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Mike Valletta

Storyteller. Photographer. Traveler.

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Coffee

I Can’t Live Without My Coffee

I can never do it. I just can’t. I roll out of bed yearning for it every morning. I just don’t know how anyone could ever live without this magic potion so many of us know as coffee. It’s really something special ya know. That jolt. That rush. It gives us that get up and go to conquer the day, as long as we can brew it, that is.

Yes, there comes a time when our coffee makers apparently don’t have any get up and go, and to get them to get up and go requires hard work.

I had trouble with my Keurig this morning. It wouldn’t brew at all, no matter how much water I put in or which button I pressed, nada! No bueno, I need my coffee and talk to me until I’ve had it. I got on the phone quickly with customer care. They told me all I had to do, was spank it. Burp it that is. They wanted me to turn the machine upside down and give it a good old fashion whack.

Well, apparently after reading reviews online this has worked for many people. Everyone apparently has abused their $200 coffee makers to make it work again. As for me, this didn’t work! Maybe I just really needed my coffee for some extra oomph.

Another phone call to Keurig had me in business. After explaining the situation and trying to resolve it over the phone, I was hooked up with a free replacement Keurig. Score? Absolutely! It will be shipped to my house within 3-7 business days. Hey, I’ll wait. When my new Keurig arrives, I’ll even treat it like a little baby and make sure it’s burped frequently as directed.

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Who has the Best Coffee on the Cheap?

As Americans, we’re all on a budget. The dollar just doesn’t go as far as it used to. It includes everything, even our morning cup of joe which can cost anywhere from two to five dollars on the average. So, how can you make the pinch feel less harsh?

Make a stop at your local Mickey D’s. You’ll be surprised by what you taste! For years, I have been ignoring those who have told me McDonalds has the best coffee in America. I ignored all of them, and went on to spend five-dollars a day on a great cup of coffee at Starbucks. Then, one day, my local Starbucks was closed and I had to settle for what I thought was less. Then, there I was. Starring and sipping on what was possibly the best coffee I have ever had, and for just a buck!

Any size, any day. Just a buck. I couldn’t believe what I have been missing out on all this time. It then made me wonder, what else was I missing out on. It was then and there that I had a revelation. It was time to conquer everything else I had previously ignored. It’s amazing what coffee can do.

Rolling Local with Coffee

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If you spend a great deal of time on the road, coffeehouses are essential. They are the perfect places to raise your spirits and perk up your energy to keep on rolling through the streets. Everyone loves coffee. After all, it’s the American drink of choice for the morning, unlike our neighbors on the side of the pond who enjoy a spot of tea. There are many places along the way that claim they have the best cup of coffee in town. I challenge anyone that claims that to claim that they have better coffee than Irving Farm Coffee. Irving is local coffee straight out of New York’s bucolic Hudson Valley. The Hudson valley is a preppy wonderland filled with great minds and independent spirits. It’s the place with a great deal of history and a look into America’s past, so it’s certainly no wonder as to why they claim they have the best cup of coffee around. I have heard about enough about this place, so I decided to make the drive from Torrington to the charming village of Millerton, just to the west of Lakeville. I have been to Millerton plenty of times before, but I must admit, I have never made a stop at Irving Farm Coffeehouse.

As I began to step inside. I felt myself walking into my own home. On the front stoop sat a relaxed dog, and another dog was sitting on a bench entertaining some of the local kids. Once inside, I instantly felt a casual atmosphere about. People were sitting around talking with one another over a cup of coffee and some small pastries. The wooden floors gave it a farm effect and once I stepped up to the counter, I felt like I was in good old small town America as a hostess smiled and greeted me a fantastic attitude. There were so many options to choose from on the big boards behind her, but I can’t break the habit of enjoying a french vanilla coffee. I thought I knew what I was in for. As a loyal customer to the Green Mountain line of coffees, as well as Starbucks, no one could tell me there was a better cup about. Boy was I wrong! One sip sold me! A rich, yet flavorful blend of coffee perked me right up for the morning. Not too strong, and not too light, but made just right. How could this be? How could a great cup of coffee exsist without my knowledge? Maybe I had not let my options be free since I was such a loyal scout to my brands.

