Drink Local: Finding Your Bliss

February 5, 2015 § Leave a comment

It’s 3pm, and you’re looking at a jam-packed few hours between now and dinner time. Maybe you’ve got back-to-back meetings or are shuttling the kids to and fro — or a combo of the two. How about a caffeine fix to get you through the rest of the day? If you work or live near downtown Redwood City, take a break from the chain coffee shops and check out the new kid in town: Bliss Coffee on Broadway.

Find your bliss on Broadway in Redwood City

Find your bliss on Broadway in Redwood City

Owners Jimmy Huang and Kevin Lei are local guys who have made good on their goal to create a San Francisco-style coffee shop on the Peninsula. The shop, which has been open since September 2014, is a light-filled space with a modern aesthetic. While the shop’s modern look, ample seating, and free wi-fi might appeal to San Francisco-based commuters, it’s the coffee that’s bringing local customers back. During a recent visit, I had a chance to chat with Huang, who says that business is growing, and that they’ve had “a positive response from the community.”

Bliss is all about making and serving great coffee, and that starts with the beans. Huang and Lei have partnered with local and regional roasters who work directly with coffee growers to forge relationships that emphasize sustainability, as well as fair labor and wage practices. Currently Bliss serves coffee from Verve (Santa Cruz), Chromatic (San Jose), Four Barrel (San Francisco), and Temple (Sacramento). Good inventory management is essential for creating flavorful, fresh coffee, so Bliss orders only what they need and keeps their beans no longer than 10 days.

The guys trained with the Four Barrel folks to hone their barista skills and can turn out your favorite drink with an artistic touch. Customer favorites and most-ordered drinks include espressos, lattes, and cappuccinos. Lately they’ve been getting more requests for the newly popular Flat White, too. Customize your drink with the usual dairy milk options, or go non-dairy with almond or soy milk. Want to really treat yourself? How about an affogato (espresso shot with vanilla ice cream from Palo Alto’s Tin Pot Creamery) or a Nutella Latte.

Yes, you read that right: Nutella Latte, a latte with a scoop of Nutella. Coffee + chocolate + hazelnut + steamed milk = (dare I say it?) Bliss. Oh, and if you need any more incentive to try this liquid treat, today is World Nutella Day…  just sayin’.

Nutella Latte: Coffee, steamed milk and a SCOOP of Nutella

Nutella Latte: Coffee, steamed milk, and a SCOOP of Nutella

If you’re not a coffee drinker, don’t let that keep you from visiting Bliss Coffee! Housemade non-coffee drinks include an assortment of freshly made Republic of Tea teas, iced barley tea, their own VB Pop (vanilla bean-infused syrup and sparkling water), and a TCHO hot chocolate worth trying.

Better get there early! It's slim pickin's after 2:30

These tasty treats go quickly; get in early if you want your favorite

While drinks are the draw, you won’t go hungry at Bliss. The pastry case is stocked with daily deliveries of sweet and savory pastries from the East Bay’s Starter Bakery, including quiches, tarts, and cookies. During a recent visit I treated myself to a seasonal pear tart that was just delish: red-wine poached pears, frangipane, and toasted almonds in a crisp tart shell.

Seasonal fruit tart from Bliss' pastry case

Seasonal fruit tart from Bliss’ pastry case

Huang says that, going forward they’d like to include pastries from a Peninsula-based bakery, and possibly gluten-free options, but so far the challenge has been finding a local business that can keep up with demand and deliver fresh pastries every day. (Any 650 bakeries up to the task? Raise your hands!)

Drinks and eats are all available to go, so you can get your Bliss on the run. Of course, if you’ve got a little time on your hands, order your favorite drink, find a sunny spot, and indulge in a few moments of quietly catching up on email or just watching the world go by.last-shot

What: Bliss Coffee
Where: 2400 Broadway Street, #110, Redwood City, California
Phone: 650-260-4356
Hours: Mon–Thu 7am–6pm; Fri–Sat 7am–5pm; Sun 8am–4pm
Parking: Street (meter)

Have you discovered Bliss Coffee? What’s your favorite drink? Share in the comments below.

Eat Local: Tin Pot Creamery

August 19, 2014 § 2 Comments

It’s mid-afternoon, and I’m craving ice cream. Not just any ice cream, mind you, but from-an-actual-ice-cream-shop ice cream. My first thought: head to Palo Alto. Why Palo Alto? Because this mid-peninsula city has more ice cream shops than any other city in the 650 (seriously, PA has about twice as many ice cream shops as other cities on the peninsula).

