Dog It

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Encapsulating the surfy culture of the Venice beach area, Dogtown Coffee or DTC, boasts of organic micro roasted coffee, some tasty eats and a staff dress code that says “by looking at us you probably think we don’t give a dam”.

Walking into Dogtown is quite refreshing and definitely a departure from the common clean industrial looks of so many cafes. In fact, it probably was a little dirty (or was that just clutter on the walls?). You wont find staff buttoned in vests, with bowties, plaid shirts and suspenders here. The surfer/skater look, which has managed to transcend time is definitely the dominant theme here.

The service was pretty standard. I asked for my usual. I will reveal something for you all here. I have named my usual.

Enter “the hybrid”. Of course this is yet to catch on in the States but give it time. A hybrid is the cross between a long black and flat white. I don’t like to drink too much milk but I do love a little. And I prefer a water based drink and the strength of the double shot in a long black, but I don’t like all the water that is in a long black. Difficult right? But I am sure you understand. Therefore, the hybrid combines the too and voila! I keep my coffee and dairy addictions subdued for another day, or another two hours.

Now rest assured I did not ask the poor kid behind the counter for a hybrid but I did simply ask for an 8oz Americano with steamed milk. On their menu, the translated to a small version of that they call “the Gringo”. You have to be specific with the sizes here as their smallest size is 12 oz. Come on Dogtown, get with the times.

What I love about a lot of places here (ahh yes, can you sense the sarcasm? Here comes another rant) more often than not the person serving me loves to listen to the first half of my order before quickly turn their back to begin making my coffee before I can even finish saying steamed milk! Gosh it really gets me. The amount of times I think to myself, ‘Here we go again. That’s fine, I will just wait until they hand me my coffee but this time they only have to listen to me say “Can I have some steamed milk please?” Surely they can wait long enough for me to say that!’

What I received in the end looked like an oversized babycino. I took a sip and wasn’t even sure I had tasted anything that slightly resembled coffee. They had filled up the 12oz cup to the top and most of if looked like a white fluffy cloud. So, I stood at the counter waiting for someone to at least look at me so I could catch their eye and ask them for the 8oz coffee I originally wanted. This sounds easier than it was. I was there for a while. There was plenty of chat and movement behind the counter amongst themselves with little customer interaction. Actually let me rephrase this. There was no customer interaction. So I cut the air with my Australian accent “Excuse me. I asked for an 8oz is it possible to have this remade?” I may be giving you a bad impression of me here. I actually have a lot more grace for baristas than it would seem. But this just wasn’t what I ordered, or what I would drink. The barista, with a little reluctance, obliged and I thanked her sincerely.

It was just not meant to be. I received this next:

Dogtown coffee cup

Still an Americano, but with an overly foamy layer on top and still more than the 8oz ordered. I gave up. We left the café and made a comment that maybe their food would be better and we may just have to come back to try it. They can still redeem themselves somehow. I will just stick to water though.

 

We strolled along Main Street in Venice, which I definitely recommend. There are plenty of shops, bars and eateries along the way. I still had my coffee in my hand as we browsed the farmers market when it suddenly dawned on me, “Why am I still drinking this? I am not even enjoying it.”

Bin it DTC

Yes I did, I threw it in the bin. If ever in Venice, in need of a coffee and Dogtown is in view, I suggest you dog it.

THE RANT

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Disclaimer: It is not my intention to sound condescending, judgemental or ungrateful to all the baristas who have handed me my coffee over the past few visits to Los Angeles. I am not turning my nose up at the American coffee culture of the past, and sadly for some, the culture that has continued into the present. I wish to merely help the needy understand where it is I am coming from when I walk up to your counter to order my desired beverage. Furthermore, there are a few generalisations made that do not apply to all. Please, do not take this personally.

With that said and done, it’s time to get into this.

There are some very obvious abuses of coffee in the States. Sizes for example, are one. WHAT ON EARTH IS A VENTI AND WHY WOULD I WANT TO DRINK 600ML OF MILK WITH MY COFFEE? To make it worse, Starbucks has introduced the TRENTA! That is 31oz people. That is 900mls of whatever it is you ordered in one sitting. To be fair, it is only used for cold drinks, but still my point remains. An 8oz coffee is perfect, and a 6oz coffee even better. When the coffee tastes really nice, go for something a little smaller like a piccolo or cortado, which shows off the flavourful layers in the bean that little bit more.

I never want to waste too much time on Starbucks because there has been a new coffee culture on the rise in the States, particularly in the big cities. Those with a love for their roast and all things caffeinated will too turn find their facial expression overcome with disgust at the very name of the coffee superpower. The times have changed. And it is a few little problematic areas within this newly emerged culture on which I would like to focus.

First, let’s get educated. Below is a diagram of the basic coffees you can purchase at any café in Australia. The standard size is 8oz unless otherwise stated. Some cafes (and this is a growing trend) serve double espresso or double ristretto shots as their standard in all drinks. You can ask your barista about this. However, this guide will help you to understand the basics.

