Expert Advice

Learn how to become your own barista, build a gourmet cheese board, or mix like a master.

By | Boston Home |


From left, creamer with lid, $15, sugar bowl with lid, $15, and sugar tongs, $3, all Crate & Barrel; Bodum “Bistro” double-wall espresso mug, $25 for two, Sur la Table; Espro Press stainless steel coffee brewer, $120, Amazon. (Photograph by Dave Bradley. Food Styling by Rowena Day. Prop Styling by Lauren Niles.)

Become Your Own Barista

Larry Margulies has been steeped in the specialty coffee business for eight years. After buying Bagel Rising in Allston, he acquired three Espresso Royale coffee shops in Boston and then opened Pavement, a high-end concept shop. Margulies recently converted his Espresso Royale cafés into Pavements as well. Here he shares expert tips for tricking outyour own coffee station.


Margulies seeks out single-origin beans from Counter Culture Coffee. “When you order a breakfast blend, you’re giving up the special thing about coffee,” Margulies says, pointing out the fruity flavor of Ethiopian beans or the earthy flavor of Costa Rican varieties. When brewing a cup, getting the coffee-to-water ratio just right is an art. “You can’t eyeball coffee if you’re serious about it,” Margulies says. As a general rule, 24 grams of beans produces a 12-ounce cup of coffee.


Margulies suggests using the Baratza Vario-W Burr grinder, which weighs the coffee while grinding it. And forget those fancy brewing machines—Margulies has two Clever Coffee Drippers at home (one for him, and one for a guest). Like a French press, the Clever Dripper steeps the grinds in hot water, but unlike a French press, it delivers fresh, filtered coffee straight into the mug. He uses the Bonavita variable-temperature kettle to achieve consistent water temperatures.


The La Marzocco GS/3 is the apex for in-home espresso machines. Handmade in Italy, it features a dual boiler system: one for steaming milk, the other for creating perfect espressos every time. “It might be overkill for some, but it’s beautiful. It’d be like owning a Ferrari,” Margulies says. Regardless of which machine you choose, it’s important not to skimp on the espresso grinder. Go with an Italian brand like the Mazzer Major or the Anfim Super Caimano. An espresso tamper is also essential to achieving the perfect cup. Reg Barber Enterprises makes beautiful tampers by hand in maple, rosewood, and stainless steel.


When it comes to serving coffee, size does matter: Two ounces for macchiatos; four ounces for cortados; six ounces for cappuccinos; and eight to 12 ounces for lattes. Margulies prefers the simple and durable porcelain cups from the Italian company Ancap.


For cappuccinos and lattes, skip the grocery-store milk cartons, says Margulies, who gets his dairy from Lee’s High Lawn Farm. Because it’s hormone-free and higher in fat, calcium, and protein, Margulies says, “the milk is sweeter, creamier, and the foam doesn’t disintegrate. It has body to it.” And be sure your steaming pitcher has straight walls—the Rattleware “Latte Art” pitcher is a good choice.

Insider Tip

The beans for a dark-roast coffee are roasted longer, which actually cooks off the caffeine. If you really want a jolt, go for the lighter roasts.

Get It!

Clever Coffee Dripper, $20, Pavement Coffeehouse.


Photograph by Alex Gagne

Next: Build a Gourmet Cheese Board »


Clockwise from top, Our Daily Bread wooden board, from $43, Lake’s Edge goat’s milk cheese, $26 per pound, Camembert Au Calvados cow’s milk cheese, $14 per wheel, June Taylor’s Seville orange marmalade, $16, mini chorizo, $2 each, Colston Bassett Stilton cow’s milk cheese, $28 per pound, Valencay goat’s milk cheese, $13 each, Sainte Maure Belgique goat’s milk cheese, $11 each, and Iggy’s country baguette, $2.75 each, all Formaggio Kitchen; spoon, stylist’s own. (Photograph by Dave Bradley. Food Styling by Rowena Day. Prop Styling by Lauren Niles.)

Build a Gourmet Cheese Board

When Ihsan Gurdal, co-owner of Cambridge’s Formaggio Kitchen, isn’t searching for exotic cheeses in Geneva or the Pyrenees with his wife, Valerie, he’s in New England sourcing local fromage. “We really don’t have to go anywhere else because we have so much going on right here,” he says, “and we can still maintain our high standards.”


Gurdal buys goat cheeses from Blue Ledge Farm, in Salisbury, and Sage Farm, in Stowe, Vermont. He also finds exceptional varieties at Jasper Hill Farm, in Greensboro, Vermont. Down at Connecticut’s Cato Corner Farm, Gurdal picks up a washed-rind variety known as “Hooligan.”


When setting out a cheese spread, Gurdal prefers rustic boards made from reclaimed materials. Our Daily Bread Board, for instance, turns sunken wooden beams and fallen trees into functional art, while Brooklyn Slate Company uses black and red shards of slate from an upstate New York quarry to make boards and coasters, as well as other kitchen goods. And this fall Bruce Graham, of Grahamscape, will begin making boards exclusively for Formaggio Kitchen from the dozens of trees destroyed by last year’s winter storms on his own Westport property.


