small is beautiful: blue sparrow coffee

Blue Sparrow Coffee. Shot by Olaiya Land
Blue Sparrow Coffee. Shot by Olaiya Land

I'm super excited to introduce you to Jeffrey Knott, the owner of Blue Sparrow Coffee in Denver, CO. Jeffrey contacted me last year to shoot some images for his website. When I set foot inside BSC, I fell in love with the space. This cozy coffee shop has a beautiful decor, anchored by a deep cyan blue banquette and studded with brass accents throughout. They also serve first-rate coffee (we're talking homemade nitro cold brew on tap!) and have some of the friendliest baristas around. (Having lived in Seattle for over a decade, where baristas sometimes take themselves a little too seriously, I always give massive bonus points for friendly baristas.) 

When Jeffrey told me about his unconventional path to owning his own coffee shop, I knew I wanted to share his story with you. If you've been dreaming of opening your own small business, read on for Jeffrey's excellent advice. And if you live in Denver or are planning a trip there, don't miss this gem of a coffee shop.

An interview with Jeffrey Knott, owner of Blue Sparrow Coffee.

Mad lib time! You could describe my business as my experience traveling the world meets how I like my coffee

What is your background? 
After a stint in the military, a degree in finance, and a cubicle in NYC I decided it was time for a change. I “gave it all up” and became a barista. As much as I love coffee, and loved being a barista, I needed more. After managing my first coffee shop, I had an opportunity to help open, and manage a new café in town. That experience was unbelievably challenging--I did a pretty good job faking it until I made it. I've helped open the doors to the seventh café in half as many years. I own, open, and operate coffee shops. And it’s my dream job. 

Blue Sparrow Coffee. Shot by Olaiya Land
Blue Sparrow Coffee. Shot by Olaiya Land
Blue Sparrow Coffee. Shot by Olaiya Land

How/when did you get the idea for your current venture?
Coffee is universal. It’s something that is shared all across our little blue dot. When I travel I've always sought out cafe’s, experiencing coffee in new ways, a reflection into local culture. BSC is a direct reflection on what I've experienced—what I want to experience. We feature coffee roasters from around the world, sharing these cultural reflections with our community while keeping it simple, friendly, and tasty.

On a scale of one to shitting-your-pants, how nervous were you about starting your business? 
.5? I’ve had the opportunity to open several coffee shops for others before my own—some much larger than BSC. In comparison this was a walk in the park. 

Blue Sparrow Coffee. Shot by Olaiya Land

What's the greatest challenge with your business?
Letting go. Stepping back, and letting the team takeover. I want to create a very specific experience for our guests, and it’s most challenging making sure each and every team member knows what that experience is, then shares it with hundreds of customers day in and day out. 

What do you love most about your business? What brings you the most joy?
Owning a coffee shop is so often over romanticized. Everyone want’s to own and coffee shop because they envision sitting around drinking coffee all day. It’s a lot of work—not all of it’s fun. I love the challenge of building a team that can deliver amazing products and amazing experiences to our guests. I love working my ass off behind the scenes, so it seems effortless from the outside looking in. 

Blue Sparrow Coffee. Shot by Olaiya Land

What's on your bedside table (be honest)?
Apple Watch charger
Kiss my Face chapstick
Air plant
Soy candle No. 05 : Spruce by P.F. Candle co. (A little out of season, I’m thinking nightshade next)

Secret hobby and/or obsession?
Golf. I started playing to spend time with my granddad. He’s in his 80’s and still plays every single day #goals. I had no idea how much I would enjoy it. Part of me wishes I put as much time, effort, and money 🙄 into something more useful for humanity, but it’s my escape. I don’t know what I would do without it. 

Favorite city? 

