Excuses, Excuses

Whew, what a week...or two. While I must admit that the introduction of blogging into our world has been quite fruitful and fulfilling there are times where I stare at our page and feel quite guilt ridden. I oftentimes go out of my way NOT to view our site just because the date of the last entry stares at me like a neglected child. Writer's block is hard enough but when you have a constant reminder of just how constipated your brain is then you tend to feel infinitely uninspired. The irony of it all of course is that more has happened to us and our lil' business in the past two weeks than in the past six months so it's not as if there has been nothing to write about. That being said we have kept ourselves extremely busy (I'd like to even go as far as saying extremely productive) and plan on having much to tell and share with you all over the coming weeks. Thanks for your patience and don't worry, we promise the updates will be getting REAL good REAL soon but in the meantime here's some tidbits:

Since we last wrote we…

1.Walked away from a location in a prominent NW neighborhood by dropping out of one lease that took eight weeks to negotiate only to sign another lease on a location located .4 of a mile from our home only two weeks later

2.Broke and replaced three ice cream makers with the likes of wild Oregon blueberry, Roquefort and blackberry honey, Courier Coffee, malted vanilla, peanut butter-stracciatella, and dark chocolate chip with mint picked fresh from our garden

3.Reunited, and consequently giggled, sang, rejoiced, and feasted with my wanderlust-suffering sister who has finally grounded herself in Portland for eight weeks after nine solid months of backpacking world travel

4.Shopped the farmers’ market for inspiration and goods for our upcoming baking class with Shuna Fish Lydon and the newly purchased “Super Natural Cooking,” Heidi Swanson’s new cookbook and guide to satisfying wholesome grub

5.Celebrated summer solstice with close friends and a dinner party comprised of:

Macaroni & Cheese
the quintessential American dish gussied up with whole wheat cavatappi, Monterrey jack, caved-aged Gruyere, sharp cheddar, and baked in a Parmigiano-Reggiano panko bread crumb crust
Spicy Roasted Broccoli
extra virgin olive oil, red chili flakes, s&p
Baby Spinach Salad
organic baby spinach, toasted hazelnuts,and feta, with a chipotle-pomegranate dressing
and Freshly Churned Blueberry Frozen Yogurt
made with greek yogurt and wild Oregon blueberries, served with chocolate dipped macadamia nut shortbread


Enjoying My Coffee

If you like food, Portland is a great city to live in. If you like beer, it’s a fantastic city. But if you’re into coffee and you happen to live in Portland, it’s like winning the lottery. While our neighbors to the north often receive more recognition as a coffee capital, I believe this is mostly due to that giant green mermaid that was first spawned from their waterlogged streets, and has since been relentless in its pursuit to dominate the entire planet (wow, I had honestly never realized the Godzilla parallel until just now). Yes, Starbucks got its start in Seattle. And while the company may not actually be the devil with health benefits, they are most certainly stuck in coffee’s second wave. Wait, I may not just be talking to myself. A little background info is in order…
Today’s coffee aficionados like to think of the beverage’s history as having three distinct chapters, or ‘waves.’ According to ‘them’ coffee’s first wave occurred in the years following WWII, when freeze dried grounds made the beverage accessible to the masses. During this time coffee became a popular beverage, but given that we now know freeze ground coffee doesn’t taste very good, it is safe to assume that coffee was not likely enjoyed for its flavor during this time, but instead was consumed for its high caffeine content. Many years later, along came Starbucks. Starbucks helped to reinvent the commodity as something that could be enjoyed as well as consumed. This coupled with the proliferation of espresso machines, and the annihilation of all-robusta coffee in favor of 100% Arabica coffee helped to usher in a new era in the drink’s history.
So what is this third wave all about? Trish Skeie of Taylor Maid Farms Organic Coffee and Tea is often credited for coining the term. Essentially this new phase that we are now experiencing is all about the bean itself. Today’s global marketplace has presented new opportunities that must have been unthinkable in the past. Coffee roasters now have the ability to purchase their coffee directly from growers, which has essentially creatined a marketplace where smaller farmers can operate sustainable businesses by growing a high quality (not quantity) coffee. Simultaneously, companies such as Portland’s Stumptown Coffee Roasters have decided to focus their energies on traditional European methods of coffee consumption by marketing espresso drinks and French press coffee to their customers. These methods of consumption allow consumers to enjoy the unique and complex tastes derived from each individual harvest (and roast). The result, the coffee market has once again been flipped upside down, allowing for creative and energetic entrepreneurs to step in and help shape the direction of the movement.
Recently Ali and I met with one such individual. Joel Domreis is a 26 year old Portland native and self taught coffee roaster. A coffee appreciator for most of his life, Joel wanted to have open a coffee shop of his own, but decided he first needed to learn how to roast coffee (as though this were a logical conclusion). Only a few years into the business, Joel now roasts coffee for multiple retail stores under the business name Courier Coffee, and will also deliver coffee directly people’s homes. Oh, and did I mention that he delivers all of his coffee by bike? Yes indeed, only in Portland you might be thinking. Yesterday we had the great fortune to visit Joel at his roastery and learn more about his business. There is no question he is passionate about what he does, and his coffee just happens to be out of this world when it comes to flavor. When asked if he would ever hire on additional roasters beside himself, Joel remarked that “they would probably have to train with me for like 9 months” before he would allow them to roast coffee that would be sold under the Courier label. After talking coffee with Joel for more than 3 hours, both Ali and I had no doubt that we had found our roaster. Thus it is with much excitement that we announce that we will proudly be serving Courier Coffee at our forthcoming location!


