Here's a friendly reminder about the PDX: Tamp Your Face Off Event being held at the LRBC TONIGHT!!! It is an open event to all coffee enthusiasts and aficionados provided you are over the age of 21. Begins at 6pm, ends around 9pm. Don't forget to bring your own vessel if you have a desire to compete! See you there.
PDX: Tamp Your Face Off
Saturday 1/31, 6:00pm-9:00pm
hosted by Little Red Bike Cafe
4823 North Lombard Street Portland, OR
Posted by Ali and Evan at 6:24 AM
"We have no food!" Evan declared. From the sound of his voice I could tell he was standing in front of the fridge, door wide open.
"I know, it's pathetic," is my auto-pilot driven response, given the countless number of times I've found myself in his exact position, scouring the shelves for something, anything to eat.
Living in this house I am constantly being reminded of the story my mother told me, about how it is the cobbler's children who go without shoes. While we have everything we could possibly need at the cafe, our own fridge has surely seen better days. For months now we've been ignoring it, either choosing to eat Thai or neighborhood pub food, or challenging ourselves by doing this thing in our house called "rustic cooking," where your sole goal is to make an edible and relatively nutritious meal with the bare pantry and refrigerator shelves. But now it was obvious, there was no other conclusion to draw but this one: Our fridge was a total disaster. He knew, I knew it, and shit, even Zeus knew it and was wondering when the hell he was going to get some more of his salmon oils.
"We're going to New Seasons, let's go!" And like that I hear the suction of the refrigerator door shutting, and Evan has the car keys in hand and is by the front door. We're in the car so fast I can hardly resolve what's about to happen next; we're going shopping...for ourselves.
This might sound stupid but it's been so long since we've actually done it that we've forgotten what we even like to eat. Rather than navigating the aisles like we're returning champions of Supermarket Sweep, as we usually do on a cafe run, this time we stared aimlessly up at each aisle, trying to find our footing. To be honest I think we both felt a lot of pressure in that situation. We are literally shopping pros at this point, for the cafe that is. You can pretty much go through our prep and par lists with us and we can give you a corresponding aisle number. But when it comes to purchasing goods for personal use and you have a moment to ask yourself, "What sounds good for breakfast?" and get to actually ask your partner, "What do you want to cook tonight for dinner?" you begin to realize how long it's been since you've had what you used to consider a "normal life."
We are settling back into the groove of things ever so slowly. I still can't believe it's been a whole week since we've been back. We worked five of those last seven days and have spent the last two days getting to know our dog again; the funny looks he gives us when he's confused or needs to be walked. We're getting to know our house again; how we must for some reason fall asleep every night to the dryer finishing its last load for the evening. And we're getting to know each other again, in this house, with our dog, as we return to some sense of normalcy. One thing we discovered during our trip in Mexico was that we have poured so much of ourselves into our Cafe that sometimes we have very little if anything to give to one another. This was a grave mistake and one we've been trying to remedy ever since we've returned home. If there was ever a question between the Cafe's needs and our needs, the Cafe came first. As in ALWAYS. This is where we're attempting to initiate more of a balance in our lives. Part of this process was making this trip to New Seasons and figuring out what we needed and what was in our best interest. These two elements have rarely coincided with owning and running our cafe over this past year. Of course we are our own worst enemies in this situation and the only ones we have to blame is ourselves. We are the ones that make stupid, time-devouring decisions like creating a spur-of-the-moment special that requires one of us to return to the grocery store for the fourth time that day, or else it's a dire situation to be filed in the "must do now or die" folder, when in reality there is always a better alternative, a more peaceful one, one that requires neither establishment (Us or the Cafe) to sacrifice.
This is the beauty of having your own place and part of the reason we were desperate to become our own bosses: we wanted to own it, ALL of it, the good and the bad. What can I say? It's been a learning process and certainly has been the best, longest, hardest, and most rewarding class I've ever taken and coming from this certified total college nerd that's saying something.
