Opening NEXT WEEK in Rio Rancho is the new spot opened by a Seattleite (they know coffee, don’t they?): Cafe Bella Coffee
According to their website and press info, Cafe Bella will feature locally-roasted beans (from where? I’ll find out!). But that’s not what interests me. What interests me is that the owner, Michael Gonzales, will be pulling shots on a crazy expensive Italian espresso machine, and also that he was trained by the Italian World Cup champion barista while they both lived in Seattle.
Will Guiseppe’s be feeling some competition? I hope so. This metro area is far large enough to support several excellent espresso shops.
The cafe side of things will be featuring as much locally grown produce as possible, working with farms and small businesses to get the kitchen’s raw ingredients.
So, it all sounds good – I’ll haul myself up the hill and check the place out, and probably post photos to Twitter, too: @dukecityfood
I have a long history of defending Flying Star. I respect what Jean and Mark Bernstein do with local ingredients. I appreciate their ridiculously long hours, day after day (6 a.m. – 11 p.m. in most locations, most days). I am thankful for magazines I can browse while drinking refills of coffee.
I don’t like the usually burnt coffee. I whine a bit about increasing prices. Sometimes I find myself the recipient of sporadically inept hands in the kitchen.
NINE, count ‘em, nine locations. Gorgeous interior design. Local roasting that has upsized several times. Over nearly 25 years, the operation has both grown and refined itself, finding solid ground in serving what most people want, most of the time, at prices that are perfectly fine (mostly).
Remember that organic costs more. Imported butter for great pastries costs more. Local chicken costs more. And in the middle of a recession, everybody hurts. Raw ingredient costs are up at least 25% for restaurants in the last 4 years, yet menu costs are up under 10%. That means that even though it sucks to pay more, the restaurants are sucking it up, too, and that includes Flying Star.
This is roundabout way of me congratulating Ari for his article. He appreciates what Flying Star does, even with a few grumbles thrown in.
Yeah, yeah, I know you can already BUY chocolate and coffee in Albuquerque, but this is the first festival we’ve had to celebrate some of the two more important C words in all of English. Heck, in all of my DIET, too.
It is called the Southwest Chocolate and Coffee FEST, and is going on at the Convention Center this weekend, April 16th and April 17th. I am so crazy bummed because I will be out of town, and missing a potentially cool event. It’s a who’s who of local chocolate and confectionary wizards, personal favorites to new folks I’d love to try out (later), including Chocolate Cartel, Theobroma, ChocolateSmith, Candy Lady, yum!
Here’s what else I am missing, just so you don’t have to:
APRIL is the month to eat cookies and save critters – Flying Star’s annual Animal Humane Center promotion gives a BUCK for every blob of sugary wafer (i.e., cookie) that you buy with the AHNM logo on it. Mmm, sugar.
Happy Days, happy days. Two of my favorite places in Albuquerque are expanding their reach.
ONE: Cafe Giuseppe, home to fantabulous espresso, decadent gelato that kicks the crap out of Ecco, and a laid-back feel for sipping cappuccinos or surfing the net on their wifi. They’re adding a second location downtown near 3rd, right in the vicinity of….
TWO: P’tit Louis Bistro, home to kickin’ frog legs (har) and the best lemon tart on this Duke City planet. Their fame is so unmatched they too are opening another location . . . right near Cafe Giuseppe.
Bizarre, neato, and I hope they both continue to thrive and receive raves.
It was bound to happen, no? I have spent a long time defending the Flying Star, comparing them to a kid with pajamas that are too small – they simply had an amazing run of growth and tried to keep as many people happy as possible.
This occurred during a time that ingredient costs were skyrocketing AND they were renewing their commitment to local producers, organic meats, and free-range anything-they-could-afford.
So, folks rebelled. ”Eight bucks for coffee and a slice of PIE?!!!” ”$10 for a vegetarian noodle bowl??? You gotta be f’ing with me.” No longer the divey hipster hangout, Flying Star won new enemies where it used to have fans. And I stuck up for them, knowing how hard it is to run a sustainable (read: profitable) restaurant. And they are/were still packed – so obviously it hasn’t killed their entire patron base.
I also compared them to the Grove Cafe & Market, posing the pragmatic situation thusly: If the Flying Star were to start BRAND NEW right now with its menu and prices as they currently exist, they would be just like the Grove. And that leads me to my point – I had my moment at the Grove the other day, when I ordered a cappucino and a cookie. A rather smallish cookie. I paid SIX BUCKS, and had an immediate negative reaction, asking the cashier just how much that cookie was, anyway ($1.99). It was the cappucino at $3.50, which came delivered as a latte, that sent the total up to the sky.
So…. now what? The Grove’s coffee is still far better than Flying Star’s, but Cafe Giuseppe rules all plus they know that a single cappucino should be about 5 ounces total, not 12. Oh, and they have gelato that is better than anything outside of Silver City in the whole state.