RSS Feed

Tag Archives: local

Mrs. Breakfast with Nick: BLTs and Brussels Sprouts

Part of me always feels like BLTs are cheating a bit. I mean, they’re deceptively simple, easy to make, and not ALL that bad for you. But SO delicious! When I saw that there were some bright red ripe tomatoes and some local Bibb lettuce in the Green Bean Delivery box, I realized we were only BACON away from a BLT, so we pretty much had to do it.

Having produced BaconCamp Columbus for a number of years, Nick and I have tried A LOT of local bacon. All of it is good, most of it is great, and a few are out of this world. Weiland’s bacon is one of those treats that we get once in a while, beautifully thick cut and perfectly marbled.

IMG_5379

My trusty helper was all about showing off his kitchen skills. He said he wanted me to caption this picture “Long Bacon” as he inexplicably tore one in two. We’ll go with it.

IMG_5381

As you can tell, we like using our cast iron skillet to make bacon, and we mess it all up – no careful strips, no flat pieces. Just separate each piece, lay in the pan, and stir with tongs. I know I’m going to catch flack on this, but we just love the caramelization you get with the cast iron, and I have no patience for flat bacon cooking.

I will say, though, when I want to make a lot of bacon for family and friends, or events (we cooked 30 pounds of bacon on the mornings of BaconCamp… in my kitchen… and another 30 at the event itself!), I use parchment paper on rolled aluminum trays in the oven. Doing more than a few pounds in the cast iron skillet builds up a nasty layer on the bottom of the pan that interferes with the cooking process after 2 or 3 rounds.

IMG_5383

While it’s cooking, slice the tomatoes into thin slices. Aren’t they beautiful? Who is READY for tomato season!? We have 15 tomato plants in the garden ready to burst!

IMG_5382

Cook the bacon until it is right before your preferred doneness, which, in our case, crispy dark edges with softer parts, but little light fat areas. I usually pull it out of the pan onto a plate with napkins to let it cool, and it will keep cooking on the plate. (Be sure to save the bacon fat! Let it cool, strain it, and put it in your freezer. You’ll thank me later, when you remember that you have it and that you want to make eggs in it and they are delicious.)


IMG_5384

BONUS RECIPE!

So, even though these aren’t from the Green Bean Delivery box, they were in my fridge… so, I threw together my favorite way to make brussels sprouts. When I have time, or when I make Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners, I roast the sprouts after tossing them in olive oil in a 400 degree oven for 20-30 minutes. They get beautifully dark and crispy. Today, the natives were hungry and impatient, so I decided to steam them by cutting them all in half, adding an inch or so of water in our microwave steamer, and putting it in for 6 minutes.

IMG_5385

After they come out, bright green and tender, add a handful of blue cheese crumbles, some dried cranberries, cracked pepper, sea salt, and a few shots of balsamic vinegar or balsamic vinegar sauce (which is usually thickened with corn syrup). If you have REAL aged balsamic vinegar, you lucky devil… now invite me to dinner.

IMG_5386

Toss it together, and you get a beautiful sweet salty green side dish in no time.


IMG_5389

Oh! I also whipped up some peanut-butter celery sticks with sea salt, using the great celery that was in the Green Bean box. I’m assuming you can figure out how to do this, so I won’t insult you with a recipe… but trust me that the sea salt is worth it.

IMG_5390

My boys like to eat “picnic-style,” which involves this ridiculously huge wooden tray I’ve had forever. I set everything out on it, and then they can build their meal at the table. We had made a few loaves of bread that day, so it was a perfect fit.

IMG_5387

The finished meal! We toasted the bread a bit, added mayo – and kept it simple. It was a perfect summer dinner!

IMG_5391

Mrs. Breakfast with Nick: Eggs, Potatoes and Toast

Sometimes, you need to stick with the classics. When we go to a new breakfast place, I can always count on Mr. Breakfast with Nick to order the Classic Breakfast – usually eggs, potatoes, bacon and toast. It’s a great way to test the place on the basics – which are, in our humble opinion, the most important indicators of a restaurant’s foundation. Our Green Bean Delivery box came with some beautiful potatoes, and I was eager to try yet another way to make hash browns…or home fries…or breakfast potatoes…whatever you call them, there are as many recipes in a city as there are people and we keep trying new ways to do them. Normally, what we like is to use some russets, boil them for 12 minutes first, chop them, and then pan “fry” them in a cast-iron skillet. These new potatoes were more tender, with two of them being classic reds, and I knew they could stand to just be chopped and thrown in to a pan with some great bacon fat. (This was a day I was also making bread, so although there are no veggies in our bread from Green Bean, I included that process below as well!)

