Colorado’s Most Surprising Dessert: The Scrap Cookie

cookies While Colorado is home to many unique chocolate shops and bakeries, you usually know what you’re ordering. Even if you purchase something unusual, like wasabi ginger dark chocolate or goat cheese and crushed black pepper buttercream, the name will give you a hint as to what the ingredients are. If you visit the old mining town of Ouray, however, you can stop in Mouse’s Chocolates & Coffee for a more surprising kind of dessert: the Scrap Cookie.

Located at 520 Main Street, the shop is always full of locals craving delicious sweets and caffeine-filled coffees. While they have unique chocolate varieties, like bacon clusters with Chardonnay salt and coconut bark with pumpkin and sunflower, the most popular item on the menu is the Scrap Cookie. After making their chocolates for the day, the staff save the scraps and mix them with their family-invented homemade cookie batter. When guests come in and order the cookie, they won’t know what kind it is until they take a bite. My Scrap Cookie ended up containing all my favorite additions, like macadamia nuts, toffee, caramel and truffle pieces.

While ordering a Scrap Cookie is $2.50, you can also purchase two cookies and have Mouse’s make it into an ice cream sandwich for about $10. I was told by my canyoning guide that they won’t always do it. However, if you say a local told you about it, they will.

Five Things You Can Do On Earth Day To Save Natural Resources

earthEarth Day is upon us, and even if you’re not planning to celebrate our planet’s making it through another year (what global warming?), there are still some simple measures you can take to show your gratitude. Love your Mother, you know?

Whether you’re on the road or at home, the following are smart rules to implement every day of the year:

  • Do laundry at night, after peak electricity usage hours and only wash full loads.
  • Use a travel mug when you purchase your morning coffee and carry a reusble water bottle.
  • Stash reusable shopping bags in your car, purse or backpack and desk.
  • Turn the tap off while brushing your teeth, washing your face, doing dishes or shaving.
  • Switch to e-tickets, e-pay, and other paperless forms of commerce; add your name to no junk mail and catalog lists.

[Photo credit: Flickr user kevin dooley]

How to Save Water and Save Money

Summer Hotspot: Montreal, Quebec

Hungry for some culture this summer? Skip the jet lag, high exchange rates and long museum lines in Europe for one of North America’s most cosmopolitan and best warm-weather destinations: Montreal.

The charms that contribute to Montreal’s growing cultural reputation are already evident year-round, ranging from its cosmopolitan European-style cafes, a top-notch range of award-winning restaurants and a lively music scene. But summer is truly when Montreal comes out to shine, a time when May-August average temperatures hover in the 70’s and international-quality music festivals like MUTEK and Jazzfest draw partiers from around the globe. Design-conscious bargain hunters will find plenty to like in Montreal too. The city was named a UNESCO City of Design in 2006, and bursts at the seams with design-centric accommodations like Hotel Gault and fashion boutiques in the newly resurgent Old Montreal.

Those looking to add in a dose of the great outdoors won’t be disappointed either. With Montreal’s wildly successful Bixi bike-sharing program now in place at more than 5,000 locations city-wide, it’s easier than ever to pedal out for an exploration on the city’s 300+ miles of bike lanes and trails. For a more casual outdoor experience, stop by Montreal’s sprawling Mount Royal Park with a picnic lunch and just enjoy the warm weather.

Best of all, Montreal is still a relative bargain for budget-seekers. Compared to the Euro (currently $1.30:1), the Canadian Dollar still trades at a more wallet-friendly $1:1. Meaning you can spend those extra travel savings on a few more bottles of Quebec’s delicious La Fin du Monde Belgian-style brew, produced in nearby Chambly, Quebec.

[flickr image via madabandon]

Seattle Ranked ‘Best City For Hipsters’ According To Travel & Leisure

hipsterSo Travel & Leisure has published a list of “America’s Best Cities for Hipsters.” This is amusing – and a wee bit annoying) to me for a variety of reasons – not least of which because Seattle makes the top of the list. I’ve lived here (actually “there,” because as I write this, I’m in a sublet in Oakland) for nearly three years. Apparently, I’m reverse-trending, because San Francisco is #3 (Portland, OR is #2).

