Many of my best dining experiences never make it to the page: If an eating establishment doesn’t merit a first look, dish of the week, is it still good?, point on a map, or paragraph in a feature story, it often disappears. Those fleeting encounters with restaurants are often the most enjoyable. Accordingly, I resolved to keep an informal diary reflecting my unvarnished daily experiences. Here’s the eighteenth installment along with the previous edition.
After working my way through my usual ice coffees, cortados, and espressos at the dozen or so coffee bars I frequent, I set out to get some coffees that were a bit different.
Peanut butter coffee from Cloud Vietnamese
Cloud Vietnamese is a new Lower East Side restaurant that has more than just the usual Vietnamese coffee — which is dark, made in a small metal press that takes forever to drip, and served with a layer of sweetened condensed milk that must be stirred up from the bottom of the glass. The menu at Cloud varies this formula, with options like egg yolk, lychee peach, honey lime, and… peanut butter? I was curious how it would taste and how they’d make it.
The ca phe bod dau phong ($7) came to the table already pressed, dark on top, lighter on the bottom. I held my breath and stirred, then tasted. It didn’t taste at all like peanut butter, but it did have a nutty savoriness that buoyed the roasted flavor of the coffee beans. When I got to the bottom, there was a caramel-color sludge, kind of pretty but also inedible. It made me wish I’d stirred the coffee with every other sip. 79 Clinton Street, near Rivington, Lower East Side
Turkish coffee at Moustache
Turkish coffee is very finely ground and put into cold water then brought to a boil. It should be drunk sweet, and the sugar is put into the pot with the cold water, which results in a concentrated sweetness. The drawback, or maybe advantage, is that the coffee grounds sludge stays in the bottom, so it’s an exercise in brinksmanship to see how much of the liquid you can sip up without getting a mouthful of grounds. It makes drinking coffee an activity you must pay attention to. Turkish coffee at Moustache is a merciful $4. 29 Seventh Avenue South, near Leroy Street, Greenwich Village
Ethiopian coffee at Bersi
Step inside Bersi, a vegan Ethiopian restaurant in Greenpoint, and the first thing you see is a coffee service display, complete with coffee cups arrayed like soldiers in formation; a black ceramic brewing pot; and an incense burner indispensable to the ceremony.
The coffee ($6) is rich but paradoxically thin (sugar is recommended). And the incense makes me think maybe all coffee bars should burn it — it makes drinking coffee more enjoyable. 1049 Manhattan Avenue, near Freeman Street, Greenpoint
Affogato at Julietta
Dessert in Italian restaurants is often chased with a demitasse of espresso, or you can combine the two in an affogato, a caffeinated dessert usually featuring a scoop of vanilla gelato in a double shot of espresso. Sipping and spooning, you can enjoy both the coffee and the gelato, and the latter melts more slowly than you might think ($9).
I thought to myself, why not enjoy an affogato as my morning coffee? Since many gelaterias double as coffee bars, it’s often a possibility. And that is just what I did, feeling a pang of guilt for eating gelato for breakfast. 335 Bleecker Street, near Christopher Street, West Village