Blue Sparrow Coffee. Shot by Olaiya Land

If you could get in a time machine, zoom back into the past and give yourself one piece of advice before starting your business, what would it be? 
Start social media sooner. This time around I decided to keep quite on the new café until we were open. It took much longer for people to find out about us than expected. Create your social media accounts early, reach out to the press, be active, build the hype and hope you can measure up to it! 

What other local business/project do you think is Small and Beautiful? 
Small coffee shops gotta stick together, I’d check out Little Owl and Lula Rose. Food: To the Wind Bistro. Bar: Bread Bar

Blue Sparrow Coffee. Shot by Olaiya Land

wanderlust guide: porto

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Hello and Happy 2016!

We’re slowly settling into our new house--endlessly rearranging the furniture, unpacking the mountain of boxes in the garage and wandering further afield in the neighborhood. The kitchen is more-or-less back in place and I’m ready to start cooking again. But before I go into full-on recipe testing mode, I have another Wanderlust Guide for you! 

This time I’m sharing my go-to spots in Porto, one of my very favorite cities. Porto boasts a picturesque harbor, fantastic food and wine, and a decidedly down-to-earth vibe, due in part to its working-class roots. Porto is also home to a burgeoning community of young artists and designers, who are busy pushing the boundaries in fashion, architecture, food and art. 

I’m head-over-heels for Porto. I think you will be, too. 



Food + Drink

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Pedro dos Frangos is an unremarkable looking rotisserie chicken restaurant. If this place had not been recommended to me, I never would have stopped. But as is the case with many local gems, this unassuming spot served one of the best meals I ate on my last trip to Portugal: Porto-style tripe. Let me explain. I too, thought tripe was disgusting and deplorable and utterly repulsive before my conversion experience at Pedro dos Frangos. Tripe was, in fact, the only food that I categorically refused to eat. But since tripe is a specialty of Porto, I decided to give it one more chance. The tripe at Pedro dos Frangos is decidedly un-tripelike. It is meltingly tender and delicious. Ours came in a tomato infused sauce with velvety-soft white beans and crispy pieces of pork and roast chicken floating alongside. It was delicious. The crispy fried sardines and bottle of vinho verde we ordered to start the meal off were equally wonderful. Pedro’s is well worth a stop. And don’t worry, there’s charcoal-grilled chicken and towering plates of french fries for less adventurous eaters!

P.S. There are actually two Pedro dos Frangos restaurants located across the street from each other (???). We ate upstairs at the one on the east side of the Rua do Bonjardim. Also, this is a locals-only spot. We heard nothing but Portuguese while we were there. So be prepared to pull out your Portuguese phrasebook or a translator on your phone to navigate the menu. 


Photo:  Espiga

Photo: Espiga

Espiga Cafe + Gallery. This cafe/bar/gallery/concert venue/creative space is the perfect place to stop for a coffee or a meal after a long day of exploring the city. The seating is comfortable, there’s a chill vibe, and the (inexpensive) food served by the young couple who run the space is solid. On my last trip, I often slid into one of the soft leather sofas here after a long day of walking the cobblestone streets and found myself revived with a hot bowl of soup and a glass of wine. They are open from 1pm to 1am, but when I was there, they never got busy until late in the evening. So if you’re looking for a mellow afternoon spot to work or read, stop in and take advantage of their strong WiFi connection. If you’re looking for a hip place for a late dinner or a drink, head over after 9pm.  

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Much like Espiga, Café Vitória is a great space to stop in for coffee, a cocktail, an afternoon snack, lunch or dinner. The beautifully designed interior and open-air courtyard in the back are full of hipsters, young and old, throughout the day. Students come here to study. Creative professionals come for business meetings. Older locals stop in for lunch. It’s a wonderful slice of Porto and a centrally-located spot to stop and take a break, work or just people-watch. 

P.S. Stop into Galerias Lumière, the hip, design-centered shopping space across the street while you’re in the neighborhood.


