Tag Archives: coffee

Blonde Ambition: The New Starbucks Flavor Sensation at Rancho Carmel Plaza!

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My weekends have been quite interesting lately, especially with my husband!  I finally got the chance to hang out with him for a full game of golf last weekend, which was actually quite fun.  But our weekends have lately been filled with “The Hunt”, as we’ve come to name the all consuming search for Funko Pop! vinyl figures.  On the way to Barnes & Noble in the Carmel Mountain Ranch area, we dropped by Rancho Carmel Plaza, a little strip mall usually frequented by me and my sister.  I wanted to try the new coffee flavor sensation, Starbucks Blonde Espresso.

I do have to say that this is one of my favorite Starbucks locations because of this very seating area (below).  It looks more like a comfy living room rather than a coffee shop, and if you placed an ottoman in front of me with my favorite movie playing in the distance with a nice cup or coffee or tea, I swear I could sit there for hours.

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On to the coffee: I really loved it!  It is a light roasted espresso, and is supposed to be creamy with hints of lemon and orange.  I was told by the barista that the Blonde Espresso would be smooth and sweet, and I would have to agree.  I had the Blonde Espresso Latte and I drank it straight without adding any type of sweetener.  After that kind of first impression, I am anxious to try all of their Blonde Espresso offerings:  the Blonde Vanilla Latte, the Iced Blonde Caffe Americano, the Blonde Cappuccino, and the Blonde Flat White.  But I think I will also ask if they will do a shot of Blonde Espresso on its own, just so I can get the full taste of the espresso and see if I can taste those citrus notes at its purest.

Starbucks is located at 10195 Rancho Carmel Drive, San Diego, CA 92128 and they can be reached at (858) 613-7754.  They are open Monday to Saturday from 5:00 am to 8:30 pm and Sunday from 6:00 am to 8:00 pm.

Cheers and here’s to one smooth cup of (Blonde) ambition!

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FTC Disclosure:  I received compensation to patronize a business at Rancho Carmel Plaza.  Although I did receive compensation, the opinions in this post are strictly my own.

"Drink Local, Drink Often": Caffeine Crawl 2015

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Last Friday, I was invited by the folks at The Lab to take part in this year’s Caffeine Crawl.  As a coffee enthusiast, I was so very excited and invited my fellow coffee connoisseur, Audrey (who used to work in a coffee-house a “back in the day”) to join me on this little adventure.  Audrey and I spent many a long night discussing “the world we live in and life in general” at different coffee houses throughout San Diego, so I couldn’t imagine doing a crawl with anyone but her!

We attended the “North Coast Crawl”, which allowed us to take in local coffee spots in the Encinitas area.  Our route took us to four different coffee houses, sampling coffee and baked goods in nearly each place.  We also received lessons on roasting, coffee producers, ways to brew coffee and even the science of what goes into great cup.

Our stops were as follows, which started at 2pm and ran until around 5pm.  We were very glad we wore flats because there was quite a distance between some of the stops.  But we enjoyed it because we discovered so many great places to eat and shop along the way.

North Coast:

Cafe Ipe

Pannikin Coffee & Tea

Lofty Coffee Co.

Ironsmith Coffee Roasters

I hope you enjoy my pictorial account of the crawl below.  Keep in touch with Caffeine Crawl through their official site, and follow them on Facebook and Twitter for the latest crawls in your hometown, and remember to hashtag #CaffeineCrawl on Instagram to share the love.  Special thanks to Sadie for the invite, to Emily for being our tour guide, and to all the wonderful owners, producers, roasters and baristas for sharing your time and knowledge with us!

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Caffeine Crawl 5Stop 1:  Coffee Coffee (aka Cafe Ipe) was our first coffee-house.  Roasters Dan & Scott, along with producer Victor and barista Matt, gave us great information on the types of beans they use, how their roasting process works and why their blends make a for a great cup of coffee.

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Caffeine Crawl 10Stop 2: Pannikin Coffee & Tea is a very familiar name in the San Diego area.  Owner Shawn and his son Dempsey were on hand with roaster Helena and producer Sam.  We were able to try out a new blend that has yet to be served in their cafe.  Helena provided some insightful information about coffee that I didn’t know:  “The oils in the coffee carry the flavor & the caffeine.”