So, what sets Irving Farm coffee apart from all the rest? Well, they roast their own coffees right in New York’s Hudson Valley smack dat in the foothills of the Berkshire and Catskill mountains. In 1999, they purchased and renovated a farm and converted it into a roasting facility. A novel idea of the crew who founded Irving back in 1996 when they opened their first location in New York City, 71 Irving Place Coffee and Tea Bar. It was then in 2003 that they opened their Millerton location, Irving Farm Coffeehouse, to cater to the small town audience and near the farm where they roast. Today, they continue to be a success story and plans are currently under way to open another roasting facility in the Hudson Valley, a much greener facility that will have less of an impact on our planet.

So, where will you turn for your next cup of coffee?

Irving Farm Coffee House
44 Main Street
Millerton, NY 12546
518.789.2020

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Life Lessons are Learned on Vacation

Most people this time of year go on exotic vacations across the globe to escape the winter blues that most of us have built up from a winter of agony. As for me, I travel to places with a purpose intended. I’m not one to spend lavishly on vacations, especially if they just involve myself. Last week, I made the trip out to Virginia to be with my family and I couldn’t have asked for a better, more relaxing time. I should probably stress the word relaxing. You see, my father’s house is just outside a town called Tappahannock, an incredibly rural landscape complete with cow pastures and logging roads. This kind of place is a great escape, especially for those of us who would like to unwind a bit.

The morning after I arrived, it was time for my morning brew. I looked at the GPS on my phone to find out where the nearest Dunkin Donuts was located. Now, as for someone who lives on coffee house coffee, I desperately needed this, especially after a long 8 hour commute in. To my shock and horror, the nearest Dunkin Donuts was over an hour away! WHAT! This couldn’t be. There had to be something wrong with the GPS. I then typed in Starbucks to see if they had any locations close to where I was. Nope! Still over an hour away for coffee! Oh goodness sake, my morning was already ruined. How does one that has become so used to a Dunkin Donuts on every street corner in Connecticut live without a coffee, for over a week?

Well, my father had an answer for that, and it was called a Keurig machine. I was hesitant at first. I can’t stand making coffee at home. It’s just not anything like the coffeehouse and it simply is never strong enough. Well, since I wasn’t going to drive over an hour for a cup of joe, I knew I needed this coffee. I gave it a shot. After a smooth start, the coffee was actually pretty great! I was hooked! In fact, I was so hooked, I made it my mission for when I got back home to Torrington that I would go out and invest in one of these snazzy machines. I say invest because it costs over $100, but as someone who looks at things on a larger scale, if I invest $100 now for a great cup of coffee at home rather than spending it at the coffee-house, well, I have just invested all that saved money into my retirement portfolio. A pure win!

As my time in Virginia progressed, I began to really enjoy myself. I enjoyed the lazy days of relaxing and watch the world pass me by, which of course there was no world to really watch when you are sitting around watching tumbleweeds pass by. I decided since I had so much free time on my hands, that I would blog about a few things that perk my interest. I grabbed my iPad and began typing away, then I noticed something that would make a tech geek like me, cry out in hysteria; there was no wi-fi! Oh no! I asked my father where the nearest hotspot was located seeing as how there was apparently no internet connectivity for miles. He pointed out that my best bet would be to drive about 20 minutes into town and stop by the library. 20 minutes just to get online? Forget about it! I’ll do without it. After all, I’m on vacation and should be enjoying all of this free time that I suddenly have, which I did.

Later in the week, I enjoyed a night out with my family and some friends at a place called Dave & Busters. What a terrific venue! It’s like a chuckecheese for adults, complete with drinks and entertainment. The food was reasonable and worth it for the prices, but of course for someone who eats like a bird any type of food is reasonable to me. We enjoyed a full course dinner along with some mixed drinks only to find ourselves enjoying a game of hoops in the arcade room shortly after, which is a great way to burn off that dinner!

