6 Creative Ways to Get Your Vietnamese-Style Coffee Fix

Vietnamese Iced Coffee is brewed using a filter called a phin

The French introduced coffee to Vietnam in the 1850s. Today, the Southeast Asian country is the world’s second largest producer of coffee, after Brazil and ahead of Colombia, according to World Atlas.

I love good coffee, and when I want a strong, but sweet cup of joe, I’ll drink a Vietnamese iced coffee. It’s made with strong, dark roast coffee, sweetened condensed milk, and served with ice. (Or skip the ice and enjoy it hot!)

You can find it at Vietnamese restaurants or you can make it at home.

Since I don’t go to restaurants often and I don’t have a phin, the special metal coffee filter used to brew Vietnamese coffee, I’ve learned to get creative!

When a craving strikes, I’ll either go to a coffee shop and order Vietnamese-style coffee or I’ll try to make it at home.

For example:

  • Peet’s Coffee offers a drink they call a Black Tie, which is a cold brew beverage inspired by Vietnamese and New Orleans coffee
  • The website, Hack the Menu, claims that there’s a “secret menu” drink at Starbucks called Liquid Cocaine, which includes four shots of espresso

PSA: While I appreciate the hyperbole in its provocative name suggesting that a drink with a quad-shot of espresso is akin to cocaine, I want to be clear: I don’t advocate cocaine! (Say nope to dope, kids!)

In fact, I’ve even modified the Starbucks “hack” to cut back on the drug that is caffeine!

When I have a hankering for a Vietnamese-style iced coffee, I order two shots (not four) with three pumps of white chocolate mocha sauce (not four), plus a splash of heavy cream over light ice:

Want this beverage, but not in the mood to leave the house? Here are a few ideas on how to make Vietnamese-style (iced or hot) coffee at home without the special filter (phin):

  • If you have a Nespresso machine at home, try their recipe for iced coffee that they call by its Vietnamese name, Cà Phê Sữa Đá
  • If you have a Keurig brewing system, use a K-Cup with dark roast coffee, like Café du Monde (or fill a reusable K-Cup with your favorite dark roast coffee)
  • You could also use a pre-made cold brew coffee from the grocery store and add it to a glass filled with ice and sweetened condensed milk

OR…you can make a reservation at your favorite Vietnamese restaurant and enjoy one of these with your meal:

Brewed coffee and sweetened condensed milk poured over ice

Got any coffee hacks you’d like to share? Tell me in the comments below! ☕️

If you enjoyed this post, you may be interested in my other posts about coffee, like:

SBUX @ CDG Paris Airport

Taking a Load Off at Laundré in San Francisco

Visiting Seattle: Original Starbucks

Strolling Around San Francisco’s Marina District

What you may have heard is true! The San Francisco Bay Area is currently experiencing scheduled power outages, strong winds, and poor air quality due to smoke from wildfires. But that won’t keep us from going out and about enjoying life!

These photographs were taken on Saturday (October 26, 2019) during a leisurely stroll I took with my family in San Francisco’s Marina District.

Starbucks Reserve Coffee Bar | 2132 Chestnut St in San Francisco

Classic Affogato – “2 shots of espresso poured over vanilla ice cream” and Dark Chocolate Strato – “a creamy, icy beverage finished with an espresso float”:

I am reusing the plastic cup! It’s sturdy and it looks nice, too. This location is a coffee bar only. It doesn’t have a roastery. (Read about my visit to the Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room in Seattle here.)

Le Marais Bakery (North Beach location) | 2066 Chestnut St in San Francisco

Another Le Marais Bakery in San Francisco! Two down, one to go! (Read about my visit to the Le Marais Bakery in the Mission District here.)

someone left their art in San Francisco

Looking east from Yacht Road Alcatraz Island:

Looking west from Yacht Road Golden Gate Bridge at golden hour:

Palace of Fine Arts:

A swan swims in the tranquil Palace Lagoon:

Have you been to San Francisco? Tell me in the comments below!

Let’s keep everyone impacted by the California Wildfires in mind and hope they stay safe.

Two French Bakeries and the Blue House in San Francisco

In my blog post, If You’re Going to San Francisco, Be Sure to Watch These Videos Filmed There,” I described how a blue house in San Francisco inspired Maxime Le Forestier to write a French song entitled, “San Francisco.”

I recently got the chance to see the house on 18th Street made famous by the song:

I happened to walk past la maison bleue en route from one French bakery to another French bakery! Quelle coïncidence!

Tartine (600 Guerrero Street)

Ever since my colleague told me about Tartine, a French bakery in the Castro District that he and his wife liked to frequent for brunch, I’d been wanting to go. Thankfully, I relied on my Maps app to find it.

