Music at Metropolis Cafe: Molly Robison

She’s a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but Molly Robison is for sure not afraid. Her friends won’t let her be.

This native of the Chicago area is finishing up music studies at Columbia College Chicago, but isn’t waiting around for a degree to get things started. She released her five-track EP, ‘Bedrooms & Attics’ and will be performing on Thursday, April 21, at Metropolis Cafe (6 p.m.).

‘Bedrooms & Attics’ is a return to songwriting for Robison, who taught herself to play guitar at the age of 11 and started songwriting right on the heels of that. “…but I hated it,” says Robison. “It was so much work, I took a long break, then got strong-armed into writing again by really good friends.”

Some of those good friends discovered her early music and “strong-armed” Robison into re-working those songs and adding more, then recording them–thus her second life as a musician has been born. Friends like that deserve mentioning: “Kyle Cassidy, a genius photographer, and Valya Dudycz Lupescu (@Valya on Twitter; & @KyleCassidy, btw)” says Robison. “And The Dresden Dolls. I’d sent them a song of theirs I’d covered when I was a kid. I’d seen them a few times, emailed them and they were here in November and they asked me to play with them at The Vic.”

Another testament to the fact that Molly isn’t afraid of anything? She created her own major at Columbia: music director for theater. “Every musical needs a theater director, but there was no major for that,” says Robison. “I worked with the heads of the music and theater departments, who were really cool to work with, and have since gotten to assistant music direct a couple of shows. I’m hoping to do a musical next year.”

Q: What does Molly do with a day off?

“Absolutely hermit up. If I didn’t have to leave the house, I probably wouldn’t.”

Q: Favorite Hermit Activities?

“Drinking tea, sleeping and watching shit television.”

Q: Favorite Music?

“The Dresden Dolls, The Decemberists and I’m a huge Elliot Smith fan. I’ve always wanted to see Leftover Crack and still haven’t,” says Robison. “Everyone judges me for that and they should.”

But she’s not afraid.

Find Molly Robison on Twitter (@mollyrobison); Facebook; YouTube; and you can BUY HER ALBUM HERE!

Welcome to “The Weekly Roast”

Alright, I just want to state that this blog is going to be a work in progress. Hopefully creating transparency between the roasters and the customers will open up some interesting dialogue.

Plus, I’m sure none of you really know what we, as roasters, do on a daily basis. So what I’m going to do is post what we have been tasting throughout the week. It’s important we share what we are doing, to help educate our customers. I encourage you, yes you, to e-mail me at roasters@metropoliscoffee.com with any questions you have.

I will do my best to answer them to the best of my ability. Also, for all the Twitter people out there, you can follow my Twitter handle, @MetropolisRoast.  Now, let us kick out the jams. Our first roaster-profiled coffee; we do this so you don’t have to! And now, The Weekly Roast:

Country: Bolivia                 Farm/COOP: Finca Miranda
Region: Inquisivi                Varietal: Caturra Catuai Tipica

ROASTER’S NOTES

Cranberry, orange zest, clean, soft body, sweet butter and popcorn fragrance. This is a very subtly complex coffee. The aromatics are dense with sharp fruit and nut, however, the cup tends to be quite soft.

7.5

7.5

7.16

7.5

7.5

7.67

6.1

80.5

Yolk: It’s What’s For Brunch!


What would you consider THE most integral items for a classic American brunch? Eggs—check. Potatoes—check. Coffee—check. We here at Metropolis Coffee Company would choose the last item, of course–it’s what we do.

We expect Taki Kastanis, owner and visionary of Yolk restaurants in Chicago, would pick the first–and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Out of this comes beautiful, flavorful synergy.

Let’s see how it plays out with their 45,000 monthly customers:

EGGS: 36,000 served per month; 1.2-million annually

RED POTATOES: 84,000 pounds annually

COFFEE: 21,000 cups of coffee served per month; 252,000 annually

Yirgacheffe and Redline Find New Home(s)

What we’ve done at Yolk is to work with owner Taki Kastanis to offer his patrons an exclusive single-origin coffee coming fresh out of our Roasting Garage in Andersonville days–even hours–before you’ll drink it at Yolk.

