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Crow's Coffee - by Steve Agocs

Crow’s Coffee – by Steve Agocs

I first learned about Crow’s Coffee, one of the newer coffee shops in Kansas City, a handful of months ago from my friend, Emily Farris (the famous radio/podcast personality and freelance writer with a CV three miles long… see Feed Me KC and Feed Me Creative) who was a consultant helping Crow’s get their start off on the right foot (wing?). For some reason I thought Crow’s was in Waldo, but it’s actually a fair jump north of that neighborhood over by UMKC. Good parking, walking distance for students, nice wide sidewalks for a couple park benches and pretty decent amount of room inside. What more do you want to know? Oh, the coffee… 🙂

Crow’s Coffee is using Messenger Coffee Co. coffee, a relative newcomer to Kansas City’s burgeoning artisanal coffee roasting scene. I have been following Messenger on Instagram for a while and didn’t even know they were local. I know virtually nothing about the company or their beans and their website doesn’t lend a ton of information yet, although I’m sure we’ll hear a lot more about Messenger in the coming year.

I ordered two drinks, seen in the photo above, an espresso and the “controversial” (in the coffee community, at least, and then only if you care, which no one does, LOL) Gibraltar. They were both good. The espresso is what I’d consider of the “traditional” variety, leaning more toward an Italian/European style with nice roasty flavors. The other side of this spectrum would be what is considered “West Coast” style espresso, which tends to be really bright, somewhat sharp and even lemony. Hit up Oddly Correct one of these days for an espresso if you haven’t already and you’ll understand what I mean. 

The Gibraltar was tasty and the Messenger espresso (pulled off a gorgeous Ferrari red La Marzocco machine) worked great with milk. Gibraltars are named that because they are served in a small 4-oz glass called by the same name by the company that sells them. Until the past year or two this drink was called a “cortado” which is a shot of espresso with steamed milk/foam poured into it. It’s bigger than a macchiato, which is basically an espresso with a dollop of foam on it, but much smaller than a latte or typical American cappuccino. Although, go to Italy and order a cappuccino and this is about the size of drink you’re going to get, as opposed to it’s oversized American counterpart. So, it’s basically a mini cappuccino. The “controversy” comes from the re-naming of the cortado, thanks to Blue Bottle in San Francisco which was supposedly the first company to pour these little guys into Gibraltar glasses.

Like I said, WHO CARES, right?! There’s no murder, no sleeping with wives, etc around this Gibraltar/cortado/cappuccino mess, so it’s hardly a controversy outside of the blogosphere.

Crow’s was comfortable and quiet while I was there (10-11AM on a Wednesday morning), the decor is pleasant, the coffee is good, and they order a good selection from drip to pourover and Chemex and the usual espresso-based milk drinks. The outdoor seating is a nice plus, especially as we move into Autumn, and I think with their location, good service and solid coffee they are going to have a successful time here in the UMKC neighborhood. 

Naked portafilter photo by Oddly Correct.

I’ve been raving about Oddly Correct coffee for quite some time and for a damn good reason. It’s awesome. That’s about all you really need to read, but here’s some more if you need extra convincing.

I bought a pound of their Stranger in the Alps (I’ll let you do the work of figuring out what the name is all about, but it has to do with hilarious editing of a scene from The Big Lebowski) a few weeks ago and was running low on beans, so with only a few minutes left before they closed I popped into the shop and grabbed a bag of what I thought sounded good (not that I’ve found they roast anything bad). My Chemex and Clever Coffee Dripper were both feeling neglected while Signore Gaggia was getting all the fun, so I didn’t really care what I had grabbed as long as it was for pourover instead of espresso.

When I realized I had grabbed the one variety of espresso they had on hand I was momentarily upset with my “mistake” during the rush, but I recovered. I finished up the last of my Stranger in the Alps yesterday and dug into my selection, Entre Volcanes single farm espresso and all I can say this morning is “WOW!”

I did a little research about the Entre Volcanes farm and found a surprising amount of information here. The farm is located in Guatemala at what the site says is “a significantly higher altitude for the region, and thus the coffee coming from here produces an extremely complex cup.” The farm was founded in the 1950’s and so it would be safe to assume they know how to grow beans the right way.

The farm also grows poinsettias, macadamia trees, orchids and bromelias. I would like to say I could taste a hint of macadamia with a long orchid finish in the coffee, but that would just be a lie! LOL

I had a feeling I was in for a treat when I opened the hand-printed and labeled bag (a trademark of those crafty fellows at Oddly Correct) and saw the small, hard-looking beans I have grown accustomed to equating with great cups from their magical roaster. A lot of Oddly Correct’s beans seem to be about 1/2 of the size of a “regular” roasted bean and not as darkly roasted-looking. In my mind, the smaller and more pebble-like the bean from these guys, the better. Who knows?

