Posted Wed Nov 14, 2012, 6:45am Subject: The Java Sojourner - Town 7: Beantown (coffee bean, that is) - Boston
1369 Coffee House: was this little puddle of espresso in my cup a doppio? Maybe they saw my discriminating expression and reflexively made me a ristretto from their La Marzocco. It has an anonymous fruity nose and tasted wheaty (a good wheaty, not cereal-y) and dry despite a good crema. There was a cinnamon finish. Good but not great.
Finale on Dunster (Harvard Sq.) – The espresso tasted of bitter chocolate, then became flat, nothing else. The counter person said he knew what he was doing but I think not. My drinking buddy ordered a cocoa which was slightly rich, very dairy tasting, moderately creamy but had minimal chocolate taste, to me. This is a desert place above all else, although they serve the ‘holy trinity’ of cafes: soups, salads and sandwiches. Tried their three layer chocolate mousse (white, milk, dark), which was very silky and flavorful, not too sweet. The fruit tart had a shell that was not crispy enough for me and slightly doughy. There was no glaze on the fruit; therefore the fruit was less than perfectly preserved, the grapes and pineapple were dry and slightly old looking. The raspberries, cut strawberries and one blackberry appeared better.
No coffee-visit to Boston would be complete without a foray to Newtonville to check out George Howell’s new café. On my first visit the (apparently) head barista, Brooks, pulled a nice Soledad espresso from the Synesso. The body and crema were very good and the taste started out with berry, then raisin, then chocolate and finished up with a salty (mineral-y) taste. On my next visit, the Montecarlo tasted lemony, then sandalwood. The Amazon House blend tasted sharp, then sandalwood, then cocoa, then bitter, then salty, then chocolate, then fig, more fig, and finished off as a plum taste. Very impressive. The croissants were very good. Free coffee with bean purchase, of course.
Thinking Cup is right across the street from Boston Commons in downtown, so the morning can be a little crowded with commuters and tourist. Nevertheless, I managed to find a small table. They were pulling Stumptown Hairbender. The nose was fruity caramel while the taste was cinnamon, chocolate, then an anonymous high note, then a roast-y taste. Their croissants had a good structure but I give them an A- because they lacked a good buttery taste.
Boston Common Coffee Company (97 Salem Street): they were pulling their Boston Common Espresso Blend. They served up a generous doppio. It had an allspice nose with slightly thin crema and body. The first taste was strongly licorice. Subsequent tasting started out licorice, then bitter chocolate, slight chalkiness, and a very slight (not sharp) fruit finish that was a cherry aftertaste. Very pleasant. This café is in a picturesque part of town with narrow, winding streets and it was not crowded. There were comfortable easy chairs. The amibience was a lot more comfortable than any other café in this review. Not easy to get to with metro and not easy to park. However, this is the place to spend a social hour.
Late addition: I learned that there is a small roaster called Barismo in Boston after I visited. I had a cup of their Lucid espresso at Baked and Wired in Georgetown, Washington, DC and was extremely impressed with the complexity of flavor that opened up clearly and marvelously. One should seek them out in Boston; I know I will if I get to return here.
A side note about ice cream. Toscanini’s remains the Champion of Taste for ice cream in Boston, but at $5.50 (currently, fall 2012) for two scoops (4.25 for one), it is priced obscenely. They ran out of Gingersnap Molasses on my second visit, for which I will never forgive them. Their Burnt Caramel is bitter, not at all sweet and is therefore wonderful paired with a favorite flavor that might be a touch too sweet, like one of their chocolates. I liked to visit here better twenty years ago, before the notoriety and when the menu had 7 or 8 selections, rather than 30. Their Americano coffee does not make it onto the review. Christinas ice cream has 48 flavors of ice cream, 5 flavors of sorbet and 8 frozen yoghurts. Many of them the same as Tosci's (copycat or general Boston zeitgeist?) Alas, most of their flavors are not as intense as Tosci’s. However, they rate a visit: the chocolate mousse ice cream was very creamy and had good (4 star) flavor. The Lime, Jalapeno and Fresh Mint sorbet was very spicy and quite delicious. The scoops are larger than Tosci’s and much more reasonably priced. One scoop is 2.75, two for 3.60 and three (oink) for 4.27 (I think I copied it wrong, maybe 4.25). They use a pod machine for their Americano. ‘Nuff said.
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