Feb 2, 2008

urban exploring

I got the day off today. My wife was out of town all week and was kind enough to exempt me from child rearing duties. Usually when I get a day off I go urban exploring as my friend Toshi calls it. Essentially just tooling around the city to visit new spots. New York is a pretty good place for this obviously.

The first spot I hit was the Roasting Plant. Think coffee shop for gadget freaks. You can see in the picture below the setup the owner has built. On the right are tubes of coffee beans. Farther to the right off camera is a roaster. Everything is connected by smaller tubes and it is automated. The raw beans are sent to the roaster by pneumatic action. When they are done they are sent to holding bins. When you order a coffee the beans are again whisked through the tubes to one of two automatic coffee presses. The whole thing is run by two iMacs that you can see at the cash register spots. The cool thing about this setup is you can even blend coffees. If you want half a sumatra and half an arabica then the system can handle this.

Here's a video of the holding vats. Listen carefully and you can hear the beans flying through the tubes. It's not only pretty cool, the coffee was actually some of the best I've ever tasted.

I actually hit a second coffee store shortly after the Roasting Plant called Cafe Grumpy. It was recently written up in the New York Times in an article about expensive coffee machines. This place has the cheaper Clover ($11K) instead of the really expensive one located at a coffee shop in San Francisco.

The process for making this one was as cool as the fully robotic one. The barista grinds the coffee and puts it into a hole in a top of the machine. Hot water is added and stirred. The machine then vacuum sucks the coffee through a strainer and the strainer pops up so the grounds can be discarded. Video below with explanation provided by the barista. Pretty good coffee but not as good as the Factory Plant.

I then headed up to the Upper East Side to hit Lobel's. This place is a serious butcher shop. The shop itself is quite small and very little is on display. But they carry Wagyu beef and Kurobuta pork (a Japanese version of a Berkshire pig). It's all incredibly expensive. Some of it more than $150 per pound. I only picked up some bacon which wasn't cheap either. But one day I'll hit this place for a serious dinner party.

These are their non-Wagyu steaks. Dry aged and pretty well marbled. You can order online and have it sent to you.

Next I hit Grom which is an Italian gelato chain. They have one store in the U.S. on the Upper West Side. It normally has a line out the door which is why I waited until winter and went early. It tastes as good as it looks. It's a pretty intense ice cream. Super creamy and soft. Awesome stuff.

Then on the way home I decided to stop into Bamn. Bamn is a pretty silly store but pretty cool anyway. It's an automat restaurant. So all the food comes out in vending slots like you might see in Japan. What makes the store kind of silly is you can order it fresh from the front counter. I guess this is a great restaurant for anti-social people.

The food actually looks decent although I didn't buy anything. Hot dogs, grilled cheese sandwiches, mac & cheese. Typical fast food-ish comfort food.

And then just next door is Toy Tokyo. It's not really a toy store. It's a figurine store. They have literally every kind of figurine ever made. Here's the Smurf section.

Jack from The Shining (axe included)

Cereal figurines

Did I mention they have every figurine imaginable?

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