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Stop 3:  Because of the distance between Pannikin and the next stop, Lofty Coffee Co., we didn’t get to see the demonstration or get to know the presenters.  We did arrive to one of my favorite blends called Guatemala Genesis, served both hot and cold.  I loved it so much I bought a bag!

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Caffeine Crawl 16Stop 4:  Our final stop was at Ironsmith Coffee Roasters, owned by Matt & Raul.  Their shop isn’t quite opened yet, but we still were treated to a “flash brew” where the coffee is shocked, as well as a very informative slide presentation.  Stay connected to their Facebook page for their grand opening!

Caffeine Crawl 18Dontcha love a good “SWAG Bag”?  The bag of Guatemala Genesis that I bought at Lofty Coffee Co. is at the top.  Can’t wait to grind all of these great coffees!

(FTC Disclosure:  I was offered the opportunity to attend this event as a courtesy, but not necessarily for the purposes of a review.  Although I attended free of charge, the opinions in this post are strictly my own.)

Last Minute Holiday Gift Guide!

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If you’re like me, you’ve waited until the absolute last-minute to get your gift list together for the Christmas Holiday.  I do it every year, and I don’t know if I’ll ever learn to be proactive and do it earlier.

So what I’ve done is found some really cool gift ideas that are a bit outside of the norm, and only one requires actual gift wrap.  Cheers and happy shopping!

 Caffeine Crawl 2015 Tickets

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The Caffeine Crawl takes place January 23-24 2015, and showcases 16 different coffee houses in San Diego.  Tickets range from $23-30 per route, but it looks like you get some goodies along with your tickets.  This is a great gift for the coffee lover in your life!

Tickets include an event packet with Crawl goodies and souvenirs, admittance to all stops on your selected route which includes a drink or chocolate sample provided and determined by each shop, and short, educational presentation.

 Afternoon Tea at Mary’s English Kitchen

Marys English Kitchen from YelpI had such a wonderful time during my own afternoon tea experience at Harrods (original post here), so I have been looking for another experience to match it.  When Katie from the blog La Jolla Mom mentioned Mary’s English Kitchen in La Jolla, I thought about getting that as a gift for me and my girlfriends as a great afternoon out.  If you want to do the same, you can call them at (858) 263-4614 to inquire about gift certificates or to make a reservation.

(Photo courtesy of Yelp!)

ClassPass Gift Cards

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Recently, I was able to take part in a month membership to ClassPass (post here), where one month’s membership gets you unlimited access to participating exercise studios in the San Diego area.  If you have someone in your life who would like to do the same, gift cards are available for one class, a one month membership or three-month membership.  Click on the link for details! ClassPass Gifting

 Duty Free City Gift Certificates

IMG_3506 (2) (1280x1280)After I won my Furla bag from Duty Free City and attended their grand opening (posts here and here), I truly feel it’s a wonderful place to spend a day with family or friends because it’s not just about the shopping, but the experience.  Gift certificates are available to give that experience to someone you love by calling (619) 621-2600.

The Sand Cloud Beach Towel

DSC04225 (2) (1280x1280)Finally, the only gift in my little gift guide that may need actual wrapping paper: The Sand Cloud beach towel.  When I first posted about this fantastic little beach blanket/towel (post here), it was merely a start-up.  Now they have a full-blown shop where you can purchase one for $32.50 and they come in six cool colors.  I have two of them myself: one in Ocean Blue and the Mint Green one pictured above.  Stay tuned…I may have a surprise in the new year for you regarding Sand Cloud!

Cupping: A Caffeinated Performance by Mostra Coffee

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I’ve been incredibly busy lately, so I’m playing catch up with some events that have happened over the past few weeks.  Recently, my sister and I attended a “Cupping” session with a local coffee company called Mostra Coffee.  Since the location of the session was in the Rancho Bernardo area, it was easy for my sister to meet up with me prior to her going to work.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, except that maybe it would be like a wine tasting, but with coffee.  What we got was a fabulous coffee experience.  I discovered Mostra Coffee through their Instagram account, and learned about the cupping session on their Facebook page.  The pictures below tell the story of our experience, and if you’re a coffee fanatic like me, the Mostra Coffee cupping session is a must. Have a great weekend!