IMG_5315

I kept the pieces very small, less than 1 cm. square, knowing that the heat would have to cook through without having boiled them first.

IMG_5316

I chopped up part of an onion from the Green Bean Box as well as half a red and orange pepper to throw in. I sautéed the onions and the peppers in the bacon fat (we keep some in our freezer for these very occasions!), and threw the potatoes in when the cast-iron skillet was very hot.

IMG_5317

Last year, Chef Butcher from Creole Kitchen gave Nick this incredible cajun seasoning and I try and throw it in whenever I can, so I sprinkled a bit of this on the potatoes as they cooked. (You can see I’m running low!)

IMG_5318

I fried up a nice egg – check out Nick’s post on Ways to Cook an Egg on lots of ways you can add one to this meal.

IMG_5320

And there you go! The little brown bits on the potatoes were the best part, of course, and the cast iron skillet was the right choice. I still think, given the choice, I would go to the boil-first and then fry method, as they did take a bit longer to cook and they soaked up more of the bacon fat than I liked. But it was still delicious!

IMG_5319

Now on to the toast… About four years ago, Dave Scarpetti of webercam.com fame hosted Nick and I and some friends for a bread-making class. He is a brilliant scientist, and had perfected his baguette recipe that he was sharing with us. I remember very specifically saying to a friend that night “This is fun, but there is NO WAY I have time to make bread every other day.” Well… I went home and, on a whim, tried it on my own. And then tried it again, and again… and for the past four years, we have been making bread every three days for our family.

We do this for a few reasons: 1. We know what is in our bread. We buy good ingredients, and that’s all that goes in. 2. Cost – for 2 loaves of beautiful crispy bread, it costs us $1. Our boys eat more than most adults, so every penny helps. And 3. The taste. Come on over, we’ll make you a believer.

The thing that makes it work, though, is keeping it simple. We have a specific area in our cupboard with all the bread ingredients, a measuring cup that stays with the flour, and bottles for the other ingredients that stay in one place all the time. We also use our bread machine to knead the dough and bring it through the first rise. I know it’s cheating, and I don’t care. I love it. (And we have never once baked bread in our bread machine, so we felt like we needed to use it for something!) And we use a scale. USE. A. SCALE. I can’t stress this enough. Baking is a science and science takes precise measurements. Your scale doesn’t need to be fancy – ours has a units and a tare button – that’s all.

We measure directly into the breadmaker container on the scale, water and flour first. Then yeast. I have tried lots of yeasts, and my favorite is Fleischman’s ActiveDry. I also like the packets much better than the little jar container. It stays active much longer, because once yeast is exposed to air it starts to slow down. And, even with making bread 2 or 3 times per week, by the time we finished the container of yeast, we had issues with the loaves not rising.

IMG_5322

Here are my ever-so-fancy squirt bottles ($1 each at Wasserstrom).

IMG_5324

Each of the bottles, containing olive oil, kosher salt, and sugar, has a different cut spout depending on how fast I need it to come out for measuring.

IMG_5325

For the first rise, you lock the pail into the breadmaker and put it on the “dough” setting. (If you don’t have a breadmaker, never fear! Check out the recipe below for how to make it without one.)  It will take about an hour and a half and come out looking like this:

IMG_5327

Dump the dough out onto a floured wooden board and shape into a rough mound. I say wood, because we have found that temperature and moisture control are both very important at this point. Something like granite is going to cool the dough down too quickly, and plastic or metal for the second proof doesn’t afford as much rise. Maybe I’m making that all up in my head, but we’ve tried it all the ways, and this is what worked best for us.