Gurdal selects knives based on their feel, design, and function. “Times have changed and people want all these gizmos,” he says. “They think bigger is better, but it’s not.” His go-to folding knife is an Opinel, which features a wooden handle and a carbon-steel blade. Couteau des Sorgues, meanwhile, makes an excellent spreader and cutter that can be opened and closed with one hand. Gurdal often relies on his knife from Coltelleria Saladini, a co-op of knife makers in Scarperia, Italy (the medieval village is known as the “town of knife-making”).


Gurdal ages his shops’ cheese wheels in underground caves, where temperatures remain cool and the flow of oxygen is limited. Once cheese is cut, however, it doesn’t store well, so Gurdal recommends buying only as much as you will use in the near future, then keeping it wrapped in cheese paper (on the windowsill during the winter, or in the crisper drawer in the fridge). Another short-term option: Store Brie and Camembert on a piece of marble covered by a cloche.


Gurdal likes to use garnishes produced in the same regions as the cheeses. He enjoys his locally sourced slices and spreads with honey-roasted almonds and cashew crunch from Fastachi, in Watertown; pure raw honey from Carlisle Honey, in Carlisle; and preserves from Bonnie’s Jams, based in Lynn.

Insider Tips

• One spoonful of local honey builds your immunity to the region’s allergens.

• When enjoying a cheese board, taste each piece separately, then the condiment, then marry them together on your palate.

Get It!

Petite cloche stand, $40, Sur La Table.


Photograph by Alex Gagne

Next: Mix Like a Master »


From left, Let’s Bring Back: The Cocktail Edition, $19, Trident Booksellers and Café; gold-paper bowl, $24, and gold-lip dish, $34, both; whiskey stones in soapstone, $20 for nine,; wood citrus reamer, $4, Crate & Barrel; weighted shaker, $14.50, the Boston Shaker; Match pewter double old-fashioned glasses, $71 each, Didriks; jigger, $7, Crate & Barrel. (Photograph by Dave Bradley. Food Styling by Rowena Day. Prop Styling by Lauren Niles.)

Mix Like a Master

Brother Cleve is Boston’s undisputed master of the vintage cocktail, having helped numerous local establishments refine their cocktail menus and develop signature drinks. Of course, this libation expert and musician also has a killer home bar, with more than 50 bottles of unique tinctures. Here, Cleve shares the ingredients you’ll need to create your own cocktail mecca.


Black Maple Hill Distillery makes a superb 16-year-old bourbon. For a drier mix, Cleve recommends Whistle Pig rye. When it comes to vodka, Cleve prefers the relative newcomers to the big names—American Harvest, an organic winter-wheat vodka from Oregon, or Zyr, a real Russian vodka. He enjoys American gin brands like Grand Ten Distilling’s Wire Works, from South Boston, and Bluecoat Gin, from Pennsylvania. For a perfect planter’s punch, Cleve keeps a 21-year-old Appleton Estate bottle around the house. His liqueurs of choice include Cointreau triple sec; Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao; Merlet creme de cassis; Rothman & Winter apricot, crème de violette, and peach; and Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry for martinis.


Every bar needs a set of stemmed and rocks glasses, and Cleve suggests keeping several kinds around for special occasions. “It’s like wearing different shoes—it breaks it up so you don’t need to use all the same glassware all the time,” he says. Stemmed glassware is used for stirred drinks without ice: Rather than classic martini-style glasses, go with the Leopold Coupe variety (they’re rounded at the top, which helps prevent spills), or elegant Nick and Nora glasses, which are perfect for sidecars and drinks with a sugared rim. Rocks glasses are for more-robust cocktails served with ice—Cleve prefers the platinum-band double old-fashioned by Riedel.


When shaking his concoctions, Cleve uses the Professional Boston Shaker, a set that comes with a brushed-steel cup and a pint glass. Once the metal gets cold, he knows the drink is ready to serve. He stirs up Manhattans and martinis in a Yarai pitcher—made in Japan, it’s both elegant and durable, and has a spill-resistant pouring spout. For mojitos and other drinks with crushed fruit, try Über Bar Tools’ Pro Crush Muddler, which, when turned upside down, can also be used as an ice crusher. And if you want to mix any cocktail properly, you’ll want to get yourself a jigger. “It’s like when cooks follow a recipe and use measuring cups—they don’t just throw a handful of flour in,” says Cleve, who recommends the OXO SoftWorks stainless steel double jigger.


Cleve favors Tovolo ice cube trays, which come in a range of sizes, but to really dress up a pour, he goes with Drinksology’s Ice Ball Maker, which carves cubes into spheres. “They definitely make for a good conversation piece,” Cleve says. And if you prefer crushed ice? All you’ll need is a classic canvas Lewis Bag and a mallet.

Insider Tip

Avoid the red-dyed cherries found at most bars and instead opt for the Marasca cherries by Luxardo Gourmet, which are soaked in their own juice. 

Get It!

Yarai mixing glass, $60, Williams-Sonoma.


Photograph by Alex Gagne

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