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We all start off with the ground coffee first, smelling the coffee to distinguish the different aromas.

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Hot water is added to each bowl, and we “slurp” the coffee to see if it brings out more aromas or other flavors.

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This is a flavor wheel.  It helps those of us who are novices to coffee tasting (like moi).

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After trying the coffee hot, we then were able to try to their “cold brews”, which surprisingly altered the taste and brought out even more flavors.  I loved the Guatemala because it was deep and rich like a French Roast.

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After the tasting, we were treated to a siphoning demonstration by Mike, master roaster.

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The coffee used for the siphoning was the Guatemala beans, and it was blended with a wonderful Teavana tea called Toasted Nut Brulee.  After adding a bit of cream to this blend, it tasted like dessert!

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The cupping session took place at the Abnormal Wine Company in Rancho Bernardo, right next to where I work and across the street from where my sister lives.  If you would like to attend a cupping session by Mostra Coffee, you can do so by checking out their Facebook page and you can also find out about their events by going to their official site.  FYI – this is a Filipino owned company, and they hope to introduce coffee beans grown in the Philippines!

Home Brewed

Everyone is trying to save a little here and there, including myself.  Rather than going out on a regular basis to coffee houses to get that specialized espresso drink, try making a home brewed version.  Because of my love of anything coffee related, some of my friends used to think that I have a really pricey espresso machine at home.  I actually have a more inexpensive way to get the kind of caffeinated drink I like whenever I want.  My aunt who lived in Italy for many years (but now lives in Toronto) said this is the only way they made espresso, and was pleasantly surprised to see this is how I make my espresso when she came to visit.

Here’s an idea of how much you can save:  A great new machine from Illy called the Capresso Café Espresso and Cappuccino Machine costs around $159 and uses the E.S.E. pods (pre-filled), as well as regular ground espresso (coffee not included).

Total cost for my home brewed version, including coffee (Ground Espresso Dark Roast $28 for a pack of 2 cans on Illy.com):  $50

The Moka Pot is used to “cook” the espresso on the stove top (basically a percolator).  This sized Moka Pot makes around 4 shots of espresso (1 cup).  Bialetti Moka Pot $20 on Illy.com 

 This battery operated device is from Ikea and will froth milk, making it foamy (for you mommies out there, you can also use it as a formula mixer!).  Produkt Milk Frother $1.99 on Ikea.com.

To create your favorite espresso based drink:  Make the espresso using the Moka pot on the stove top (1 heaping tablespoon of ground espresso, 1 cup of water), medium heat to prevent boiling over; remove from heat once the liquid fills the top portion of the pot.  Heat the milk in a microwave safe cup for about 1 minute, then froth.  Add shots of espresso and flavored syrup to taste (my favorite is Torani).  Serve hot or add ice and enjoy! 

Espresso A Go-Go

Is necessity the mother of invention, or is invention the mother of necessity?  I’m not sure what your take is, but the inventor of this amazing gadget is a genius! 

Handpresso Wild E.S.E.

 Meet the Handpresso Wild E.S.E (Travel Set).  I found it on Illy.com because I received an email about their 3 day sale (which started yesterday).  This blog post is going under “Galley Goodies”,  “Deal of the Day” and a new category called “Fully Caffeinated”  because of the nifty gadget, the Illy.com sale (enter ESUMMER7 at checkout to get your discount) and because I’m addicted to anything with caffeine. 

Basically you just pump the machine, add hot water, put in the pod of Illy and you have espresso!  Whether in the car, in a hotel room, when you’re camping or practically anywhere, you can have delicious Illy espresso at your disposal.   You can also keep your Handpresso protected because the hard travel case is included. 

The only drawback I see is that you have to purchase the E.S.E. pods from Illy, but even that isn’t enough of a drawback for me.  The coffee addict in me just can’t turn away from such a magnificent piece of caffeinated machinery!