Why Yirgacheffe? “Well, more and more, restaurateurs are ready to push the coffee envelope. Standard coffee at breakfast is a South and Central American blend that’s sweet, centered, somewhat nutty and lemony,” says Metropolis Coffee Company co-owner, Tony Dreyfuss.

“Taki, owner and visionary of Yolk, was looking for something a bit different: flavors that would play well with everything from fruit to bread to eggs, but that would raise a few eyebrows for quality and its unique characteristics.

“His choice, an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, is clean, sweet, and elegant, boasting complex floral and orange aromatics–perfect pair to the fare at Yolk, especially their signature Eggs Benedict.”

For his part, Kastanis was wary of changing up his coffee program. “The hardest to thing at a restaurant is your coffee,” says Kastanis. “After four years, customers get used to it.

“We serve people with a wide range of palates, from tourists to cops to construction workers to fans of Metropolis–everybody,” continued Kastanis. Hence, the goal with Yolk was to keep the coffee program right down the middle. It’s not overly dark or robust, but definitely isn’t diner coffee.

Yolk will also be offering a full range of espresso-based drinks, as well, using our Redline Espresso, which fits Yolk all through, notes Kastanis: “Two of the three Yolks are right off the Red Line here in Chicago; I liked that aspect of it, too–it’s local and just incredibly good on its own or in cappuccinos and such.”

In Other News at Yolk

Kastanis is working the local angle all over the place, with a new, year-round fresh fruit purveyor recently brought on-board, along with other sources of tastily-grown Midwestern ingredients. “We’re working our way through the menu,” says Kastanis.

“All this costs me a little more, but the customer gets a better product, no doubt,” says Kastanis, who is also about to publish a revamped menu.
New dishes? Red Velvet French Toast (above, right) with cream cheese frosting swirled throughout, then dipped, French toasted, strawberries and whipped added on top. “We did it for Valentine’s Day and people went crazy for it, so now it’s Valentine’s day year-round at Yolk, I guess,” says Kastanis. Also, Chocolate Heaven (above, left): made with a chocolate swirl, then toasted, and white chocolate with bananas and strawberries on top.

Good stuff all around; see you at Yolk everyone!

Yolk Timeline: South Loop–November, 2006; River North–June, 2009; and early 2011 in Streeterville.

New Labels: Where Did Roast Level Labeling Go?

Recently, we made a decision to discontinue dark roasting at Metropolis Coffee Company. Our reasoning was that, though there is nothing intrinsically wrong with dark roasting, we want to be true to our company mission of roasting to the coffee, rather than to the roast.

In this same vein, we wish to call less attention to the roast level as a determinant of flavor or as a way to help customers select coffee. Rather, we’d like to help them  choose their coffee based on its origin and flavor composition, as roast level does not necessarily determine its true flavor–a light roasted Brazil and a light roasted Guatemala may taste radically different.

Each day  we cup and taste the previous day’s roasts, evaluate the qualities of the coffee, and determine how best to bring forth those qualities through roasting. This means that the roast level may change to accommodate natural deviations in the flavor of the coffee.

This does not mean that all coffees will be roasted to the same level–just that the level is a function of our daily tasting notes rather than predetermined when we bring that coffee into the roasterie.

We hope that you find this move liberating rather than confounding.  We will continue to explain why we do what we do, and why we think that it might lead to better and better cups of coffee for one and all.

Love,

Metropolis Coffee

Tea Extravaganza at Metropolis Roasting Garage

Short of having the opportunity to take off on a round-the-world tour dedicated to the countless real life and ineffable qualities of tea that make it such an integral beverage in daily life on Planet Earth, Metropolis Coffee Company, Rishi Tea, and Chicago Coffees and Teas are proud to offer an evening dedicated to tea at a deep level, the “Rishi Tea Extravaganza.”

