In It To Win It

Just a few weeks from now Ray will compete in the 2009 Northwest Regional Barista Competition. The event takes place in Tacoma, Washington during the second weekend in January. Competitors will be judged as they attempt to make 12 different beverages in just 15 minutes. The winner of the competition not only walks away with bragging rights as the top barista in the Northwest, but will also have the opportunity to take place in a national competition late next year.

If you've already had the good pleasure of meeting Ray, than you know that he will do an exemplary job representing the Little Red Bike Cafe. It makes us proud to be able to help send somebody so dedicated to his trade.

Go Ray, go!



...our new (old and used) Ditting coffee grinder.

Ta da!

As part of our ongoing effort to make Joel's coffee taste as good as possible, we purchased the above Ditting grinder back in late September. It was an Ebay purchase, one of those experiences that adds validity to the statement "you get what you pay for." The grinder was shipped from a small town in Texas, via a seller that had zero customer ratings. Hmmmm. This might give someone pause. But that someone wasn't me: like I already mentioned, the price was right.

Originally a DHL driver attempted to drop the grinder off at our house, but we weren't home at the time. Second try, same story. Such it was that it became my duty to retrieve the package at the DHL shipping facility near the Portland airport. It was a cold rainy day when I made my way north to the airport, and upon my arrival to pick up the grinder I was less than overwhelmed once I first set eyes upon the cafe's newest toy...

The grinder had been haphazardly shipped in what appeared to be two broken down cardboard boxes that had been taped together.

I immediately began snapping photos of the package with the thought that I would have to use them during what I expected to be the long and arduous process of trying to get our money back. From the looks of the box I could only imagine what the grinder looked like. Upon further inspection the situation only worsened. I "opened" (more like broke-down) the package to find that the grinder had been shipped with a thin coffee bean bag as its only protection. Lovely.

Immediately I saw that the on/off switch had broken off, as well as one of the feet. There was also a very large dent on the backside of the machine.

Grumbling, I drove the grinder to Courier Coffee HQ where I hoped Joel would be able to tell me whether or not I had just thrown away a couple hundred dollars. Just my luck, it was also "one of those days" for our coffee roaster. He had a lot on his plate that day, meaning that he had a lot of coffee to roast, bag, and deliver.

There was too much work at hand for him to be able to dedicate much of his attention toward our new arrival. Nonetheless, in between calculating his delivery route, bagging coffee, and sending Matt Sperry down to the storage room to get green coffee, Joel was able to help me determine that yes, despite our new grinder's battle scars, the motor did in fact work. This was a good sign. Additionally, Joel talked me through a process in which I manufactured/Macgyvered a Bottom- Burr-Rotation Tester out of torn-up pieces of a business card (super fancy) which enabled me to determine whether or not the grinder might need a new part. The grinder passed this second test. Sigh (relief).

Next it was time to check the burrs for wear. Sure enough they were dull as a doorknob and would need to be replaced. Not too big of a deal if you have a Bunn grinder, however Ditting blades, due to the fact that they are of much higher quality are pretty expensive. We're talking more than we paid for the grinder itself expensive. Sure enough the cafe was on a tight budget at the time, and so the Ditting found a new home in the basement. And there it sat for weeks.

As time went by the grinder became more and more of a sore spot between Ali and myself. Why had we purchased this thing to sit in our basement? When we could afford it, we finally had Joel order us some new burrs, as well as a new on/off handle and foot. Even after all the new parts arrived in the mail, getting the grinder up and running proved no easy task. The old burrs were stuck in the machine from years of use and probable abuse. For a few days we tried to get them out so that we could install the new ones. No progress.

One night, upon returning from the cafe Ali and I began to quarrel over the state of the grinder. I assured her that with enough time, I could and would get the grinder working. She didn't believe me. In a huff I returned to the cafe to prove her wrong. After a few hours, multiple phone calls to Joel, and a trip to the grocery store to pick up some oversized screwdrivers, the new (old and used) Ditting was ready to go.