I filled my Kyocera hand grinder (I always go by volume of the beans to the top of the grinder hopper, rather than weighing them out). It felt noticeably heavier in my hand but took the 200-ish cranks of the handle to grind them all, which is normal regardless of the bean I use, and the volume of espresso in the Gaggia portafilter looked right.

I got the volume of espresso I wanted in the time I wanted (about 15-17 seconds) and the aroma coming off the cup was a little grapefruity/citrusy, but the tasting notes on the bag prepped me for that. I feel like now, 15 minutes after I had the drink, that there is a lingering astringency/grapefruit flavor on my palate from the coffee, but that could be purely psychological.

Like the other espressos I’ve had from Oddly Correct, the Entre Volcanes was bright and punchy. If you could describe a sip as a physical thing, somewhere in the middle of it was a fleeting earthy character that my mind immediately associated with cinnamon. It was quick, like “5%” of the overall sip, and it didn’t TASTE like cinnamon, but there was some quality of it that I couldn’t shake as being “cinnamon-like.” I suspect I’ll be running the Gaggia a few more times today, so maybe I’ll have some more comments to note on that!

I got a little cherry toward the end, which seems to be a theme with Oddly Correct beans, and a citrusy, tart finish.

Entre Volcanes is truly handled well by the brilliant OC roasters and they have done this bean justice. The cup was really full-bodied, the crema was gorgeous looking and the flavors were pure, bright, acid and lacked any sootiness or ashiness that comes from most espresso roasts.

Damn!

Oddly Correct is a little midtown Kansas City coffee shop that is making a big name for itself. I’ll have a more complete review of their shop and some coffee coming soon, but I wanted to get this short review of their Hop! Toddy drink out ASAP. Hop! Toddy is a cold-brewed coffee with hops added to it, bottled in 12 oz bottles and served up fresh and ready to drink on a regular basis at the shop.

I’m not super familiar with Toddy brewed coffee other than that it is a cold-brewing method that is supposed to cut down on some of the “bitter acids and oils” that traditional forms of extraction may pick up. I’ve never had Toddy brewed coffee, so I can’t comment on that. The fellas at Oddly Correct said that they think the Toddy method can produce a rather flat cup, so they decided to try adding something to it to brighten it up and that “something” was hops.

For V1.0 they are using citra hops, a relatively new “breed” of hops that are prized for their citrusy notes (get it, citra… citrus!?) as well as their other “soft fruit” flavors, notably pineapple and even peach/apricot. If you’re a beer drinker you may’ve had a beer primarily made with citra hops. The most available around here is Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo IPA. I had Torpedo right after it hit the shelf a year or two ago and the pineapple and peach was quite apparent.

The girl in front of me in line said, “I don’t really like hoppy beers, so I’m not sure I’ll like this” and they assured that Hop! Toddy isn’t “hoppy.” They were right.

My bottle was bottled on 7/3/12 and I bought it on 7/4/12. I sort of forgot about it (every time I thought about it I didn’t really want a coffee, like at night) until 7/16/12. I’m not sure if that’s enough time for it to lose some hop character or not, but the hops were certainly subtle in the Hop! Toddy.

The concoction poured out of the bottle like a dead flat porter, very dark brown to black with lots of red highlights in the corners of the glass. It had a chocolatey, sweet aroma, sort of like if you could separate just the chocolatey aroma of a good stout. I wonder if the coffee was Ethiopian Yirgacheffe because there was an Earl Grey character with a hint of lemon, which is a flavor I get from good Yirgacheffes.

The hops were definitely in the background. I suspect that they added some brightness, and I think I was getting them in the finish and aftertaste, but if no one TOLD you there were hops in this you wouldn’t say, “AHA! Hops!” I think they may have done for the coffee what a spritz of acid (like a lime or lemon) will do for a dish… brighten up the flavors and make them “pop” a little where they would otherwise be flat on their own. After hearing the guys’ opinions on Toddy brewed coffee, this is exactly what it sounded like.

This was GREAT on its own (the sure sign of a good cup of coffee is when it tastes good COLD, too). It would probably make a fantastic iced coffee drink of some sort, with a little cream or something, but I think you should drink it undiluted… as-is. I really liked it!

Yummmm

I was running errands Friday evening and just happened to be passing by Tipsy’s in Merriam (or is that Mission?) and stopped in. I love that there are more can selections in the craft beer section every time I stop at a bottle shop these days. If anything, the choice is getting tougher, but that’s a good thing! We have a pool day/evening at our friend’s house on Saturday, so I needed a couple 6’ers or a 12 (there are always those good folks who come and like to “share” yet never bring anything with them…)

I was eyeing the Anderson Valley 6-packs… thinking long and hard about one of IPA and one of Barney Flatts stout (one of my favorite stouts… SO GOOD!), but the idea of stout, even from a can, at the pool on a humid day… nah, probably not a great idea.

