Tuesday, April 17, 2012

San Francisco coffee

 We're in San Francisco for three days, so I have only a little time to explore.  I've happened upon some good coffee, though!

Right across from our hotel in the massive Westfield Shopping Mall in the Union Square district you can find Caffe Central.  It's located in the basement Food Emporium below the shopping mall.

The coffee shop sits in the middle of this upscale food court and looks rather unprepossessing.  However, they serve Oakland's famous Blue Bottle Coffee.  The baristas are expert.  You can get individually brewed coffee in ceramic funnels as well as the usual espresso drinks.

My "acid" (ha-ha) test for a new coffee place is the espresso with no sweetener.  If they can do this well, it's usually a cinch that the other coffee drinks will be great.  There's no hiding a bad espresso in foamed milk or mocha shots!

My espresso at Caffe Central was really good.  Italian style ristretto with hints of coffee and lemon in the shot.

This morning I went for an 8 mile run with Hugh Michie, who is playing second bassoon with us for the tour.  We ran along the Embarcadero past all the wharves, through Fisherman's Wharf and up the hill to Fort Mason and nearly to the Presidio.  Beautiful views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the bay, Alcatraz, etc.

When we got back to the hotel Hugh took me to a Starbucks nearby that has a Clover machine.  I sampled a Kona brewed with the Clover.  If you're not familiar with this method, you might find this video interesting:

This store is at the corner of Cyril Magnin and O'Farrell.  I'll probably go back there tomorrow before we board the bus for the airport, since Caffe Central isn't open until 9:00am (!).

Before our last concert I made a stop at a Philz coffee in the 700 block of Van Ness Avenue.  I went in and asked for an espresso and got a funny look from the barista.  Philz specialty is individually brewed coffee, and, as such, they don't offer espresso drinks.  Instead they have a wide variety of coffees made individually.

I tried the "handmade" espresso.  Not really espresso as there was no pressurized water forced through a portafilter.    What the barista did was use an extremely finely ground coffee (like what is used for Turkish coffee) and put it through a special funnel with filter paper. 

The extraction took a couple of minutes -- not like the simple Melita style filter cone. 

The result was a very strong, complex and clean cup of coffee.  It had the taste of a French Roast done in a French press but without the sediment in the cup.

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