Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Houston, we have ignition!

For space fans, make sure to go to the Johnson Space Center outside of Houston, TX. Ignore any reviews that you may have read that you need only a couple hours or that it is primarily a place for kids. Plan on getting there early in the morning so you don't miss out on anything like I did. I eventually got there around 1PM and stayed there until I got kicked out at 5PM. It is a chance to see the original Mission Control from the 1960's, check out a space shuttle, see command modules up close, look at astronaut artifacts, touch moon rocks...in short, it was awesome.

On the subject of coffeehouses, I found the tasty pickings slim.

Agora (1712 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 713-526-7212) is a coffeehouse that really blew my mind. First of all, it is a Greek coffeehouse, so the vibe is completely different. The decor is different in a euro kind of way, the layout is different where there is an upstairs area that was primarily a perimeter balcony (perfect for people watching), and then an upstairs outdoor patio. There are wine and beer bottles lined up along the entire perimeter of the 20 foot L shaped bar. You just pick out the one you want and pay for it. The menu was slightly different. Espresso was served with a lemon rind. Their frappe was a couple scoops of dry nescafe mix, with added milk and blended. Gourmet coffee twas not.  I didn't sit downstairs because most of the chairs they had were the $20 director's chair variety.  I was in Houston for 3 days poking around, but this was the only coffeehouse that I went to twice. The place was hopping both times. The coffee didn't do it for me. Maybe I loved it for the euroness or how different and hip it was but the place had some mystical attraction about it. If I lived in Houston, I would be there all the time.

Catalina Coffee (2201 Washington Ave, Houston, TX 713-861-8448) wants to be serious about coffee and they are probably the most serious out of the Houston area coffeehouses. They had seemingly higher quality beans, and they had a beautiful old school looking Faema espresso machine. After talking with the owner a little, he told me that the machine had a heat exchanger. Oopsie! With a heat exchanger, there is only 1 boiler sharing the water heating duties for both espresso and milk steaming instead of two. The problem with that is with a multi-cup milk frothing session or after making alot of back to back espressos, the water temp dips significantly and it takes time to recover. With ideal espresso water temp being between 198 to 200 degrees, having such temp variability does not a consistent espresso make. Their location seemed to be a little suspect, being in what looked like a rundown industrial neighborhood. The interior is bright and clean, and has a modern, comfortable feeling. I liked the owner's attitude and goals for the coffeehouse and he was likable. The espresso tasted ok, but I wanted to like the espresso more. 

Taft Street Coffee (2115 Taft St, Houston, TX 77006  713-522-3533) is one of a variety of things that the location houses. It is a church, recording studio, community center, art gallery and bookstore. The tables and stools were all the bar height kind, so it kind of took a little getting used to. The barista was very personable, and the place had free wifi. The espresso was ok. And another thing. I passed by this place a bunch of times until I realized that it was ALSO a coffeehouse.

1 comment:

Night Owl said...

Keep up the good work, Mark!