As the sun (metaphorically – this is Seattle we’re talking about) sets on my time in the Pacific Northwest and I prepare to relocate back to the Bay Area for what I hope to be at least a couple of years, I’m filled with mixed emotions. Hipster-mocking and -baiting has been one of my favorite pastimes in Seattle, which is both ironic and hypocritical of me when you take T & L‘s definition of “hipster” into consideration:

“They sport vintage bowling shoes and the latest tech gear-but they also know all the best places to eat and drink. [The magazine] ranked 35 metropolitan areas on culturally relevant features like live music, coffee bars, and independent boutiques. To zero in on the biggest hipster crowds, we also factored in the results for the best microbrews and the most offbeat and tech-savvy locals.

It’s our take on the debated term hipster….whatever your take, you generally know hipsters when you see them-most likely in funky, up-and-coming neighborhoods. A smirking attitude toward mainstream institutions means they tend to frequent cool, often idiosyncratic restaurants, shops, and bars-the same kinds of venues that appeal to travelers looking for what they can’t find at home. There’s also an eco-conscious influence in contemporary hipsterdom.”

So let me get this straight: I’m a hipster because I care about the environment, and I write about food, thus I eat and drink in places that are too idiosyncratic for mere mortals. And jeez, I just edited a craft beer guide. And I really support my local indie businesses. Conversely, I know jack about tech, and you will never, ever see me in a pair of bowling shoes. I also want to bitch-slap the bejesus out of smirky, pretentious funksters who feel the need to categorize themselves in order to maintain a sense of self. Cliques are for high school, kids.

[Image via Flicker user Conor Keller fortysixtyphoto.com]yellow shoesI also find it deeply ironic that a luxury magazine likes to think it knows what’s hip, because real hipsters love nothing more than a bargain, whether it’s $2 happy hour PBR’s or a sweet bowling shirt from Value Village. I can assure you the average T & L reader does not shop at Value Village.

What I find interesting, however, is that part of my mixed feelings about leaving Seattle have to do with its very hipsterness. I love street fashion, vintage, indie anything, tattoos and food artisans (hipster alert!). People watching has been one of my favorite activities in Seattle, because most Seattlites have such great style. It’s a city where the alternative-minded can grow old semi-gracefully, without looking like roadkill from Gen X or beyond. In Seattle, no one gives a f— about what you look like, or what you’re into. You can just be.

It’s sheer coincidence that last week, while reacquainting myself with Berkeley (where I lived for nearly a decade), I wondered why it is the natives here have no style (in my hipster eye view, pilled fleeces, flowy hemp clothing and ergonomic shoes are terminally unhip). I already missed Seattle’s eclectic street style, which never fails to inspire, amuse, and yes, sometimes horrify me (Boys, please stop with the neon, nuthugger skinny ankle jeans. Just sayin’).

Is this essentially a very shallow essay on an incredibly superficial topic? Yes, absolutely. But if it is a “tipping point” as T & L claims, then hell, I’m game. I’m ultimately leaving Seattle – an amazing, beautiful, vibrant city – because the climate kicked my ass (see my forthcoming post on “Sleeping In Seattle: SAD And Its Side Effects”). I’m back in the Bay Area because the economy is simmering and for someone in the food business, this is Ground Zero.

You can’t have it all, and the grass is always greener. Those cliches aren’t very hip, but they’re true. I miss all the hipsterness that once surrounded me, but I also love seeing sun, citrus trees and the Bay Area’s unbeatable food scene again. And that, in a nutshell, is why I’m trading down to a place a little less hip. I can always visit Seattle when I’m feeling frumpy.

[Image via Flickr user Andrew . Walsh]

How to Dress Like a Hipster

The best coffee for on the go travelers

We all become time and sleep managers over the course of our travels. Whether shaking the grip of jetlag after a seven-time-zone-jump or getting over the sleep lost from a weekend trip to Hong Kong, managing our time in bed is critical to building future productivity, so we plan well – and we occasionally cheat.

Our favorite way to stay ahead of jetlag at Gadling is with caffeine, ideally enjoyed at the corner cafes in small Parisian neighborhoods but most often brewed in our very own homes and offices as we recover from our trips abroad.

