Tag Archives: coffee shop

Irving Farms Coffee Roasters

Now that finals are upon us, I decided to try a coffee shop closer to campus so that I wouldn’t spend too much time away from my work. I wish I had known ahead of time that Irving Farms’ location on W. 79th St is the perfect place to study. The second I walked in, I noticed the comforting and trendy atmosphere as well as the multitude of tables. Unlike most coffee shops in Manhattan, which are extremely cramped, Irving Farms’ location on the Upper West Side is massive. This location has both a front room and a back room, each of which are larger than most New York coffee shops. Though it was quite crowded, I was still able to find a table because the shop was so large. I encountered numerous students who definitely had made Irving Farms their frequent coffee shop because they had come prepared with all of their studying materials.

The display case
The display case

In addition to the multitude of coffee options available, there is also a menu for those looking to have a meal while enjoying their coffee. I decided to take advantage of both. I ordered a medium vanilla latte and a caprese sandwich with Narragansett fresh mozzarella, slow- roasted tomatoes, and homemade seasonal pesto on a ciabatta. My latte was probably the best latte I have had in a long time. The sandwich was also delicious, but nothing out of the ordinary. Though both my latte and sandwich tasted delicious, honestly, they did not compliment each other. I still enjoyed both, but I would have enjoyed them more if I had tried each separately.

Medium vanilla latte
Medium vanilla latte
Caprese sandwich
Caprese sandwich

I definitely plan on going back to Irving Farms and next time, I will be sure to bring studying materials with me. It is definitely the perfect place to study during exams if you are looking for a calming atmosphere that isn’t too crowded (the exact opposite of Butler). I also look forward to trying another one of their many other locations in Manhattan. I would recommend this coffee shop to anyone looking for good coffee and/or food as well as students looking for a nice spot to study.


Culture With a Side of Espresso

Nestled in the heart of the Garment District is an adorable little coffee shop that goes by the name of Culture Espresso. I would argue that the culture itself comes from the artistry in the coffee being served along with the decor.


This picture does not do the coffee shop justice. Inside, it felt like a little oasis in the middle of Manhattan, somehow away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. While I sat looking out the window drinking my coffee, I felt, for just a little while, that I was no longer a part of the stressful and fast paced world of New York. Sitting looking out the window, I was just an onlooker, not a participant. Finally I had a break.

Vanilla latte
Vanilla latte

I decided to be boring this time around and order my usual drink, but there was something slightly different about this vanilla latte compared to most. The vanilla syrup that Culture Espresso uses is homemade, along with their maple syrup. I wish I could say that I tasted a difference between their homemade syrup and any run of the mill syrup that most coffee shops use, but I could not.

My latte definitely looked like a one of a kind masterpiece, but it did not taste like one. The espresso in my latte was very flavorful, but it was overshadowed by the amount of milk that was added to it. I honestly tasted the milk more than I tasted the espresso, which was very upsetting, especially considering I am not a big fan of milk to begin with.

Chocolate chip cookie
Chocolate chip cookie

I also ordered a chocolate chip cookie with my latte. I was hoping it would taste better than it looked, but sadly it did not overall. The cookie was very hard and crunchy, which is not something I ever want in a chocolate chip cookie. One redeeming factor was that the chocolate chips were melted inside the cookie, giving it a molten center, similar to that of a chocolate lava cake (my favorite dessert).

Ultimately, I would not recommend this coffee shop from my experience, but it does have excellent reviews, which make me want to give it another try at some point.

Toby’s Estate: Flatiron Espresso Bar

Just down the street from the Flatiron Building (Fifth Avenue between 20th and 21st St) is a tiny coffee shop nestled in between two clothing stores, Club Monaco and the Loft. Before walking inside, you would never guess that the two clothing stores were actually part of Toby’s Estate itself. Although the espresso bar is extremely tiny, it is a very open space because, in addition to the two clothing stores, it is also connected to a Strand Bookstore/Club Monaco partnership. What better than a chance to read and shop for books while enjoying your morning (or afternoon or nighttime) coffee?

The open doorway leads to first the Strand Bookstore and then the two clothing stores
The open doorway leads to the Strand Bookstore first and then to the two clothing stores
The Strand Bookstore connected to the espresso bar
The Strand Bookstore connected to the espresso bar (it also had a little flower shop)

When it was time for me to order, I figured I should try their version of my usual order but was surprised when I couldn’t find it. I am normally very boring when it comes to my coffee order and almost always get a vanilla latte. This time around, I was forced to try something new (definitely a good thing in this case). I asked the cashier for his recommendation and he suggested their maple sage latte; it sounded good so I figured, why not?

