Im a coffee addict. I spend way too much time studying, researching, and tasting coffee. I'm also always up to try a new cup of coffee, another distinct roast or perhaps just a new style of preparation. I wanted to learn everything about coffee: how it is made, the best preparation, the different preparation methods of coffee. I even listened to a podcast from Andrea Illy on the science of coffee. I just love sitting down, sipping a latte, listening to music, and just overall relaxing. Good ole yuppie behavior. What's interesting in all of this, is how I always thought that StarBucks and dark roasted beans were the pinnacle of coffee. However, I was enlightened thanks to Illy's. I first experienced the aromatic delight that is Illy's at Google Irvine, where someone made me a latte that did not require sugar. In fact, the espresso was slightly sweet. It totally changed my perception of what good coffee was. I now purely brew Illy at home and am an Illy evangelist.
I had previously scavenged numerous coffee shops around the OC/LA county area to try and find a coffee shop that made the perfect micro foam (foam that has a silky smooth texture with no air bubbles), pulled the perfect shot of espresso from a fresh roasted bean. However, my search has so far been a failure. Therefore, you could understand my excitement when I heard that Illy's was opening their own coffee shop known as an "espressamente" at the Las Vegas Palazzo. This past weekend, I was lucky enough to visit the espressamente. I went in with high expectations considering just how much I love their coffee. After visiting, I have mixed feelings about the espressamente.
First, there are many things that the espressamente does quite well. You get a traditional cappuccino cup in a nice relaxing environment. Compared to StarBucks, their coffee is still quite excellent. Each drink is individually prepared unlike the gallons of milk pre-steamed at Starbucks. They have numerous creations that show off the unique taste of espresso, and server other foods which complement espresso. I never had previously heard of the drink "espresso affogato" - which is a heavenly mix of two scoops of gelato with a shot of espresso poured over it. Consider me a espresso affogato addict now. They have a good 15-20 different espresso style drinks, which will keep me coming back to try a new drink. The best part is, they focus on espresso and consider it the key ingredient in every drink, unlike StarBucks where it seems more of an add-on to some kind of syrup.
However, what truly disappointed me was the cappuccino itself. The shot of espresso was a bit too bitter, and the milk was poorly steamed. I was praying that if anyone could deliver a cappa with microfoam, it would be Illys. However, since the place just opened, I am pretty sure that it is the Baristas fault. Perhaps over time, the Baristas will be better trained. Overall - Starbucks could learn a thing or two from the illys espressamente.