Thursday, August 09, 2012

Bravado Coffee Bar & Lounge

Last week, I had a horrible cold.  I couldn't swallow anything.  All I wanted was cold liquids to soothe my throat.  I remembered that over a year ago I'd visited a new cafe in the neighborhood, Caffe Pascucci, and that they served some very crazy cold drinks, most topped with all sorts of whipped creams and syrups.  It seemed like a great place to return to perhaps brighten my mood, but I couldn't find it.  Alas, they had changed names, now called Bravado Coffee Bar & Lounge.  And even better, they were on GoPago, so I could try it out for the first time AND get a cold drink.

The drink menu, as I remembered, was extensive.  Tons of crazy sounding, and amazing looking, hot drinks, cold drinks, blended drinks, drinks with yogurt in them even.  The menu is illustrated to help you pick your drink.  They also serve beer and wine in the afternoons, and brunch comes with a free mimosa or sangria.

The food menu changes throughout the day, offering a few breakfast options in the morning during the week, soups, salads, and sandwiches for lunch during the week, and some pizzas and other snacks in the late afternoon.  On weekends, they serve a hybrid brunch menu.  They have daily specials. The pastry case is filled with assorted cookies, croissants, and cakes.  I haven't tried any of the food yet, as quite honestly, it didn't look particularly great.

The cafe has a bunch of seating options, some small tables for 2, some round tables for 3, and some high tops for 4.  There is also outdoor seating.  The decor puts it right at home in SOMA.

They offer wifi, which is necessary, as they happen to be in a cell phone dead zone.  Sigh, San Francisco!  This is particularly problematic if you are trying to use GoPago while actually there.  Obviously, you are supposed to use GoPago in advance and have your drink waiting for you, but if you want to go look at the menu and then order, you need to get on the wifi with your phone to place an order.  The wifi was pretty flaky while I was there.

On my first visit, I also discovered that they were running a LevelUp promotion this week, giving a $10 credit all week!  So I used GoPago my first visit, and LevelUp on the subsequent visits, which was much easier, as it didn't require a network connection.

The staff were all friendly, although very busy.  I think the GoPago giants promotion was leading many people there, and then obviously their own LevelUp promotion was a big hit.  The first time I was there they were out of a bunch of things, like the chocolate confuso cream required for the drink I most wanted, and the icy coffee freddo that I also wanted.  The fourth time they were out of caramel sauce.  Both of these were surprising to me, as they are required components of signature dishes, and I was really disappointed both times because the things I really want to order, I couldn't! The second time I was there the single worker was clearly trying to do too many things at once, and had left the sink on, with it overflowing all over the place, until I pointed it out to her.

Anyway, the drinks were hit or miss.  Some were amazing, some not so much, but all very creative and amazing looking.  They clearly use high quality ingredients, and I was particularly impressed with the assorted whipped creams they used.  I'll definitely return to try more of their concoctions!
Yogurt Cappuccino Caramel: Our Gold espresso with light, Italian style yogurt and caramel sauce, decaf.  $4.25.
From the yogurt section of the menu.  I really had no idea what to expect when I ordered this.  What was Italian yogurt?  And why would I want it with my espresso?  I had no idea, but this sounded vaguely like an excuse at brunch, as it contained yogurt after all!

When it first arrived, I almost thought there was a mistake.  The beautiful treat placed in front of me was clearly a big pile of whipped cream and caramel sauce, right?  Oh well, I wasn't going to complain.  I took a spoonful, and realized ... this wasn't whipped cream, this must be the Italian yogurt!  It was insanely fluffy, lighter than whipped cream even, but it was somewhat tart.  It was fairly amazing.  Drizzled over it, adding just the right amount of sweetness, was a caramel sauce.  It was like eating a greek yogurt and honey parfait ... just, lighter, and really quite different.

On the bottom was the shot of espresso.  I wasn't quite sure how to get to it, but once I was a few spoonfuls in, I was easily able to get some espresso and some of the yogurt at the same time.  Now I was reminded not of a yogurt parfait, but of an affogato, with that same contrast of bitter liquid and sweeter soft part, except without the hot and cold contrast.  Once more of the yogurt was gone, it then started to remind me of a cappuccino, albeit one with some crazy froth.

I really liked this.  It was intriguing and delicious.  I was really into how the experience of it kept changing as the ratio of espresso to yogurt changed as I moved along.

I almost ordered another one immediately, but there were too many other, equally amazing sounding, things to try!  I'd certainly get this again in the future, although I'm also curious about the fruit versions. They seem like they'd be more like a yogurt parfait, but I don't really know how that goes with espresso.  Intriguing!