Medium maple sage latte
Medium maple sage latte

Although I was upset to see that the medium latte I had just paid $4.50 for was so tiny, I was pleasantly surprised by both the presentation (isn’t it pretty?) and also the flavor of the latte. It was probably one of the best lattes I have ever had due to the quality of the espresso itself and the maple sage flavoring. This flavor seemed to enhance the very taste of the espresso, making it the perfect choice.

Considering I went to the espresso bar around four o’clock in the afternoon on a Friday, it was surprisingly busy, unlike the Starbucks around the corner. As a result, I would say that this is a favorite spot for many and now also me. I will definitely be coming back to have another maple sage latte or maybe something new again.

For those who don’t normally venture down to this area of Manhattan, Toby’s Estate actually has three other locations, each of which are very diversified but of course all share the same amazing quality. They have one location in Brooklyn, and the other two are in Manhattan: Midtown East and the West Village. None of the other locations are connected to bookstores, which definitely sets this location apart from the rest.

New Kid on the Block- Chokolat Cafe

We all love Nussbaum bagels and Hungarian Pastry Shop coffee but occasionally we all need a change. Chokolat Café is a quaint bakery/coffee shop on 125th and Broadway that I would like to deem the “new kid on the block”. I have driven past it numerous times over the past two years and during exam week when I needed a few coffees to keep me studying and a baked good to satisfy my sweet tooth; I decided to check it out. I was blown away by the café and think it is completely underrated for something so close to campus. It opened in October 2011 so maybe it has not made a name for itself yet in the area, but I would definitely suggest making the walk there your next coffee date or study session.

I was shocked when I walked in to see how laid-back the decorum was. I wished that I had brought a textbook to read because it was the perfect, cozy atmosphere to study in. The café smelled of freshly brewed coffee and unlike Butler there were actually tables open. The next surprise was the prices of the coffee and baked goods. Everything was extremely cheap for things that were so fresh; their pastries and desserts are made in their kitchen daily. They had various breakfast options like muffins and breakfast sandwiches as well as desserts. Since it was early I ordered a coffee and a blueberry-cream cheese Danish, as opposed to the tasty looking green tea and red bean cupcake.

The danish was hands-down the best Danish I’ve had in my life. The puff pastry dough flaked as you bit into it and its buttery flavor complemented the sweet filling perfectly. Plus, the cream cheese custard was still moist, so I could tell that it had been made freshly a few hours before. There was a thick, sweet layer of it yet it was not overwhelmingly cheesy nor did it overpower the blueberry fiilling which was swirled in. My favorite part of the blueberry ham was the fresh blueberries in it which gave it a natural flavor as opposed to a fake, sugary taste. Finally, the coffee grinders behind the register were used daily to make the coffee fresh which was evident in its rich flavor.

It was fresh and inexpensive for that necessary caffeine boost during exam week. I was blown away by the atmosphere and quality of the goods at Chokolat Café; you will definitely see me there during reading week. The best part about it is that they have a mini shop on 123rd that sells all their delicious goods. If you don’t want to sit down in the café, you can go there and get your coffee and a pastry to go!

Fika Fridays: Beignets in the Valley

Amanda return for her second Fika Friday by taking an afternoon fika at a French bakery near to campus.  Go get your own coffee and sweet treat, take a break, relax, read this post, and fika it up.  After all, it is Friday.  Not sure what a fika is?  Click here.

Welcome to midterms week at Columbia.  For the liberal arts students, there are about ten days in October that make you very concerned about how much you are actually capable of retaining in your mind.  For engineering students, there is a “midterm” practically every week and this sort of trauma is somewhat expected.  My fellow students, I know your pain.  I too have been in Butler Library to watch the sun rise.  I have seen the other side, the stunned expression of a Creative Writing major too far gone to remember the sweet naivete of a world without exams.  But I want you to know about a beautiful place, a place where you can escape all of your worries.

Well, I’m being a little dramatic…you can’t escape all of your worries, but at least you can coax them into submission with a nice cup of cocoa.

There is a small neighborhood in New York, an enclave of others, known as Manhattan Valley.  It is commonly defined by 110th street to the north, Central Park, 96th street to the south, and Broadway.  For students, it’s the epicenter of Grub Hub delivery service.  It is also the home of La Toulousaine, a French bakery on Amsterdam and 106th.  I first came to La Toulousaine last year with Allison, my current roommate.  This past Tuesday, I realized I needed another Fika at La Toulousaine, stat!  After a quick coordination with Jonah, we walked in drizzling rain to the bakery.  We recognized it through the autumnal trees lining the street by its long purple sign.  Two colorful fold out chairs sit out front, waiting for sunnier days.  Before I even walked through the open door, I encountered a waft of warm and sugary air, laden with the scent of fresh baguettes.

