Sunday, January 13, 2013

Life's Just Better In Twos: Cognoscenti & Sqirl with B&G

If you know me, you know that Saturday at 7:30am is as good as 3am for most normal people, meaning I'm asleep. So at 7:30am, my good friend Terry texts me asking if I wanted to go check out Cognoscenti out in LA. An hour and a half later, in some sort of half daze, I mustered up the strength to reach for my phone and acknowledge the message. Unfortunately, my schedule that day was pretty blocked, however once I realized that I didn't have to go to that baby shower,  I called up Terry telling him that it was game on!

Cognoscenti Coffee
First stop on our list (of at the time, only one shop), was to Cognoscenti in Culver City. I had heard of this place from a friend who said this place was definitely legitimate, so I was ready for a good cup.

Ambiance: If you go into any place that's trying to be any place in LA, you're going to expect the obligatory modern art styled architecture, which is very much the setting in this place. I liked it. Very clean, very to the point. Apparently the owner was/is an architect, so the store's minimalistic design was very important to the overall feel of this shop. Seating is only a couple of tables and chairs, however the place had some bars that you could stand by and enjoy your brew, which Terry and I did.
The Coffee: If you look behind the counter, you'll be sure to notice the plethora of "good coffee" that Cognoscenti has the potential of serving. This includes serving from awesome roasters like Counter Culture, Ritual, Wrecking Ball, Phil and Sabastian (from the Great White North), and Sightglass for their espresso.

The Verdict: Now I can't vouch for anything other than what I had to drink, which was my cappuccino. Looking back, I should of had a cup of their single cup brewed coffee, but life's always 20/20 in hindsight. I've had Sightglass before over at Coffee Commissary, so I was expecting something of that caliber. however my coffee was just "good." It wasn't over the top great, it was just good. Because of that, I'm not going to complain, saying, 'oh it should have been mindblowing,' because that's just unfair. One thing I was hoping for was for the milk to be a tad more flavorful. Instead it was just milk. Again, minor detail for many, however I was hoping for the milk to be a just a bit creamier for my liking. Not frothier, but just creamier. I won't hold it against them because I feel that would be just too finicky.

After Terry and I were done, we figured, 'we're in LA, lets go big before we go home.' So we went to another coffee shop (at least that's my idea of going big). Why? Why not, is the better question.

Sqirl with B&G
I had never had heard of Sqirl with B&G, but figured, what the heck; and what a pleasant surprise it was. As we drove around the very Latin community of Virgil Ave. we would have missed it had it not been for the group of not-Latin people crowding around the door of this hole in the wall. To top it off the place had no signage (obviously because signage is so not cool). Young white kids in very Latin community in front of a shop with no sign; that was enough of a sign to tell us that we had arrived.
Ambiance: First off, I'll just start with saying that I am a big fan of their very unconventional style. Seating was unique, as we had chairs and a crate for table (outdoor seating, by the way). While some may not find this as something they like, I thought that its style made it unique; not in a bad way, but in a memorable way. Throw in some good LA weather and you're set. Terry and I were fortunate enough to share this experience with some local strangers that let us sit at their, um, crate. I think being able to share a meal and coffee with total strangers who were just really nice people may have also made this experience that much better.

The Coffee: First let me start by emphasizing that this is not just a coffee shop. Sqirl's claim to fame is in their preserves, which were absolutely fantastic. However, in addition to their yummy menu of assorted jams with toast and other tasty items, they serve awesome coffee (and by awesome I mean Heart Coffee). Not only do they carry good coffee, but their baristas definitely know what they're doing. From espresso based drinks to iced pour overs, this place knows how to brew correctly. I had the pleasure of having (one of my favorites) an Ethiopia Yukro on their Kalita pour over. It was brought out to me on a chopping block with a small carafe of coffee and a drinking bowl in lieu of a traditional coffee mug. Presentation was fantastic. Coffee was well done; very tea like in both color and taste, sweet berry mouth feel. Smooth from start to finish. Paired with a nice meal and good company; couldn't get any better. Your order is taken by a waiter or waitress so interaction with you barista is pretty non-existant unless you make the extra effort to go to the bar and ask some questions.

The Verdict: As you can tell from my descriptions of this place, I absolutely hated it. I kid. This place fantastic. Sqirl's high standards for preserves was matched with their high quality coffee. Their coffee was spot on, in terms of brew method and overall quality of their final product. Again, I can only say that their pour over was great, but from what I was hearing from other customers, their espresso based drinks were also very nice. Good baristas and Heart is a winning combo.

Now I say life's better in twos because I'm a firm believer in a coffee experience for at least 2. Coffee is one of those things where you want feedback. You want to know if your suspicions of what you're tasting is in fact either as delicious or disgusting as you think they are. Next time you go out for coffee, go ask a friend to get coffee with you. Shoot, ask me to go get coffee with you. I'm down.


  1. And I thought I was obsessed!
    If you ever make it down under I will show you what real coffee is... just kidding, sort of.

    You are the only person I know who would appreciate the latte art calendar I saw last week :)

    1. Correne and I definitely need to make it down under ASAP! I'd love to try out other country's preferred brew methods, coffee types, etc. I'm no coffee expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I love learning about it. Fascinating when you get down to the science of it (I'll be talking about that in future posts). Hope you Wright's are doing well! Your friends back in the States miss you guys!