"Tell a friend!", they said. Oh yes, don’t mind if I do!
This afternoon, I was lucky enough to stumble upon the grand opening of Philz Coffee in Santa Monica. I had heard of this coffee shop in the past, but recently came back from being abroad and had no idea they were opening up a location in socal!
Once I stepped inside, I was swept off my feet by the enthusiasm of the staff (including Jacob, the Big Boss). It was contagious too! After conferring with the barista and pondering over their incredible array of roast blends, I was pumped for my personal, fresh cup of Jacob’s Wonderbar pour over!
They aerate the coffee before serving it to you, so the coffee foam is practically spilling over the cup. I ordered the coffee black, and it was both strong and tasty. Next time though, I’ll go ahead and ask for it “Philz Way”, because I feel like I could trust the staff here with my life.
Yes, there will be many a “next time”. That mint mojito iced coffee is calling my name too!
The nondescript doorway is easy to miss when driving by (look for the 9 on the fence), so I was wowed by the open, airy space once I stepped inside. Initially I was a bi confused as to where to go, because there were so many little sections in the warehouse space.
Luckily, the barista came smiling along and helped us out. He said they roast one kind of coffee per week, which they switch out every week. And you can have it served however you’d like, hot, cold, cappuccino, you name it! Typically, I would go for the latte, but it was burning hot that afternoon, so I opted for the iced coffee to go.
To our surprise, the coffee was served in a jar, which I admit was adorable. I’m not a fan of iced coffee, so it was hard for me to gauge how much I would have actually loved my drink. This place shows a lot of promise though, so I can’t wait to come back for some fresh hot coffee, summer heat and all!
Iced coffee to go (outdoor patio in the background)
Bar 9 Collective
3515 Helms Ave
Culver City, CA 90232 Culver City
Saving the best for last, I took a trip to Cinque Terre for my final weekend in Italy! Not only did I get a chance to meet up and hang out with Will & Annie (Will was one of my closest friends in middle school), but the views we saw were breathtaking. But for this blog, I am obviously going to be posting about the food! We feasted like kings this weekend, so here are a few highlights!
Fresh pesto alla genovese from Luigina Il Laboratorio del Pesto, accompanied by focaccia from next door. (Levanto)
Fried mixed seafood cone: calamari, octopus, anchovies, onion rings, zucchini, & fries with sprinkled lemon juice. (Riomaggiore)
Primo Piatto: handmade reginette pasta with ragú di mare. (Riomaggiore)
Alberto Gelateria: BASILICO GELATO. BETTER THAN I EVER COULD HAVE IMAGINED. Creamy basil goodness with strong hints of cheese (pecorino or parmesan, I think? The fact that it was in gelato was throwing me off). Will recommends pairing it with the Miele 5 Terre (honey). Phenomenal summer treat. (Corniglia)
And last but not least: Trattoria dal Billy
We found out about this place in Manarola from Rick Steves, and it was one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time. Gorgeous view, and delicious food. The pasta here is handmade and they give reasonable portions of seafood. This is where we really decided to treat ourselves (house wine, dessert, the whole nine yards), and Annie and I went for the cuttlefish ink pasta with seafood. Ahhh, complete satisfaction.The view from our table on the terrace.Cuttlefish ink pasta with seafood
This weekend was perfect.
I have just returned from an early afternoon walk around the city with some friends, and am extremely pleased to announce that June has arrived, and my favorite gelato shop in Perugia (Grom) has a new flavor of the month: RASPBERRY CHEESECAKE. YES. Needless to say, I ordered it alongside a scoop of raspberry sorbet, and the result was delicious.
High off of sugar and happiness, I figured now is as good a time as any to finally sit down and make myself write about all the gelato I’ve been eating as I’ve been traveling around Italy.
CRUCIAL GELATO FUN FACT/TIP:
Look for the round metal tins! If you can see the gelato behind the glass, it’s probably kind of melty and icy (and targeted for tourists). Gelato in the tin indicates that it’s freshly made and is being stored at the right temperature. You might blow this off, but literally all of my favorite gelato has come from those round metal tins, so I believe it.
Having sampled gelato in almost every city I’ve been to, I’ve developed a rudimentary system of sorts. If it’s my first time visiting the place, I usually order pistacchio (pronounced pee-STAH-kee-oh) and crema, because pistachio is one of my favorites, and crema really lets you focus on the texture and quality of the gelato. Plus, different places have their own variations, so it’s interesting to compare. Then obviously, if I really like it, I return when I have the chance and try other flavors.
At this point in my travels (this is my fourth week in Italy…wow), there are three gelato places in particular that I would like to highlight: Gelateria La Romana, Grom, and Edoardo.
1. Gelateria La Romana (Rome)
Of all the gelato shops I’ve visited, La Romana consistently delivered the creamiest, richest gelato I’ve ever laid my eyes on. The pistacchio was deliciously nutty, and helped balance the rich Crema dal 1947 (which was also magical). I highly recommend getting it on a cone, because they will fill the bottom of it with hot fudge (or white chocolate) if you’d like, at no additional cost! Also, if you’re feeling good, you can add freshly whipped cream on top of your gelato, also free of charge.
