Friday, March 9, 2012

INTELLIGENTSIA COFFEE East Colorado Blvd, Pasadena

Exterior Facade

Staying in Pasadena has it perks, mostly because of the ability to bebop in and out of Downtown LA, we love driving along the streets adorned with beautiful homes and cherry blossom trees and strolling along Colorado Blvd in Old Town Pasadena for some food and shopping. There's a real sense of the locale here; a little quaintness, a little hip, a little college-town and touch of suburb all rolled into a neat historic community within the LA sprawl.   And deep within this microcosm of sun-drenched lollygaggers and tragically hip housewives, we knew of a small urban chain where we were certain to get a, "most excellent" brew.............of coffee. So we boot, scoot and boogied our way to caffeine Mecca!

We had been to other outposts of Intelligentsia Coffee, (Abbot Kinney in Venice, Sunset in Hollywood) and so coming here we had an inkling of its product, popularity and target demographic. And out of all of the Intelligentsia shops, this outpost has been the most subdued and tranquil.

Don't get me wrong; there's still a throng of hipster wannabes, (PC laptops strictly prohibited as shown by the invisible sign at the front) but by far, the ambience and interior streams well with it's location in Old Town.

Interior View

The interior: a cavernous, industrial warehouse of caffeine that exudes a comforting warmth; spacious and airy with just enough head space to feel the creative juices flowing for that movie script you've been working on for the last five years, but dark enough to exude a cavelike womb-dim Edison filament lamps over the reclaimed wood bar, outdoor string lights hanging under a simple black painted ceiling resembles a starry-lit night.  The feature wall is painted in a Marseille blue and subconsciously, I am subdued.....while the exposed brick wall on the other side evokes that existential angst that I have carried with me since my days in architecture school.  Add to that exposed I-beam column in Bengali Red, and damn, why hast thou forsaken me, Ayn Rand?  (But I digress, it must be the industrial stools and fixtures that remind me of endless hours in studio.....they're still as uncomfortable today as they were back then)..

Brick Wall
With the clatter of espresso machines frothing and and coffee cups clinging, it's still quiet enough to procrastinate the day way, and if you're already wired from the super sophisticated, over the top production coffee that you just guzzled, well there's a full liquor bar right inside! Uppers and downers hooray!!!

There is a service delivery issue that should be mentioned; if you haven't visited this location before, it can be confusing. Upon entering, you are greeted with a display case of baked goods; around the corner you see a long counter running the length of the space that combines the coffee making, the register and the seated liquor bar, all with various people lining up in disconnected chaos. At the front, coffee barista asks for your drink order and baked goods, but no hot food items.  Then you wait in queue for the register where the staff may or may not get your drink order correct from the barista right next to them; here's where you can order an entree item and pay (maybe for what you ordered, maybe for the order of the person behind you).  Then you wait at the same area to pick up your drink, which can take several minutes due to the artisinal production of your caffeinated drink which creates a bottleneck. This causes you to say, "screw it!" and go straight to the bar for a shot.... But without any caffeine in the system, the body is listless and unable to make any sort of emotional commitment whatsoever to an applied physical action, so there you wait.......

Lost in a sea of Apple.............
I will say that the staff is super polite and helpful, as well they are a dapper bunch!  The men are swayed in ties and vests, sleeves rolled up to expose their tattoo forearms suggesting their fealty to  anti-establishment while in prep hipster performance gear, as the ladies are in all-black La Femme Nikita attire, ready to double agent themselves at any given moment....

Food and Drink: coming here for the first time in the am, we decided to partake in the their semi breakfast fare and the menu was alluring!  But first we ordered our coffee and picked up our number and found a table.  They are mostly a fast casual, you pick up your utensils- the water jugs were chemist's beakers-so sway!! 

For coffee, Rick ordered the Chemex brew of Doyo Ethiopian coffee.  Special filters are placed over a glass carafe housing the special grinds and boiling water is slowly poured through to drip into the carafe, resulting in a clean and full tasting cup of coffee. Other methods, such as the Siphon Brewer and French Press are also present in the barista arsenal and each cup is individually prepared, (which doesn't come cheap- $4~5 per cup).  They serve a small carafe for a refill, so it may even out in the end......I ordered the iced Doyo coffee, which was wonderfully strong and smooth with a natural sweetness.  

Pork Belly and Egg Sandwich
For breakfast, I ordered the Pork Belly and Egg Sandwich, thick pieces of soft Pork Belly with Egg, Kale, Shredded Carrots and Aoli served on a Brioche bun with a side of potatoes.  The Pork Belly was surprisingly light even with the fat, and complimented the morning breakfast Egg and buttery bun.  I dont' remember the potatoes, which means they were just meant as filler.  But it was satisfying, if a little on the pricey side....

Zoom Zoom

Rick ordered the Eggs Benedict, which was standard.  The eggs were poached very well and the Hollandaise sauce was righteous, but again for the price point, you feel as though you're paying for the ambient experience..and the coffee equipment.....

They have a section where you can buy coffee wares as well as a selection of coffee beans.  They sell from all over the world; Bolivia, Brazil, Columbia and Rwanda. We bought the Nyaruza Rwanda blend and will attempt to use the Chemex Brewing system at home for that Intelligentsia experience, (I will wear a tie and vest for the occasion)!  We've added their mugs to our ever-growing collection, but don't even think about buying their grinders or coffee makers there-it's more than you can afford... believe me, I asked........(sigh)

Eggs Benedict

Overall, a great place for coffee and a super choice alternative to the burn and churn chains of burnt swill.....The atmosphere makes this place a fun and enjoyable atmosphere!

Rating (Out of Five Stars)

Coffee        4.5
Food          3.5
Service       3
Ambience   4.25

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