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Into Shelley’s Belly: The Alcove

The Bar (left); Alcove (right)
The Bar (left); Alcove cappuccino (right)

I tipped my cappuccino just slightly toward my nose and drifted into a frothy, coffee fueled warmth of mind and it descended into my chest. You know the flash that flies through your brain and body as the first hint of coffee aroma lifts you into your day. Your eyes sink heavily behind your lids. For a moment, you become a part of that wandering sinewy transcendence that calms and invigorates with resplendent escape. It’s a pleasure and necessity for many, and there is a new contender on the block that you should consider when planning where to grab that first cup before you launch into your day with vigor and success-crushing determination. Most of you probably know The Alcove as a craft beer and wine bar, but in November they started offering fine espresso drinks from behind that same bar.

The Alcove has always been a wonderful place to enjoy a fine glass of wine while relaxing on one of the comfy couches or to grab a craft beer and sit at the brushed metal bar. The atmosphere has a modern zest with a living room persona of comfort and cleanliness, and the ambience recalls Santa Fe’s laissez faire tone and sensibility. The artwork on the walls is wine inspired and leaves a bit to be desired, but The Alcove is a cozy respite from the meat-headed buffoonery that pervades its Uptown location. They also have a projector that displays to the large screen on the north wall, which is perfectly suitable for game watching. The staff is friendly, welcoming, and well informed, and as you can probably tell, I really like this place. In the morning, there is plenty of parking along the street, and the bathrooms are clean. Now, onto their new offerings.

The Ethiopian Black Beauty
The Ethiopian Black Beauty
The Bar (left); Muffin, meh (right)
The Bar (left); Muffin, meh (right)

The Alcove possesses a maturity and quiet that has held it well for the last three years, and it’s with this naturally progressive momentum that they venture well into the world of espresso and artisan-inspired coffee. I started out with a cappuccino, as I always do, and it had a petite bitter twist of dense espresso that smoothed out with ease. It was lightly foamed and delivered with excitement from the knowledgeable barista. He was passionate and informed about the coffees, and he shared the origin and profile with every patron that visited. At one point, he remarked on the environmental friendliness of shade-grown coffee without the slightest hint of arrogance. Todd, the barista, worked fluidly at the Synesso Espresso Machine that was handcrafted in Seattle, Washington. They offer locally roasted Eiland Coffee and Noble Coyote Coffee. I decided to taste one of their muffins to accompany my cup, and was underwhelmed. It was a pasty, sticky little muffin with little to offer in the way of flavor, and I decided against the croissant, as it looked like a similarly disappointing piece of bread. There is substantial room for improvement here, and I expect them to reach out as the morning business grows, or at least I hope they do.

The Synesso Espresso Machine
The Synesso Espresso Machine

I finished with a simple black coffee from Ethiopa that turned out to be anything but simple. This smoky skinned Nubian beauty graced my mouth with depth and darkness that lingered tenderly on my palate. It was intensely dark and smooth, rich in its body and tempered with a light cacao in its finish. Some artistic consideration was taken in coordinating the bean-to-water ratio of this pot, and that comes with experience and skill. This is one tremendous cup of black coffee, outstanding and exhilarating. I would love to try their latte and I hope that more people discover their morning offerings. The Alcove will live on and continue to embody the simple elegance and care that has gotten them so far, and while I hope they correct their pastry shortcomings, I will surely return for the coffee.