IMG_5328

Cut the mound in half, and shape each ball into a smooth ‘boule’ shape. This is done by using both hands to fold the outsides under and to the bottom center underneath the ball of dough. This allows a nice “skin” to begin forming. Dust the tops with some flour and cover with a damp cloth. (What I do is form the boules, wash my hands, dry them on a clean dishcloth and use that to cover…it’s all a system after so many times of doing it!) Turn on the over to 425 degrees.

IMG_5329

After about 25 minutes (depending on the time of year), your oven will be at a rip-roaring temp (there is no way it is at 425 after the normal pre-heating cycle – ours never is), and the boules will have doubled in size.

IMG_5330

Move them to a cheap vegetable grilling pan. Yep. You heard me right. A vegetable grilling pan – they sell them at Lowe’s 2 for $3 or something. They are made from thin aluminum and are the BEST ways to bake this specific bread. You can leave them in the boule shape or form more “loaves” by tucking in two sides and setting it down on the “seam.” The slashes we do with a very sharp serrated blade, and are where the bread is going to split and grow during baking. You can also use a straight knife, a razor blade, or kitchen shears.

IMG_5331

The most important step of this recipe is the water and is impossible to really show you in a picture. In order to get a beautiful brown crispy crust, throw 1/2 cup of water on the bottom of your oven which, for us, means directly on the filament. It creates steam which moves up through the holes in the pan and perfectly crisps the crust. You can do it without this step, but it won’t be as crispy.

20 minutes in a hot oven, and there you have it – two beautiful crispy loaves.

IMG_5334

Ingredients:

  • 400g water
  • 1 packet yeast (7g)
  • 20g vegetable oil
  • 20g sugar
  • 10g salt
  • 600g flour (unbleached all-purpose – high quality)*

Directions:

1. Add the ingredients, in the above order, to a bowl and mix to combine. (Rubber spatula works well.)
2. Turn out on a floured surface, cover, and let rise for 1.5 – 2 hours; it should double in size.
3. Punch down and divide into two balls, turning the dough under itself to create a smooth, tight surface. (This is where you can knead in raisins, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, nuts, etc…
4. Turn oven on to 450 degrees. It will take a normal oven about 25 minutes to get up to this temperature.
5. Place on floured surface, cover, and let sit for 30 minutes, or until a fingerprint in the surface of the dough almost disappears when you press into it.
6. Transfer the boules to a thin aluminum vegetable grilling sheet (with holes in it).
7. Take a sharp serrated knife and make 3 parallel slices in the tops of the dough balls, about 3/4 inches deep.
8. Put the bread in the center rack of the oven and throw 1/2 cup of water onto the bottom floor of the oven, right on the metal base or the element. It will steam like crazy. QUICKLY shut the door to trap the steam. Bake for 18 minutes.
9. Take out and let it cool down! Don’t eat (any) bread right out of the oven – the gluten doesn’t have time to set and it will be gummy and taste awful. If you want to eat it warm, let it cool and then warm it back up.

*A Note about Flour – You can use a mix of white and white whole wheat flour (King Arthur is great) but don’t use any more than 1/3 wheat to make up the 600g. Also, use the highest quality flour you can buy. I have tried 15 or so types of low-end flours, Aldi’s, Wal-Mart, etc… these will just waste your time. I use Montana Sapphire Unbleached All-Purpose and I buy it in 25 pound bags at Giant Eagle. Just try to buy the best kind you can, and try different kinds. The price difference is worth it.

Mrs. Breakfast with Nick: Kale Yes!

We were eating kale before it was cool.

Honestly, this salad has been a staple at our family’s meals for years, and every time I serve it to someone new, I get asked for the “recipe.” So after many awkward conversations of “well, you just put it together with other stuff…” I actually did come up with one that I share when anyone asks.

I *may* have squealed a bit when I saw that the Green Bean Delivery box included kale, and again when I saw that it was Italian lacinato kale, which I hadn’t tried yet with this salad. The leaves are more rubbery than grocery store kale, not as “spiky,” with flatter stalks. I also got two beautiful limes in the box, which were a perfect addition.

Most varieties of home-garden kale are a bit more tender and can more readily be eaten like spinach or greens. Almost all kale I have purchased at the grocery store has been very tough and needs to be broken down in some way – either by cooking, marinating, or mashing up like this salad. (Note: This salad’s proper name is “Massaged Kale Salad,” but I always get a bit uncomfortable with the idea of “massaging” vegetables. So I usually just say “Kale Salad.” I know, real descriptive.)

