My fantastic coffee voyage (part 2)...

September 19, 2011

The second stop on my tour of Manhattan was Ninth Street Espresso over in Chelsea Market.  In case you're wondering, yes, I enjoy Chelsea quite a bit.  I would have liked to have gone past the original Ninth Street, except the Orchard Festival (or something similarly named) was consuming almost all of the lower east side of the island.  Speaking of which, did you know that almost all of the lower east side was an apple orchard owned by a Frenchman?  Hence, the 'Big Apple.'  I'm still not sure where the 'Big' comes into play, although it presumably has something to do with importance.  New Yorkers...

A rather classy logo...




Oh, I digress. Ninth Street Espresso is a place I'd frequent almost every day if I lived nearby.  Why?  Well, for a third-wave joint, they're exceptionally fast.  I mean they might as well be using the super autos at Starbucks- that kind of fast.  You would never think that the coffee was freshly ground, dosed, tamped, polished, and extracted for the optimal 30 or so seconds.  My guess is that the barista is partaking in the product.  There were three women behind the counter when I paid a visit and all of them could barely contain their eyes in their skulls.  I've never seen anyone as wired as the girl who pulled my shot.  She was pretty amazing, though.  I saw her juggle three to four orders at a time, ranging from a cappuccino to a macchiato to an espresso, and she never lost her composure, nor did she ever slow down.  

The espresso she pulled for me was heavenly.  I really can't emphasize this enough.  Sooner or later, I'm gonna have to grab a pound of their Alphabet City blend, which is roasted exclusively for them by Intelligentsia.  While taking in this blend, I literally experienced four incredibly balanced waves of flavor.  The first wave was an astringent, acidic tinge that melted away very quickly.  It was actually almost palette cleansing (I did have some espresso maybe an hour earlier).  Following this, I started getting some spice notes like cinnamon and nutmeg; almost as though it were the garnish on eggnog or apple cider.  This spice note dissolved into something very sweet and mildly fruity, like a caramel apple.  The mild fruit expanded into something very robust, like a winey-type grape.  It was a very pleasant finish.  Unlike what happened at Stumptown, this shot stuck with me for a long time.

 

I wish I could say something for the décor, but it was very sparse.  Following the blueprint of its surroundings, Ninth Street Espresso adopted a lunch counter/deli-type aesthetic.  Given its large amount of foot traffic, this is probably for the best.  Watching the baristas in action, one can discern how the set-up is designed to facilitate the coffee-making process in almost an assembly-line like fashion.  To give you an idea of what I'm talking about, there's a frothing pitcher cleansing station just between their two La Marzocco machines and a refrigerator stocked with milk and cold pitchers just under the bar. To me, it looked like this set-up cut a couple of minutes from their brew process, which probably really adds up at the end of the day. 

I was really glad I got to experience Ninth Street Espresso.  Whenever a coffee spot puts 'espresso' in their name, they're generally setting people up for disappointment; specifically, those with discerning tastes. I really doubt anyone could show up at Ninth Street and be disappointed. It was well worth the visit, as was the next stop on my fantastic voyage, the Highline coffee stand...   



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