Searching for a source of inspiration caused me to think back to a time in my life when I enjoyed cooking the most, and our trip to New Zealand immediately entered my mind. There we purchased not one but two vans and lived/slept/cooked out of which ever one wasn't dead for the following three months. One of our all time favorite meals during this experience was miso soup. Simple, hearty, nutritious, and most importantly easy to travel around with. Somewhere along our three month journey, I believe it was in a coffeeshop in Queenstown, I read an article about the oldest living people living in the world. There was one particular man I fell in love with, a man from Okinawa. Every day he would wake up and open his blinds, work in his garden, and he would make sure to close his blinds at night. He declared the most important thing he did in life was to open his blinds in the morning and to close his blinds in the evening to let his neighbors and friends and community members know he was alive. He felt strong sense of community and felt responsible to that community and in return the purpose and the quality of his life could not be questioned. Inspiring to say the least. Did I mention he ate miso soup every day for breakfast? In tribute and for our stake in our own good health we ate miso soup every morning during a our life changing Exploration of The Greatest Place in the World and I swear we never felt better in our lives. No joke.
In the spirit of honoring the great many lessons and perspectives the new year has already bestowed upon us, we gleefully, gracefully, and faithfully returned to our beloved miso soup for dinner tonight.
And it would be an failure on my part not to mention that one of our ultimate favorite bloggers of all time was also recently on a miso kick. There must be something in the water.
Of course Heidi's recipe is fabulous and we surely encourage you to rely on it as a backbone for your own creation. The great thing about miso soup is that it is so versatile. For our dinner version we wanted a few more veggies. Try out your own batch and find your perfect combination.
Warm Biscuits & Jam
homemade buttermilk biscuits with homemade blueberry poppy seed jam
Which brings me to my next point. The cafe will add three new jams to its repertoire this week:
Blueberry Poppy Seed
Blackberry Earl Grey
Strawberry Pinot Noir
Posted by Ali and Evan at 5:43 PM
Calling all barista, coffeeshop owners/employees, and coffee freaks. LRBC is hosting what we hope will be a fun event this coming weekend, an event that has been dubbed "PDX: Tamp Your Face Off!"
What is it?
The idea is to create an informal but festive gathering space for Portland coffee industry folk (or coffee aficionados). There will be espresso, coffee, milk, and beer...and that's pretty much it. There will likely be a "bring your own vessel" latte art "jam," or "throwdown." If you'd like to compete, be sure to bring something which you will be able to fill with espresso and steamed milk. January Vawter of Blend Coffee Lounge and Ray Penrod of LRBC will be helping us facilitate the goings on. If you have any questions, feel free to reach us via email or phone.
PDX: Tamp Your Face Off
Saturday 1/31, 6:00pm-9:00pm
hosted by Little Red Bike Cafe
4823 N Lombard St Portland, OR
Hopefully this guy will be there:
"And Joel said..."
Posted by Ali and Evan at 8:16 AM
I know that we've lived in Portland for the majority of our lives and that we have never seen it snow so much here in one winter.
I know that when it's snowing outside I like to cook and eat rustically.
Posted by Ali and Evan at 5:30 PM
In the past we've shied away from potential catering gigs, finding them much too arduous to carry-off and with too little pay-off. This time we were working with friends who allowed us to steer the reins and ultimately gave us the final say on what was served and how. It's always so refreshing when you're given that kind of freedom to explore, knowing your clients have complete faith in your taste buds and your efforts. We decided the best thing to do would be to open the cafe on a Monday, the day the cafe is always closed, and normally our day off. We wanted to make sure we had plenty of opportunity to spend time with our friends, that they had plenty of opportunity to celebrate the end of one exciting year, and the beginning of another. And of course that we could attempt to provide them with as quality of a dining experience as they have offered us each-and-every time.
As such, the sign on the door yesterday at the cafe read, "Closed for a private party." An occasion we aptly dubbed, "Dove Vivi Winter Event: Always Down for a Party."