Everyone’s welcome, especially our friends in the hospitality industry, for whom tea can mean an enriched work experience and a new/increased source of revenue for restaurants, hotels and offices. Restaurateurs, hoteliers, entrepreneurs, mixologists, sommeliers, baristas and, especially, current customers of Metropolis Coffee Company, Rishi Tea and Chicago Coffees and Teas–we hope to see you!

What: Rishi Tea Extravaganza
When: Monday, March 14 (5-8 p.m.)
Where: Metropolis Roasting Garage (5545 N. Clark St., Chicago)
RSVP: Directly to Metropolis Coffee Company, 773-338-4904
**Not strictly required, but will be rewarded with free samples.

Tea is a complex product with a romantic history that closely parallels that of coffee in importance to the human race. Like coffee, it’s a wide-ranging subject; the folks at Rishi Tea are going all-out to make it more approachable on both a philosophical and hands-on level. In relation to tea, they’ll cover: types, history, botany, regions, buying, brewing, storage, and retailing.

The event will be comprised of multiple stations, each dedicated to a different type of tea: white, green, oolong, black, botanicals, and pu-erh. Each table will have a Rishi representative on hand to speak to the history and intricacies of that particular type of tea–the cultivation, the regional differences, brewing recommendations, and health benefits.

Rishi Tea’s master distributor, Chicago Coffees and Teas, will be on-hand for purchasing info–no hard sells. Promise! It’s just an excellent opportunity to learn more about tea from the best in the business.

More info on Rishi Tea. Find them on Twitter here. And Facebook, of course.

Metropolis Cafe Featured Artist: Ashley T. Samson

Located in Edgewater, one of the country’s most eclectic locales, the Metropolis Café is relaxed and without attitude. Our customers come from all walks of life and we love ‘em all. And they seem to love our coffee and tea, our sweet and savory bites, and our accomplished vegan menu. Did we mention art, music…? Stop by–we’ll fill you in.

Our current featured artist at Metropolis Cafe came to us the honest way; she lived around the corner from us and was very, very patient, persistent AND talented.

Her name? Ashley Samson. For us, her work invokes a romantic, rustic period of time somehow burned into the collective memory of humanity. Her current artistic bent might be a good outlet for her since her daily work takes on the much more immediate task of helping people.

In her show at the Cafe, “found” items from the past come together with a near-visible metaphorical string pulled through the spiritual heart of each object. The end results are hanging pieces constructed so as to provide their own framework–both physically and metaphorically.

Enough of what we think. The artist: “It’s kind of modern but historical; a lot of the work has old doorknobs and keys,” says Samson, noting a major theme in this exhibit. “[It's mostly] in and out kind of stuff. Each piece has a history of people looking in and out or coming in and out, which leads me to the idea of relationships between people, coming and going.”

Originally concepted as a show featuring silk prints, she decided to feature her found art projects instead–her first exclusive found art show, usually tending more toward painting and collage. “I like the old stuff and it’s being rapidly discarded [these days],” she says. “It’s literally a lost art, finding things people are getting rid of and putting it together until it evolves into something cool.

When not following her personal artistic leanings, Samson spends her time helping others do so for themselves. She uses her Masters in Art Therapy from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago to work as an art therapist across a wide range of people here in Chicago. She knew her direction would take this direction early on: “Before I could even read, I was drawing out stories. I’d take my little brother’s scribbles and make them into pictures.”

In Chicago since 2005 first as a student and then as a registered art therapist, Samson works with a wide range of people. She uses art as a way to direct and aid their recoveries from all kinds of trials and tribulations: illness (both mental and physical), foster care kids, women with eating disorders. “I knew I wanted to work in a ‘helping others’ kind of field, where I could give back AND be philosophical about art.