Every time I visit Virginia, I always enjoy myself. I get to spend a great deal of time with family that I have grown up with over the years, and when I leave it is often hard as it is puzzling. This visit, I not only leave behind my cousins, I leave behind my father and his family. You see, my father made the move over the summer to be closer to our family. My parents have been divorced for years and my mother lives here in Connecticut. Leaving behind my father, even at 24 years old is no easy business. I may be 8 hours away, but to him and I, it is like we are worlds apart. I’m glad to have made the visit and that I have gotten to spend time with my father and the family. Nothing can ever replace this vacation, not even one on a sunny beach in Maui sipping Mai Tai‘s.

Adding a Touch of Green in Winsted

When Karen’s Cafe had departed a month ago, many thought that was the end to a coffee-house on Main Street. Little did they know, however, that something was going on behind the scenes as a new owner,Sharry Revillini, was about to take over and make this cozy little hideaway her own as she was green with envy, in every part of the word.

Welcome to the Green Room. The new Main Street coffee-house in Winsted. The Green Room isn’t just a name, it’s a whole concept bringing the green lifestyle to the business environment as well as the community that it serves. Everything is green right down to the way that they dispose of the scraps of food, which is actually composted. I learned about the Green Room originally from my friend Joe Kopler who is an artist in town and had his artwork on display there back when it was Karen’s Cafe. He had mentioned that much of his artwork was now back home with him except for his famous “Abbey Road” piece which hangs right by the large picture window that faces Main Street.

Joe wasn’t the only way that I heard about this neat little place. Facebook was also a huge help as the owner is incredibly social media savvy and has set up a “Green Room” Facebook page in order to, not only help spread the word that there is a new business in town, but also to engage their audience by introducing delectable food dishes on the page as well as engaging the audience in some giveaways, which is exactly what brought me to this charming coffee-house. A posting by them on their Facebook page earlier in the week stated that if you had the initials of “MV”, you could come by for a free breakfast and some coffee. Perfect! As a bachelor, the words “free food” mean that you don’t have to tell me twice.

Upon my entry into the Green Room, I was pretty amazed at what had been done with the place. Little book nooks, a cozy sofa and coffee table, as well as seating for those who wanted to dine in decked the place and made it seem like one of those small town coffee houses, which is exactly what it is! I didn’t mention my name when I came in, rather I sat down and placed my order. I ordered a delicious crepe, which came with fresh strawberries and bananas. I couldn’t resist a healthy alternative for breakfast, after all, this is the Green Room which is all about healthy, conscious living for a better tomorrow. The entrée was absolutely delicious, a little sweet but made just right as I watched the world of Winsted pass me by.

The Green Room is, without a doubt, an excellent place that simply has to be discovered, no matter what age you are. It’s one of those places where you can go to escape the day as you unwind in an incredibly relaxed environment, even if it is just for a few minutes, or even a half-hour. This place will certainly be one of those places that call your name every morning before work. After all, who couldn’t use a little green in their life?

For more information, visit their website: http://www.tgrcafe.com/

Steamed up in Torrington

Steamed Cheeseburgers. "Wicked good!"-Mike Valletta

As a bachelor who lives an on the go lifestyle, finding the right food choices is often critical. Sure there’s McDonald’s, Burger King, as well as countless of other fast food venues, but when you want something local, you have to do a little research. Though I don’t lay claim to be a food critic, I do eat more than my fair share of food. Recently, my good friend Joe “Taco” Kopler recommended I check out Ericka’s Coffee House & Eatery on Route 4, just across from the Northwest Hills Credit Union in Torrington. He told me I absolutely must check out her famous steamed cheeseburgers, which is one thing I have never heard of before, so I decided, being the gutsy guy that I am, to go ahead and give it a whirl, and since it was Joe that was recommending it, it just had to be good.

Well, Joe didn’t let me down. I was impressed after the first bite. The words “Wicked good” immediately came to my mind. I wondered to myself why I hadn’t discovered steamed cheeseburgers in the past, apparently I had really been missing out! Bite after bite after bite, it just kept getting better. Ericka’s is actually pretty new to Torrington or “T-Town” as many of us locals call it. I compliment her on blending my two favorite things together; coffee and dinner. Ericka’s is not a diner, yet she offers moderately paced food that is not only fresh, but also wicked good! I was so glad to find this close to home. After doing a little research online, the nearest steamed cheeseburgers can be found at World Famous Ted’s in Meriden, which is quite the travel distance from the Torrington area.

