UPDATED 7/24/13 to correct Rita's Italian Ice address.
"I think Rochester has the potential to be the new Portland or the new Seattle as far as coffee goes," says Tony Colón, who is doing his part to make his prediction a reality. Along with wife his wife, Renée, Tony co-owns Fuego Coffee Roasters, Rochester's newest bean merchants and one of a few local artisans at the vanguard of this city's contribution to coffee's Third Wave. Renée explains: "Third Wave is to the coffee industry what craft brewing is to the beer industry. The young 20somethings are really trying to be coffee connoisseurs."
Adds Tony, "They're looking to get away from the bigger industries like Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts and they want to support local things that are made artisanally and small-batch."
The Colóns both hail from the northern reaches of New York State; Renée came to Rochester for school, then Tony moved here to be with Renée and to explore a career in coffee. And after seven years apiece working at and eventually managing college outposts of Java's, Tony and Renée decided to strike out on their own, purchasing a coffee roaster this past January with plans for a retail space at least a year down the road. But things quickly began falling into place, and Tony's victory under the Fuego banner in Joe Bean's most recent Latte Art Throwdown helped to raise their profile.
"The cafe was putting itself together and we were trying to keep up," says Renée.
Located downtown across from the Harro East building --- it's that brightly painted little building with the coffee-centric mural; you cannot miss it --- Fuego Coffee Roasters is a cozy spot where the Colóns roast and serve organic, fair-trade, Rainforest Alliance coffee sourced from all over the world (including beans from Yemen, a rarity 'round these parts). Because flavors deteriorate soon after grinding, the barista grinds coffee to order and brews individual cups via the plunger-based AeroPress. But by late August the Alpha Dominche Steampunk should be in play at Fuego; it's a state-of-the-art system that can efficiently replicate different brewing processes, such as French press, pourover, and vacuum siphon.
The cold brew is a bit less high-tech, involving cheesecloth, a five-gallon bucket, and a daylong steep that mellows the acidity. Fuego is teaming up with Rohrbach's to keg the cold coffee, the nitrous giving it the velvety consistency of a Guinness.
Plans are underway to also serve tea along with baked goods and other snacks (vegan and gluten-free options, too), and the Colóns intend to host art shows, public cuppings, and latte-art classes. Tony and Renée also hope to offer internships to high-school students interested in learning both barista and business skills. They're currently working with the Enactus branch at Renée's alma mater, Roberts Wesleyan College, which provides support to small-business owners while enabling the RWC students to get an up-close look at real-world entrepreneurship.
And while Tony and Renée seem to be having a blast experimenting with their roaster and seeing what flavors can be coaxed from the beans (Renée likens coffee's complexity to that of wine), they're not losing sight of the fact that many humans really just want a simple cup of coffee.
"When it comes to making someone's drink," says Tony, "you're making someone's day. They might be having the worst day in the world, but when they come in, you serve them with a smile, and you can really make their day."
Fuego Coffee Roasters is located at 167 Liberty Pole Way. It is open Monday-Friday 7 a.m.-4 p.m. (Weekend hours TBD.) Prices start at $1.75. For more information, call 315-244-2415, visit Fuego's Facebook page, or follow Fuego on Twitter at FuegoRoasters.
Happy first anniversary to Veritas Wine Bar, 217 Alexander St., which will celebrate this milestone on Saturday, July 27, 5-11 p.m. with complimentary tastings, sweet nibbles, and drink specials. Get the details at veritaswinebar.com or call 262-2336.
The power of cheese
Curd nerds will want to make tracks for the second annual Finger Lakes Cheese Festival, going down 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday, July 27, at Sunset View Creamery, County Road 14 in Odessa, just outside of Watkins Glen. Events include cheesemaking classes as well as seminars on cooking with cheese and pairing it with wine or beer, and of course many Finger Lakes dairies and creameries will be peddling their wares. Parking is $5 per car, but admission is free. Learn more at flcheesetrail.com.
Finger Lakes Culinary Bounty is a nonprofit organization dedicated to locavorism, and its annual fundraiser takes place at 6 p.m. Monday, August 5, at Geneva on the Lake. The Harvest Dinner is a collaboration between top regional farmers, chefs, and winemakers, all coming together to create a three-course meal (plus hors d'oeuvres and desserts) highlighting local food and drink. Advance tickets are $75 per person, all inclusive. To make reservations, visit flcb.org, or call 315-789-7190.
New Taj India Cuisine, located at 298 Exchange Blvd., is now closed.
With the closing of New Wasabi, 2186 Empire Blvd., Webster is now down to a mere 37 sushi places.
The Philadelphia-based Rita's Italian Ice, which also offers custard alongside its roster of ices, has opened a Rochester store at 1900 S. Clinton Ave. in the Tops Brighton Plaza. Scope 'em out at ritasice.com, or call 360-2891.
Pho Viet Asian Noodle Bar, in the old Pittsford Seafood at 510 Monroe Ave., is now open, serving banh mi, vermicelli and rice dishes, and customizable pho, along with appetizers and traditional beverages. Call 287-6066 for more information.
Chow Hound is a food and restaurant news column. Do you have a tip? Send it to email@example.com.