$4.25 was a perfectly reasonable price for the portion size and beautiful presentation.
Yogurt Cappuccino Frutti Bosco: Our Gold espresso with light, Italian style yogurt and fresh fruits, decaf.  $4.25.
On my next visit, I decided to try one of the fruity yogurts.  They offer two varieties, one with fresh cut fruit and one with fruitti bosco sauce.  The fruit of the day was strawberries, and I asked the barista which she recommended.  She picked the fruitti bosco, so I went with it.

As you can probably tell from the photo, the yogurt was very different this time.  It wasn't nearly as fluffy as before, and there was less of it.  It still had a nice tart flavor, but the consistency wasn't as enjoyable.

The frutti bosco sauce was a sweet berry flavored sauce.  It went ok with the yogurt, but the caramel worked much better.

The espresso was very bitter, and when mixed with the fruity sauce, it just really didn't work for me.

I really didn't like this, and it was a big disappointment after loving the caramel version.  Would not order again.
Fraspuccio Confuso: Gold espresso blended with ice and milk, topped with our signature Confuso cream, decaf, skim. $4.25.
Since I had my "brunch" treat to start, it was time to move on to a "dessert" selection.  And ... a dessert this was!  The menu listed a number of blended beverages, called Fraspuccios.  The first selection I made, the Fraspuccio Meringato, was unfortunately unavailable, as they were out of the dark chocolate cream, so I settled on my second pick, the amazingly delicious looking Fraspuccio Confuso.  The photo was absolutely droolworthy, and the server described Confuso cream as a whipped cream made from sweetened condensed milk that tastes like birthday cake.  Sold!

This drink was another visual stunner.  I almost didn't want to dig in, it was so pretty.

The base layer was the espresso, ice, milk, and some of the confuso cream, blended up.  The ice was nicely blended up, tiny little chunks.  It was fairly bitter, but did have some sweetness from the creme mixed in, just enough to balance it out.  Very, very good.

On top was a ton of the confuso cream.  It was pretty much exactly as she described, thicker than whipped cream, reminding me somewhat of a custard.  Very sweet on its own.  I believe there was also some caramel sauce drizzled on top.

And, to complete the deal, were little bits of crumbled up almond cookies.  Sweet, great flavor, and added a nice crunch.

This was pretty insanely decadent.  I couldn't convince myself it was a drink, it was clearly a full fledged dessert.  And a delicious one at that.  It was better than any Starbucks Frappucino, Peet's Freddo, Dunkin' Donuts Coffee Coolatta.  Not even in the same league.

I'd definitely order again, although I'd love to try the one I originally wanted, with the chocolate confuso cream and the meringue.  But then, there is also one with caramel and regular whipped cream.  So many amazing sounding treats!

$4.25 was again a reasonable price for a large, beautiful concoction.
Fraspuccio Caramel : Gold espresso blended with ice and milk, topped with our caramel sauce, decaf, skim.  $4.25.
On my next visit, I moved on to a different Fraspuccio.  It was late afternoon, so I was avoiding caffeine, so I went with the caramel version rather than the chocolate.

It wasn't very well blended, with the bottom being mostly just the espresso and milk liquid and the middle being the icy mixture.  It separated even further very quickly.  Perhaps the confuso cream helped hold the other one together?  Or maybe it was just not prepared as well?

The liquid and ice parts of this were much more bitter than in the confuso version, presumably because they were just the milk, icy, and a little bit of caramel sauce, rather than the sweet cream mixed in.

It was topped with very delicious whipped cream, albeit too much of it.  I'm not one to complain about too much whipped cream in general as I love the stuff, but the ratio was off here.  I think there was close to a cup of whip on here!  But it was very good, sweet, fluffy, clearly not from a can.

The caramel drizzle on top was delicious, very sweet, with a great caramel flavor.  Again, likely not just a flavor syrup, this seemed like a quality ingredient.

Unfortunately, I didn't like this much either, particularly compared to the confuso version.  The bad blending and the lack of sweetness in the body of it just didn't work for me.  I would not order again.
Fraspuccio Meringato: Gold espresso blended with ice and milk, topped with our dark Confuso cream and pieces of meringue, decaf, skim.  $4.25.
On my fourth visit, I went to order my favorite from my second trip, the Yogurt Cappuccino Caramel, as it was my favorite "drink" overall.  But ... they were out of caramel sauce!  Ahh!!

So, even though it was late in the day, I decided to go for the Fraspuccio Meringato, the one Fraspuccio that I hadn't yet tried, because I'd been avoiding it due to the caffeine content from all the chocolate.

