Wednesday, December 28, 2011

LAMILL at the Four Seasons Baltimore

On Thanksgiving morning E. and I were up and out the door by 7:45 am. We had a date planned at LAMILL Coffee at the new Four Seasons in Harbor East. It was a gorgeous, clear blue sky day and just a tad bit chilly. The perfect Thanksgiving Day. 

The streets were quiet as many of the Turkey Trot runners returned from their jog. We should have signed up but I'm so glad we didn't. Our morning was most relaxing which I think was good for both of our hearts.

As any of you who have been reading this blog for a while know, my husband's passion for coffee is like some people's love of fine wine, football or religion. We truly plan our vacations around specialty coffee shops. You can see some of our favorites posted here. Because of this commitment we knew three of the staff members at LAMILL. Becca and Lindsay used to work at Spro and Kris was at Charmington's. We visited with them at the opening party and Eric has been a half dozen times without me already. 

For some, coffee is just coffee. I totally get that. You buy your Folgers, measure, add to the filter of your Mr. Coffee, set the timer and voila it's ready with your morning paper. Coffee's come a long way from the Styrofoam cup for $.25 at the corner diner too. Starbucks revolutionized this "third place" experience being the middle ground between home and work. Even during the economic downturn people can still feel special about their complicated order that is usually made to order correctly. 

Eric introduced me to specialty coffee. He was introduced to it in DC and London. I only know a fraction about it but am slowly getting the full skinny on what's what with fancy coffee. These grinders are kind of a big deal at LAMIL. They are custom painted for this shop and each one runs about $5,000. There are six total in the coffee shop. The simple fact is that some grinders heat the coffee bean, changing the flavor of the coffee. These grinders do not heat up the bean keeping the essence of the bean in a perfect state. They need so many so that they can create amazing coffee in a fast amount of time. Be prepared to wait however. It is worth it.

Lindsay's latte art in the process. I still have no idea how to do this.

LAMIL offers many different pastries and lite bites.

The beignets are made to order and come out hot with powdered sugar and your choice of chocolate or butterscotch sauce. The butterscotch is spiked and I swear I got a buzz off of my last order. I happened to land at the coffee shop on National Pastry Day where they were giving away free beignets with any coffee order. 

E. has been here multiple times. We both love the openness of the space and the light from the water.

We got to know Johnathan Liu who trains all of the LAMILL opening teams around the country and world. Such a nice guy and I must say that I love that the Four Seasons embraces tattoos and individuality more than in days past. He just shared this article recently from the LA Times with food predictions for 2012. Read item number two.

LAMIL is a coffee roaster out of LA.They explain the art of roasting beautifully on their website which I've quoted below:
Roasting is to coffee beans as cutting is to fine diamonds. A diamond only starts to sparkle after the facets have been cut. In the same way, a coffee bean won’t show its true potential until the beans have been expertly roasted. Fortunately, there’s no rule of thumb that says you have to spend two months salary for a great cup of coffee.

A good roaster has a thorough understanding of the unique properties of different green beans. He knows that Panamanian is roasted at 15.1 minutes and that Guatemalan is roasted for 15.4. Mistakes can be measured in seconds, so a roaster has to keep a constant vigil. Add to this the fact that they consume ten cups a day… it’s no surprise our roasters are a jittery bunch. But at least they can work long hours.

At LAMILL we small batch roast all our beans on our own special order German Probat G60 commercial roasters. Not only are these the finest, state of the art machines, but it’s also cool to be able to say ‘German Probat G60’. We make the same investment in our staff, being sure to employ only most qualified and talented roasters. At LAMILL we understand how important roasting is to the final product. We don’t take any shortcuts… we don’t make any compromises. If a batch isn’t right, we take the time to do it over, even if it means missing the Lakers game. That’s what TIVO is for.

We read the paper, enjoyed our coffee and had a very relaxing morning. So relaxed in fact that we forgot we had to put the turkey in the oven. Our 3pm dinner began at 6:30 pm. Whoops.

All of the espresso is pulled from this one mother of a machine. It was custom made for this shop and has another hefty price tag. I love the wood handles.

Eric is a huge fan of the simply grilled breads and honey butter. 

I love Becca's reflection in the espresso machine. I took tons of notes to try to explain the espresso process. I'm stumbling with the right words to explain what I've learned. Allie explained it best to me telling me to imagine the water pressure coming through the machine as a fire hydrant. The pressure that the water comes through the coffee is represented in "bars". Barista speak is a tough one to crack. I'm not even sure if I got that right. They speak about how the fruitiness and tomato flavors come out when pulled at a certain bar level. I think. It's all very technical and the temperature in the room, weather outside and how beans are stored effects the taste of the coffee ultimately. I don't think your average Joe Nellie get's how much goes into this coffee science, but I'm still learning. Most important is roasting date. Don't forget to make sure you are getting coffee that hasn't been roasted for over a month.

Welcome to the Baltimore LAMIL. Look forward to more mornings with you soon.

Hoping everyone had a Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah.  We are exhausted from a quick trip to become Baby Nephew's godparents in Michigan and a joyous Christmas with my 93 year young grandmother. My godmother Mary T. joined us for the drive which was the best! My Daddy smoked a turkey for the baptism and Momma made the best Roast Beast ever for the Christmas Feast. We look forward to friends visiting from New York for New Years Eve at Stone Hill and celebrating with Eric's family tonight. 

May your days be filled with freshly roasted coffee, friendly barista's and healthy eating in the New Year, Nelle & E


Pigtown*Design said...

another place i need to try. i still haven't been to spro!

Nelle Somerville said...

Meg, great news!!! Artifact Coffee will be opening in Feb/March that is a Connor walk away from you in the Union project. It's a Woodberry Kitchen coffee shop and our buddy Allie will be in charge. We are excited for another space near us. But you MUST try Spro! They allow dogs so Connor will dig it too.