Friday, January 18, 2013

Dessert | coffee & pastries in Chucktown

In between all of the eating we did in Charleston (nicknamed Chucktown), we found solace in some more consumption by snacking on some crazy good pastries as well as sipping on well-crafted hot beverages. When traveling with Alice and Jimmy, a solid coffee joint will always be on the itinerary. So after a delightful lunch at Butcher & Bee our first day in town, we thought a nice afternoon pick-me-up was in order before our grand feast at McCrady's. Although we were disappointed to find out that Hope and Union Coffee Co. unexpectedly closed in October last year, we found another hopeful spot -- {1Black Tap Coffee on Beaufain, right in the reach of a local school, College of Charleston.

Having been opened a little over a year ago, Black Tap Coffee has clean, minimalist interiors -- {2,6} white walls with dark mahogany tables, benches, stools, chairs. Most of the furniture was designed by local woodworker Stephen Wain. In fact, the main table was made from wood rescued from a house fire on Rutledge Street. {4} Cucumber water comes complimentary to patrons, while {4} the menu is silkscreened on a sheet of burlap featuring singular descriptions of brew styles, many of which is new to me, a complete bean novice (I only count them during my day job :P). {5} Love the layout of the coffee counter here -- zen combination of black, white ceramic, and glass.

The wall art, including {1} this spiffy neighborhood map of Charleston, and subtle textures from the simple greenery, made for a very relaxing and calm environment to read, enjoy a hot drink, etc. In fact, we loved this place so much that we made a second trip on Monday before we left. 

{3,5} It was fun to watch the barista at the counter make Jimmy's {2} pour-over coffee, {4} Alice's gorgeous cortado with a simple latté heart, and {9} an on-tap cold brew coffee. {8} Additionally, I had one of the best steeped chai lattés ever here. It was brewed from legit chai tea leaves, not artificially from a drink mix, concentrate or what have you. {6,9} The assortment of pastries here are pretty damn good, too (note almond croissant and chocolate chip cookies were awesome) -- funnily enough, they're all from WildFlour Pastry (see rest of review below). I recently found out that the baristas at Black Tap Coffee were trained at Counter Culture Coffee, so they really know their stuff. So great to find a niche coffeehouse like Black Tap in the heart of Charleston. We kept saying it wouldn't be surprising to find a spot like this in Williamsburg here in Brooklyn.

The following morning on Sunday, we set forth to {2WildFlour Pastry for {1} its (in)famous pecan sticky buns which are only available on Sundays from 8 AM to 1 PM. A graduate from the Culinary Institute of America in Baking and Pastry back in 2004, Chef Lauren Mitterer owns and heads the operations at WildFlour. Her past experience includes interning at Tavern on the Green and externing at Larkspur in Vail, Colorado. After graduating, she moved to Charleston to accept a position as executive pastry chef at Red Drum Gastropub. Five years later, she left to open WildFlour, in pursuit of "her dream of creating {3,7} "deconstructed yet elegant versions of comfort desserts, satisfying that unique craving of sweet and salty."

{6} Along with the usual hot beverages running the gamut at most bakeries and cafés, the bakery also offers a few varieties of quiche and other baked goods. {4} We had no idea how massive the buns were going to be so we got one pecan sticky bun and one cinnamon bun so we could sample and share without ruining our appetites for lunch. The sticky buns were as awesome as everyone hyped them to be (sweet and salty!), and even with the generous glob of icing, the cinnamon buns were great (a little softer than the sticky buns) as well!

The same afternoon, we were looking for another fix of caffeine so {5} we found Kudu Coffee and Craft Beer to be worthy of a drop-in. The local coffeehouse is named after the African antelope that has a grayish/brownish coat with white vertical stripes and long, spiraled horns, as it features many strong African blend of beans. Kudu serves Counter Culture coffee and espresso, and it also turns out the baristas here make pretty badass latté art.

For Alice and Jimmy's cortados, there was {3} a singular and {8} a double heart. I guess the noticed us snapping away at our coffees, the barista was kind enough to make us two more -- {1} a classic tulip and {3} a beautiful foamy swan.

Findings: One thing's for sure -- Charleston is not without an exciting caffeine community nor a delicious pastry scene. It appears this town takes its taste and technique for a solid cup of joe quite seriously. So if you're in search for a non-chain, neighborhood spot to enjoy your daily brew au lait, then Black Tap Coffee and Kudu Coffee & Craft Beer are must-visits. As far as pastries are concerned, you'd be crazy to be in Charleston on a Sunday and not stop into WildFlour Pastry for a hunk of its awesome sticky and cinnamon buns. But if you're at Black Tap, you can enjoy both well-crafted coffee and WildFlour's pastries. 

Price point: $3.25-4.50 for each hot beverage at Black Tap Coffee, $2.5-3 for each pastry; $3 for each bun at WildFlour Pastry; $3.20-4.35 for each hot beverage at Kudu Coffee & Craft Beer (please note we received two complimentary lattés from the barista). 

--January 5-7, 2013

Black Tap Coffee
70 Beaufain Street
Charleston, SC 29401

WildFlour Pastry
73 Spring Street
Charleston, SC 29403

Kudu Coffee & Craft Beer
4 Vanderhorst Street
Charleston, SC 29403

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