their espresso drinks – and this shows through their always fantastic latte art.

Every day they offer a choice of a few different beans, describing their origin and flavor characteristics.  The baristas are very knowledgeable about coffee and are so helpful if you need guidance on which bean to choose.  It’s amazing to me how different each of the beans taste!  If coffee is not your cup of tea, they also serve – tea.  A rather large selection of hot teas are offered from the Steeping Room.  If you’re in the mood to unwind after a long day, they also serve wine, bottled beer and a few quality beers on tap.  They also have a selection of fresh pastries to munch on.

What I really love about Houndstooth is the clean, minimalistic look of the place.  The uncluttered space with mid-century modern furniture and an all-glass front is light and airy, a very pleasant space to spend the morning, or any time really.  Since it is nestled between two great restaurants, Taco Deli and Uchiko,  you could actually make an entire day of it: morning coffee and a pastry at Houndstooth for breakfast, Taco Deli for lunch, back to Houndstooth for your afternoon tea, then sushi at Uchiko for dinner.  Sounds good to me!

Houndstooth Coffee on Urbanspoon

Caffeine City, Part 1: The search for my favorite cup of jo.

26 Dec

I love coffee.  No, I adore coffee.  Growing up in the armpit of Texas, i.e. Houston, where the act of stepping outside your house guarantees the need for a shower, I did not drink coffee, or anything hot whatsoever.  My love for coffee did not form until much later while living in the Washington, D.C. area, where it was much chillier and coffee drinking was the cool thing to do.  But back then, my cup of jo consisted of about one-third coffee, two-thirds milk and enough sugar to send me into a diabetic coma.  Coffee took a while to take a hold of me, but once it did, I pretty much wake up every morning looking forward to my morning mug.

I know I’m not the only one around here who loves coffee.  So I thought a blog series on finding the best coffee houses in Austin would be a fun one!  Plus, it gives me a chance to explore many coffee shops that I have never been to, or even heard of.  I wanted to give this research validity by using an uncomplicated, standardized system, so here are the criteria I will be judging:

  1. Ambience/Comfort
  2. Service
  3. Taste/quality of the coffee

The first place I decided to check out is called Texenza Coffee in Tarrytown on Windsor Rd.  Nestled in a little strip mall, the store front consists of a row of windows that lets in really nice light.  The place is one spacious room with many small cafe tables and a few comfy leather chairs.  The first thing I thought of when I walked in was “corporate”.  The place reminds me of Starbucks, which isn’t good or bad, but it lacks Austin character. However, there is plenty of seating and wi-fi.

Service with a smile is important and Texenza did deliver on that.  However, the service was a little slow since the one barista there was the only employee working and there was quite a line.  So I have to give the guy a thumbs up for smiling the whole time while trying to serve us all as quickly as possible.   This was the day after Christmas, so maybe most of the employees were still on vacation?  I  think it was too much for one person and I don’t know if under staffing is the norm for this place.

The most important thing here is, of course, the coffee.  I pretty much order one of two things, so that is what I am going to use as the benchmark.  The first is a cup of brewed coffee.  Texenza Coffee roasts their beans here in Austin and has many different varieties.  Fresh roasted beans sounds great, right?  Well, I don’t know what happened in between the roaster and the brewer, but that cup had absolutely no flavor.  It tasted very watered down and weak, so my suspicion is the water to coffee ground ratio was completely off.  Big fail.  The second item I drink is a latte.  Not the sugared-up-mocha-gingerbread-whatever-other-dessert-we-can-make-into-coffee kind, but a simple latte that takes real skill to make.  I once took a one day course in making espresso and,  believe me, there is quite a bit that goes into it.  So how was Texenza’s latte?  Eh.  That’s pretty much it, just eh.  Not horrible but not great by any stretch – again, not much flavor.  I also look at the frothy milk, the cute design you usually see floating on top, which is called latte art.  And it really is an art – I made over one hundred espresso drinks in my class that day and still could not get that darn heart to come out right!   The reason I pay attention to this is two-fold: a proper art pour shows that the milk is steamed properly.  Properly steamed milk really enhances the flavor of the espresso, gives your latte or cappuccino that silky texture and is the only way you are going to be able to pour latte art.  Secondly, a barista who takes the time to pour latte art really takes pride in his/her work and I believe it is quality you can taste.   So what did the Texenzabarista pour for me?  A heart?  A rosette?  Nope, I got an amorphous blob – or maybe that was supposed to be a melted snowman?  The barista was rushed I’m sure since he was the only one working there at the time, but I’d rather wait a few extra seconds for a latte done right.

Description: Coffee cortado (An latte art exam...

I wish my latte looked like this

So here’s my report card for Texenza Coffee:

  1. Ambience:  C for lack of character
  2. Service:  B for service with a smile, though they were understaffed
  3. Quality:  D for lack of flavor

I really hate to give them a D for their coffee, but it really was not good.  Maybe it was an off day, but this was my experience.  Oh well – on to the next cup!

Texenza Coffee on Urbanspoon

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