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Coffee in Albany

I’ve written about coffee for a while, but there has been a substantial change in the coffee options in the past year or so that it’s worth looking at as a whole. Especially since some of what I’ve written in the past is not true anymore.

I drink all my coffee black and have been doing so since 2008, so keep that in mind when reading my recommendations. If you add sugar and cream to your coffee, you end up masking all the nuanced flavors. Those who add sugar and/or milk tend to prefer dark roasts, as a light roasted coffee won’t be able to cut through the milk. This “strong coffee” flavor is generally just the flavor of an over roasted coffee bean.

Cafes

Here are the places I’d recommend getting coffee that have a spot to sit and read a book or chat with a friend.

Stacks Espresso Bar, Lark St

The focus at Stacks is coffee. They are a multi-roaster shop which is pretty rare. That means they have many different coffees from many different companies. They have a small selection in their bakery case of goods from local bakers, which isn’t ideal if you’re looking for a meal but is adequate for a snack.

Their espresso is the best in the area, and they usually have more than one option ready to go for espresso. It’s typically their house blend espresso as well as single origin or espresso blend from a featured roaster. They also do pour overs, iced pour overs, cold brew, macchiatos and more. Even a pumpkin spice latte if that’s what you’re into.

Tierra Coffee Roasters, Madison Ave and Delaware Ave

Tierra Farms is a big company based in Valatie that mostly makes granolas and roasts nuts, but also roasts their own coffee. On Madison Ave they have a store where you can buy all their bulk nuts, coffee, granola and more. Their store is right next to their cafe, which has a full food menu, beer, and coffee. They do Chemex, cold brew (via Toddy and Hario tower), standard drip coffee, and all the flavored lattes you can dream of. They have another cafe near the Spectrum on Delaware Ave, which has a small selection of their coffees and nuts, as well as a full menu and coffee bar.

Bread & Honey, Madison Ave

Bread & Honey is a wholesale bakery with a cafe space. They happen to have Gimme! Coffee, as iced coffee (seasonal), drip coffee, and by the 12oz bag. Their hours aren’t listed on their door and they’re non-standard which is sort of frustrating, but you can check their facebook or give them a call to see if they’re open. You can buy their breads in the cafe and get food off their very limited menu as well.

Lucas Confectionery, 2nd St, Troy

The Lucas Confectionery is a wine bar in Troy. They have Blue Bottle coffee that you can get as a french press, pourover or espresso. You can also buy bags of whole bean coffee from The Grocery which is right around the corner on Broadway.

Uncommon Grounds, Western Ave

Uncommon Grounds is a bagel spot that roasts their own coffee with a huge food menu. The coffees they have ready to go are wildy hit or miss. They recently changed their coffee program and have been putting out much higher quality coffees. They roast their coffee to highlight the beans qualities, not to some arbitrary roast level of “dark” or “medium”. They call their good coffees something like “Organic Fair Trade” and are on a separate menu. Look for any coffee that’s listed by geographic location and order any of those as a french press and avoid their Vac Pot house blend.

I could not in good faith recommend Hudson River Coffee House, Stagecoach Coffee, Iron Gate, Mug Shots, or Daily Grind solely for their coffee. They are there in a pinch but are not a destination.

Beans

If you’re a nerd like me and make your coffee at home, there’s plenty of spots to grab a bag of high quality, freshly roasted beans.

Brew, Lark St

Brew is a craft beverage shop on Lark St that mainly sells craft beer. They also sell Tandem Coffee, Stumptown and Intelligentsia by the bag. They also have coffee brewing supplies such as Chemex, Aeropress and french presses. In the summer they have cold brew by the cup.

Stacks Espresso Bar, Lark St

They have a few shelves of coffee from a revolving selection of roasters, as well as their house-roasted coffee.

Bread & Honey, Madison Ave

If you can catch them when they’re open, you can grab bags of Gimme! Coffee. They usually have one blend and one single origin.

Tierra Coffee, Madison Ave and Delaware Ave

They have a million different kinds of coffee for sale in their retail store. I stick to the lighter roasted single origin options.

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Self Defense Family at the Low Beat

On Sunday December 7, Self Defense Family will be playing at The Low Beat alongside Soft Powers, Blood of Spain, and Broken Field Runner.

This is Self Defense’s first show back in Albany in a really long time, and is probably their last for a long time, so don’t sleep.

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Mike Arson “Playing With Matches”: Review

Starting off a track with a line like “Yeah that beat sound good, don’t it?” is saying what I assume most hyped rappers and producers think when a certain beat catches their ear when starting a project. In Mike Arson’s case, the man has practically been drowning in beats for other people’s albums for years now and it was no surprise to me that he saved some of his own fire to play with for his debut album, Playing With Matches.

