I'm not hip. Teenagers walk past my house coming or going from middle school, and at no point do they think, "There's the guy I want to be like." I'm the dude wearing the relaxed fit clothes that takes the ball that lands in his yard.
So the other night, those teenagers would have been surprised to see me swimming neck deep in a crowd of hip young things at La Colombe -- I was surprised myself.
The Shaw outpost of this Philly-based coffee roaster was hosting DC's social media elite to introduce its new draft latte and coffee-tinged rum. I did my best to fit in.
"What's your handle," a gentleman with a beautiful Leica draped over his shoulder asked.
"I don't use Instagram."
So while I didn't fit in very well in terms of being an on trend kind of guy, the locals were incredibly welcoming. The Leica slinger turned out to be Tony Gyepi-Garbrah, a super-hip motorcycle, fashion, and food enthusiast who didn't seem to care that I was the owner of the cheapest Windows phone available.
The focus of the evening was on the food and drink. La Colombe's new latte mix cold-brewed coffee concentrate and milk through a nitrous-powered draft tap. The result is something between an iced latte and a cloud. Tiny bubbles trapped like jewels in the cold milk bring a lightness and sweetness to the resulting drink.
Next to the iced latte tap, there's a classic cold brew tap pouring La Colombe's Pure Black. The cold brew process keeps the flavor notes high, allowing fruit and floral tones to shine through. Imagine dialing down the bass on your stereo and picking up all the vocal nuances you'd been missing--I think that defines a good cold brew experience.
Combine the two and you have a black and tan. Toss in a shot of Jameson and you've got one of the smoothest Irish coffees I've ever had the pleasure to drink.
At the other end of the bar, phones and cameras snapped away as the café's Different Drum rum made its way into a Spanish coffee. The rum's tagline is "Rum for the bourbon drinker" and it does taste similar to bourbon, with smoky notes and a sharper, less faux-tropical taste.
La Colombe has tried a few coffee varieties in the rum, and the current version uses an Ethiopian roast known for its stone fruit flavors. In the Spanish coffee, it played nicely with ginger cream, cinnamon, and orange. A few drops of 151 get added to the mix allow you to flame the drink, caramelizing some of the sugared rim before being doused by fresh coffee.
If you want to get folks who take a lot of Instagram shots excited, set something on fire.
Even without the flaming drinks, the whole café buzzed. DC had been blessed with a cool end of summer night, allowing the party to spill out into Blagden Alley. Even with my pockets bereft of social cache, I couldn't help but be intrigued by the interactions.
Representatives from IGDC squeezed in next to local bloggers and photographers. Hannah Yoast turned a handful of sidewalk chalk into a flaming cocktail mural, while RareSweets founder Meredith Tomason explained to me that traditional canele use beeswax-lined copper molds, but that she was using an updated, non-bee method.
Everyone seemed to know everyone without any of them having ever met. It was beautiful. While I was talking to Holly Garner from IGDC, Hannah came over to introduce herself and it was like watching pen pals meet for the first time. And I'm not talking about the my-name-is-Ronnie-but-I've-been-writing-as-Margret-for-six-years-hope-you-don't-mind kind of pen pals.
Like all things, the party eventually wound down. I grabbed a pastry for the road and trekked back to my house full of confiscated footballs. I'll be back for the lattes soon enough, though.
Also, I may have installed the Instagram app on my phone. Is FoodGuyFromDCWhoWritesMainlyButAlsoTakesPictures too long a handle?