Parlor Coffee Tasting

Most commercial coffee beans frankly taste the same. They all have that trademark bitter, roasted espresso flavor that we have become accustomed to. But the flavor spectrum of coffee beans is much broader than that. If you’re ever curious to discover beans that can taste flowery, acidic, chocolatey and much more, stop by Parlor Coffee‘s roasting facility in Brooklyn and try the tasting held every week on Sundays at 12 pm.

the tasting counter and coffee bar at parlor coffee
the tasting counter and coffee bar at parlor coffee

Parlor Coffee started 3 years ago as a pop-up in Williamsburg and has expanded rapidly since then. The facility, which is near the Brooklyn Navy Yard, looks and feels like a beautiful and spacious start-up workspace. As you walk towards the “cupping” area, you’ll see cups of different ground beans being set up for the tasting. Hot water is poured to the brim in each cup and seeps for 4 minutes, and then each participant breaks the crust that forms, swiping three times to release the aromas. After cooling for another 7 minutes, the coffees are ready to be tasted, and similar to wine tasting, you really have to slurp and swish the liquid around to taste the different flavors.

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preparing for the cupping. pouring hot water into each cup so that the crust can form, which each taster can break and swipe three times to release the aromas
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three cups of the kenya kiumu

When we were there, we tried 5 different beans–the Wallabout and Prospect, which were very drinkable, whereas the Kenya Kiumu, Guatemala Chimaltenango and Colombia San Sebastian were much more complex and unexpected. The Kenya Kiumu was probably the most distinctive of the bunch, in that it was so tangy and floral that I felt like I was drinking an oolong tea. I ended up buying a bag of the Prospect, as I like my coffees to taste a little more traditional, but I did appreciate how unique the single-origin beans tasted.

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freshly roasted beans for sale

Parlor Coffee mostly does wholesale business, but I have seen their beans sold at Dover Street Market, and you can always order a cup at their original pop-up location in Williamsburg at the Persons of Interest barbershop, or at Tilda All Day in Clinton Hill. And of course, you can order them online or come buy a bag in person!

Parlor Coffee
Roastery & Tasting Room
11 Vanderbilt Avenue (between Flushing Ave and Park Ave)
Brooklyn, NY 11205
Sundays 12-4, cupping held at 12

Ample, the Best Food Hack Since Sliced Bread

I feel like our world is obsessed with discovering the latest “hack” to make our lives as efficient as possible. I always receive emails about helpful hacks that will save me time, make me happier, make my workouts better, etc, etc. And of course eating hacks seem to be especially popular. How can we make our meals more convenient, more nutritious, more enjoyable so that we have more time leftover to do the things that we really love? The startup world is overrun with companies that are determined to hack your way to a better meal by delivering your food faster or doing the grocery shopping for you. Good food can be yours with just a click of an app.

Ample Bottles
bottles of ample ready to go. 400 calories, natural ingredients, 26% protein, 25% carbs, 49% healthy fat.

Ample is a new food startup that takes food hacking to the extreme. It disrupts our whole approach to eating by reducing the activity to only its core essential – delivering sustenance to the body. You don’t have to deal with the nuisance of thinking about what to eat, physically going out to get your food, waiting for a meal to get to you or doing any sort of prep whatsoever. All you do is grab an Ample meal shake bottle, fill it with some water or milk, shake vigorously to blend, and consume 400 clean calories fortified with the right mix of nutrients so that it can serve as a reliable meal replacement. And now you can get those 30 minutes back that would have been spent thinking about which salad to get at Chop’t and walking the few blocks over there.

I’m clearly not the right demographic for Ample, as I live to eat and can always make time for food. Even if I know that I will have back-to-back meetings, I will go get a salad at 10 am and bring it back to the office so that I am all prepared for the day ahead. I guess some people do not think ahead like that. These are probably the same people who are so busy that they forget to eat and think eating is getting in the way of getting things done. But I was curious to see what it tasted like and how I could potentially integrate Ample part-time into my life, so I took the plunge and decided to hack my lunch with an Ample shake.

Marni Ample 3
marni’s a fan of this life hack

It certainly was the easiest and quickest meal I ever made. I simply poured water up toward the top of the bottle and shook it pretty hard to make sure things were well-blended. I found that even though I was thorough in my shaking, things didn’t quite blend completely, and I was left with some powdery pancake-batter like lumps floating around. Flavor-wise, it wasn’t too bad. With almond milk, the Ample shake tasted somewhat like cookie batter, which isn’t a bad frame of reference. With water, however, I found that it tasted too much like some GNC muscle shake, although without that tinny, artificial aftertaste. I was nervous that I would be hungry, but what do you know, I actually was satiated from 12 to 4 pm, and no sugar crashes or anything in between. I honestly think that it would be worthwhile to have emergency bottles of Ample on standby for those days when things are crazy and finding time to step out for lunch is annoying. Because sometimes a Kind Bar doesn’t cut it. But an Ample shake definitely will.

