Archive for the ‘Travels’ Category
Last fall, I traveled to Tokyo with my business partner and good friend Kiya Babzani to view Spring collections from all of the brands we carry at Self Edge. While there, a trip to the world famous Tsukiji Fish Market was in order. I will admit that I am not a major sushi connoisseur; I know what I like and am pretty easily pleased, but this was my first time in Japan since childhood and I had to experience what the freshest sushi in the world tasted like. I was not disappointed.
Some long overdue pictures from my trip to Chicago last month. We went to visit longtime friends of mine, two of which had a baby girl quite recently. For those who don’t know, I spent 7+ years in Chicago for both school and work. I love the city and the people there, and wish we could go back more often. Another milestone for the trip was our son’s first airplane ride – he performed admirably and slept the entire way there and back. Like father, like son.
Giordano’s stuffed pizza. While the merits of which Chicago-style pizza joint is best can be debated endlessly, I’ve had many a good spinach stuffed pizza here and have yet to be disappointed. Call me a creature of habit.
I lived in Chicago’s south side for two years – specifically, in a blue collar neighborhood called Bridgeport, the home of the Chicago White Sox. When I had left, the area was still family-oriented, diverse and relatively ungentrified. I was pleasantly surprised during this last visit to find a small coffeehouse called Bridgeport Coffee Company flourishing, where they serve in house roasted single origin coffees and blends. The espresso was subpar (mostly due to the machine and the preparation) but the made-to-order pourover coffees were excellent. This place serves flavor shots – they’re clearly not trying to be a cool guy shop, but they do roast some good coffee. Right across the street is a bar called Maria’s Packaged Goods & Community Bar; it used to be a neighborhood dive but has been transformed into a bar that serves up craft beers and liquors. Where were these places when I lived there?
Beyond all the good food and drink that Chicago has to offer (and there’s a lot of it), I was especially grateful to be able to reconnect with longtime friends who know me well. It’s also exciting to see us all growing up together and starting families together. Surreal, but exciting.
During my last trip to LA, Johan and I stopped by the nascent headquarters of Handsome Coffee Roasters. Founded by Tyler Wells, Chris Owens and Michael Phillips, who met during their tenure at the coffee juggernaut known as Intelligentsia, Handsome is poised to be the first major LA-based third wave coffee roaster. When we visited the space it was still quite raw, but you could sense the excitement the team had for the future.
The Handsome coffee van brings the team to various events where they serve coffee and espresso via a mobile setup.
One unique experience they seek to offer is the elimination of terminology and frills when it comes to ordering drinks. Some new wave coffee shops offer brewed coffee 5 ways, which takes the barista 10 minutes to explain to someone who’s unfamiliar with the different processes. Handsome chooses one method of preparation and allows the coffee to be the center of the discussion. Similarly, with espresso, all you have to do is choose whether you want it with milk or not, and what size you’d like. I’ve visited my fair share of cafes and know that the bevy of choices offered can be intimidating to customers, and sometimes people are made to feel stupid if they don’t know what a macchiato is. I really like Handsome’s approach to making an artisinal approach to coffee accessible to everyone.
This vintage Probat 3 barrel roaster just arrived and Chris, the partner who oversees roasting, was about to get it set up and running. Because it can roast three small batches at a time, this machine is commonly used as a sample roaster as the team tries out new beans and decides which to buy in bulk. They’re still awaiting the arrival of their larger Probat roaster; it’s currently getting rebuilt in Europe and will soon ship over. I found it interesting that in seemingly disparate industries like denim and coffee, such a high value is placed on old machines that were built tougher and still do the job better than their modern counterparts.
Since our visit, Handsome has made additional progress on their space and look to be on track for their target of opening their doors to the public by the end of the year. Eater LA visited them last week and it looks like their concrete floors have been poured, which is pretty exciting (they were dirt before). Between now and their open date, you can find them in their truck around LA serving coffee at various events. Also, if you decide to stop by their space that’s still under construction, you just might find a small coffee bar in the back serving up samples in the morning. As Tyler put it, they were just too anxious to wait until the space was finished to start making their coffee.
Handsome Coffee Roasters
582 Mateo Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013
The primary reason for my visit to Portland last weekend was to spend time with Tanner Goods. While sampling some of the best coffee in the country, visiting factories, and attending my first soccer game were all experiences I enjoyed, the highlight was definitely my last day that was spent in the Tanner Goods workshop. They moved a few months ago into this brand new space that functions as a centralized location for design, sampling, manufacturing and shipping.
Throughout the day, I got to see the entire process of manufacturing a belt. Sam receives and inspects every single hide that is purchased; anything that isn’t up to par is sent back to be exchanged. He then marks each piece of leather out to minimize waste.
I was shocked to learn how little usable space there is on a hide. Cow hides are organic shapes, whereas belts come in straight line shapes. Plus, only a select part of the hide is consistent enough to be utilized for belts. Some remnants can be cut into bracelets and keychains, but the rest of the pieces are tossed into a pile to be brought over to the Tanner Goods flagship store. They sell these scraps by the pound to aspiring designers who might want to try their hand at making something themselves.
In this new workshop, the team has every tool necessary to make anything in their product range. This setup didn’t come together overnight; over the years, they’ve been able to acquire both equipment and knowledge from older leather artisans who helped guide them along. I could tell how grateful they were to have everything in one place – it certainly helps with efficiency.
One thing I admired about the Tanner Goods team was their versatility. Everyone has his specialty but is able to work multiple stations as needs arise.
While there, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try my hand at making some of the items that Tanner Goods produces for us. Sam gave me a scrap piece of black chromexcel leather to strap out some bracelets.
I also got to use the hot stamping machine to create a few leather 3sixteen patches that go on our jeans. It’s a process that takes time to dial in, as there are heat, pressure and cycle time variables on the machine. I definitely developed a deeper appreciation for all the work that goes into the products they make for us and for their own range.