This one was served in a different glass than the other Fraspuccios, and seemed a little larger as a result.  Like the Fraspuccio Caramel, it separated out fairly quickly into an icy layer and then just a cold milk and espresso layer.  I'm really not sure why my first one didn't do this, but I greatly preferred it when it didn't separate!

The chocolate confuso cream had a subtle chocolate flavor and was a nice thick consistency, but I thought that the regular confuso cream was much better, as it was sweeter and a more interesting flavor.  The chocolate flavor in this was strong enough to mask the uniqueness of the confuso cream, but not intense enough to be really interesting.  I would have believed it was just chocolate whipped cream.

The chocolate sauce drizzled on top and throughout was a thin sauce, not really distinguishable from Hershey syrup.

The meringues on top were a nice sweet crunch and added to the ice cream sundae like feel of the drink.

Overall, I liked this more than the caramel Fraspuccio since it had more interesting flavors and sweetness, but it didn't compare to the regular confuso one.  I probably wouldn't order again.
Ciaobella: Our classic cappucino with white chocolate, topped with whipped cream, soy, decaf, togo.  $4.50.
On my way out the door, I decided I wasn't quite satisfied, and would like a warm drink for the walk.  Normally, I just drink black coffee, but I figured that they seem to specialize in crazy concoctions, and I might as well go for it.

This was basically a latte with some white chocolate syrup mixed in, topped with whipped cream, drizzled with more white chocolate, and topped with tiny little meringues.

I forgot that I really dislike lattes.  Back when I drank espresso drinks other than americanos, I always got a macchiato, or occasionally a cappuccino, but I really dislike how milky lattes are.  This was described as a cappuccino, but there wasn't any froth that I could find.  It was sweet, but not with any real white chocolate flavor.  I couldn't taste the soy milk.

The whipped cream was the same delicious stuff I had on the fraspuccio, and I liked it a lot.  The white chocolate drizzle also had a nice flavor.  The little meringues were sweet, and added a fun crunch.

Overall, I didn't like, but perhaps that was just my own preferences.  Seemed like a pretty unremarkable generic white chocolate mocha.  Would not order again.

Iced Americano, decaf, togo.  $2.65.
And another treat to take with me on the way out the door, on a hot afternoon.  I wanted an iced coffee, but they only brew caffeinated iced coffee, so I got an iced americano instead.

It was really strong, stronger than any iced coffee or iced americano I've ever had.  I think it likely had two shots in it.  The flavor was bitter and quite good.

It arrived with only a tiny amount of ice in it.  Perhaps there had been more but it melted quickly against the hot espresso?  I had to ask for more.

I have to give a shout out to their large assortment of sweeteners.  Sugar, raw sugar, splenda, simple syrup, several types of honey.

Overall, good, and if I were in the mood for one again, I'd get it.

[ Not Pictured ]
Cold Chocolate Freddo: Ice blended chocolate.

I was offered a sample of the cold chocolate freddo.  This was a pre-made drink, served from a dispenser.  Very similar to the coffee-free chocolate freddo I had at Peet's last week.  It had a very, very rich chocolate flavor, was nicely icy, but I think it would be too rich to really have a lot of.  A small portion, with some whipped cream to balance out the chocolate, would perhaps be good, but I can't imagine drinking a full portion of it, it was kinda like drinking pudding!  The server also mentioned that they could add espresso to it, which I could see mellowing it out a little, and making it more like a frappucino/freddo.

[ Not Pictured ]
Sorbetto: Ice blended coffee.

I also tried samples of the ice blended coffee, on several occasions.  It was really good!  Like the ice blended chocolate, it was really icy, very well blended.  It had a great coffee flavor, and was slightly sweet.  It was almost too thick to drink, but very, very enjoyable by the spoonful.  If it wasn't for the caffeine, I'd certainly order a full cup of this.  Very good! [ Tried this one more time.  Again, it was delicious!  Icy, well blended, great coffee flavor.  I'd really love to get a full size one of these sometime! ]

[ Originally posted June 26, 2011 ]
Fraspuccio Caramel:  Gold espresso blended with ice and milk, topped with our caramel sauce.  $4.25.
In the bottom of the cup was massive layer of thick caramel sauce, the body was blended cream/espresso/sugar/ice mixture, topped with Confuso cream, crumbled cookies, and a chocolate/nut candy.  The barista described this as the "light" choice ... it was way too sweet and decadent for me though, certainly not what I thought I was ordering!

I *think* this was the fraspucio caramel, although that is supposed to have standard whipped cream and not confuso cream.  But the fraspucio confuso shouldn't have caramel.  So ... I'm not 100% sure which this was, and perhaps the menu has evolved since this visit.
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