Sunday, April 29, 2012

Catalina Coffee, Houston Texas

Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to find tons of excellent coffee joints in Houston, Texas... And like the MVP of an All-Star Game, CATALINA COFFEE in my humble opinion stood out as the best among the best. Aesthetically there's  really nothing over-the-top fancy about this independent coffee house, but if your end in mind is to seek great coffee (particularly in the morning to fill your barely-awake being) then this place is certainly one to impress!

nothing like a cup of Cafe Cortado in the morning
to warm one's barely-awake being!
So what really makes this place tick? First off the owner Max Gonzalez is hands-on in his business, and roasts his own beans under the company name AMAYA Roasting Company - nothing massive, just micro lots he himself hand-picks from Ethiopia and other green bean hotspots globally.

with the owner and master roaster Max Gonzalez
Next up is Catalina's skilled baristas who handcraft  various cup-after-cuppa joe's with scientific precision, each and every time resulting in a consistent caffeinated elixir worth lusting for.

And as a finale, limitless forms of latte art with cotton-candy-like consistency based on the Barista's mood and feel, thereby making each and every visit something to look forward to. Catalina's owner refer to his Baristas as "Artists", and true to their billing, each cup they make is their canvass of expression. Drinking, after all, begins as a visual experience... And in my visit, the experience was superb from beginning till end!

Long live independent coffee houses...

2201 Washington Avenue,
Houston Texas 77007

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Zabar's New York City

Founded by Ukrainian Jewish immigrants Louis and Lillian Zabar, what began as a humble stand at a market in 1934 has progressed into a H.U.G.E. store famous for its globally-sourced fine quality products and good eats!

Ask any typical New Yorker about ZABAR'S and they'll tell you it's a famous Upper West Side gourmet epicurean emporium specializing in gourmet coffee, fine teas, smoked fish, caviar, cheese, deli, and many other exciting foodie-finds...

A landmark of sorts in the Big Apple, as Zabar's appeared in episodes of Sex and the City, Will and Grace, Seinfeld, and in the movie You've Got Mail (starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan) among others...

It was a rainy morning in Manhattan, totally uninviting at all,  yet we braved the cold-wet weather just to visit this much talked-about food mecca to witness first-hand what the noise was all about - "Fast, Inexpensive and Extensive Menu" is what they're known for (from sandwiches, wraps, croissants, to paninis; paired off with your choice of drink from Mochaccino, frappes, smoothies to their signature coffee Zabar's House Blend). We arrived at 9am just in time for brunch, and although there was quite a long line of people waiting in line, seat turnover was swift and efficient... Oh, and our verdict?! Most definitely gut-satisfying!

happy camper!

This is just the tip of the iceberg: once we were done eating, we headed to their grocery store right beside their cafe to sample various cheeses and air dried meats from their well-stocked deli counter, AND shop for things to bring home (from pantry staples to kitchen stuff).

Kid not included...
What highlighted my Zabar's visit though was their treasure chest of coffee beans, and upon my probing they highly recommend the Zabar's Blend (light roast yet full-bodied); and the French Roast (medium-dark roast with a hint of chocolate).  Belonging to opposite ends of the coffee profile wheel, upon sampling, both are fantastic -- it simply depends on the mood you're in!

This will definitely be a New York staple for my family, and as proven, it's not a "fair weathered" statement!

Check it out:

Zabars is located in Broadway and 80th street, Upper West Side, Mahattan, NYC