espresso, french press coffee, columbia gorge orange juice, bloody mary, mimosa, apple-berry spritzer, tea
Irish “Coffee & Doughnuts” French Toast:
challah French toast dusted in cinnamon & sugar, served with espresso syrup and whipped Irish cream
-Selection of Fried Egg Sandwiches-
ZooBomb: egg, jack, avocado, caramelized onions, pasilla aioli
Messenger: egg, gorgonzola, apple butter, applewood smoked bacon
Rudy Fernandez: egg, jamon Serrano, olive tapenade, manchego, oregano, roasted red pepper aioli
Baby Green Salad
pink grapefruit, blue cheese, candied hazelnuts
Honeyed Yogurt Bar
yogurt, homemade granola, fresh fruit
sausage, green bell pepper, green onion, pepper-jack cheese
Pain Au Chocolat Bread Pudding
-Selection of Grilled Cheese Sandwiches-
smoked cheddar, tomato, fleur de sel
brie, gruyere, and homemade balsamic fig jam
Mini Ice Cream Sandwiches
peanut butter chocolate chip cookies with toasted coconut cherry ice cream
Tim Roth for help. Armed with his own tools (Personal tamp? Check! Personal Chef's knife? Check!), his adoration for and insistence upon quality in both the beverage and food department, not to mention his staggering height and non-stop humor, Tim proved to be the best man for the job. With his help, the three of us were easily able to knock-out a mid-morning brunch for sixteen, including an unexpected but certainly welcomed vegan sampler consisting of:
Baby Green Salad
toasted almonds, pink grapefruit, mint, and citrus vinaigrette
Curried Tempeh Salad
coconut, red pepper, golden raisins, green onions, hot sauce
smoked tempeh, avocado, tomato, leaf lettuce, and vegan dill aioli
I mean really, it is for moments like these that we live to do our jobs: solid menu, perfect guests, brilliant timing and execution, and a couple of great bloody marys along the way. For us, it is a rare opportunity to prepare an inspired menu that we have created, even more rare, the ability to execute that menu when and how we want to. Initially, when designing the concept for LRBC, we always tried to adhere to the mantra to "Keep It Simple Stupid," but no matter how hard one tries, the business is anything but simple, or even consistent. People always come to eat at the exact same time, as though everyone has set their watches/cell phones/beepers to arrive precisely at 10:47 am on a Saturday, turning an otherwise slow day into an out of nowhere mega rush, which in turn makes our jobs more difficult, and more often than not causes some potential customers to flee the scene never to return, assuming that we must be that busy all the time. We are left to wishing if only they could return in an hour or two, when we know the cafe will be completely empty and we can give them of the attention that they as customers deserve. But that is the kind of thing that you can't control, and you simply or forced to learn to roll with. There are quite of few aspects of the industry that are similar to this, and unless you have ever worked a service industry job, it might be hard to understand exactly what I am getting at. If you have, well then I am just preaching to the choir.
Which does in fact bring me to my next rant...how amazing it is to cook for and serve a group of industry people. People who know the pains of having consecutive six tops arrive within three minutes of one another, who have dealt with customers who completely disregard the fact that your restaurant has a "menu," and would prefer instead to create their own unique meal not really even using your menu as an ingredient list, people who know how to smile and say thank you when a family with small children gets up from their table to leave, only to find that they haven't even attempted to help clean up their table which now looks like the remnants of a small Crayola nuclear arms experiment. Yes, serving the Dove Vivi staff was certainly a pleasure. The thank yous felt more sincere, they know how to stack plates, they don't require anything out of the ordinary from us. They arrived to our space already happy, and anxious to enjoy what they hoped would be a good meal. They get it. The rest was up to us. Hopefully most of them liked their experience.
Posted by Ali and Evan at 6:04 PM
The vacation that we aren't even finished blogging about is over. We arrived home around 11pm this past Wednesday evening, and after a mostly sleepless night found ourselves back at the cafe early the next morning. Our first day back felt like, well...pardon the pun, like riding a bike. Many, many, many thanks to our adept, beautiful, and cunning staff for doing such an amazing job holding down the fort while we were away. Their hard work made it very easy for us to return right back to the swing of things.
After Thursday's service was over we proceeded to run some errands, and like magic it was 8 o'clock and we were feeling mighty haggard and hungry. A trip to one of our favorite local restaurants seemed like the perfect elixir for a complete return to normalcy, that was until I decided to try Mexican brandy for the first time in my life, which quickly turned into two Mexican brandies, followed by a Spanish brandy and a pint of pilsner, which had me right back on the road to tired and haggard. Throw in the embarrassment of not once, but twice forgetting the name of a bartender whom I've met and spoken with on multiple occasions (sorry Mindy), and I awaken Friday morning feeling more awkward than I did when we stepped off the airplane late Wednesday night.
Nothing a trip to Courier Coffee Roasters can't fix, right? Friday afternoon, that's just what we did. After another sleepless night, and a morning spent grocery shopping, Ali and I headed to the Roastery for a real Portland pick-me-up.