Last summer I was a big fan of the Tallgrass Halcyon Wheat, which is a nice beer and was hard to pass up this time. The Avery cans looked great, but a little heavy for the pool, the Ska Brewing cans are nice but not that inspiring… then I spotted my friends in green!

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I know, either Pale Ale or Fat Tire is every beer geek’s gateway beer into obsession, but still. Great beer is great beer. I almost ALWAYS avoid this beer in the rare occurrences we go out these days because it’s so readily available. I never have it at home. It’s a great beer and it just seemed RIGHT when I saw it! 🙂 The tallboys of Torpedo looked pretty inviting, too, but a 12-er of Pale Ale it is.

Hello, summer!

Faithful Liquid Diet readers, some friends of mine have started what is turning out to be an absolutely fantastic blog and podcast on the Kansas City food and drink scene called Feed Me KC. It is exploring all aspects of what KC has to offer, not just the obvious (BBQ, as delicious as it is… but we all know KC has awesome BBQ, so FeedMeKC is helping you see what ELSE is around… and it’s a LOT!).

The podcast is well done, funny, entertaining and extremely informative. I’m impressed. The writing is good, everything is concise and the blog is professional and awesome-looking.

Check it out and enjoy! I have more beer reviews in the hopper for The Liquid Diet, so stay tuned!

Yesterday’s attempt at cafecito (Cuban coffee… essentially very sweet espresso or strong coffee) using old hazelnut beans and the stovetop Moka pot didn’t go that great. The hazelnut really threw the whole thing off.

I bought some fresh espresso beans (roasted on May 10), from Broadway Café in Westport (Kansas City) and the results were a lot better. I think I need to use even more sugar to make my paste (if I was a REAL scientist I would be measuring all this out, but come on!). Tomorrow I’ll warm up the Gaggia espresso machine and see what the cafecito sugar-paste technique and espresso taste like together…

We finally made it to Kansas City’s R Bar last night and it was a nice change of pace. We haven’t been going out much over the last year, so when we do go out these days we’re always looking for something quality and different than the usual. We had purchased a Groupon for R Bar a while back and it was about to expire, so we headed here to have some libations and dessert (we couldn’t get a dinner reservation until 9:15 and didn’t want to eat that late).

R Bar is set up to be like a speakeasy, and it’s down in the West Bottoms, right across the street from the Golden Ox. The decor is cool… brick walls, old tile floors that were evidently common for the West Bottoms back in the heyday, and a huge, gorgeous mirrored bar. The decor is simple, but it works great for this narrow space. It was PACKED when we showed up on a Friday night around 9:30, but we surprisingly got a table right away. There was a great swing-jazzy band playing (think Squirrel Nut Zippers and you’re in the genre) and it was a super fun atmosphere.

The beer list was overpriced, and we’d had dinner at the Beer Kitchen, so I went straight to the cocktail menu. The cocktail menu is expansive (see the “Menus” on R Bar’s website for a list and details) and features a lot of classics, some simple and others very complicated. I started off with a Negroni because I’m a sucker for this drink. They made it with Campari, an unknown gin, and Lillet Rouge (no mention of vermouth on the menu, but I could taste it in there). I had a choice of on the rocks or “up” so I had it “up” (shaken on ice, but served neat without ice). It came in a martini glass and, as is the case with any Campari-based drink, it was gorgeous to look at with it’s simple orange wedge garnish (strange they don’t do a nice orange peel twist, which would work great in a martini glass…).

The Negroni was good, just like it’s supposed to taste. My fiancee had an Old Fashion and they unfortunately made it the “bar” way rather than the traditional original way, so it had a bunch of orange and cherries in the bottom and was topped off with soda water. I prefer my own, as you readers already know, which are made with just rye whiskey, Angostura bitters, a small piece of orange peel and a dash of simple syrup. It still tasted good, though.

My second and last drink was a Sazerac, which is a classic cocktail that R Bar made with rye whiskey, absinthe, Peychaud’s bitters, a lemon twist and poured over a sugar cube. The lemon aroma was intense on this cocktail, and I was originally disappointed to see it only filled about 3/4″ of my double old-fashioned glass, but keeping in mind that the drink it 100% liquor, it was PLENTY and it lasted me a long time. I enjoyed it a lot, but it’s definitely a sipper.

We had a goat cheese tart, which was goat cheese with sugar cut in (think of rich cheese cake) in a little tiny pie crust cup with a scoop of concord grape sorbet on top and mint sauce dribbled around the plate. Weird-sounding combination, but very good! The grape sorbet was a little overpowering, but an unusual and nicely-done dessert all the same.

R Bar is on the pricey side, but it’s a classy place with good food and drinks and we had a great time, so we’ll definitely be back. The speakeasy-like charm isn’t overplayed here, particularly since there are still REAL speakeasies (think jazz, people smoking, illegal card games and not just cigarette smoke in the air) operating in the West Bottoms that I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to!