Ice Cream 101

It may sound a bit silly, but ice cream has played a very big roll throughout our 7 year relationship. In the summer of 2001 Ali and I discovered Cold Stone Creamery. At the time the national chain was new to the Portland metro area, and the only two retail locations in the area were on the outskirts of the City. The chain had become famous because of the fact that it allowed its customers to literally invent their ideal ice cream flavor on the spot by offering a wide variety of ice creams, any of which could be mixed with a dizzying selection of candy, syrups, fruit, and cookies. Given the infinite number of possible combinations it can take one quite a while to develop the precise combination of ingredients that’s right for them.
Ali and I worked very hard. A few days a week we made the long drive out to Clackamas or Hillsboro. Each location was an equally inconvenient distance from our home, and as our trips became more frequent we would alternate retail destinations in hopes that the store employees might be slower to notice what frequent customers we had become. After of few weeks of taste testing we had both created a flavor we felt comfortable branding as our own. I discovered that I was a purist. I chose Sweet Cream as my base, a flavor that I had first fallen in love with as a child at the now closed Roberto’s Creamery that was once located on NW 23rd and Flanders. Not quite vanilla, Sweet Cream is a thick and rich ice cream that relies upon a disproportionate amount of heavy cream compared to its more well-known French counterpart. The result is an ice cream that is sweet and straightforward on the palate, and has an overwhelmingly creamy texture that melts oh so slowly on the tongue. In my opinion this flavor is about as close to perfection as ice cream can get, and to add too many secondary ingredients will only detract from its excellence. It being summer when we began our expedition, I capitalized on the abundance of fresh seasonal berries. And so it was that Sweet Cream with fresh strawberries and blackberries became my signature ice cream.
After seven years of dating I now know that Ali has a very complex palate compared to my own. Upon reflection it is of no surprise to me that she would create a signature ice cream flavor that would utilize a number of different ingredients. When we go out to eat, Ali often reads a menu as though it is a list of ingredients, and when ordering her food she utilizes her beautiful smile to coax her server into allowing her to create a unique entrée distinct from anything else that comes out of the kitchen. Fans of secret menus take note, to Ali every restaurant has an off-the-menu list of options, one simply has to know how to ask. Also utilizing sweet cream ice cream as her base, Ali mixed in with her ice cream, in a very particular order, sweetened coconut flakes, fresh blackberries, crumbled Oreo cookies, and coconut syrup. The result was a unique combination of textures and flavors that, when eaten, developed successively on the tongue much like the experimental three course meal gum from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
By the end of summer ’01 Ali and I both displayed visible, uh…physical commemorations to the hours we had spent trying to discover groundbreaking new ice cream flavors. Though we have not come close to duplicating the effort put forth that wonderful year, the years since have brought us many other wonderful moments spent enjoying that one of a kind desert treat. Whether it was our first time sampling authentic Italian gelato, or the time Ali put the entire contents of her ice cream cone on a single spoon in order to avoid bearing the consequences of a movie theatre’s no outside food or drink rule, we have been very fortunate to have enjoyed so many refreshing memories with perhaps our most favorite sweet treat.
Early last week we decided that it could be a lot of fun to make our own ice cream for our forthcoming restaurant. As though it was ordained to be so, Ali remembered that she been given a small ice cream maker when she was a young child. Sure enough the machine was still around, collecting dust in her mother’s basement. Over the past few days we have put this machine to work in order to test out recipes that we might serve one day in our restaurant. The results thus far have been nothing short of divine, each batch tasting better than the last: oven roasted banana caramelized in brown sugar butter, strawberry-sour cream, cheesecake, French vanilla, and chocolate-raspberry...at the rate we have been going we are making more ice cream than even we can eat. Anyone know an available taster?