We started with a quick wash on the beautiful bunch of kale. (Again, thoughts of green and green-blue paint colors…)

IMG_5249

Then, the most fun part of pulling the leaves off the stalks. Essentially, just grab the stalk with your left hand, and then the leaves with your right hand and slide them away from one another. The edible leaves will come right off the stalk.

IMG_5250

You’ll end up with a pile of beautiful leaves, which you can then roughly chop or tear into bite-sized pieces. Throw all the pieces into a gallon-sized freezer or storage bag.

photo 1 (2)

Then you want to start making the dressing, right in the bag: a few tablespoons of local honey, 1/8 c extra virgin olive oil, a few twists of fresh cracked pepper…

IMG_5261

…1/2 a fresh squeezed lemon or lime, and a 1/2 teaspoon of cracked sea salt or kosher salt. The secret ingredient that brings everything together is 2 tablespoons of guacamole. We always keep a few bags of Wholly Guacamole in our fridge and freezer for a quick snack or to add to recipes – the fat in the avocados is unbeatable. (You can obviously use fresh avocados – we have just found that lining up their ripe-window with your need-to-use-them-window is tricky, and our boys eat more guacamole than you would believe.)

photo 3 (1)

Once you have the dressing in the bag, squeeze all the air out and seal tightly. Then start mashing! This takes longer with more rubbery kales, and much shorter with garden-fresh kale (our kale-towers in the backyard are almost ready t0 start harvesting!). I would say mash and smash for about 2-3 minutes. What you are trying to achieve here is two-fold: 1. Marinating the kale in the acid of the lemon/lime juice and olive oil, and 2. Breaking down the fibers of the kale with the fresh ground pepper and cracked sea salt. (This is why I stress using fresh ingredients whenever you can. Canned lime/lemon juice is great for some things, but won’t be as strong, and fresh cracked pepper and salt provide the rough edges that pre-ground and table salt don’t.)

After about 5 minutes, open the bag and try a leaf. You can adjust the sweetness, saltiness, and acid levels. If you’re questioning the size of your bunch of kale, try adding less of the ingredients at the beginning so you can adjust up at this point.

For the toppings, I stick to the rule of 1 nut or seed, 1 dried fruit, and 1 cheese and start with a tossing in a small handful of each. Some of our favorite combos are:

Pepitas, dried cranberries and goat cheese

Sliced almonds, dried blueberries and sharp cheddar

Pine nuts, dried apricots, and parmesan


photo 5 (1)

This is sure to be a crowd pleaser – making it is really fun, and good to get little hands involved in mashing the bag of kale!

“Massagaed” Kale Salad

1 bunch of kale, stalks removed and discarded, leaves chopped or torn into bite-sized pieces

1/2 lemon or lime, juiced

1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2-1 tsp fresh cracked sea salt or kosher salt

1 tbs local honey

1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

1-2 tbs avocado or guacamole (optional)

Toppings: 1/4 c each to taste:

Cheese (feta, parmesan, goat, sharp cheddar, etc…)

Dried fruit (cranberries, blueberries, apricots, raisins, etc…)

Seeds or nuts (pepitas, pine nuts, slivered almons, chopped walnuts, sesame seeds, etc…)

Directions: Place kale and dressing ingredients into a gallon storage or freezer bag, squeeze out all the air and seal. Mash the bag for about 2-3 minutes until the kale is tender and alter dressing ingredients to taste. Dump kale in bowl and toss with 1/4 c of one cheese, one dried fruit and one seed/nut.

Nick’s Note: Many of these ingredients come from our sample Green Bean Delivery. Mrs. Breakfast With Nick last shared a tomato and asparagus quiche she made.