Peach Jamble and Toasted Almond from Tin Pot Creamery in the 650

Peach Jamble and Toasted Almond from Tin Pot Creamery in the 650

Whatever your style — chain or independent, old-school or trendy-and-new — Palo Alto has a place to feed your ice-cream craving. In addition to the usual chain shops (Baskin-Robbins and Cold Stone Creamery), Palo Alto is home to some locally owned, independent shops that make their own ice cream right here in the 650!

Tin Pot Creamery, which opened last summer, is one of the newer independent ice creameries. As a local craft food producer, they’re doing a lot of things right. They make all of their ice creams — as well as sauces, toppings, and baked goods — on site, in small batches. Tin Pot is also supporting the local/regional food system by using local and organic ingredients, which makes them unique among Palo Alto’s ice cream shops. Straus dairy products, TCHO chocolate, and Four Barrel Coffee are just a few of the locally produced ingredients that Tin Pot uses.

You won’t find a huge assortment of flavors here; the current flavor list has about 18 choices, some classic (Vanilla, natch) and some unique (vegan ChocoCoco, made with coconut milk). What you will find are fresh flavors, natural ingredients, and no artificial colors. Sorry kids, but there are no neon-blue “bubble gum” ice creams here. Another thing that makes Tin Pot unique? An active awareness of food allergies and plant-based diets. Flavor labels note whether an ice cream is vegan, gluten-free, or contains nuts. Need more info? The counter staff is very knowledgeable about the ice creams’ ingredients.

So, what to get? If you’re not sure, ask for a taste. You can taste up to three flavors before making a decision. According to the staff, Four Barrel Coffee with Cocoa Nib Toffee and Salted Butterscotch are “customer favorites.” You can get your scoops in a cup or housemade waffle cone. I opted for side-by-side scoops of the Rich Chocolate with TCHO Shards and Sweet Cream with Honey Balsamic Swirl.

Rich Chocolate with TCHO Shards and Sweet Cream with Honey Balsamic Swirl

Rich Chocolate with TCHO Shards and Sweet Cream with Honey Balsamic Swirl

As you might guess, I’m a bit picky about my chocolate ice cream (or um, chocolate anything) — I want it to taste like CHOCOLATE, not like chocolate powder. Tin Pot’s Rich Chocolate with TCHO Shards delivered! The flavor was as advertised: rich, dark chocolate, with the added bonus of crisp, dark chocolate pieces. The Sweet Cream with Honey Balsamic Swirl was a nice counterpoint: lighter in flavor, not too sweet, with a caramel-like swirl.

Want to try something a bit different? Taste the Earl Grey Tea or Lavender with Blueberry Swirl. Like all of the other ice creams I tried at Tin Pot (no, I won’t say how many), they’re flavor-rich with a texture that’s smooth and creamy.

Earl Grey Tea and Lavender with Blueberry Swirl

Earl Grey Tea and Lavender with Blueberry Swirl

Pairing Earl Grey with the Lavender/Blueberry was an interesting choice, but lavender is such a dominant flavor that it overwhelmed the Earl Grey. Next time I might try pairing either of these flavors with something else (chocolate!), although they’re totally luscious on their own. Of course, there are still another dozen flavors I want to try (hellooo, Malted Milk with Milk Chocolate Pieces!).

If you want to dress up your scoops, Tin Pot offers an assortment of housemade toppings and sauces so that you can create your own sundae. How about adding salted caramel sauce and shortbread crumbles? Or hot fudge sauce, almond toffee, and brownie crumbles? Overwhelmed by the possibilities? Choose one of the four “pre-designed” sundaes from the menu board.

If you’re in the mood to share or want to take something home for the family, Tin Pot has pre-packed ice cream pints, as well as ice cream cakes and pies in their freezer. Custom-order cakes and pies are available withseveral days’ notice. (Call the shop for details.)

So, let’s recap: small-batch ice creams, made with local and organic ingredients, not to mention an intriguing flavor list AND a luscious, creamy texture? Yeah, you gotta get some.

Have you been to Tin Pot Creamery yet? Which flavors did you try?Peach_ToastedAlmond_close

What: Tin Pot Creamery
Where: Town & Country Palo Alto
855 El Camino Real, #121, Palo Alto, California 94301
Phone: 650-327-1715
Hours: Mon–Wed 11:00am–9:30pm; Thu 11:00am–10pm; Fri 11:00am–10:30pm; Sat 11:00am-11:00pm; Sun Thu 11:00am–10pm
Price: $$
Parking: Lot

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