One, or rather two, elements have been consistently present in each destination covered in our two weeks West Coast trip. Coffee and chocolate. So I felt they deserved a separate post, especially considering that we visited what is considered the top coffee location in the area, Seattle of course.
I did not manage to visit Four Barrel Coffee unfortunately but I did enjoy an Italian coffee at il Fornaio. In Italy this is a long standing chain of bakeries, in the US is a posh bakery and restaurant, with plenty of Italian staff. We visited the San Fran branch on the day the Americans had won the America’s cup and the area was buzzing. The chef saluted me in Neapolitan slang and I ordered a typically British afternoon cappuccino, which was good and done the Italian way. In the few days we were here we also picked up a few chocolates, as you do.
|Our trips’ chocolate bounty|
@bmcboy trekked to the famous Ghirardelli, maybe one of the oldest in town, which he remembered from when he visited years ago. A big brand, its chocolate is still very good and we loved the Salted Caramel Dark Chocolate bar. He also bought a pricy and smart looking box of Tcho (‘new American chocolate’) from their Pier 17 shop and tasting room. The box looks like a box of jewellery, the graphics are attractive and funky and so are the names of the chocolates, the company ethical. Yet the taste was fantastic, with deep, intense hues of the various beans used and the region of provenance. Very nice.
My colleagues were also helpful in recommending yet another local producer, which has a sales point in the Ferry Building. Recchiuti produces ganaches and pralines and various degrees of dark chocolate. I bought a bar of Dark Milk which was just amazing. A dark, yet sweet and deep chocolate, it went in a heartbeat. This was possibly my favourite choc from California.
We made our way to Seattle and Orcas for the weekend, where we had some interesting experiences. While I obviously had no intention of drinking any of the locally born Starbucks, I still had to – the only choice on a a very rainy and cold morning while waiting to find out if we were going to get to the wedding we had travelled all the way to attend!
|Seattle Coffee Works|
While the place still looks too ‘chainy’ for me, the coffee was actually good, the wifi free and fast and the service very friendly. They have a tasting bar where, if you have time, they’ll do a tasting session explaining all about their roasts, their techniques etc.
At our friend’s wedding, the favours each guest received were a very welcome bar of chocolate. Locally produced in Seattle, no GM, ethical chocolate bars from Theo were laid on each guest’s table plate and it was quite fun to spot which bar you had and if you didn’t like the flavour, you’d swap with your neighbour before sitting down for the meal. @bmcboy even traded his (dark choc and almond) for a mint bar with our friend Richard. I was happy with my dark chocolate and orange bar. Both were very good, particularly the mint one which had tiny speckles of crispy mint inside. Incredibly, both bars made it all the way to London before being devoured! The nice story goes that the groom proposed to the bride using Theo’s chocolates, spelling ‘Will you marry me Allison’ with individual chocolates. She used three of them to answer Yes. Super romantic and… sweet, of course.
|Theo chocolates proposal – photo by Mike|
The award for worst coffee of the trip surely goes to Amtrak. Their trains are ok but their speed is slower than a snail’s and their restaurant is embarrassing. We were traveling in business class only because it would have got us off the train first and through customs quickly (as they keep you locked in and open one carriage at the time!). With the business class ticket we got a $3 (Wow!) off voucher for breakfast. The coffee was simply disgusting, bland, dark coloured hot water. I took a sip and threw it away. Really embarrassing for a major train company in what is supposed to be a super power.
|East Van Roasters|
In Vancouver we enjoyed finally the best coffee and some more delicious chocolate. Wandering in Gastown on our first day we came across a series of nice looking coffee shops. Having just had a poor lunch, I was tempted to lift my spirits and went in the one that looked the most attractive. East Van Roasters is a coffee shop with chocolate lab: perfect combination! I then discovered that is also a community non profit project, which employs women from nearby Hotel Rainier, a hostel where women ‘with mental health diagnosis and substance abuse’ get re-homed and trained for employment. The venue is bright, with open view chocolate lab where beans are prepared and roasted. The coffee is very good, again roasted more like the Italian way so smooth and strongly tasting. They offer a ‘tasting flight’ of chocolates for the very reasonable cost of $2.95. I loved the 4 tasting items, particularly a 70% Dominican republic single origin bite. I came back to East Van Roasters on our last day and bought some bars too. Amazing place and a great cause, this was my favourite place of the entire holiday.