For the past 13 years, I’ve been engaged in a ongoing love affair, steeped in romance, passion and about two splashes of half-and-half. And I didn’t even need JDate.
I’m talking, of course, about coffee.
When taken responsibly, this morning stimulant can provide energy, focus and a well-needed filter for distraction. Sure, there’s the occasional stomach cramp, but as we all know, love sometimes hurts.
The byproduct of too many college all-nighters and growing up in a neighborhood that’s blanketed in coffee shops (especially on Forbes and Murray avenues), it’s no wonder I’m only 5 feet 8 inches.
I’ve hopped around from Starbucks to The Coffee Tree to Dunkin’ Donuts to the other two Starbucks — they’re all good.
However, for the record, I’m not addicted. I just choose not to quit.
Expatriate Pittsburgher Tom Trellis might not share my complicated dependency, but he does share my respect for that morning cup of java.
“I start every morning with a double nonfat cappuccino, sometimes two,” says Tom, who is not only a coffee drinker, but also the owner of a restaurant cafe in Los Angeles.
A native of Squirrel Hill, Tom, 46 currently lives in the L.A. neighborhood of Los Feliz with his domestic partner, Mark.
“I’ve been with Mark for 13 years,” says Tom. “We both seem to have a passion for renovating old homes.”
His restaurant, Alcove Cafe, is located in a restored 1929 Spanish duplex, surrounded by garden patios and terraces. Quoting Alcove’s Facebook fan page, Tom says they specialize in “updated versions American classics, artisan baked goods, hand-roasted coffee, hand-crafted teas, fine wines, Belgian beer, our own Alcove Chocolate.”
Just glancing through his menu, your mouth may water by the smoked salmon breakfast stack (two potato pancakes topped with smoked salmon, poached eggs, creme fraiche and fresh dill, served with seasonal fresh fruit) or the brioche french toast (french toast dressed with sliced bananas, fresh orange juice, rum and more, with vermont maple syrup and creme fraiche).
And if that’s not enough, Alcove recently launched a line of chocolate now sold nationally through it’s Web site. Some of the unique flavors include Dark Chocolate with Pomegranate, Dark Chocolate with Chipotle Chili and Dark Chocolate with Peanut Sauce. And … they’re kosher!
But before he developed his taste for entrepreneurial life, Tom spent over 15 years in the corporate sector as a human resources professional.
A graduate of Taylor Allderdice High School, Tom studied at the University of Michigan and earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh before becoming the manager of executive recruitment for Kaufmann’s. In 1990, he was offered a job by May Department Stores, which brought him to Los Angeles.
“I always enjoyed [HR], but I always had a passion to follow an entrepreneuerial path,” says Tom.
And lucky for Tom, his partner, Mark, had already opened his own restaurant cafe in L.A. back in 1993.
“I always had an interest in his business, so I opened up my version of his place,” says Tom, who launched Alcove in 2004, as a “strategic partner” to Mark’s Aroma Coffee and Tea Company in Studio City.
“I’ve been very grateful that L.A. responded,” says Tom. “We’ve enjoyed terrific press and have a very loyal customer base.”
Though he left home in 1990, Tom says that “growing up in Pittsburgh and especially in the Jewish community, helped me derive a good value system. As a business owner, I feel good about how we do business and how we treat our employees.”
Tom says Alcove has developed a reputation for outstanding customer service, from the coffee people drink to the types of chairs they sit on.
“We make people feel good about being there,” says Tom.
But would Tom’s Alcove be a welcome blend in Pittsburgh?
I think it’d fit right in, assuming it finds a spot on Forbes or Murray.
(Jay Firestone, a Pittsburgh native and Web editor for the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, writes about Pittsburghers who now live somewhere else. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)