There’s no sign on the building with “Tartine” on it, but you’ll know you’re at the right place when you spot the line out the door. Was the patisserie trying to be unassuming or anonymous? Either way, I figured it added to the mystique.

Once inside, it’s a tight squeeze. I did notice that people were pretty good about eating then promptly leaving so other patrons could have a seat. There were a few tables and chairs outside, too.

While you wait, you can read their laminated menus while you hum along to pop music they play inside at a deafening volume. (Maybe that helps clear the tables…Brilliant!)

Don’t expect service with a smile, though. I got the impression that the people behind the counter and pastry case take themselves too seriously. Fortunately, I have the superpower to tune out the ‘tude and focus on what I came here for:

The pain au chocolat was divine. A billion buttery and flaky layers with gooey dark chocolate inside. My cafe au lait was served in a bowl, like they do in Paris!

Le Marais Bakery (498 Sanchez Street)

I had read positive reviews for another French bakery called Le Marais Bakery. It was three blocks away from Tartine, so I decided to check it out while I was in the neighborhood.

This chocolate chip cookie was delicious:

On that note, have a sweet day! 🍪

Oui Oui! Macaron

la vie en rose (et verte): rose macaron sprinkled with matcha green tea

The nursery rhyme, “This Little Piggy” came to mind when I saw this macaron shop! Housed in a powder blue shipping container in the Emeryville Public Market, Oui Oui! Macaron is a good place to pick up a small dessert after having lunch or dinner from one of the food stalls.

“This little piggy went to Public Market…

This little piggy took some Oui Oui! Macaron all the way home!”

I took home a box of six:

Top row: strawberry balsamic, coffee

Bottom row: churro, lavender vanilla, vanilla, matcha rose

I was excited to try the churro macaron, which tasted and smelled like the cinnamon sugar fried donut, but I found it to be a bit chewy!

Once again, the vanilla macaron was a winner for me! The shells were crispy, but not too chewy. The filling was light like a whipped cream, but tasted like rich buttercream!

Overall, I say, yes to Oui Oui! Macaron!

If you enjoyed this post, you may be interested in my other posts about macarons:

Visiting Seattle: Original Starbucks

If you’re a coffee addict like me, then you’ll want to visit the “Original Starbucks” when visiting Seattle.

Did you know there are two originals in town? One is the first store that opened in 1971 and the other is the Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room that opened in 2014.

I like one more than the other.

1912 Pike Place storefront

1912 Pike Place

Skip the Original Starbucks on 1912 Pike Place.

Go ahead, take the obligatory selfie at the storefront with the siren in all her topless glory. Just don’t wait in line for an hour to get inside, where it’s cramped and they sell the standard food and coffee drinks. It’s good stuff, but you can find ’em at any Starbucks.

⭐️ The much better option to get your “Original Starbucks” fix is to visit the upscale Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room on 1124 Pike Street.

Imagine: Fancier food and beverage options in addition to standard Starbucks offerings you love. Ceramic cups and plates on wooden trays. Tables and chairs. No crowds. And no waiting in long lines.

Sounds more inviting, right? Go ahead, luxuriate in there for an hour!

pizze al taglio and an almond cookie from Princi bakery

Princi bakery located inside the Seattle Roastery

The best part is that you get treated to a show of coffee beans going through the roasting and bagging process in batches.

There are currently five Starbucks Reserve Roasteries in the world. The original opened in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle in December 2014. Since then, Starbucks has opened Roasteries in Shanghai, Milano, New York, and Tokyo. (Opening soon in Chicago!)

📸: All photos by Jennifer

For more information:

Starbucks Reserve – official website ☕️

This post is #2 of 6 in my Visiting Seattle series.

How Jewel Made Me Think of Breakfast

“I got my eggs and my pancakes, too/ I got my maple syrup, everything but you…”

-from “You Were Meant For Me” by Jewel (J. Kilcher/S. Poltz)

Today (May 23) is Jewel‘s birthday! I heard this hit song of hers the other day and its delicious lyrics inspired this post about my favorite meal of the day: Breakfast!

Breakfast, you were meant for me

Any time of day, I can eat traditional American breakfast foods, like yogurt with granola, bacon, sausage, hash browns, fluffy buttermilk pancakes with butter and maple syrup, and bagels with lox and cream cheese, to name a few.

But on weekday mornings, when I’m pressed for time, breakfast is something simple. I’ll grab a fruit or pastry to eat with coffee before I head out the door.

Here are some breakfast foods I enjoy when I have a little more time to savor them.

