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The Flight of the Chocolate Fish

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Name: Chocolate Fish Coffee
Location: 3rd and Q, Sacramento, CA
Rating: 4

A few weeks ago, I wrote a review of Mojo Bicycle Cafe. This week found me at Chocolate Fish. I wish I could say that this recent spate of visits to Ecco Caffe-serving institutions was part of a master plan to create a journalistic theme, but my true motivation seems more deeply buried in my subconscious. My shrink’s current theory is that I’m still seeking to fill a recent void in my life. About a month ago, I visited Bakesale Betty (a former? Ecco Caffe client) only to learn that they had indefinitely suspended their espresso operation. But, I digress…

In case you were wondering, a Chocolate Fish is a fish-shaped, marshmallow-filled, chocolate-covered confection so popular with Kiwi’s that it has taken on something of a commendatory or ameliorative significance within the greater New Zealand culture. What giving a man a chocolate fish has to do with coffee, I haven’t quite yet figured out yet, other than the fact that this coffee is something you deserve and the fact that the owner of this cafe is also from New Zealand.

The design includes a modern palette of dark (espresso?) brown, gray, and “black cat decaf espresso” blue. The seating alternates between low lying leather chairs and bar height, wooden stools and tables. The interior is surprisingly roomy for what seems like such a little space. You can also sit outdoors on one of several attractive communal tables on the generously sized patio. I suppose the only concern I’d have is that in its southwestern-most corner of downtown location, it simply might not get noticed.

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The bar serves up shots of Ecco Caffe’s Traditional Northern Italian Espresso and Organic Swiss Water Process Decaf Sumatra Gayo Mountain on a three-group LaMarzocco Linea. I spoke to the owner’s wife who told me that they would prefer to use the organic espresso but haven’t quite found it to their liking just yet. They do, however, use organic versions for the other 8-9 coffees they typically have in stock – an impressive selection for any cafe to say the least.

Both shots that I consumed – one regular and one decaf – were excellent renditions of the coffee that they use. The Northern Italian was exceptionally bright with a sweet, lemon-like acidity and a delicate, sweet, velvety underpinning to hold it down from its ethereal heights. The decaf was neither as full-bodied nor as bright but held together well in what might have been an even more well rounded shot. I took my notes as I was rushing out the door, but I might have tasted something a bit floral with a clear tobacco aftertaste. Honestly, I almost liked the decaf better than the regular if only because I never have been a huge fan of incredibly bright lemony espressos. It may have also had something to do with that shot’s gorgeous reddish-brown head of crema.

I also tasted the Organic Columbian Tierradentro, brewed as a pour over and stored in a non-heated thermal carafe. For a pour over drip, it had a beautiful mouthfeel. It was buttery and thick and also had a gorgeous aroma and flavor. I got notes of cinnamon with a mellow, orangey acidity. It would have been perfect for a relaxing afternoon coffee if it just weren’t full of that pesky caffeine.

In addition to their unprecedented selection of Ecco Caffe coffee, Chocolate Fish ups the ante by providing a selection of local New Zealand coffee drinks to try. Some of these, like a Flat White (kind of like a cappuccino without the foam), offer something completely different. Others like the Long Black (aka an Americano), offer a trendy new name for a more common menu item. My favorite menu item, however, is the “steamer.” Nothing fancy here. It’s just steamed milk, but I’m always ordering this for my daughter so it’s nice to see it on someone’s menu.

I suppose I still wonder why this shop opened up in Sacramento rather than closer to my house. I just hope that the residents of Sacramento give this place the Chocolate Fish it deserves.

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