Cantinho do Avillez is Michelin-starred chef José Avillez’ cosy spot for traditional Portuguese food executed with the precision of a classically-trained chef. You’ll find tender grilled octopus with silky olive oil poached potatoes, Alentejo black pork with black beans and crispy fries, crunchy cod fritters and other traditional dishes served with an upscale presentation. The wine list is excellent, too. This place is popular with locals and tourists, so be sure to call ahead to reserve.


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Rota do Chá. This tea house located in the up-and-coming arts district of Porto boasts a charming interior, a large plant-filled courtyard in back and a wonderful list of teas from around the world. And it’s open on Sundays! (A rare occurrence in Porto.) This tiny place can get busy on weekends and sunny days, which leads to rather leisurely service. Take a book and be prepared to wait a little while for your pot of tea to arrive.


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Comer e Chorar por Mais. If you’ve been following along on the blog, you know that I’ve been amazed by the quality of the cheese and charcuterie in Portugal. This 100-year-old shop tucked away just around the corner from the bustling Bolhão Market is the absolute mecca for Portuguese cheese, charcuterie and wine. The selection of products they manage to fit into this little deli is mind-boggling. And everything we tasted here was delicious! I especially recommend their Alheira (traditional Portuguese sausage made with bread). Their staff speak English and are incredibly knowledgeable, so ask away if you’re looking for something in particular or have questions. 


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Leitaria da Quinta. Ok. I am not a huge lover of eclairs. (Despite the fact that they are becoming the new macaron in terms of trendiness. Or maybe eclairs are done already and cream puffs are the new macaron? Who can keep up?) Anyhoo...Leitaria da Quinta, founded in 1920, makes one stunner of an eclair. Unlike it’s restrained French cousin, the classic Leitaria da Quinta eclair is stuffed full of whipped cream and topped with a dark milk chocolate glaze. It is ridiculously good. It’s the type of sweet that leaves you wanting to eat about 10 more. Which might lead you to opt for an assortment of their mini-eclairs. But don’t be fooled; as cute as the little lemon and caramel-coated eclairs are, the classic is where it’s at. 

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Right beside Leitaria da Quinta, you’ll find my favorite bakery in Porto: Padaria Ribeiro. Unlike the eclair situation next door, however, I advise diving into their dozens of bite-sized pastries. I’m going to be honest: I have no idea what most of them are. There are SO many. And I don’t know the names of the ones I like best because Padaria Ribeiro is always busy and the staff is a little brusque and not exactly in the mood to explain to me in English the nuances of all the various traditional Portuguese pastries they serve. But they’re all good. Some are sweeter than others. Some are filled with coconut. Some with apple. Some with egg cream. I recommend pointing out several in the case that look good, ordering one of their excellent espressos and taking a seat on their sunny patio to figure out which ones you like best. 


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Port Houses. While not in Porto, strictly-speaking, the port houses of Gaia right across the river are definitely worth a visit. I recommend both Sandeman and Ferreira. Both were established in the 18th century, are still Portuguese-owned and produce world-quality port wines. Join one of their daily tours (available in English, check their websites or call ahead for details), which finish with a port wine tasting. 

Pro-tip #1: book well in advance if you’d like to do a tasting of vintage ports.

Pro-tip#2: Walking across the upper level of the Luís I Bridge (just past the cathedral) yields spectacular views of Porto and Gaia. Bring your camera.


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Roasted chestnuts. If you’re in Porto in the fall, order a cone of roasted chestnuts from one of the street vendors. Smoky, subtly sweet chestnuts make a great snack when you’re out exploring the city.


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Founded by a world-traveling journalist, A Vida Portuguêsa is home to an assortment of nostalgic and 100% made-in-Portugal goods for the home. You’ll find everything from locally-sourced olive oil to cleaning products in vintage-inspired metal tins to old-school canvas and rubber sneakers. I always opt for the inexpensive woven rugs and pretty soaps in art-deco wrappers, which make fantastic gifts (Claus Porto is my favorite brand). With it’s hardwood floors, vintage shelving and views out towards the Clerigos Church, the store is beautiful as well. Not to be missed. 