Homemade breakfast:

My younger daughter made this Egg in the Basket

In France, I remember enjoying a tartine, or toasted baguette with butter or homemade apricot jam. I remember the sweetest Joker orange juice, too:

Le petit-déjeuner chez M. Didier

Sometimes I’ll try to recreate it:

Breakfast in restaurants:

that’s not a saucer, that’s a plate! Giant butter croissant from Piedmont Café & Bakery in Oakland, California

avocado toast from The Bistro in Rancho Cordova, California

When you make eggs, do you “break the yolks and make a smiley face” like Jewel sings in her song? 😀

I’m curious about breakfast foods from around the world!

Tell me in the comments below: What’s your favorite breakfast?

Sunday Brunch at La Note Restaurant Provençal in Berkeley, California

Go to La Note where brunch has been redefined as “a meal you plan to eat at breakfast time, but will eat by lunch time” (my words). Harsh, I know. But I’m not alone.

Many online reviewers have commented about long wait times to get a table at the East Bay eatery. But the gripes seem to only add to the restaurant’s cachet rather than deter both locals and visitors. That could explain why La Note has been serving up French fare since 1997.

Sunday Brunch

Seeing is believing, so my family and I decided to visit La Note for brunch. Maybe the food was worth the wait, we thought! After initially being told there would be a 40-minute wait time, we kept getting pushed back. Meanwhile, couples and groups of 5 people or more (some with small dogs even!) who arrived after us were being seated. Apparently, it’s not so easy to find a table for 4.

Finally, 90 minutes after putting my name on the list, my family and I got seated. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait long to place our orders. We even got our coffees, pink lemonade, and Orangina almost immediately.

individually-wrapped sugar cubes are so cute

We ordered a few items à la carte, like a butter croissant, with a side of bacon, and an almond croissant, with two eggs sunny side up. From their Weekend Brunch menu, we ordered their Cote Est plate of scrambled eggs, strips of bacon, and a large pancake. I ordered the Pan Bagnat sandwich with a green salad.

Top: Pan Bagnat | Bottom: Cote Est plate

I know pan bagnat means “bathed bread” but the one I got must have been given a “warm” bath due to the roasted tomatoes. It didn’t taste bad – it just wasn’t the temperature I was expecting. I did, however, enjoy the baby spinach salad with La Note’s house Dijon vinaigrette dressing.

In the end, I had mixed feelings about the place.

While the wait time to get a table was long, the food and drinks arrived soon after we ordered. But, sadly, the food was not worth the wait. My family and I agreed that everything we had eaten was “just OK.”

I’d like to come back for either lunch or dinner when it’s less crowded and when they take reservations!

For more information:

La Note Restaurant Provençal

Taking a Load Off at Laundré in San Francisco

When I spotted Laundré in the Mission District in San Francisco, I was intrigued by the accent aigu (é) in its name.

A closer look at the large blue building located on the corner of 20th and Mission Streets revealed that Laundré is a portmanteau, or a made-up word using the combination of the words, “laundromat” and “café” to name the hybrid establishment.

However, it’s not the first to combine laundry and food and/or drink in the world, not even the first in San Francisco. A few years ago, BrainWash in San Francisco closed after having been open since 1989. In addition, there have been laundrobars in cities, like Asheville, North Carolina; New York City, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and in Copenhagen, Reykjavik, Hamburg, Berlin, Antwerp, and Ghent.

minimalist menu

I had neither a caffeine craving nor a load of laundry to wash on the day I stumbled upon Laundré, but I decided to visit and take a load off. I admired the featured wall art created by a local artist and I ordered a cappuccino made with a third wave coffee by Sightglass Coffee. I also took a sip of my daughter’s lavender spritzer, which she thought tasted like soap. I figured it was in keeping with the laundromat theme! We later decided it was an acquired taste.

cappuccino and lavender spritzer

Overall, I like the concept: coffee shop on one side and a laundromat down the hall. Laundré’s founder reportedly set out to create a welcoming space for people to gather and to make laundry less of a chore.

However, I didn’t see people on the laundry side sipping a drink from the café while their clothes tumbled in the washers and dryers.

Conversely, the people sitting in the café didn’t appear to be waiting for any laundry. With their faces aglow with light from their MacBook screens, they seemed to be engrossed in their individual worlds.

As a Francophile, I was delighted to see a new business that seemed French-inspired. But it’s in the Mission District, a community of small businesses owned and operated by mostly immigrant families from Spanish-speaking or Asian countries, so something about it didn’t feel right to me.

In the 80s, I remember this area was filled mainly with various fruit stands, Mexican taquerías, Salvadoran pupuserías, shops selling formal wear, like quinceañera gowns; Chinese wholesale outlets, and stores providing money remittance services or Filipino balikbayan boxes.

