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Palo Alto

The New Café: Where Biking and Jogging Meets Coffee

Not long ago, a coffeehouse was, well, just a coffeehouse. Think “Central Perk” from “Friends.” Think about the coffeehouses that dot university towns, with stressed out students sprawled out on couches and fliers covering every inch of the walls.

A coffeehouse was a meeting place and a place for reading. As time went by with the wi-fi generation wanting coffee to go with their Facetime chats or work on their laptops, the coffeehouse became a de-facto anti-social computer lab, the complete opposite of the social epicenter that coffeehouses once were.

Would you like some bike and sugar with your coffee?

Would you like some bike and sugar with your coffee?

What to call a nondescript Starbucks or Peet’s? They are what they are, the same in Topeka or Temecula. They are somewhere in between a coffeehouse and laptop center, where at least half the customers don’t even consume the coffee on the premises.

With the rise of the “Third Wave” coffee movement (a global movement of local, small batch coffee roasters who seek out higher quality beans and often have their own cafés) over the past decade, the actual coffee has been surging in quality. In turn, the idea of a coffeehouse has had both a renaissance and a complete re-imagining. These are the cafés where your barista is both expert and artist, where your precious Ethiopian single origin pour-over arrives ten minutes and five dollars later, and where your espresso’s blend has been sorted with the meticulous care a fine Bordeaux winemaker will do with his grapes.

To accompany the loftier coffee, coffeehouses, including Sightglass and Four Barrel in San Francisco, now are combating the anti-social laptop crowd by not having wi-fi available. Here, it’s about socializing, reading, and of course, the coffee.

Palo Alto, CA's Zombie Runner

Palo Alto, CA’s Zombie Runner

Yet in the past few years, the concept of the coffeehouse has been taking an even more peculiar turn. Forget about the old coffeehouses of couches and tables. Welcome to the generation of where bike shops and running stores co-exist with coffee shops. In many cases, these hybrid shops even roast their own beans. One thing is for certain at these “cycle cafés” and “jogging cafés,” you will be wide awake for that next bike ride or run. (more…)


Plat du Jour: Great American Bakesale Day and Zombies Drink Coffee

Happy weekend everyone!

Hopefully everyone is enjoying the heart of spring, whether outside, or on the plate.

Today is a great day to get out and buy some baked goods for an excellent cause. Across the country, Share Our Strength, a charity fighting childhood hunger, bake sales are taking place to help raise funds for the charity. One in five children in this country suffer from hunger, a tragic ratio that must be fixed. Hopefully these wonderful bake sales can do at least a little bit to help this terrific cause.

I’ll have more Monday on the immensely talented and caring eighth grader holding the bake sale in our home town. She might not be in high school, but she cooks with the the force and skill of Pierre Hermé. For fourteen hours yesterday, her kitchen was a flour and sugar blur with cookie pops being wrapped, banana bread, in the oven, and every conceivable kind of cookie cooling on the racks. With the organization going into this event and the amazing quantity and quality of the baked goods, this is a truly amazing undertaking for such a good cause. I’ll certainly be enjoying the desserts from today for many days to come.

Desserts ready to go

To close the week, one of my favorite trends today is seeing how exciting food and drink pop ups are literally sprouting up everywhere. Today, you can find sensational delis inside the most “Shining” looking motel and award winning pastry chefs selling baked goods on street corners at rush hour.

How about stellar, micro roasted coffee, inside…a running store? In Palo Alto, CA, the Zombie Running Store has a tiny coffee and espresso kiosk where the beans are micro roasted in nearby Mountain View just for them to use and sell by the bag. The espresso I tried this week was beautiful, with perfect crema, and slight woody notes, served strangely in what almost was a glass shot glass.

The scenery of this coffee pop up? Running shoes, shorts, those peculiar five toed barefoot socks-shoes that just fit your toe perfectly, and various Nalgenes surround you as you sip a latte. This is not a hipster coffeehouse of the third wave or a Starbucks-Peets laptop room, though the coffee is every bit of the nouvelle géneration third wave.

Do coffee and running mix? On trips I often run to cafes to sample the coffee…and run a lot quicker on the amped up return trip. One thing for sure: both coffee and running turn zombies into energized, revitalized humans ready to get things done today.

Running store or not, this is superb coffee.