Until now I have held off trying to sell our old grinder, as well as blog about the new one, because given how tumultuously this new machine came into our lives, I have remained fearful that the motor might crap out or something else would go wrong. But after weeks of tearing through coffee like it's nobody's business, I feel that the time is right to christen our new baby.

Everyone, meet Jan (pronounced "Yawn") Did I fail to mention that Ditting is a Swiss brand? May he outlive us all and grind countless coffees from the world over.

Oh, and as far as the coffee is concerned, I am now a true believer in Ditting mythology. Courier Coffee never tasted so good.


Cabin Fever Shmeever

When it looks like this outside:

Winter Wonderland, For Reals

And you have your sister/your very bestest friend in the whole wide world (not to mention her husband and their pug) in town:

sister, two pugs, and a blanket of snow

this is what you make for breakfast:

The Frostbite
soft poached egg, shaved red onion, Beecher's Flagship cheese, Carlton bacon, and blackberry-basil jam, served open-face on ciabatta

Yes, it's true. Tara, Dan, and Matilda Uni Rose made it to PDX safely around 3:00am Monday morning. They were on the last flight not canceled from NYC and had they not made that flight, they were told they wouldn't be able to fly in until the 27th of December. WHEW! We are relieved to have the East Coast contingent of our family safe and sound, albeit partially snowed in, in our lovely little home. In order to combat cabin fever we are busying ourselves with:

The Greatest Music Exchange Ever
(including but certainly not limited to: Otis, Ingrid, Alela, Bon Iver, Blow, & Electrelane)
Board Games in the Balderdash and Scrabble variety
Jam Making and Canning
Whiskey Milkshakes
Fireside Chats

unveiling the secrets to our whiskey milkshakes

And in case you're wondering yes, the Cafe is still open. Bless you Evan, Ray, and Alice for making the trek to work in questionable conditions and keeping our neighborhood satiated. I'm sure I speak for everyone out there who hasn't gotten an opportunity to thank you yet when I say, "We appreciate you!" XO


What's For Dinner/LRBC Little Known Fact #45

We dig cheese.
The first time I became a vegan I was convinced the thing I would miss most was ice cream. Ha ha. Silly, novice, little Imbecile. What I quickly realized was that I would not be able to forget, or eventually live without, was the way that cheese melts and tastes, or develops on the tongue, the way it bites and nudges at the senses, the way it lives elegantly solo or compliments and pairs amazingly with partners, and oozes with love, and tradition and handcraftedness. Try as I might, I never have been able to get away from the fact that I love cheese and all the food, beverage [i.e. beer & wine, macaroni, grilled sandwiches, pasta, eggs, toasted nuts, quince paste, roasted vegetables, etc.], and time-honored processes that go along with it.

In fact, before we opened the Cafe I applied for a position at the cheese counter at New Seasons Market. Evan bought me the The Cheese Primer which I reminiscently studied like a true nerd would for her comprehensive exams and I went ahead and wrote a four-page supplemental essay in addition to my application explaining why I should hold post at one of the most coveted positions as cheesemonger at one of the finest grocery stores out there. I couldn't imagine anything better than talking cheese, eating cheese, cutting cheese (yeah, yeah-grown up already!) pairing cheese, and discovering new cheese all day long. Unfortunately [or perhaps through fate] I never did hear back from New Seasons regarding the position or my application. Having a cafe and opening access to all of the wonderful cheeses and cheese producers out there has certainly been the next best thing to living it. We never skip an opportunity to see what's new, to appreciate what's old, and gorge on what's tried and true. Currently our stockpile boasts: smoked gouda, gorgonzola, brie, chevre, Flagship, mild cheddar, smoked cheddar, jack, parmesan, pecorino, swiss, and manchego.
Lists such as these lead us to do silly things like make dinner entirely out of dairy products. Tonight we're enjoying a trio of simple crostini:

goat's milk brie with dried cherries and balsamic glaze
goat's milk brie with {freshly} homemade Oregon blueberry jam
Tillamook smoked cheddar, sauteed chard, and sliced Washington braeburn apples


Holiday Specials

Marly's boards always say it best but if you don't get a chance to see them this is the gist of it for this week...