“When I found out there was something that twisted art and psychology together, it was perfect,” says Samson. “I figured that out in high school and pursued it all the way through.”

Given that commitment to helping people, which we find very admirable, Metropolis Cafe is glad to be able to host the personal side of this artist–especially since she spends so much time doing for others, helping them cope with–life.

“It’s not about the product but the process,” says Samson. “The artwork can look awful, you can throw it away when you’re done with it. [It's] more about what you’re trying to say in your work. It’s taking that same kind of passion, or way of speaking with images, and putting it into a format that literally can help people who are struggling. It’s one of those things that’s rewarding as a whole but you don’t see it every day.”

So come by Metropolis Cafe and see this artist’s work, most of it is for sale, and you can find out more about Samson on Facebook.

Burning the Midnight Oil

We’re continually surprised by what Metropolis Coffee Company employees do in their “downtime.”

Their creativity and drive overflows; the latest iteration of this is a venture by our customer service guy, Tristan Coulter. He’s been receiving recognition (and contracts) for the upcycled and recycled bags created by he and his partners at Winter Session, a design collaborative including Tanya Fleisher and Roy Katz (right).

This recent piece from ‘TimeOut Chicago’ makes it clear he and his textile-crafting mates are onto something.

Loosely inspired by the Americana movement, form follows function and co-exists with it. Most of Winter Session’s hand-made pieces (bags, aprons) begin with a sketch, then undergo a collaborative back-and-forth. It’s tweaked, made, and then judged by both aesthetically and functionally. “There’s a craft to taking something made for one reason, then finding a completely different way to use it,” says Coulter.

“Everything we’re using is grown and woven in the United States, and comes from an eco-tech company that sweeps up leftovers at textile mills and other places, then redistributes them for other uses. Now and then, it’s more glamorous than that,” he continues. “Sometimes we get lucky and find something that works and has a story, like we found a giant, old Montgomery Ward tent.”

Like so many good things, it began without much more than enthusiasm and open minds. “We started refining the aesthetic about a year ago, then launched,” in September, 2010, at Chicago’s Renegade Craft Fair,” says Coulter. “We did well at the show and landed a good wholesale account, Post 27, thanks to owner Angela Finny.”

From there, it’s one thing leads to another: “Getting into Post 27 got us a feature in the web version of ‘Lucky’ magazine, which got us a couple more accounts. We got invited to the Hideout Holiday Sale where we did well and got to know a lot of very cool people,” continues Coulter.

Then, the ‘TimeOut Chicago’ piece hit; then another one from ‘Daily Candy’. Winter Session went from selling a bag a week to multiple orders daily and much interest in their brand. We like it because it’s honest, they make a product, tell you where it came from, what they did with it and sell it at a fair price.

What’s up next? Leather goods. “We’re going to use Horween Leather, one of Chicago’s original leather tanneries,” says Coulter. “It’s still in the family and is regarded as one of the best tanneries in the world. Winter Session is also now being carried at Tack & Jibe in Michigan, which carries all products made by people surrounding the Great Lakes.

Now the question we had to ask our guy: How do you do all this AND keep our clients so happy? “We all three have full-time jobs outside of Winter Session, so it’s a hectic schedule,” says Coulter. “I love the job at Metropolis and I love this Winter Session thing. The nice thing about my job is that I’m out in the world, talking and interacting with people.”

Visit the Winter Session website for more info. Offline, visit Post 27 or the Renegade Handmade on West Division Street; also being carried at Specific Merchandise in Los Angeles.

CityGrounds is here.

After 18 months of hard work and preparation, Steve Chang’s coffee shop is open for business. CityGrounds, tucked into a gorgeous two-story spot on Dickens in Lincoln Park, offers plenty that the local winged angel outlets don’t. There’s plenty of Metropolis on hand, of course — Chang raves about bringing the Red Line right into the heart of Lincoln Park — and there’s the space itself.