They’re mostly still there, but it would’ve been nice to see Laundré acknowledge the community they’re in. For starters, they could have a small multilingual sign on the front doors. Wouldn’t that be a welcome change?

La Farine: French bakery in Oakland

This photo was taken at the Rockridge location of La Farine, a French boulangerie and pâtisserie in Oakland, California:

I’m tickled that “chocolatine” is catching on outside of Toulouse, France, where I learned that’s what they call a chocolate croissant (also known as pain au chocolat)!

chocolate éclair, shortbread, and a chocolate espresso cookie from La Farine

I wanted coffee to go with my chocolate espresso cookie, but learned that they stop making coffee at 4:30. So I went next door and got a cappuccino from Peet’s instead.

Overall, it was a nice Sunday afternoon break!

My related post:

Farmers’ Market (link)

For more information:

La Farine (link)

La Châtaigne: French bakery in Lafayette, California

La Châtaigne is a French bakery located in Lafayette, California (about 22 miles/34 km east of San Francisco).

Located in La Fiesta Square, the patisserie overlooks the parking lot, so there isn’t much of a view, but it’s perfect so you can enjoy your pastries and conversations.

My family and I got to La Châtaigne around 12:30 on a Sunday. Maybe we should have arrived earlier because their display case was half-empty (or half-full for those of you who are optimists!)

The cashier was quick to acknowledge the slim pickings, but apologized, and pointed out what was left: madeleines, a couple of leaf-shaped breads (fougasse), about a dozen croissants, several slices of Opera cake, and one slice of quiche.

no brewed coffee, only espresso drinks here!

the bakery also sold jam, caramels, and candies from France

In a few ways, it was like being temporarily transported to a Parisian bistro. For example, there were small tables with wicker chairs. There were dogs tied to table legs by their leashes. There were a couple of well-dressed ladies clutching their designer handbags. You could hear the Madeleine Peyroux version of “J’ai deux amours” emanating softly from inside the bakery.

I’d be reminded I was in California, though, when I’d see the occasional cyclist or 20-something in yoga pants come through. Also notably absent were ashtrays on the tables and cigarette smoke. Unlike Paris, smoking is banned in many public places in California.

Overall, I liked this little bakery. I like how it has the grab and go feel of a donut shop, but with the sit-down experience of having your food brought to your table on actual plates and cups. The pain au chocolat was fresh baked, buttery, and flaky. The Americano was delicious, as well. I’d like to come back to try their other pastries.

For more information, visit the La Châtaigne website

Bonne journée / Enjoy your day!

Have you been to La Châtaigne? Tell me in the comments below!


My name is Darlene and I’m a coffee addict.

My daily routine includes at least one visit to Starbucks. If I could, I would have my payroll deposited directly into my Rewards Card that I’ve had since 2008. That’s where the funds go anyway! More than the caffeine, they’ve got me hooked on their consistency: delicious coffee and hand-crafted beverages, friendly baristas, and cozy atmosphere.

spotted one in Montmartre

Votre Carte Starbucks

Force of habit: I checked the app

That said, you’d think I’d be hitting up every Starbs while on my trip, right? While there was no shortage of Starbucks in Paris, I resisted the temptation to go because I promised myself that I’d get out of my comfort zone. I did good on that promise until my last day in Paris, when I went to one at Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport.

At Charles de Gaulle airport

They had the usual menu items and pastries (like marble or lemon loaves), which made me feel right at home. But I was also surprised to see other offerings that I hadn’t seen at Starbucks in the U.S. I heard that large global food corporations (for example, McDonald’s) often tailor their menus to match the cuisine of the location they’re in. That could explain why this Starbucks at CDG had croissant sandwiches, French toast (pain perdu), ganache-dipped donuts, and pancakes, which I’m guessing is their nod to the French crêpes.


Croissant sandwiches

Hot boxes and Caesar salads

French toast, pancakes, ganache-dipped donuts

Can’t really tell from my picture, but the napkin is square and white (not rectangle and unbleached beige, like in the U.S.)

In the end, I’m glad I went to Starbucks. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have seen the different food offerings. Imagine, for a mere 4,20 €, I got a double espresso and an important lesson: not to take things for granted, at Starbucks, and in life, in general. Just when I thought I knew what to expect, there was still something new to learn. I’ll drink to that!