Plus, this is not a dinky touirst gelato shop. The interior is classy and well-lit, and at one end, you can look into the Laboratorio, where the gelato is being made. Yes, the line gets long right around 21:00, but it is definitely worth it.
This place gets my raving review! Five stars out of five, would recommend to every lactose-tolerant friend, etc.
2. Grom (Perugia)
Technically, Grom is a chain. You can find it all over Italy (and apparently in NY). But similarly to La Romana, their gelato has been consistently on point - creamy and bursting with flavor. And, as I mentioned before, their new flavor of the month is Raspberry Cheesecake. How can I stay away?!
3. Edoardo (Florence)
Organic gelato? Does that make it more expensive? Apparently not! Edoardo is just across from Il Duomo (tourist central), so I would have expected either lower quality or higher prices. But they have impressed me. Edoardo is where I first fell in love with crema gelato (courtesy of Anaí). Their gelato is light and fluffy, but still maintains the true flavor (like the apple gelato that Anaí ordered once had actual bits of apple in it).
As you can see, I have been having the time of my life with this unofficial gelato tour, and I’m definitely going to miss all the gelato shops when I return to America (especially during O-Week in the Houston humidity…ugh). Guess I better make the most of my time here! :P
Don’t get me wrong; I started taking advantage of happy hours long before I was 21, because who doesn’t love discounted appetizers?! But now that I am officially “of age”, it’s nice no longer having restrictions. As usual, I found myself mostly in the Montrose area with my friends. Shocking, I know. There is much exploring left to be done, but here are a few of my favorites so far!
1. West Alabama Ice House
Visited this gem for the first time just a few days ago with Michael. AND I LOVE IT ALREADY. Apparently, West Alabama Ice House has been around for decades. Between the corn hole and picnic tables, it certainly captures a certain amount of Texas charm. Added bonus: Tacos Tierra Caliente is parked right across the street. The barbacoa and pastor tacos were both solid, and the sauces they serve on the side have a wonderful kick to them. I highly recommend you order some tacos to go ($1.50 each), then come here to grab a beer and relax with friends.
Charming Back Patio, West Alabama Ice House
2. Hay Merchant
Just off of Montrose & Westheimer, Hay Merchant had been on my radar for quite some time, but is a 21+ establishment. I was drawn in by the promising happy & fatty hours ($3 beers from 3-6pm, $3 appetizers from 11pm-1am). Once I visited, I absolutely loved the casual “hipster sports bar” atmosphere and the massive tap selection. I am no beer connoisseur, but I’m pretty sure the Hay Merchant offers something for everyone.
Cease & Desist Burger, Hay Merchant
3. The Flat
Best frozen mojitos in Houston (for several years in a row, apparently). I haven’t had frozen mojitos anywhere else, but the ones at The Flat are delicious. And only $4 before 9 PM! It’s probably a good thing I’m not spending the next few months in the Houston humidity, or I would probably frequent The Flat a little too often for this fantastic summer treat.
Frozen Mojito & Complimentary Birthday Shot, The Flat
4. Bar Boheme
Okay, I’ll be honest, I haven’t tried their drinks yet. BUT THEIR FRIES. The perfect way to indulge with friends late at night. Bar Boheme offers a magical selection of appetizers, including the Vietnamese fries - a mountain of fries with sriracha, hoisin sauce, garlic and cilantro (see below). They also have Bangkok fries, which are similar but also have a curry sauce. We also tried their pita & hummus once - it is quite good, but cannot replace the fries by any means.
Melissa & Vietnamese Fries, Bar Boheme
Double iced Americano with vanilla, hazelnut, and half&half.
Larissa’s drink of the month! Absolutely delicious. Not too sweet, so I can inhale a whole cup without getting sick of it. And I’m always a sucker for vanilla & hazelnut. Jotting it down here so I can ask them to recreate it in the future (since they often forget old drinks of the month).
Delicious coffee, ample seating, & a beautiful view. What more could you want from a coffee shop?! As much as I love my Houston coffee shops, I wish we had something similar to this. But I guess Houston is a little lacking in terms of waterfront property (we joked about building one along the bayou)…
Nora & I meant to visit Mozart’s during our coffee tour last year, but didn’t quite make it. So we finally stopped here over the recent midterm recess after camping (again) in Pace Bend the night before. It was a bit far from Zilker Park, but worth the drive. This place is huge! Since it was an early Friday afternoon, there were plenty of people sitting around, but we still managed to find two tables and just sit and chat for a couple hours.
I would consider making this one of my favorite spots in Austin. Apparently they put up a ton of lights around Christmas time, so I guess I’m going to have to come back. :D
Notes: Parking sucks (but there is additional parking up the hill). Latté is large & good. Lines can be long. Free wifi & outlets available.
The fairly large, “Large” latté. Should have put a quarter or something next to it for scale.
Interior of the side room, and even more seating (and outlets) outside & downstairs!
Group photo with the buddies - courtesy of Nora & the nice stranger next to us