P.S. Be sure to climb the stairs to the second floor of the building that houses A Vida Portuguêsa. The first floor is home to store selling more touristy and lower quality goods. It can be a bit confusing the first time you visit; just climb the huge wooden staircase in the back of the store and you’re there!



Coração Alecrim is another gem of a shop. Selling a delightful mix of vintage and hand-crafted housewares, clothing, jewelry and art, this magical shop will make you want to stuff your suitcases to the brim with their carefully curated selection of goods. (I actually had to buy another suitcase to take home the last time I was in Porto!) Another store I never miss when I’m in Portugal.


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Cru. I discovered this little concept store right around the corner from my hotel on my last trip to Porto. The front serves as a shop and display area for the artists and designers whose studios are located in the back of the building. The selection of handmade clothing, jewelry and accessories changes frequently. Their jewelry selection is especially amazing!



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Patch Lifestyle + Concept Store. This might be my favorite shop in Porto. This little gem of a shop carries and eclectic mix of Portuguese ceramics and textiles, vintage clothing and stationary and handmade jewelry. On my last trip alone I found a hand-painted silk scarf, a set vintage notebooks in the perfect shade of pink, a vintage navy pleated skirt perfect for travel and a stack of old school labels perfect for sticking on mason jars and/or gifts. I never come away empty-handed. Don't miss it. And bring cash--they don't except foreign cards here. 



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With its long history, famed art-nouveau staircase and Harry Potter associations (J.K. Rowling frequented the bookstore when she lived in Porto), Livraria Lello is one of Porto’s most popular tourist attractions. It was so overrun with (non-shopping) tourists that it was, until recently, teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. There is now a kiosk across the street that sells tickets to the bookstore for 3€. In addition to helping preserve an historic landmark, this keeps things a little more orderly inside. The view from the top of the staircase is well worth the 3€, in my opinion. And the bookstore will apply the price of your ticket towards any purchases you make.


Pensão Favorita. Ema and Margarida, who run this guesthouse in a converted 19th-century town home, are two of the warmest, most gracious women you’ll ever meet. They make booking a breeze, attend to every detail of your stay with a smile, and are available to provide recommendations for what to see and do in Porto. The rooms themselves are spacious, clean and bright. The larger suites have lovely tile flooring and sunrooms with views over the courtyard or the city. The common spaces include a cool, art deco inspired breakfast room, a mid-century lounge area, and a sunny and plant-filled back patio. You will love your time at the Favorita!

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Rosa et al Townhouse. Right around the corner from the Pensão Favorita, you will find Rosa et al, another charming guesthouse in a 19th-century town home. The wonderfully eclectic mid-century decor will delight design-lovers and the serene back garden is perfect for introverts who need a calm sanctuary at the end of their day. Whether you stay at the Rosa et al or not, I highly recommend stopping in for the fantastic weekend brunch or enquiring about one of their seasonal pop-up dinners. 

Other Sights

There are many, many tourist attractions worth checking out in Porto. My personal favorites are:

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The 18th-century Carmo Church with it’s beautiful tile facade.


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The Porto Cathedral with its soaring views over the river.


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The Centro Português de Fotografia, which is home to a series of rotating photography exhibits and a fun collection of antique and vintage cameras.

I hope you enjoyed this guide to my favorite spots in Porto. Don't forget to leave me your thoughts in the comments below as well as any spots you think I should add!

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wanderlust guide: capitol hill

wanderlust guide: capitol hill //

In the last couple of years, I’ve made travel a priority. I spend less on clothes and meals out and things in general. And more on exploring the globe. And it has definitely made me happier. 

Sharing my favorite places through culinary tours has magnified that happiness. So much so, I’m planning all sorts of new culinary adventures: Belgium, Brittany, Charleston, San Francisco, Morocco. 