Our visit turned out to be just what I needed to help me feel like myself again. Good conversation. Friends. Food. Coffee. Joel has certainly been a busy man while we were away. Many new coffees have arrived, changes made to the espresso, mapping ALL of the coffeeshops in the city, and scheming about the future of his business. In addition to the caffeine, simply being around the guy is inspiring, and a quick reminder that no matter how hard we may think we work, this guy works a lot harder.
Feeling like me again. Happy to be home.
Posted by Ali and Evan at 3:33 PM
The original intention of our "Compliments to the Chef" series was to highlight the fantastic meals we've accrued throughout our dining experiences. Yes, it is a bit of a tease to review a restaurant so far away from the city of our home, nonetheless, we were so taken with this quaint little Cuban restaurant that we felt as though we would be doing a disservice to the entire staff were we to omit it from this section of the blog.
We discovered El Varadero based on a recommendation of a trusted local. We were told to go for the mojitos, and to stay for the food. I am often hesitant to explore the cuisine of different region than that in which I am traveling, but the fact of the matter is that here on Isla Mujeres, we are less than 100 miles from Cuba. Upon considering this fact briefly, the idea of looking for a Cuban restaurant on an island just off the coast of Mexico started to make sense.
Our journey to find El Varadero began a few miles away, in downtown Isla Mujeres. Originally we had considered taking a taxi to find the restaurant, until we discovered a small sidewalk that hugged the northeastern end of the island. We began walking, and were immediately taken with the colors of the buildings that were perched alongside the edge of the ocean, their tattered facades speaking volumes about storms come and gone. Mesmerized by these images, we continued walking until we found ourselves far out of town, perhaps less than halfway to our destination.
We walked for what felt like miles, with no street signs to guide us along our way, finding the restaurant became a game, the primary rule being that we weren’t allowed to ask anyone for directions. Finally we discovered a landmark that indicated that we were not far from the restaurant. Utilizing all of my spider-senses I was able to guide us the final half-mile or so to the restaurant.
The restaurant itself is actually to small wooden buildings that are connected by a 20 foot long sand and stone pathway. The first building houses the kitchen, and the second sits at the edge of Laguna Makax. From any of the six tables one can enjoy beautiful views of the lagoon, chock-full of fishing boats, seabirds, and mangrove forest. Adhering to the advice of our trusted local, we began our meal with a couple mojitos (which later followed by another round, followed again by a round of Cuba Libres).
The menu was simple, almost screaming to the diner "What, have you not noticed the dozens of fishing boats that surround us?!?" We were going to eat fish, the only real question which remained was how would we like to have it prepared. We opted to leave this decision up to our server, who explained to us that she preferred the house recipe for breaded fish. After the first round of mojitos, which by the way were nothing short of spectacular, really she could have suggested that the fish be dragged through sand, doused with stale beer, and dried in the sun, and I would have taken her word for it.
South end of Via Garrafon, overlooking Laguna Makax
Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Tuesday thru Sunday: 11:00am-11:00pm
Posted by Ali and Evan at 7:32 AM
Long before we were ever “Evan and Ali” and certainly before we were ever “A&E,” I can remember standing in Evan’s parents’ kitchen. Back then he was just Evan and I was just some girl, perhaps just their son’s friend, standing in their kitchen. Evan and I had been friends for six years at this point; best friends for maybe a year, and lovers/“official” for just six months. But at the time it felt real. Hell, it was real. Without. A. Doubt. But we didn’t know it then. How could we? We were just kids, LITERALLY. But in a way, his home already felt like my home. Not that I didn’t have a home. I certainly did. But there was something that his father said during this moment, something that has stuck with me throughout these past nine years that I have been unable to shake. This moment I can remember without a single haze of fogginess, despite the “newness” of our relationship and the clouded perspective of a seventeen-year-old girl.
Evan’s dad was making toast, something I now know he does quite often. The reason why I point this out is because Mark makes toast all the time. Breathe in. Breathe out. Big deal.
But there was something that made this a big deal; not the toast part, but the fact that he was doing it alone. Julie (Evan’s Mom) was out of town for a couple of days. Mark was holding down the fort by himself.
“To be honest I miss her. I really miss her when she’s gone” he said.
This confession he uttered almost to no one, but it certainly struck a chord with me, a girl who was raised by a single mother, who felt constantly challenged by the questions of Why, How, and When? I left that kitchen with the determined thought, “I want to be like them.” It didn’t matter with who per se, but I wanted that. I needed that. The very idea of a man missing his wife when she was, mind you, two to three hours away was an idea that was so foreign to me, so unattainable. How could it be possible that two people at this stage in life could possibly miss one another, desire one another, L-O-V-E one another, and do so admittedly in front of their child, much less their child’s “girlfriend” while making toast in the kitchen of all places?