So if this life hack is up your alley, you can pre-order some Ample shakes here on the company’s Indiegogo campaign page. Volume is key, because a $30 contribution can get you a 6-pack at $5 a bottle, whereas a $135 contribution can get you a 30-pack at $4.50 a bottle. The bottles are good for 6 months so stock up all you want! You can also choose between 400 or 600 calorie options. Clean, optimized eating at your fingertips, and affordable at that. Gone are the days of $15 salads at Sweetgreen or Chop’t. This might be the best food hack since sliced bread…

Best Eats 2015

The year in food in 2015 involved a lot of vegetables. Vegetable-driven tasting menus, vegetarian burgers, vegan brunches, produce became very hot. Those who know their way around a farmer’s market were very much sought out. Another theme in 2015–the return of flashy, high-end dining in Manhattan. Casual Brooklyn has been all the rage in recent years, but people are starting to embrace reservations and formal service again, and the over-the-top Major Food Group empire is making a killing. Food startups were a huge thing in 2015. Munchery, Maple, Ubereats, Blue Apron, suddenly everyone is trying to make delivery better in the city. What else is there? I loved the trend of natural, funky wine menus, the continued popularity of Korean influences, and the love for healthy California cuisine. Here’s my list of the top 10 dishes that I tried in 2015, which covers a pretty broad spectrum of tastes, but the one thing they have in common is that they grabbed my attention at the very first bite.

The beef brisket from La Barbecue in Austin, TX

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The fairytale eggplant from Bruno Kitchen

fairytale eggplant

The uni seaweed ramen course from Yuji Ramen Omakase

course 8 - seaweed ramen with Maine uni and thai basil

The apricot in brown butter and tonka bean from Timbre in Paris

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The king crab from Oaxen Slip in Stockholm

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The scallop and dashi course from Frantzen in Stockholm

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The beluga lentils in coffee course at Take Root

beluga lentils cooked in coffee with ham hock and truffles

The chicken and crepes from Dirty French

chicken and crepes, part deux - dark meat

The jang-jo-rim with buttered rice at Oiji 

jang-jo-rim with butter rice

The duck carnitas from Cosme

duck carnitas with white onions, radish and salsa verde

Ubereats, Lightning Fast

The food delivery startup scene in NYC is pretty hot. Maple has now broadened its delivery zone outside of FiDi, Blue Apron is worth billions, Munchery is still going strong, and Uber introduced its Ubereats delivery service to further overcrowd the lunchtime competition.

Uber’s competitive advantage is clearly its huge network of drivers and its sophisticated knowledge of the city’s infrastructure. They know exactly where the demand is and strategically place their bicycle delivery men who can deliver things much more quickly than the ordinary Seamless delivery man can. Open the Uber app (no need to download a separate one for Ubereats), pick from the 2 or 3 lunch options on offer that day, and in a mere minutes your food will arrive. The whole inconvenience of inconsistent delivery time (is it actually 30 minutes? but sometimes it takes 2 hours?) is removed with Ubereats.

I’ve tried Ubereats four times now, and i found the lightning speed delivery time to be mostly true. Again, like anything associated with Uber, surge demand gets in the way of the experience. The first time I tried Ubereats, I couldn’t get a driver or foot operator to accept my order. i requested and refreshed nearly 10 times and then finally gave up. I’m not sure why this happened, maybe it was because it was Fashion Week, and maybe all those fashionistas were using their app to order a kale salad from El Rey, but nevertheless, my attempt failed and i was disappointed. I talked to one of the delivery men about this, and he said that most of the lunchtime demand is on the east side, so sometimes there is a shortage over on the west.

requesting…no one ever picked up my order 🙁

The next two times, my order was accepted instantly, and i received it in less than 10 minutes. The other day it arrived in 3 minutes. That was pretty impressive, and much appreciated, as i am the type who gets hungry immediately and cannot really wait long for lunch. Forgetting to eat lunch is something that never ever happens to me.

success on my second try!
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spicy noodles with watermelon
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the el rey crudite salad, contents shifted out of place

So what about the quality of the food? Like anything that gets delivered, food items get shifted around and end up looking much less pretty than advertised. One of my favorite restaurants in the world, El Rey, which is all the way in LES and does not deliver, was featured om Ubereats, and of course I ordered the crudite salad asap. Unfortunately the salad arrived looking very squished and messy, although it tasted fine. The spicy noodles and watermelon fared better, probably because they lend themselves better to delivery. If you’re not a visual eater, then this shouldn’t bother you too much, and if you are, buyer beware. Noodles and sandwiches hold up well, delicate salads not so much.