I’ve also been thinking about how I can share my favorite places with more of you through the blog. So in the spirit of encouraging travel and exploration and the pleasure they bring, I’ve decided to start a series of Wanderlust Guides. These little glimpses of my favorite cities reflect nothing but my own tastes and proclivities and certainly are not intended to be authoritative or all-encompassing. But I do hope they’ll lead at least a few of you to discover new places and make them your own. 

I thought I’d start with Seattle. My home-sweet-home and city I find maddening (that rain!) and delightful (that view, though) by turns. This week, I’m kicking things off with arguably the most vibrant and unconventional part of the city: Capitol Hill.

I hope you enjoy this Wanderlust Guide. I’d love to hear back in the comments what you think!



Barjot is a little gem of a coffee shop/cafe/bar/bakery/slice of awesomeness that I discovered only a few weeks ago. How it took me so long to stop in, I have no idea. Because Cafe Barjot is the perfect spot to work or meet up with friends or spend a few hours reading or daydreaming and sipping a cup of True North coffee. This tiny cafe has a cozy, mid-century vibe and super-friendly staff. Plus locally-sourced, organic breakfast, lunch and dinner and a great happy hour. The only caveat in sight: parking is tough on this side of the hill, so plan accordingly.


Volunteer Park Conservatory
Opened in 1912, Volunteer Park Conservatory is home to an awe-inspiring collection of plants from around the globe and a great place to spend a relaxing hour or two (especially on a rainy day). I particularly love the succulents room with it’s otherworldly cacti and desert plants. The Conservatory is a plant-lover and photographer’s dream. If the weather’s nice, I recommend packing a picnic lunch to eat in Volunteer Park then wandering the neighborhood around the park, with its grand turn-of-the-century houses.


Some (including the venerable NYT) claim there isn’t a decent bagel to be had on the West Coast. I beg to differ. Though hardcore purists might scoff at Eltana’s honey-water-boiled and wood-fired bagels, I say they are a thing of beauty. With just the right ratio of golden crust to dense, chewy interior, Eltana's hand-rolled bagels are some of the finest I’ve ever had. The Everything and Sesame-Wheat are my personal faves. The housemade spreads are nothing to scoff at either. I recommend a dozen bagels for the freezer and a half pint of the date-walnut and the za’atar-scallion spread for the road. 


Ok. Everyone and their uncle is serving cold-pressed juice these days. Juicebox, however, is really killing it with their creative juice combinations and chef-driven menu of light, bright lunch and brunch fare. Run by Brandin Myett (former chef at La Bête) and Kari Brunson (who honed her chops at numerous Ethan Stowell establishments), Juicebox offers flavors like spiced yam and turmeric gold and a selection of creamy house-made nut milks that attract the health-conscious and culinary aficionados alike. Their creative, seasonal soups, salads, wraps and scrambles make Juicebox one of my favorite places to stop for a meal or a healthy pick-me-up when I’m on the Hill. 


Kurt Farm Shop
Kurt Timmermeister, farmer, author and cheesemaker extraordinaire, is bringing us more creamy goodness with his artisanal ice cream. Made from milk and cream produced by Kurt’s herd of Jerseys and served out of his tiny shop in the new Chophouse Row building, this is some of the best ice cream in the city. There are subtle flavors like rose geranium and bay laurel and classics like the deep, rich caramel that was my favorite, as well as a selection of farmstead cheeses. You’ll think you’ve died and gone to dairy heaven.


Elliott Bay Book Company
One of America’s iconic bookstores, the Elliott Bay Book Company is right up there with Powell’s in Portland, The Harvard Book Store in Cambridge and the Strand in New York in my opinion. I could spend (and have spent) hours upon hours wandering the aisles with their creaky wooden floorboards and towering bookshelves, discovering new and inspiring books and journals. This is a must for bibliophiles and one of my very favorite spots in the city. P.S. They host excellent (and frequent) author talks. Check their schedule to see what they have planned.