Flash forward nine years later. While I wouldn’t be so brash to say, “ I now get it,” I can at least say I see the bigger picture. Nine years later I look at our lives and the scope of the frame has grown wider. Much Wider. Nine years later I can look back and see what we’ve built together; a house that was turned into a home; a dream that has turned into a business; and a life that was turned upside down, and at times needed to be asked, let me rephrase that, needs to be asked, “why?” and “for what?”
Because it is not all beautiful, it is not so easy: Love, Life, “The Dream.”
Here’s a real flash-forward: This trip was supposed to be our honeymoon. However, we left for it (5 months after the actual event, mind you) in such a state of anxiety, of stress, and of panic, that I can honestly say we looked across from another for the first few days of this journey and thought, “Who are you?” “What are we doing?” “What the hell is this?” Take away the house that became a home. Take away the dog that has made our life nothing but laughter, joy, and pure unconditional love. Take away a business that has bloomed into something bigger than either of us could ever imagine. Take away 15 years of friendship and love. And we were left asking, “For what? For whom?”
Standing in Evan’s parents’ kitchen I only saw the easy side of things, the very best side of things; two people that loved each other, that built something together and whose lives became so infused that they simply could not imagine living without one another. Now that is a pretty picture, a beautiful one at that. And that’s what I wanted: What I need/ed.
But I now realize that that isn’t the full picture, that the frame is much bigger; that the frame actually has to include all of the blood and sweat, all of the shit and tears, and everything else in between. There is no director’s cut. I now realize that without all of the mess, there would be no good; no highlight; no progress.
Nine years and 11 days later this is what I’ve come away with:
In the end it still comes down to us.
And really, nothing else matters.
Posted by Ali and Evan at 4:29 PM
We are not trying to build any suspense. Ray did compete at the Northwest Regional Barista Competition, and I do plan to deliver a detailed report, but I haven't yet had the opportunity to hear about the experience from the man himself. You can expect a detailed report of the event in the coming weeks.
I do know that Alex Pond of The Fresh Pot took home first prize in the competition. Congratulations to Alex, Michael Brooks, and everyone at The Fresh Pot!
Lastly, congratulations to Ray! Thank you for being the first to represent the LRBC at a barista competition. Your hard work and continuous dedication to your craft make us proud. Thank you.
Posted by Ali and Evan at 5:55 AM
Back to the important stuff...food. We reached the Cancun bus station late this afternoon, in much need of a quick snack prior to embarking on the second half of the day’s journey. After walking just a couple blocks from the terminal we stumbled upon Quesadillas Don Javier. The joint was packed full of people fervently getting down with their food. The most telltale sign that we were in for something special: we were the only gringos in sight.
The menu was simple, but huge. Quesadillas and empanadas with an astounding number of possible additions, many of which we weren’t familiar with. We decided to stick to the basics and ordered a couple of quesadillas with rajas y papas (sautéed chile and potatoes), and an empanada with cheese. The entire experience set us back a measly 40 pesos (a little over $3). I am not exaggerating when I say that it was some of the best food we’ve have eaten throughout our entire trip.
Ten minutes at Don Javier’s was all it took to for us to reconsider our initial assumptions about the city. Perhaps Cancun isn’t so bad after all. You just have to know where to look.
Posted by Ali and Evan at 6:42 PM
TUESDAY JANUARY 6th THRU WEDNESDAY JANUARY 14th
A lot like Porland's Sunday Parkways event in which we took part this past summer. Oh, but unlike Sunday Parkways which happened only once, Bici Ruta happens every Sunday.
Posted by Ali and Evan at 9:48 AM
TUESDAY JANUARY 6th THRU WEDNESDAY JANUARY 14th
It's no secret that Ali and I love Mexican food. I don't believe there is a food that exists which I wouldn't at least try to improve by adding a little salsa picante and fresh squeezed lime juice. Our dining experiences thus far have proven to be nothing short of inspirational. Upon our return from this trip be sure to expect a lot of new cafe specials with ingredients such as mole and achiote paste.
Pictured below are some of the many foods we have been fortunate to eat thus far on our trip:
Posted by Ali and Evan at 11:38 AM