Despite the one failed attempt, I would use Ubereats again, but only sparingly. I would only use it if they continue to keep their no delivery fee going, otherwise a meal all-in could potentially reach $15, which is too much for me. $10 once in awhile, that’s okay. My last two meals were about $11 all in, which is higher than i would normally spend, but still within a reasonable margin. I also see the limited menu as a liability. There are many days where i browse the menu and don’t really feel like eating an Alidoro sandwich or a gut bomb from Mighty Quinn’s. But I do have to say, when i see a favorite like El Rey or By Chloe featured, i get super excited and feel inclined to use my app. And for those days when I’m stressed, tired and need something asap, I increasingly turn to the app to solve that problem. So Ubereats, a great way to treat myself to lunch once in awhile, but not something to use every week.

Pros: Very fast delivery, good signature items from well-known restaurants
Cons: Limited menu, on the pricier side ($10+), sometimes delivery requests go unanswered

Good Beer 2015

On Thursday, July 30, 2015, Edible Manhattan hosted its annual food and beer pairing event Good Beer at Hudson Mercantile. It was a scorcher that summer night, and what they say about hot air rising to the top certainly rang true, as my photog-in-crime Dorothy and I were sweltering on the 6th floor.  We were definitely riding a heat wave inside the building, but nothing that a cold glass of beer, or two, (or three!), couldn’t handle.

good beer - vendor sign

More than 20+ brewers were on hand to showcase some of their best ales and lagers. Overall, the beers were very drinkable, trending more towards the light and mild rather than the deep and robust, a flavor profile that was very fitting for a hot summer day. The craft beer industry in this country has been growing at an impressive pace, and it’s easy to see why after having tried the pours from tonight.

good beer - narragansett 1
the lager and the shandy from narragansett, two of my favorite beers of the night
good beer - montauk brewing 1
montauk brewing co

Two of my favorite beers were a lager and a shandy from Narragansett Beer, a brewery from Rhode Island. The lager was crisp and clear, and slightly sweet, while the shandy tasted like a packet of Lemonheads. I decided that I had to man up and try something a little more challenging, so I followed that up with the Guardsmen Stout from Montauk Brewery Co. As the name would suggest, it was extremely dark in taste, almost as if you were drinking a mixed brew of chocolate and coffee.

good beer - ommegang 8
ommegang’s witte and hopstate ny beers
did not try this intense looking joemmegang coffee ale
did not try this intense looking joemmegang coffee ale

I kept trying to push myself and confronted my worst fears–the “hoppy” beer. Hops is a plant used in the brewing process that oftentimes gives beer its funky, bitter taste, and it’s a flavor I have issues with, much like the ones I have with cilantro. However, Brewery Ommegang, which produces beer upstate in Cooperstown, New York, poured me some of their Hopstate NY beer, a beer brewed entirely with 100% New York grown hops. Apparently the hops industry in New York got wiped out in 1910, so it’s a pretty big deal to be revitalizing the industry just now. There was nothing bitter or unpleasant about the Hopstate. In fact, this may be my new go-to beer, which is far more interesting than my current one, Amstel Light.

the beer at mcgargles
the beer at mcgargles
the refreshing schofferhofer grapefruit beer from palm
the refreshing schofferhofer grapefruit beer from palm

I tried to stick to the local breweries where possible, but the Irish accents at McGargles Irish Craft Brewery had me intrigued, so I topped my glass off with their Cousin Rosie’s Pale Ale, a mild beer with notes of grapefruit and mango. I also stopped by Palm Breweries, a Belgian-based brewer, and absolutely loved their Schofferhofer grapefruit beer, which tasted like a spiked fruit juice.

oskar blue's pinner throwback ipa
oskar blue’s pinner throwback ipa

It was time to go back to trying the real beers. I sampled the PINNER Throwback session IPA from Oskar Blues, a brewer based in Colorado and North Carolina. What’s distinctive about this beer is that it has a lot of good, punchy flavors but low alcohol content, so you can crush this can if you’d like, without getting blacked out drunk. I then eased into an extremely challenging beer, the Bel Air Sour from Brooklyn Brewery. As one would expect, it did taste very tart and sour, made so by the lactic acid fermentation, but offset somewhat by the use of a champagne yeast.

good beer - troegs 2
the perpetual ipa from troegs
allagah's saison belgian style beer
allagash’s saison belgian style beer

Tröegs Brewing Company from Pennsylvania brought its Perpetual IPA to sample, which was made of six different hops. Again, for a hoppy beer, it was surprisingly subdued in flavor, and was very drinkable. The IPA from KelSo Beer Co, a Brooklyn brewery, was much more aromatic and hoppy in the traditional sense. I didn’t want to end my tastings on a hoppy note, and luckily the last pour of the night, a Belgian-inspired beer from Allagash Brewing Company, was fruity, not too bitter, and very user-friendly, as Belgian beers tend to be.