Mrs. Breakfast with Nick: Tomato and Asparagus Quiche

I am excited to be writing my first guest-post on the hubby’s blog! I am the most frequent dining-companion sharing a meal with Breakfast with Nick, and it’s fun to share some of the ways we try and introduce our two boys to great, fresh, local food at home. Nick and I share the cooking in our home, and we approach it very differently. Nick prefers to use a recipe that he sticks to. On the other hand, I view recipes more as “guidelines” and am more adept at throwing something together out of what’s in the kitchen. I’m pretty sure that my superhero power is being able to walk into the kitchen with two hungry boys clawing at my knees and put a (fairly) healthy and well-balanced meal on the table in 20 minutes. I like the challenge of it, I like the fast-decision-making part, and I love the multi-tasking efficiency. So I LOVE mystery food boxes, like CSAs. When Nick told me that we were getting a chance to try out a delivery bin from Green Bean Delivery, I was excited – a whole new bin to create delicious meals!

My first creation was the night after we received the bin. Nick was at an evening meeting, so it was just me and two hungry boys and a bunch of produce. We had a few dozen fresh eggs, and the bin included some beautiful asparagus, tomatoes, kale, and limes. I decided on a quiche and used a tried-and-true recipe I keep memorized for times like this! I made a quick pastry crust, and not wanting to mess with the food processor, I just did everything by hand. Prep for the full thing took about 15 minutes, and with cooking time at 35 minutes, it took a bit longer than usual. But it was worth it.

First things first, I started up the oven at 375 degrees, and gathered items for the pastry crust so it could chill a bit. The basic ingredients for the pastry crust are:
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (cut into rough cubes)
3 tablespoons ice water

IMG_5243
In a wide bowl, whisk the flour and salt together, then “cut in” the butter by using a pastry cutter or a few forks until it looks like corn meal. (My normal recipe uses chilled lard as well, but it takes a bit longer, so I’ll show that another time. Butter is delicious too.)
IMG_5244
It should just hold together when pressed, like so:

IMG_5245
Then, going slowly (some say use a spray bottle), add very cold ice water to the mixture a few drops at a time just until it comes together.  I usually just grab a few drops with my hands and spritz it in the bowl.

IMG_5246
Shape into a rough flat disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and put into the fridge for a bit  while you prep the filling. For the filling, my rule of thumb (for my specific pie plate) is 6 eggs, 2 cups of “stuff” (sausage and spinach, asparagus and onions, bacon and mushrooms), spices, and 1/2 cup of cheese. For any veggies, you’ll want to quickly cook those (blanch them in boiling water or sautee in a bit of butter) because the baking portion of the quiche is mainly to cook the eggs, not necessarily cook the other ingredients. (For meat, make sure the bacon, sausage, or chorizo is cooked through.)

For Breakfast with Nick (and those other recipe-followers out there), I did put together a quick “recipe” for this asparagus and tomato quiche:

1 pound fresh asparagus, cleaned and cut into ¾-inch pieces
2 medium tomatoes, cut into eighths
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup onions, chopped
6 large eggs
¾ cup milk
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup shredded Dubliner Irish cheddar

Start by boiling some water and throwing some ice water into a separate bowl, filled with water (for the ice bath). Stare at your beautiful locally-grown asparagus for a while, and wonder if you should paint your kitchen in stunning asparagus purples and greens. I did.

IMG_5241

While the water is coming to a boil, chop up the asparagus into 3/4″ pieces and roughly chop the onion. Throw a small saute pan on the stove on medium, and add the butter to melt.

IMG_5247

When the water is at a boil, throw the asparagus in for about 4-5 minutes. Then add the curry and cayenne pepper to the butter, and throw in the onions. Cook the onions until they are translucent and most of the liquid from the butter has cooked off.

IMG_5263

Once the asparagus hit 5 minutes, take them off, strain them, and put them right into the ice bath to stop the cooking. There are few food-textures worse than an overcooked asparagus.

photo 2 (1)

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk, and grab your cheese and pie crust. We were lucky enough to have some beautiful fresh eggs from Nick’s brother’s chickens, who was visiting from Kentucky a week earlier. (He also has bees! Follow him at the Rooftop Apiary!)

