Kat Hasenauer Cornetta

Writer. Communications assistant. Coffee drinker.

Eddie Penev is far from done.

After a unsuccessful bid for an Olympic team spot at this summer’s U.S. Olympic Trials, Eddie Penev could have hung up his grips and said farewell to the sport of gymnastics. But after mounting an impressive comeback from a devastating 2014 ACL injury, the 26 year old isn’t quite done.

Instead, the 2013 Nissen Emery Award (gymnastics’ version of the Heisman Trophy) winner is showing off difficult skills on Instagram, traveling to Germany to compete in professional competitions and traveling the East Coast with the final leg of the Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions.

“My goal is the world championships next year in Montreal,” said Penev via email last week on his way back from competing for KTT Heilbronn in Germany’s Bundesliga for the second year. “It’s a great opportunity for me because it’s an ‘individual worlds,’ meaning there’s no team competition and so they will most likely send guys who have the best medal chances on their best events.”

With one of the most difficult floor exercises in the U.S., Penev has every right to have his eyes set on one of the Worlds spots for that apparatus. He also is an international contender on vault, making next fall’s Worlds setup ideal to continue his competitive career for. Watching the recent Olympics showed him he definitely has the goods.

“Looking at the results from the games I can see that I had great medal chances on floor in particular – even gold medal chances by the looks of it and the scores I’ve gotten over the years in international competitions,” said Penev.

Though he didn’t get a spot on the Olympic team,  Penev was proud of what he achieved. He finished second in floor exercise and seventh on vault at Trials. “Olympic Trials was an amazing experience that I will certainly remember and cherish for the rest of my life,” he wrote. “And although it didn’t end the way I would’ve hoped it would, I was thrilled and honored to be a part of it.

“We have so many talented athletes in our country and that’s a good problem to have and it unfortunately means that great gymnasts will have to be left off the team. I made tremendous improvements since my knee injury (largely due to my coaches) and I couldn’t be happier with what I did. I just didn’t fit the team they wanted to send.”

But in an individual Worlds year, he might be a perfect fit. He has represented his birth country of Bulgaria at the 2007, 2010 and 2011 World Championships, but not the U.S., and this could be the season that it finally happens. To achieve that goal, Penev will continue training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center (OTC) in Colorado Springs, where he moved after graduating from Stanford University. The OTC is in the midst of the a shakeup, with national team head coach Vitaly Marinitch and national team coordinator Kevin Mazeika leaving, but the facilities and resources available there still make it the place to be.

“Nothing will change with my current training situation,” wrote Penev. “I will remain at the Olympic Training Center despite Vitaly’s resignation. While I’m very sad that he’s leaving us, I have absolutely everything I want/need at the OTC for high-level athletics. As I get older it’s so crucial that I stay on top of my physical therapy, nutrition, recovery, etc. and that is all there at my disposal.”

Another reason to stick around in Colorado Springs doesn’t involve gymnastics. “I’m also pursuing a few potential job opportunities in urban development, so when I’m done with my gymnastics career I’ll hopefully have something else lined up,” said Penev, who has a degree in architectural design. “I’m hoping to get an internship or part time work in the city of Colorado Springs in the planning department that I can fit into my schedule. It’s ambitious but I’m used to balancing school and gymnastics and I’m ready for that kind of life again.”

But before he gets back to Colorado and preparing for 2017, he will join members of the Olympic team and national teams and perform in the last set of dates on the Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions. “It’s another one of the those possibly once-in-a-lifetime things and its a great way to celebrate four years of dedication to the sport,” said Penev.

That includes a date at the Blue Cross Arena in Penev’s hometown of Rochester, NY on November 3rd. The last time Penev performed with the tour, he was a little kid performing as part of a segment of the show that features young local gymnasts at every stop. That segment is still a part of the show, but now Penev is now one of the champions those youngsters are aspiring to be.

The tour is a fitting close to one Olympiad and the start of the next portion of Penev’s journey, wherever it may lead him.

“It’s crazy to think how it’s all come full circle and now I have the opportunity to be one of the guys that kids look up to the way I did all those years ago,” said Penev.

The Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions hits Eddie’s and my hometown of Rochester, NY tonight, November 3rd, at the Blue Cross Arena. The tour finishes up in Boston, MA on November 13th with two shows at the TD Garden. Learn more at kelloggstour.com

You can read more of my gymnastics writing here.

Kat’s Coffee Blog: An ode to perfect diner iced coffee

Kat'sCoffee BlogWelcome to Kat’s Coffee Blog, an initiative to put my triumphant return to caffeinated coffee drinking to good use.