southern tier's imperial "pumking" ale
southern tier’s imperial “pumking” ale
great south bay's blood orange
great south bay’s blood orange pale ale
crabbie's ginger beer
crabbie’s ginger beer

There were some other fun drinks that fell outside of the scope of traditional beer that I tried, mainly because the flavors were just too good to pass up. The mischievous Pumpking beer from Southern Tier Brewing Company, a brewer in upstate NY, was one of them, although it didn’t quite taste like pumpkin pie. Something about it was too sweet and artificial. Likewise, the Blood Orange Pale Ale from Great South Bay Brewery, a brewer from Long Island, wasn’t all that citrusy or fruity. Crabbie’s original ginger beer was fantastic, tasting exactly like a refreshing ginger ale, except alcoholic, which is even better. Who knew that ginger alone could ferment in six weeks and naturally turn deliciously alcoholic? Tito’s Vodka made a surprise appearance in this beer party, and I gladly grabbed a glass of its moscow mule-inspired cocktail.

good beer - genuine 2
the california cool decor at genuine superette
a crowd eagerly awaits the burger prep
a crowd eagerly awaits the burger prep
almond's housemade smoked chicken sausage and corn & green chili relish
almond’s housemade smoked chicken sausage and corn & green chili relish
untamed's cider braised pork butt sandwiches
untamed’s cider braised pork butt sandwiches
alice's arbor's locally sourced ham and potatoes
alice’s arbor’s locally sourced ham and potatoes

And of course, you can’t have a beer without a burger, and the Baja Burger from Genuine Superette, a California eatery in Nolita, really hit the spot–it was juicy and spicy, with a good bun to patty ratio, and it paired perfectly with the easy, breezy lagers from Narragansett. It was definitely one of the most popular food stands at Good Beer. Hot dogs are also a popular complement to beer, and it wasn’t surprising to see a lot of vendors serving up various renditions of sausage. My personal favorite was the chunky chicken sausage from Almond, which was served with an indulgent spicy aioli on top. It was a guilty pleasure, for sure, although I didn’t feel too bad about eating multiple servings. Untamed Sandwiches prepared a very hearty pork butt sandwich, while Alice’s Arbor, a farm-to-table restaurant in Brooklyn, presented a locally sourced pork and potato dish that was very clean and elegant, a nice respite from the many gut-bomb sausages that were out there.

good restaurant's beet-cured salmon, kirby cucumber, goat cream cheese and "everything" crumble
good restaurant’s beet-cured salmon, kirby cucumber, goat cream cheese and “everything” crumble
gramercy tavern's smoked bluefish and corn salad
gramercy tavern’s smoked bluefish and corn salad
the vanderbilt's sweet chili glazed duck wings
the vanderbilt’s sweet chili glazed duck wings
the vanderbilt's beef jerky, i just can't get enough
the vanderbilt’s beef jerky–we basically finished off this box

It was good to see some vendors think outside of the sausage/pork box. I loved the beet-cured salmon and dill goat cheese from Good Restaurant, a Modern American spot in the West Village. I was excited to see one of my all-time favorite restaurants Gramercy Tavern make an appearance here with a refreshing smoked bluefish and corn salad, a bite that was full of good texture and savory flavors. The Vanderbilt, a small plates restaurant in Prospect Park, was bold enough to serve marinated duck drumsticks, which were huge like the ones at a state fair. It was their beef jerky, though, that really caught our attention. The marinade was sweet and juicy, and Dorothy and I kept going back for more. I asked if they were selling any of the jerky to take home, but unfortunately they weren’t meant for retail.

the samples at lawless jerky
the samples at lawless jerky
ellary's greens' chickpea burger
ellary’s greens’ chickpea burger
communal oven & earth's  miso glaze tofu balls
communal oven & earth’s miso glaze tofu balls

Lawless Jerky, a craft jerky company that uses only 100% grass-fed beef, also had some samples, and I really did like the Sweet Sriracha flavor. There were also vegetarian options from Ellary’s Greens and Communal Oven & Earth, two healthy eateries in the West Village and UWS, respectively. I found the tofu meatball and soba noodles from Communal especially refreshing and well seasoned.

As the event wound down, we were definitely buzzed and in a good place. Aside from the AC issue, I thought the event was well done and lived up to its promise of serving “Good Beer” to its guests. The floors were easy to navigate and there was enough beer and food to go around for everyone. While last call was at 9 pm, there’s still a good month of summer left–let’s drink to that!

*All photos by Dorothy Chin.