After my delicious, and very filling, lunch at Ericka’s, I was not only glad that Torrington now had steamed cheeseburgers in town, but I was also glad to see that Ericka’s was also a coffee-house, because after this filling round of food, I was ready to pass out, and there were still plenty of places on my lengthy list to see and do, and sleeping wasn’t included anywhere on this list. Luckily for me, Ericka’s offered a wide variety of coffee choices, though I stuck with my loyal friend french vanilla, it’s the only flavor I choose to get me through the day, and Ericka not only knows how to cook a mean steamed cheeseburger, she also knows coffee, and it was the perfect ending to the perfect hometown meal.

Mike Valletta can be reached for comment at: NorthwestCTMike@aol.com

This article is also streaming LIVE on The Register Citizen. Northwest Connecticut’s Local Newspaper: www.registercitizen.com

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Where is the coffee?

 

Michelle's Gourmet on Main in downtown Torrington

 

 All of us love coffee. I know I do. My day absolutely cannot start without it. In fact, I’m such a caffeine “junkie” that it will take me a good 4-5 cups throughout the day to have that whole “get up and go” feeling. Coffee is my life, there’s no doubt about that. I search high and low just to find that perfect cup of “joe”. 

When I first moved to Torrington, I had found the absolute perfect place. Right on Main Street! Michelle’s Gourmet on Main called my name every morning. With it’s cozy atmosphere, it welcomed me with not only a great cup of coffee, but warm friendly people I can have a little conversation with before heading into work. It was a great place to network, as well as a great place to “people watch” as you watched the world pass you by on Torrington’s Main Street.  

However, a few months ago, the lights went dark at Michelle’s and off went the coffee pots. Michelle’s closed up shop. Gone like the wind. My favorite coffee shop had left me hanging. It was time to search for a new one. Torrington offers an array of unique coffee shops such as The Donut Station, Coffee House Plus, and of course Dunkin Donuts, however our Main Street coffee house, a staple in almost every downtown, was no longer available. A heartbreak to it’s faithful customers.

Interior view of Michelle's which was recently the sight for filming of an up and coming movie.

 

Nirvannas Healthbar , which is also downtown on Main Street, offers a unique experience and is popular with the younger generation in town, but for those who would like to go and network with others while unwinding with a good cup of java, there’s not really any place to turn to. So many in Torrington, like myself, have been wanting another coffee establishment on Main Street. It just makes sense to have one. We have the foot traffic, and we would certainly have much more foot traffic in our downtown if it were for a coffee shop. The world around us starts with coffee, and what a better place to start than on Main Street in Torrington.  

We, the avid coffee drinkers of Torrington, would love to have another coffee house in town, especially on Main Street.  Torrington is in the middle of growth. Were away from the hustle and bustle of the other Connecticut cities and we offer a great escape for those looking to get away from it all. With our small town charm, it’s no wonder why were a growing community! Torrington is often a starting point for many of the weekenders who flock to the Litchfield Hills region. In fact, the Litchfield Hills region is the second most popular tourist destination in Connecticut. We are known as “the shopping center” of Litchfield County. So much to see and do yet completely relaxed. Come on up! We’d be more than happy to have you in town! Torrington offers an array of real estate opportunities at economically priced rates. Torrington also offers you a terrific theatre, The Warner Theatre, right on Main Street in the heart of downtown and offers many world-class shows. Torrington is the city of the future and we welcome you to be a part of it! Please contact me at the information below so I may direct you to the appropriate sources.  

Michelle's offered tasty treats and frothy beverages.

 

Mike Valletta can be reached for comment at: NorthwestCTMike@aol.com  

Be sure to check us out on The Register Citizen. Northwest Connecticut’s Local Newspaper: www.registercitizen.com   

Become a fan on Facebook! Friend Request Mike! Follow us on Twitter!

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