If you have ever lived near the corner of Washington St. and Commonwealth Avenue in Brighton, MA, you have heard the legend of Brighton Cafe iced coffee. Perfect fuel for a crowded Green Line ride to either BC or BU, it also is rumored to have hangover-curing qualities. (This is only rumor – I swear I have never tested it.)

Brighton Cafe iced coffee, at least back when I ordered it on the regular (2007-2009), came in two flavors: original and french vanilla. It was served in a large styrofoam cup, which I cringed at but dealt with by being super environmentally friendly the rest of the day.

It was your regular diner coffee, just iced, meaning it wasn’t exactly the most nuanced of flavors, but delivered the taste and caffeine jolt necessary. It never tasted like they had just taken leftover pots of hot coffee and cooled it – it was never bitter tasting, like what could happen when you do such a thing. What made it addictive was the just perfect amount of cream and sugar added. Because this was a diner, the cream was very fresh and the sugar was coarse instead of fine. This made the coffee just the perfect amount of sweet and bitter.

The two things I miss most about living in Brighton are Brighton Cafe coffee and it’s neighbor, Chang’s House, the friendliest Chinese food place in creation. While I have never found a replacement for Chang’s House (a place so kind that they would make me a special, non-menu soup when I suffered from laryngitis, which used to be every other month), I have finally found an equal to the Brighton Cafe iced coffee magic.

Firehouse Coffee Shop iced coffee

Firehouse Coffee Shop iced coffee

Salem, MA’s Nick’s Firehouse Coffee Shop is tucked away behind the old District Court building. My father-in-law first introduced the spot to me a decade ago, but I didn’t know of its iced coffee until 2015. The Firehouse has an amazing corned beef hash and very affordable lunch sandwiches, and it is a regular stop for lawyers, judges and court staff who work in the area.

One Saturday last year, I had to go into Boston early, and my regular Dunkin’ Donuts by the Salem train station was closed. I figured I’d grab some hot coffee from the Firehouse. I walked in, looked at their menu, and realized they had iced coffee. I tasted it and was immediately transported back to that corner of Washington St. and Commonwealth Ave. Finally, I had found a North Shore diner who cared just as much about their iced coffee as the Brighton Cafe.

I didn’t get a chance to try it again until this week. (Giving up caffeine for 10 months will do that for you.) It still is that perfect mixture of coffee flavor, cream and coarse sugar that will cure whatever ails you, be it a hangover or your four month old waking up five times during the night.

Review: Both Brighton Cafe and Firehouse get four cups out of five. ☕️☕️☕️☕️

Kat’s Coffee Blog: Blue State’s Espresso Fizz

Kat'sCoffee BlogWelcome to Kat’s Coffee Blog, a new initiative to put my triumphant return to caffeinated coffee drinking to good use. 

If you have worked as someone’s assistant for over a decade, you get to know each other’s likes and dislikes. Coffee. TV shows. iPhone apps. Odds are that ten years in, your suggestions to each other are going to be some of the most well-founded you will get in your life.

When I returned to my full-time job recently after my maternity leave, one of the very first things the Dean said to me was, “Kat, you have to go try the espresso fizz at Blue State.”

“What is that?” I asked.

“It’s shots of espresso in seltzer water,” the Dean explained while we sat next to our office’s two coffee makers. (We don’t play around. We used to have a swanky espresso maker too, but it disappeared during my maternity leave and I am scared to ask what happened to it.)

He saw me somewhat scrunch my nose at the description. “Trust me. I’ve been drinking them all summer. It’s good.”

So I made my way to Boston University’s West Campus before a meeting and stopped by Blue State Coffee. Blue State is a small New England chain of coffee shops that makes strong coffee and supports many community organizations. They pride themselves on the craft of creating their drinks. Your espresso drink is going to take a few seconds more than most shops, but it is worth the wait. (Just know that when you plan on going before a meeting.)

I ordered a small espresso fizz with a shot of their house made vanilla syrup, and drank it straight up (no milk or cream.)  The barista poured a shot of vanilla syrup and seltzer into a cup filled with ice, and floated what looked to be about one and a half shots of espresso on top.

Not going to lie – I was a tad scared to take my first sip. But I then remembered who sent me this way.

All of the Dean’s buzz was correct. It was light and refreshing, especially as every sip pulled the drink’s layers of seltzer, vanilla and espresso. The homemade vanilla shot really elevates the drink to “all time great” status. There is a sophisticated sweetness to it that makes it a drink to savor.

I was sad that I only ordered a small. I’ve already looked at my schedule to see when I have another meeting up near Blue State so I can enjoy another.