For the traveler, coffee-on-the go is a necessity. We learn to live out of the single serving pods that come in our ensuite hotel rooms and order proper cappuccinos in Italy and café au laits in France. We learn the difference between Guatemalan and Ethiopian beans, between a medium and a dark roast. And we hate (although sometimes we love) the sight of a Starbucks in our favorite picturesque tourist destination.

We also tend to bring that coffee affection home, though usually more in a single serving environment. (After all, since we’re always on the move it makes little sense to brew a twelve-cup batch). And that brewing technology ranges from the most simple, analog device to the most high-tech brewing symphony. Let’s start at the bottom.The analog siphon (our favorite, the Yama tabletop)

There’s a hand made, wooden-framed version of the analog siphon sitting on our editor in chief’s desk, used infrequently to brew a batch of simple coffee for the visiting colleague. Brew is made by filling the bottom portion of two lobes with hot water and then heating the section with a candle, or Sterno. Once the water reaches a critical temperature, it flows up to the top of the lobe where the coffee is contained. As the grounds saturate and the brew thickens, the consumer can design how strong the drink will be. Then, once the heat is removed, the brew falls to the bottom lobe and the top section can be removed and washed. The resulting beverage is mild in intensity and full in flavor.

The stovetop siphon (our favorite, the Bialetti Moka Pot)

High heat from the stovetop requires that most efficient siphons are made out of metal, and the classic iteration of this design is the Italian made Bialetti. In principle, this works the same way that the analog siphon works. In this case, the main difference is that there is more gas under the hood to speed the process, so the water pushing through the coffee is also mixed with steam.

Compared to the analog siphon, most Bialettis use a higher percentage of coffee versus water in the process, thus producing something closer to (but not exactly) an espresso as a product. It’s not the right strength for every single coffee drinker, but for a few, the ratio is divine.

The French Press (our favorite, the REI Tabletop French Press)

There’s a certain, simple feel about a French pressed coffee that makes drinking it enjoyable. Perhaps it’s the quiet time spent watching the coffee grounds steep or the pleasure in pushing the steel mesh to the floor of the glass. Either way, the result is a clean cup of coffee that’s highly customizable to your taste.

The variables, of course, are the volume of grounds and the amount of time the grounds steep, both of which you determine. It’ll usually take a bit of time to find the right combination that suits your palette, but for the experimental epicurean, the press is a delightful retreat. Freakonomics has a great resource for brewing the best French Press if you’re looking to get started.

The Pod Launcher (our favorite, the Delonghi Lattissima Premium)

On the digital end of the spectrum, a variety of pod-based technologies are making well done, single serving cups of coffee a common reality, and if you’re looking for aesthetic, Nespresso has the competition beat. All that one needs to do to produce a ready-to-consume cup of espresso or Americano is load up the pod, lock it in place and press the brew button. Seconds later, a delicious cup of steaming coffee is ready to go.

Most of these devices benefit from the fact that coffee pods can be vacuum-sealed and shipped around the world, guaranteeing freshness and quality control. Those who want a completely fresh-ground experience, however, may have to look elsewhere.

The Full Digital (our favorite, the Philips Saeco Xelsis Digital ID — pictured)

For those looking for the fresh ground experience there’s no better place to look than the superautomatica. In contrast to the pod launcher, the superautomatica pulls beans in from an onboard hopper, grinds them, tamps them and then runs water (also onboard) through the system to produce an excellent stream of coffee. Everything is programmable here, from the number of beans used in the process to the length of the pull to the granularity of the grind. Depending on the model, milk can even be incorporated (steamed or not) through an inline system, and if you want to steam your own then there’s also a wand. Short of having your own espresso bar with a barista attached, the superautomatica might be the best single-serving cup of coffee that one can produce. Just be willing to pay for it. Models range in price from around $500 to well over $3000, with the above Xelsis Digital ID running just under $3000. Yes that’s a fingerprint reader on top of the unit – it’s used for identifying users and their favorite coffee configurations. For the cost, expect excellence, and with the superautomatica you’ll get it.

With contributions and mentorship from Charlie Habegger at Intelligentsia Coffee in Chicago.