*I was not financially compensated for this post. The opinions are 100% my own based on my experience.*

Kilometer Zero Proust Questionnaire

In middle school, I once made a slam book (remember those?) with binder paper and yarn and asked my friends to answer the questions then pass it along. It went around for about two days before my guidance counselor confiscated it (thanks a lot, Mrs. G!) When she found out my questions were innocuous, she gave it back to me but told me to stop passing it around anyway. In my defense, it wasn’t like a Mean Girls Burn Book at all. My questions were things like:

  • What is your favorite song? Most popular answer: Take On Me by a-ha
  • Who is your favorite dancer? Most popular answer: Janet Jackson
  • What is your favorite movie and why? Most popular answer: Top Gun – the volleyball scene! (Here’s a link to it – you’re welcome!)

See, pretty innocent, right?

in retrospect, I should’ve had tea and a madeleine cookie

It was truly Proustian.

When I first saw the Proust Questionnaire on the Shakespeare and Company Café placemat, the childhood memory of the slam book came flooding back to me. While my slam book questions were superficial, pop-culture obsessed, unsophisticated, benign, and wholesome (for the most part!), these placemat questions were existential, thought-provoking, and even literary-themed! These questions would reveal the true nature of a person.

Should my answer be the absolute first thing that comes to mind? Do I give it careful thought then craft a response that would match the image I’m trying to project (whether real or imagined)? After a couple of tries, I finally said, forget it. I’m not going to overthink anymore. That’s why some answers are blank, but maybe that’s telling, too. So, without further rigmarole, here are my answers:

  1. What is your present state of mind? Sleep-deprived
  2. What is your favorite way to spend your time? Checking off boxes on my to-do list
  3. If you were an animal, which one would you be? Black labrador retriever
  4. What book makes you want to live in another era?
  5. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever eaten? Venison-ostrich meatloaf
  6. What is your favorite journey? This thing called life
  7. Who is your hero in real life? Mom Who is your hero in fiction? Wonder Woman
  8. Which words or phrases do you most overuse? Apparently, I think, I dunno, stuff
  9. What is your idea of perfect happiness? warm cuddles with my Girls; moments of complete silence and knowing that everyone/everything is all right
  10. If you could spend the rest of your life with a character from a book, who would it be?
  11. What is your theme song? My Hallelujah Song  
  12. Who are your three favorite writers? Daniel Pink (Drive), Penelope Lively (The Photograph), Milan Kundera (Ignorance)
  13. Where in the world would you most like to live? Santa Barbara, California
  14. On what occasion do you lie? Whenever I smile, but I don’t feel happy
  15. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? Chocolate
  16. Which poem makes your spine tingle? If by Rudyard Kipling
  17. What is your favorite smell? New paperback books or a newborn baby’s forehead
  18. If you could ask the leader of your country to read one book, what would it be?
  19. What’s your favorite hiding place? Second floor of Noah’s Bagels (but I’m not telling which one…)
  20. What do you consider your greatest achievement? I’m still working on it…
  21. Which book do you have on your nightstand but know you’ll never read? Girl on the Train 
  22. If you could have any superpower, what would you choose? To be in two places at the same time
  23. What was your favorite book as a child? The World Almanac and Book of Facts
  24. Do you have a recurring dream? If so, what is it? The Beauty School Dropout scene in the movie, Grease, except it’s my dad (RIP) instead of Frankie Avalon
  25. What to you is the most beautiful word or words? Yes or OK
  26. What’s the worst book you’ve ever read? Maybe #21 – see above (I started it in early 2017, but it’s slow-moving!)
  27. Who would play you in the movie of your life? Catherine Zeta-Jones
  28. How would you like to die and in what form would you choose to come back? Feeling fulfilled and content. There is no coming back. In any form. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200.
  29. What’s the most romantic experience you’ve ever had? Getting married at the same place as our first date
  30. What is your motto? Never stop learning

OK, now it’s your turn to answer the questionnaire. If you pass it along to your friends, just don’t let Mrs. G catch you.

Supermarket Music

While wandering around Montmartre, I came across a Supermarché G20. I desperately needed to charge my phone and figured I, too, could use a quick pick-me-up to recharge. I noticed they were piping in music from the pop radio station, Chérie FM, and in between bites of my tiramisu, I found myself asking, “Siri, what song is this?” Her responses were:

Tu Réalises by Keen’V

Beautiful Trauma by P!nk

Face à face by Victoria (from Les 3 Mousquetaires)

Papa by Bigflo & Oli ft. Notre père Fabian

Tuesday by Burak Yeter ft. Danelle Sandoval

(Videos: All rights reserved.)

I got a deliciously strong espresso for only 1€ from this delightful machine

As the saying goes, music is the soundtrack of our lives. It’s true, because from now on, these songs will remind me of my coffee break on Rue d’Orsel.