Black Bean Chili
Peppermint Cocoa
Cinnamon-Hazelnut Mochas
Seasonal Beer Floats
Rudy Fernandez
Homemade jam in the Apple Butter, Oregon Blueberry, Black Mission Fig, and Oregon Marionberry variety

"The Charcuterie Sandwich"
jamon serrano, blue cheese, quince paste, Albina City hazelnuts and roasted red onion mayo on warm ciabatta. Served with chips, gherkins and pepperoncini


In Exactly One Month...

We will be here:photo courtesy of peggydaly

For God's sakes, slap me with some spf and put me in a Corona commercial...



Not that anyone cares, but...

I have really been into making poached eggs for breakfast lately.

It all began as an attempt to master the art of egg poaching so that we could confidently execute the style during service at the cafe. Somewhere along the way something else took over, and I have been craving poached eggs ever since. Don't tell Paula Deen, but after more than a year spent eating eggs that were fried in butter, it is kinda liberating to enjoy them without the added fat. For the time being, my arteries are thanking me.

All that said, I am not even about to say that poached eggs taste better...I still hold dear to my heart Paula's mantra that "everything tastes better with butter."


Recovery {aka a "Day Off"}

Recovery in our house...

Looks like this:

a humble abode in north pdx

Smells like
: a 7ft. grand fir
Sounds like: Stevie Wonder's Original Musiquarium I on vinyl
Tastes like: spicy chili served over brown rice, topped with fresh avocado and homemade whiskey milkshakes (Buffalo Trace, vanilla ice cream, and Baileys) for dessert
Feels like: watching one of your favorite Alfred Hitchcock's in your pajamas in bed with freshly washed flannel sheets


The Weekend in Review

Friday, 6:20 pm:

Saturday, 10:30 am:

Sunday, 1:50 pm:

Sunday, 6:27 pm:


Storm's a' Brewin'

Forecasting Hash

Forecasts call for a cold weekend with snow Saturday and possibly Sunday! Could this really be real? Our first actual winter storm? Could we actually get some lovely white wonderland-worthy flakes to dust our sidewalks with and justify silly mittens and our favorite knit caps on our heads? It rarely snows in Portland but when it does it feels like magic. I love the idea of a good snow storm. I can picture the neighbors all wearing their pjs shuffling in to the Cafe for mugs of hot chocolate with whipped cream. Lombard St. is dead outside. The snow accumulates on the road, erasing any signs of passing traffic. It's quiet outside except for community conversations. Children laughing. Alice will have made the perfect soundtrack for the day, surely full of Otis and Aretha and we all keep catching ourselves nodding our heads, humming along. What a Saturday. Hum. That would be heaven. And in this heaven we'd eat yam and sweet potato hash.


Coming Tomorrow...

We've been using our free time to can our favorite jams. Beginning tomorrow, we will be adding homemade Black Mission Fig Jam and Oregon Blackberry Jam to our retail repertoire at the Cafe. Perfect timing for the holidaze.

New to fig jam? We like using our fig jam on the LRBC's Alleycat Sandwich, paired with anything with basil & goat cheese, and spread on buttered toast for breakfast. Amen.

Oregon Blackberry and Oregon Blueberry Jam: $5/half pint $9/pint
Black Mission Fig Jam: $6/half pint $10/pint


Win a date with this guy?

photo © Jonathan Maus


The Portland Mercury
is currently running its Online Charity Auction. This year's beneficiary is the Portland Women's Crisis Line. Among the many auction items is a unique opportunity to get some face time with Mayor Elect Sam Adams, as well as BikePortland.org's Jonathan Maus. Oh, and did we mention that this meeting is scheduled to take place over lunch in the confines of a small bike themed North Portland cafe?