Light-filled and linear, it typifies what Chang sees as the aesthetics of space reflecting back on the aesthetics of taste. There’s room for retail coffee to go, plus plenty of space to stay. “I hope people can see CityGrounds as a bar,” Chang says, describing his plan to offer lovingly prepared decaffeinated coffee drinks, the better to kick back and relax with, maybe on a weekday evening. As the weather gets warmer there will be porch seating, but for now make sure and check out the nicely-appointed second floor and its cool, modernist-inspired couches.

Metropolis is all over the grand opening of CityGrounds this Saturday. Training coordinator Zak Rye and customer service guru Tristan Coulter will both be in the house, falling back on their barista experience to present a variety of pourover techniques and special coffee cuppings. Zak and Tristan will also be pairing coffees with different kinds of fresh pastries from Beans ‘n’ Bagels. The fun begins at 1pm, and it’s all free.

CityGrounds as featured in TimeOut Chicago upon its opening, Jan. 31, 2011.

Syrup–No Pancakes–at Metropolis Cafe

At Metropolis Coffee Company, we are responsible for most everything we pass on to our customers, buying mainly beans and the equipment to roast and distribute them.

So, working with our magnificent kitchen guru at Metropolis Cafe, Caitlin McGlone (also of Cash fame), it seemed natural to develop our own house-made syrups. We’ll still use the well-regarded MONIN syrups, as do so many around the globe.

Caitlin has been the mad scientist (with a plan) in the back of Metropolis Cafe and this is the result: basil, raspberry, almond, peppermint and lemon syrups–on this day. The experiment continues. We’ve seen her doing strange things with ginger lately, too, is all we’re saying–same with chocolate and caramel.

“It’s kind of like making hard candy,” says McGlone, who also prepares excellent vegan and gluten-free goods for the Cafe. “You use a lower temperature and don’t cook it down as much, so it’s able to not crystalize. It’s a tender, tricky process.

“You have to watch it. It doesn’t take a long time to make a batch but if you’re not using extracts, you need to let it steep and it strengthens as the day goes on.”

Biggest difference noticed so far? A light, more diffuse texture which, dropped right on the tongue, spreads out on the tongue and dissipates with a pleasant finish. More processed blends seem a bit more tight to us.

So, if you stop in and see a jar full of busily steeping fruit, or notice an occasional change in the consistency of the syrup in your drink, let us know what you think. It’s a work in progress. Hope you enjoy!

Fresh Ginger Lemon Zest
Whole Foods Vegan Cane Sugar The Kitchen in Syrup-Making Mode

Syrups in Production at Metropolis Cafe

Chow (For Then and Now). And Dinner, too.

image via Chicagoist.

In days of yore, when we still roasted our coffee in the back of the cafe, the burgeoning Metropolis Coffee Company empire picked up its first wholesale customer: Standee’s, the venerable diner just a few doors down on Granville Ave., its lighted sign beckoning passersby like a slice of Pleasantville Americana. Standee’s closed earlier this year, 60 years after its first plate of scrambled eggs and hash brows was slung from the griddle to the waiting mouth of a hungry counter patron, and in its place emerged a contemporary icon of the neighborhood.

Building on the success of M. Henry on Clark St. in the northern stretch of Andersonville, where chef and head honcho Michael Moorman has built a miniature bastion of boutique-rustic breakfast Americana, the old Standee’s space this past Autumn became M. Henrietta. Like its brethren, it’s awash in the pale hues of farmhouses on the horizon, reclaimed features, and the sense that what separates kitsch from comfortable is presentation.

At M. Henrietta, it’s chow for now, for a new neighborhood.

And while Edgewater’s breakfast options got a whole lot tastier when Henrietta set up shop in the old diner space, did you know that they serve lunch and dinner, too? Where once workingmen consumed steaming hot patty melts, there now exists a local option that stays locally-minded in its kitchen, too. Like a Great Lake trout, for example, or a rad-sounding cheese plate.

Oh, and they have pudding, too. See you at the dinner counter.

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