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Fika Fridays: What the Fika?


For Amanda’s first post of the season, she will spend the italics section of her post feeling a strange, out-of-body experience as she briefly wonders if her life is being narrated by herself  OR Amanda explains what she means by fika.

Last spring, I read a magazine article that talked about how, in Sweden, people take “fika” breaks.  Fika roughly means “to drink coffee with friends on a small break with a little snack” (or something along those lines) as in “Would you like to fika with me?” and “I had a great fika this afternoon.”  I remember thinking, this is incredibly charming.  I instantly realized that this is what the break rooms are really meant for in corporate buildings.  We are meant to take breaks from our work at approximately 10:30 and 3:45 to enjoy the exhilarating refreshment of a caffeinated beverage compounded with the sugary rush of a small chocolate roll!  I get it!  I. WILL. FIKA!

Fika seems to be like a more elaborate version of the Yiddish nosh.  Fika is a bona-fide social institution in Sweden (people don’t play when it comes to their breaks).  According to Culinary Cultures of Europe by Stephen Mennell, the fika is an important part of everyday Swedish life as it provides a chance to say hi to your mother, take that cute guy from the elevator on a date, and tell your buddies about your new motorcycle.  Even government employees are known to take breaks from work to fika.  Fikas are what we Americans traditionally think of as the “coffee date” (ie precursor to the tension-filled drinks or high-pressured stakes of dinner), but function even better as “non-date dates.”

This being said, the fika is no light-hearted matter if you’re a host…

Continue reading Fika Fridays: What the Fika?

get “Grounded”

Breakfast wrap - yummy.

You may or may not remember my passionate dissertation on coffee a couple of weeks ago.  For those of you who didn’t read it or have blocked the over-caffeinated post from your memory, I am a lover of coffee and am in search of great coffee shops in New York.  Recently, in a fit of frustration at finding myself again at Starbucks to study, I kidnapped my friend Christina and I took us downtown.

Hidden on tiny Jane Street between Greenwich Ave and 8th Street in the West Village, Grounded exists as an organic coffee and tea house.  The storefront is unassuming, a small awning with bright green plants lazily crowded together.  In the area, there is a small park, a Gay and Lesbian Community Center, designer stores, and artists selling their creations on the street.  Once entering Grounded, Christina and I sighed with happiness – we had found an incredibly cute, eclectic haven.

the interior of Grounded

The walls of Grounded are painted yellow brick.  Your seating options include an artisan park bench, a plushy velvet sofa, and wrought iron chairs.  Grounded’s patrons are typing away on their Macbooks or reading NY Times Bestsellers,

illuminated by a variety of lights.  My personal favorite was the lamp-stand that was jade Buddha with a scarlet lamp-shade, complete with beaded tassels.  The menu is on a series of chalkboards behind the register with specials neatly added on over eraser smudges.  The walls are decorated with coffee art – paintings made from using coffee as sort of a watercolor.

Christina and I had lugged all of our work with us, and we quickly set up shop before getting in line.

Pumpkin Latte; nutmeg optional.

We both ordered the cheese, sausage, and egg breakfast wrap.  This breakfast wrap was such a pleasant comparison to the breakfast sandwiches I usually eat in the mornings – instead of having a microwaved egg patty, our eggs were fresh and scrambled.  Christina had the Nutella Mocha.  While she did not enjoy her drink, I was ecstatic about my Pumpkin Latte (Nutmeg optional).  The holidays are my favorite time of the year for many reasons, but one of them happens to be the seasonal drinks like pumpkin or peppermint that inevitably become a staple of coffee chains.  My Pumpkin Latte was warm, wonderful, and flavorful.  I said “Yes” to the spices and was pleasantly surprised to be able to taste the distinct pumpkin and cinnamon notes.

Me, with coffee - as usual.

Grounded create a wonderful, comfortable atmosphere.  Instead of stepping into a coffee shop that seemed to have been created with a cookie cutter, we felt like we were in a friend’s apartment or business.  Christina and I had fun comparing all of the unique mugs and plates that Grounded uses.  The range of chairs and lamps and original artwork allows Grounded to have a distinct identity as a coffee shop.

Unfortunately, there are two downsides to Grounded for Columbians.  Firstly, it is twenty minutes by subway, even with the express train.  Secondly, there is an hour and a half seating limit.  I can appreciate this rule after failing to find a seat in Starbucks many times – but it does put a damper on your study/camping abilities.  So, my suggestion would be to visit Grounded on a Saturday.  Relax, bring a book, chat with a friend.  And, when your time is up, walk around the West Village and window shop.  Grounded is one of my new favorite places in New York.  I hope it becomes one of your’s too.

For more information, visit Grounded’s website: http://www.groundedcoffee.com/