Click here to learn more about this package.

Huge thanks to the Portland Mercury, The Portland Women's Crisis Line, Sam Adams, Jonathan Maus, and everyone bidding in this year's auction. It's people like them who remind us just how much we love our City. We're honored to be able to play our little part in it all. Thank you, Portland.

Remember, the auction ends Friday, December 12th at 5pm. Happy bidding!


Don't Hate the Player, Hate the Game

Whole-Berry Cranberry Simple Syrup

In my quest to unveil new seasonal French Toast Specials on a weekly basis, I ran in to some issues with last week's compote: It contained cranberries. Little did I know that cranberries have the tendency to turn some people waaaaaay off. Personally, I couldn't think of anything that sounded nicer than Challah French Toast with an spiced Apple-Cranberry compote. I loved the tanginess of the berries, the sweetness from the apples, all stewed together with cinnamon sticks, brown sugar, and a little brandy. I guess others had another idea as it was the least popular the French Toast has ever been. WTF?

Hum...this got me thinking. Perhaps it wasn't the Toast or the apple compote, we've served up both before with success; been there done that, so it must've been the cranberries. Cranberries get a bad rap. With their meager representation being limited to canned vessels and somewhat hokey commercials from Ocean Spray, who can say they're surprised by this fact? I reckon very few people have actually been exposed to the actual deliciousness encountered when cranberries don't come from a jar in juice form or in gelatinous loaf from the can. Sure, people are used to smothering it on their turkey sandwiches but really, there are so many more ways to enjoy cranberries!!! So a new quest ensued as I had a week to rack my brain for another way to incorporate cranberries into a French toast special that wouldn't make people freak. And as such, an idea for a new Sunday Special was born:

Gingerbread Challah French Toast
served with whipped cranberry mascarpone, sweet-cream butter, and real maple syrup

The whipped cranberry mascarpone came together in a cinch. I began with making a cranberry simple syrup, incorporating water, sugar, orange peel, fresh ginger and fresh whole cranberries. Once boiled down I slowly added the syrup, almond extract, powdered sugar, and lemon zest to my whipped mascarpone in the food processor and "pulsed" until a beautiful pink hue emerged. Next, I folded in some reserved berries left from the syrup mixture, and voilĂ , a star was born. Even Evan, who usually turns his nose up at cranberries, was eating this lovely shaded dessert-cheese by the spoonful.

P.S. I also like to keep this syrup around for holiday-inspired champagne and vodka cocktails. Please enjoy!


We Dig Scott's Nuts

A lot. In fact, we can't get enough of Scott's nuts. I know, this is getting a little raunchy but that's certainly not our intention. The reason why we're having this little word play is because this is the experience Evan and I have with Scott when he comes in to the Cafe and we want to compliment him on his downright amazing nuts.

Okay...allow me to explain...

Scott, a certified cheesemonger, is Evan's former co-worker from New Seasons. Devoted Courier Coffee Enthusiasts, we are now fortunate enough to visit with Scott and his lovely wife at the Cafe on a weekly basis when they come in with mugs (from their ever-impressive coffee mug collection) to "Fill 'er up." When they told us of their plans to start their own nut business, Albina City, we were ecstatic. Imagine deliciously roasted Oregon hazelnuts, seasoned to perfection. It didn't take too long before we were hooked. Hence the embarrassing situation we encountered early-on in our discovery. Seriously, can you think of a polite way to tell a guy (let alone in front of his wife) that his nuts are are the bomb? There really is no way to put that without offending someone's grandma. So we've just decided to embrace this notion and declare, "Damn, those are some mighty fine nuts!"

