Voyage: Brooklyn (with Kristin Sandgren)

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Like technology, coffee fuels the daily lives of the general population. While most of the world turns to Starbucks for their caffeine fix, craft coffee has taken the industry by storm. While in New York, we hung out with our friend and coffee enthusiast Kristin Sandgren for a mini coffee tour in Brooklyn. We met Kristin back in 2014 while she lived in Chicago and started the “Chicago Coffee Blog”: a blog dedicated to Chicago coffee shops. Since then she’s moved to New York City, but her love of coffee remains the same.

Domicile ( 185 Howard Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11233)

Domicile (185 Howard Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11233)

Sey Coffee ( 18 Grattan St, Brooklyn, NY 11206)

Sey Coffee (18 Grattan St, Brooklyn, NY 11206)

Half Full: A Sommelier's Guide to Curating An Approachable Wine List

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Derrick C. Westbrook wears many hats, and his love for people fuels all of his many them. Westbrook is a sommelier, wine buyer, music lover, and little league baseball coach. Seeing him on any given day, you wouldn’t think he was a sommelier. When I think of the average sommelier, I imagine someone a little older, stuffy and almost always white. He is 31 years young, very casual(he wears crocs) and a black man living in the Southside of Chicago. Though I have my own personal contention about crocs, watching him walk someone through finding the perfect bottle of wine while wearing crocs filled my heart with so much joy. The joy came from seeing the comfort of his presence and the excitement in his eyes while helping one of his regular customers. When I met Westbrook, he was working at 57th Street Wines as their wine buyer and store manager. Everytime I walked through those doors, I felt at home. My knowledge of wine is subpar at best, but I never felt intimidated. I felt safe asking questions, and I craved knowledge. I was excited to learn something new. That’s something I never felt at a wine shop before or before I met Westbrook.

Derrick C. Westbrook wears many hats, and his love for people fuels all of his many them. Westbrook is a sommelier, wine buyer, music lover, and little league baseball coach. Seeing him on any given day, you wouldn’t think he was a sommelier. When I think of the average sommelier, I imagine someone a little older, stuffy and almost always white. He is 31 years young, very casual(he wears crocs) and a black man living in the Southside of Chicago. Though I have my own personal contention about crocs, watching him walk someone through finding the perfect bottle of wine while wearing crocs filled my heart with so much joy. The joy came from seeing the comfort of his presence and the excitement in his eyes while helping one of his regular customers. When I met Westbrook, he was working at 57th Street Wines as their wine buyer and store manager. Everytime I walked through those doors, I felt at home. My knowledge of wine is subpar at best, but I never felt intimidated. I felt safe asking questions, and I craved knowledge. I was excited to learn something new. That’s something I never felt at a wine shop before or before I met Westbrook.

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Back in October, Westbrook left 57th Street Wines to help open Bibliophile, a bar and restaurant Centered on alcohol-infused desserts from Fabiana Carter of Fabiana’s Bakery. I sat down with Westbrook at Bibliophile to capture the essence of the ambiance and to try it out first hand myself. The restaurant is tucked in between Lake Park and Hyde Park Boulevard. The doors opened at 5:00 p.m. and by 5:20 p.m. the space was near capacity. I started the interview with more of a check-in. I asked, “What’s going on in your life, right now?”  “It’s really busy, crazy. I’m finally relaxing and resting a little bit since opening Bibliophile,” Westbrook answered with. “We opened nine days ago, too much fanfare, so there’s been a lot of sleepless nights ever since we’ve been open. And now it’s starting to shape and take place to be what we want it to be.”  As a service manager and sommelier of Bibliophile, he describes himself as the “do-it-all man”. He is committed to making sure the staff is performing at their highest potential.


Another part of “doing it all” was building the wine list. Looking at his handiwork, initially, I was thrown off. Typically, a wine list is separated by wine varieties, but not Westbrook’s list. I asked what his process was behind building the wine list. His response was detailed. He explained that the process began before Bibliophile even broke ground. When he received the offer to come onboard and consult, he felt a lot of anxiety. The anxiety stemmed from fear and the thought of people judging him. This would be his first offering to the world post landing the cover of Wine Enthusiast 40 Under 40 Wine Tastemaker and post 57th Street Wines. He didn’t want to cherry pick from the list he curated for 57th Street, and he wanted to prove that he could do something different. Instead of going with the classic and most well-known grape varietals, he crafted the wine list around texture. He’s pushing people not only to try new things but to further their knowledge of wine. So, he started with something that anyone could understand. “When I say it has a certain texture, you automatically know what I’m referencing. That’s the thing that makes it easy.”