Let’s be honest: no one needs anything in this shop. But you’re going to want almost everything in sight if you visit. With a delightful, hyper-curated selection of clothing, jewelry, toiletries and goods for the home and office (plus a giant taxidermy grizzly bear), Glasswing is one of Seattle’s most original shops. Also, the location, next door to Taylor Shellfish and the magical Melrose Building, can’t be beat. You could spend all day in this one block stretch of Capitol Hill alone.


Marigold & Mint
Oh, how I love this shop! The flowers are some of the most beautiful and distinctive I’ve ever seen. And they are locally sourced from owner, Katherine Anderson’s, organic farm. The carefully selected soaps, books, candles and other bits and bobs on offer are always super-dreamy. The staff is lovely, especially Ayako, the genius behind Ayako and Family Jam, who occasionally works in the shop creating magnificent and whimsical floral arrangements. (P.S. Her jam, sold in the shop, is amazeballs and you need to buy as much of it as you can stuff in your suitcase and take home!) Basically, I would live here if they’d let me.


Sitka & Spruce
Located right next door to Marigold & Mint in the Melrose Market, Sitka & Spruce is my favorite of Seattle super-chef, Matt Dillon’s, empire. The space is bright and spare with that classic Matt Dillon touch in the details that makes it feel nostalgic and modern at once. The food is the best kind of Pacific Northwest Fare imaginable--local ingredients, some from Matt’s Old Chaser Farm on Vashon Island, thoughtfully combined and in portions modest enough every meal can be a sort of tasting menu. I especially love Sitka & Spruce for a weekend brunch. There’s always a wonderful hot grain bowl on the menu along with a beautiful egg dish and lots of other imaginative veg-heavy plates. And their scone is one of the best in the city. Start your meal off with one of those and a pot of their excellent French-press coffee and you can’t go wrong. 


Rainshadow Meats
Also in the Melrose Market, Rainshadow Meats offers the highest quality meats and charcuterie in Seattle. Hands down. If you have access to a kitchen during your stay (or of course, if you live here) you absolutely should stop in for one of their excellent dry-aged steaks or housemade sausage links or a double-thick, bone-in pork chop! Also, their chicken liver mousse is to die for. 


Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room
It’s not exactly cool to patronize Starbucks while living in a city that boasts so many small, independent coffee shops and roasters. But Beau and I wandered into Starbucks’ Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room one evening shortly after they opened and were completely wowed. The space is gorgeous. It’s all huge brass roasters and polished wood and soft leather chairs. The pneumatic tubes that whizz coffee beans from roaster to grinder are so much fun to watch they make you feel like a little kid in a chocolate factory. I’d consider all of this a one-time-only thrill if the coffee weren’t also very good. This is where you can taste some of Starbucks rarest coffees, small-batch roasted on-site. Even more fun, you can order your coffee brewed via pour-over, Chemex, French press, siphon, espresso machine or Clover. You can order a tasting flight of various beans brewed the same way or 1 bean brewed via different methods. It’s a coffee-lover’s dream! Definitely worth a stop if you’re visiting from out of town or if you just want to learn more about coffee. 


Seattle, and Capitol Hill in particular, has no shortage of fantastic restaurants. Stateside, opened last year by Chef Eric Johnson, is one of Seattle’s best tables at the moment. The perfectly executed, Vietnam-inspired menu, superlative cocktails and lush decor recalling the jungles of Vietnam add up to a beautiful experience and my favorite dining spot on Capitol Hill. I strongly recommend one of the cocktails served in a young coconut. They a) are delicious and b) allow you to imbibe while also having the impression you’re heading off a massive hangover by drinking coconut water. Brilliant!


I hope you enjoyed this little guide. Don't forget to leave me your thoughts in the comments below as well as any spots you think I should add!