Mike Arson, of Against The Grain, has executive produced for a handful of local artists over the years, including for his own group, and a handful of guest features, such as the track “Rappers Do It Better,” off of JB!!’s latest album DEADication, released earlier this year. Arson’s portfolio includes executive producing Almost Gone by Masai (2008), Against The Grain by ATG (2011), Almost Home by Masai (2013) and Growing Pains (2013). Spanning over 7 years of producing for other people’s projects, saying its exciting for Arson to have his own album finally released is an understatement.

Building a name as both a rapper and a producer, Arson’s arsenal is filled with all sorts of tricks and talent. My favorite part about Playing With Matches is that while this was an opportunity for Arson to do his thing fully as a solo artist for the first time, he still decided to bring in a handful of features from other artists to build with, while leading the reins of the direction he wanted to go in. This album is a family affair, and I will always love that element about our local rap scene. (Thanks everyone.)

Playing With Matches is solid from the quick 16 bar intro to the final track.

Continue reading…

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TEDxAlbany 2014

TEDxAlbany recently announced the speakers for this year’s event, which will be held December 4. If you’re not familliar with TEDx events, you can watch videos from last years TEDxAlbany to see what it’s about.

The description of TEDx:

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.

Tickets are still available. If you can’t attend, the event will be streamed on December 4, and videos will also be posted after the fact as well. Go get inspired!

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Tasting with Tandem Coffee Roasters at Brew

On Black Friday, Tandem Coffee Roasters will be holding a tasting of their coffees at Brew from Noon to 2pm. About two weeks ago I went to visit them in Portland, Maine, so this is a no brainer if you’re in the area. If you like coffee, stop by. Tandem recently won a prestigious Good Food Award for one of their coffees.

Brew will also have #hotdeals on growler fills, tea makers and more.

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The Albany Patch

A lot of times when friends come to visit, they pine for some sort of Albany souvenir. There are some, but none are really that great and it’s the same with Albany postcards. When I saw the first photo of The Albany Patch, I was stoked.

The story behind the patch:

For quite some time now, I’ve been on the hunt for an Albany souvenir patch. After some extensive searching, I determined that for some reason, they don’t exist. That didn’t stop me from wanting one, so I decided to design one myself and have them produced. Probably not quite what Gandhi meant by “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” but fuggit.

Knowing that these might not be around forever I got my hands on some. You can do the same over at thealbanypatch.com. These make great gifts so consider grabbing more than just one for yourself. And big thanks to Mitch for going through and making something he wanted, but didn’t exist.

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Seez Mics “Cruel Fuel”: Review

Learning that Seez Mics has a background in spoken word poetry made perfect sense to me after listening to his latest release, “Cruel Fuel.”

Seez Mics, known for being one-half of his former group Educated Consumers and for his time as an American Battle MC, has been in the game for a long time, and I’m intrigued that this particular album was our first introduction, as I discovered it’s quite a different direction from some of his past work.

The album was released last month on the label Crushkill Recordings, which was started by Eyedea shortly before his passing. Seez Mics speaks sincerely and humbly of their longtime friendship on the record, as well as touches on other friends he’s lost, perhaps even touching upon these subjects of death (and life after grieving) in this personal capacity for the first time in his work.

“Cruel Fuel” is appropriately titled as such, with many of his lyrics and patterns being spit like fast and furious mantras. That being said, this album isn’t for everyone – it’s definitely different. And that’s what it makes it awesome.

It’s the type of album I want to listen to when I’m pissed off, working out or walking somewhere maybe a little too far in the cold ass upstate NY weather, but then certain tracks are pensive and poetic and therefore the album rounds itself out well. It’s a very clear point of view with honest innovation, and its clear he took some serious risks with this project. It’s progressive and polished, while still featuring a nice variety of moods, tempos and dark truths. Each time I’ve listened, I’ve discovered a new favorite line I didn’t catch the first time.

Several of the tracks read like whimsical and modern folklore, while others are as real as real can be. The album is reflective and touches on topics of religion, cynicism, optimism, music, questioning society and relationships, as well as an internal battle of figuring out what one believes in and stands for, especially how to bounce back when shit happens.

Stand-out tracks for me included “Serotonin Sweepstakes,” “That’s Not How It Works,” “Human Farm” (this track was a surprise, and pushes the album into other genres besides hip hop), “What Your Head Will Hold,” and “Torn.” The instrumental “Angel In The Engine” is also quite pleasant and breaks up the gritty experimental hip hop feel of the album. Overall, I was quite impressed by the artistry of this album, although I admittedly didn’t love, love it at first. The tracks just seem to build and build and have since found a secure slot on my regular listening rotation.

Seez Mics said it best himself, describing his music as “a mirror looking back at you.” I love that. Get to know Seez Mics through “Cruel Fuel” available on Bandcamp and iTunes.