While Evan thinks of these as the perfect snack for his grocery shopping (and by "snack" I mean they're all gone by the time we get to the register--don't worry, we bring the empty container to check-out with us...), we also knew there was great potential for these nuts at the Cafe. And as such, a Saturday Special was born:

Fall in Love
honey-roasted Oregon pears, homemade ricotta cheese and Albina City’s candied hazelnuts, drizzled in honey & served open-face on toasted ciabatta

If you would like to get your hands on some of these nuts just stop in at any New Seasons Market, but if you happen to be at the one on Interstate Ave. you might just be lucky enough to compliment Scott on his nuts in person.


So Much to Say

I apologize in advance, there will be no witty captions for the following photos. We are putting all concentrated efforts on preparing for the Cafe's weekend service. We would however like to take a moment to get you caught up on some of the recent happenings...

First, though it has taken us a long time, we finally have LRBC jam available for sale at the cafe. This is the first time we have had "homemade" jam available for sale since Tim and Lindsey were last with us nearly a year ago. Currently we are selling 'Oregon Blueberry,' but keep your eye out for a few new flavors scheduled to arrive late next week.

Second, I am hellbent on perfecting a pie dough recipe I recently came across in a popular food magazine. Which means that the Sour Cream Apple Pie you see pictured below is on tomorrow's menu. Don't worry, we have already confirmed that the recipe for the filling is indeed a keeper.

Third, Courier Coffee Roasters dropped off a new coffee from El Salvador early this morning: Finca Fatima, 100% Bourbon Varietal. As far as I know it is the first delivery of bulk coffee Joel has received that was shipped in vacuum sealed bags. Joel indicated that the freshness of the coffee may have actually made it more difficult to roast given that the green beans have not aged at all during shipping. I will say that the initial roast is very light, and extremely tasty, which indicates to me that this coffee has a lot of potential.

Last but certainly not least, we were more the honored yesterday to see that one of our beer floats was featured on the delightfully cheeky blog, Endless Simmer. Pretty humbling to see our own creation up there amongst some ingenious recipes ("What would you do for a Klondike Bar?"). I still think our Oatmeal Stout Shake (pictured below) ranked as my favorite beer-ice cream experiment we yet to embark upon. We like to consider it our ode to Doc, of Steinbeck's Cannery Row.

Thank you, Endless Simmer! (And just so you know--gansie in particular--we're huge fans of topping everything with an egg.) You have reinvigorated our passion for the limitless possibilities which stem from the combination of dairy and alcohol. Case in point our newest beer float, set to debut tomorrow:

The Pick Me Up
chocolate ice cream, double shot of CCR espresso, and Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout (Limited Release, October thru December)

Pictures and witty captions to follow...


What's For Dinner...

Homemade Pappardelle with Sage Cream
(and yes, that garnish is fried sage leaves, aka my favorite)

Why is homemade pasta so good? Why am I lucky enough to have married a man that not only appreciates fresh pasta but can make it? Why was he lucky enough to marry a woman that knows how to make one hell of a sauce? These, my friends, are the only deep questions we're asking ourselves tonight. Tonight is all about looking forward to winter, opening up that bottle of Chilean wine we've been saving (besos, Todd!), and sitting next to the one we love...[wait for it]... folding laundry, and realizing that domesticity ain't so bad after all. To all our fellow women's studies majors out there, let us just say: it has its place.

Fried Sage Leaves

1/2 cup vegetable oil
flour, for dusting
30 fresh sage leaves

Clean and thoroughly dry the sage leaves on paper towels. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat until hot (oil will bubble.) Once dry, lightly dust the sage leaves with flour, shaking off any excess. Fry sage in batches, stirring, 10-20 seconds. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain, then season with salt. Leaves should retain some green color, and will crisp up as they cool.

These are good for topping pastas, soups (hello, butternut squash!), or, if you're like me, eating like potato chips.


It has got to be the sandwich

Rudy's line from tonight's win against the Knicks:

18 points (12 in the 4th quarter), 2 rebounds, and 2 assists in 22 minutes.

Is it a coincidence that the rookie, who had struggled in his previous few games, had a breakout performance immediately following his sandwich's return to the LRBC menu?

We think not.