Coffee diagramfinal

Now that we all understand what a latte is let me ask this, why is it that in many of the cafes I have visited a latte costs more than a cappuccino and a flat white costs more than both? Now this is not the case in ALL cafes but is definitely the case in many. The price usually differs by 50cents here and there and while that is not much, it is just plain nonsensical. Some say “A latte has more milk that a cappuccino” but really, the barista pours the same amount of milk into his milk jug, it is just about how he foams it and pours. A lot of the time there is not much difference at all. Therefore, why can’t we all just simplify things a bit and have the same price for all milk based coffees? Makes sense to me (and to every other person who has thought about this a little too much.)

Just recently I purchased a cortado from Gjelina Take Away, a little takeaway (or to-go) sister to the restaurant next door, (that sells amazing pizzas and food in general) Gjelina. I paid $4.60 for a 3oz coffee. How is that even possible? One shot of coffee that is usually sold for around $3 and maybe $3.50 max. Now add 2oz milk and charge me 50c and call it a day. BUT $4.60!!! REALLY? Okay, okay, moving on. As you can tell, I am still a little scarred from the whole ordeal.

My next little topic of interest is consistency. A lot of the cafes around do things just a little differently to each other. Granted, a cappuccino and latte is usually the same everywhere. And on that point, why does a cappuccino not have chocolate on top here? Its sacrilege! And truly, what american would be against a little bit of sugary chocolate like this? latte-art-177_ybT384L4

The macchiato? Well, some places make it like a little piccolo in a cup. Other places make it as pictured above in the diagram.

Now the flat white deserves a little paragraph all to itself. For some reason flat whites have been defined as a small coffee with less milk, ie: a small latte. In Australia, lattes are served in glass, and the flat white is its ceramic sister with a little less foam. You can also order a flat white in any size available. Not here. A flat white is small. Only small. Funnily enough, some places do not stock cups small enough to provide for the flat white that has been recently introduced to their menu. The solution? They will merely fill your 12oz cup three quarters of the way and call it a day. Oh, how the flat white has been abused, misused and taken for granted.

What about my good old buddy the long black. Why, OH WHY do so many cafes, so bent on measuring every single shot from the amount of grind in the basket to the amount extracted, waste such good crema by extracting the shot into a tumbler and then pouring it into your coffee?! The poor long black draws the short straw with this method. When done this way, it takes just a few seconds for my would-be golden crema-rich beverage to deplete to dirty, muddy looking water.

Lastly, may we just take a little time to discuss wait times? I get it. I know coffee is an art. I know that places get busy and in fact, I have been there up to my neck in coffee orders and with a line out the door still waiting to order. But, there have been some trying moments in select cafes in Los Angeles where I have wondered if it was a joke. If you love coffee and you have been to LA, then Intelligentsia is probably a favourite on the list. Don’t get me wrong, the coffee tastes great and looks great. I also have not been there in my current visit to the States. From what I have witnessed however, it seems efficiency is lost at the hands of the barista who revels in all their glory as the customer follows them around the counter as you embark together on a coffee journey before they finally pour it in front of your face. Sorry people, but I am no here for the show. I respect and love the art but sing it with me, humility.

All I want is good service, quality coffee, a fair price and I want it all within a reasonable time frame. Rant over.

As I have probably left any American reading this feeling flat as a pancake, let me give you a little something to pin your hopes to. The last four years that I have been to and from the States I have seen drastic improvement. The coffee culture is booming with much more to come. This market is no where near saturated, and indeed I would say it is has just got its palette a bit whet.

There are cafes that are great! Ones that I truly appreciate for a variety of reasons (Blacktop you are one. The avocado on toast is incredible. Oh, and the coffee too of course). The fact that 8oz cups are used in more and more places, and that a cortado is even a thing, well done America. Consider your ego stroked. patriotic-eagle-crumbling-wallpaper

Two Guns a’blazin’

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I have been told by a few people to try Two Guns Espresso. They always followed up the recommendation with, “It’s run by two New Zealanders” as if that is somehow meant to woo me. For all the rivalry there is between Aussies and the Kiwis I must say, I was not let down.

Two Guns Espresso has three locations at this point. One is Downtown LA and the other two are in Manhattan Beach. When plans to visit this beach on a Saturday morning turned to plans to drink coffee and eat while the rain fell down around us, we decided to put the guns to the test. Who am I kidding, my plans are to ALWAYS eat and drink and Two Guns Espresso was ALWAYS on my hit list.

We found the little cafe on Sepulveda Boulevard and 5th Street and pulled into the parking lot to find this:Cuppa Joe

Well don’t mind if I do!

The first thing to catch my eye as we walked inside was the B.L.A.T on the menu. Now this is somewhere I can call home. For those in need of a little help here, a B.L.A.T is a bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomato roll often served at breakfast and often smeared with a yummy aioli.

The staff were friendly and the coffee prices pretty standard. The food menu looked quite enticing and I dare say I would have ordered from it had I not just inhaled some fish tacos already. One flat white coming right up!

Let’s just say we left extremely satisfied. So satisfied in fact, five minutes down the road we decided we needed some of their beans. Alas, I will be in to test out their DTLA location soon. Real soon.

 

 

For all your viewing pleasures, here are some other Kiwis blazing’…