The Dean was right, per usual. Why wouldn’t it be? You never want your assistant to be under-caffeinated.

Review: Five cups out of five. ☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️

How To Watch the Olympics When Your Time Is Limited

Let's TalkOlympicsWhen I watched the Olympics as a kid, I dreamed of being able to see every event I wanted, when I wanted. I learned to use my parents’ VCR just so I could tape the 1992 Winter Games and watch them over and over again. In the 1990s, that was the closest I could get to having the Olympics on demand.

Well, 10 year old me, guess what? We have Olympics on demand now, and it is spectacular.

For the last week, I’ve been taking advantage of all of the on-demand and replay options that these Olympics have had to offer. Between returning to my full-time job and having a 10 week old, I don’t get to see much live or even during NBC’s prime-time coverage. Comcast, my cable provider, boasts of offering 6,800 hours of coverage on the docket from Rio, and I’ve been playing catch-up and making the most of my limited Olympic-watching moments with a few of their key features.

Comcast’s Marc Goodman reached out to me before the games and pointed out a few of the features that I’ve been making the most of. On Saturday, I finally got to check out the Gold Zone, a NFL Red Zone-style option. You get to watch four sports at one time. It’s Olympic multitasking. It’s not just focused on U.S. teams and athletes, which means you get a good mix of all of the obscure events any Olympics have to offer.

Gold Zone

Also, it took me until Day 10 of the Games, but I finally found the hidden secret of the Olympics: the live track and field call room feed. I speak “Olympics” into the remote, and I get a list of every Olympic event currently on live on a network. Then I scroll down one level of the menu, and I can watch any event that’s streaming on NBCOlympics.com, including the track and field call room feed. It’s people walking on a small strip of track and getting psyched up for their races. It’s silent, but strangely captivating. It’s Olympic watching meditation.

track and field cam

And in what could possibly be the most important Comcast Olympics feature: all the Olympics and Olympic Trials coverage is available on demand until October 1st. That still may not be long enough to get through everything I want to watch, but I’ll be able to come close. The only bummer: I wish the men’s gymnastics Olympic Trials replays were the entire broadcast, instead of individual routines of just guys who made the team. If the USOC can’t allow the Trials to be livestreamed on YouTube like most USA Gymnastics events, I would love to see them give a similar level of coverage on the platforms they do have agreements with. But it is still better than what we used to have when I was a kid.

Though NBC has lagged in some of its coverage (especially in gymnastics,) being able to watch on demand both on the computer and TV has been a game-changer for me. For an Olympics-junkie like myself, it has been super helpful.

Kat’s Coffee Blog: The Switzerland of Cold Brew

Kat'sCoffee BlogWelcome to Kat’s Coffee Blog, a new initiative to put my triumphant return to caffeinated coffee drinking to good use. Plus, it should force me to write more. 

Cold brew is one of the easiest coffee styles to brew at home, yet none of us seemingly want to do so. Maybe it is our collective impatience. Maybe it is because we don’t have enough room in our fridges (in my defense, my infant son’s formula is currently taking up a lot of space.)

It’s okay that you haven’t started cold brewing at home, because many shops have cold brew to their menus. Dunkin’ Donuts became the latest to do so this week. Like any good Dunkin’ Devotee, I had to try it on day two of its “official” release. (Some shops had it last week.)

Dunkin' Donuts released a SnapChat geofilter to commemorate the release of its cold brew offering. (Photo: Kat Cornetta.)

Dunkin’s cold brew is the Switzerland of the genre – neutral and nice. You’ll visit there for the bank accounts and beautiful winter, and it isn’t going to offend anyone in the process. That is my sleep-deprived way of saying it doesn’t have the strong notes of most coffeehouse or home cold brews, but still has just enough kick for you to tell the difference. It is smooth, but dials down cold brew’s usual strength of coffee flavor two notches.

It is a cold brew for the regular Dunkin’ customer, who typically likes their iced coffee with a flavor shot and “extra-extra*,” but desires to be adventurous on a late summer day.

When I want a stronger iced coffee and am out running errands in my suburban neighborhood, Dunkin’s cold brew will become my must-order.

Review: Three cups out of five. ☕️☕️☕️

* “Extra-extra” is New England slang for extra cream and extra sugar. Coffee ordered this way is closer to an ivory color than the typical brown of coffee. If you order your coffee “extra-extra,” you are asking for cream with some coffee added. I do not judge others for their coffee orders, and believe there is a time and a place in everyone’s life where they may need to order coffee “extra-extra.” Do not feel shame for doing so. We need all types to make the world go round.

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