IMG_5242

Look at those bright big yolks! (I don’t have tiny hands, btw, this is my 5-year old helping out. He wants to be, in no particular order, a chef, builder, printer and jet fighter. Go big or go home.)

photo 1 (3)

When all your ingredients for the quiche are ready, spread out the plastic wrap and roll the dough using a lightly-floured rolling pin, and press into a pie plate or tart pan.

photo 4

If you want to get fancy with the edges, great! I didn’t, because my pie pan is huge and this recipe didn’t make enough. (Which are both excuses for the fact that I am HORRIBLE at crimping pie edges. Just terrible.) (If you’d like to see some BEAUTIFULLY crimped pie-edges, take a trip to Worthington to say hi to AJ Perry at Sassafras Bakery and marvel at the perfect crimps.)

photo 5

Sprinkle half of the cheese on the bottom of the chilled pie crust. (I will make a note here that sometimes, some pans don’t do great at cooking the pie crust all the way through in the middle of the bottom of the pie – it stays doughy. If you know this about your pans, try par-baking it at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. When you go to actually bake it, you might need to cover the crust edge with a layer of foil so you don’t burn it.)

photo 2 (2)

Then dump the asparagus, spiced onions, and tomatoes in.

photo 3 (2)

Finally, fill it up with the eggs and top it with the rest of the cheese.

photo 4 (1)

Once you bake it in a 375 degree oven for about 35 minutes, switch it to the top rack for 3-5 minutes on broil (do not walk away from the oven – I’m saying this more for myself than you.) This gives it a great crispy cheese top which, let’s be honest, is why we all eat quiche in the first place. (IGNORE THE NON-CRIMPED EDGES!)

IMG_5279

Let it sit for a few minutes before you slice and enjoy!

IMG_5286

Stay tuned for more creations!

Pastry
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (cut into rough cubes)
3 tablespoons ice water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a wide bowl, whisk the flour and salt together in a bowl, then “cut in” the butter by using a pastry cutter or a few forks until it looks like corn meal. Taking a few spritzes of cold water (with spray bottle or just using fingers), wet the flour mixture a bit at a time until it just holds together – don’t add too much or it will get sticky. Pat into a flat disc, wrap in plastic wrap and put in fridge for 15-30 minutes. Remove, and then roll out with a floured rolling pin onto the plastic wrap. Then use that to transfer to a pie dish. Depending on your dish, you might need to throw some flour or non-stick spray into the bottom of the pan. Pat the crust into the pan and then crimp the edges. (I’m not the one to ask about this.) Fill, and bake according to pie or quiche instructions.

Asparagus and Tomato Quiche
(Note: try subbing the asparagus, tomatoes, and onions with Bacon and mushrooms or sausage and spinach)

1 pound fresh asparagus, cleaned and cut into ¾-inch pieces
2 medium tomatoes, cut into eighths
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup onions, chopped
6 large eggs
¾ cup milk
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup shredded Dubliner Irish cheddar

Instructions:

Start by boiling some water and throwing some ice water into a separate bowl, filled with water (for the ice bath). While the water is coming to a boil, chop up the asparagus into 3/4″ pieces and roughly chop the onion. Throw a small saute pan on the stove on medium, and add the butter to melt. When the water is at a boil, throw the asparagus in for about 4-5 minutes. Then add the curry and cayenne pepper to the butter, and throw in the onions. Cook the onions until they are translucent and most of the liquid from the butter has cooked off. Once the asparagus hit 5 minutes, take them off, strain them, and put them right into the ice bath to stop the cooking. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk, and grab your cheese and pie crust. Sprinkle half of the cheese on the bottom of the chilled pie crust, and dump the asparagus, spiced onions, and tomatoes in. Finally, fill it up with the eggs and top it with the rest of the cheese. Once you bake it in a 375 degree oven for about 35 minutes, switch it to the top rack for 3-5 minutes on broil. Let it sit for a few minutes before you slice and enjoy!

Photos: Roasting with Thunderkiss Coffee

IMG_7266
Last week I spent the evening with Jason Valentine of Thunkerkiss Coffee while he roasted coffee. Jason is a small batch coffee roaster here in Columbus; he roasts out of his garage and distributes his beans to area vendors and restaurants. Even if you don’t know his stuff directly, chances are you’ve had it or seen it around Columbus.

IMG_7183
I’ve taken a number of workshops on coffee and coffee roasting, attended tastings, etc., but I’ve never had the chance to just sit and ask endless questions about the roasting process. We began in Jason’s basement, where he stores bags of green coffee beans. He roasts 1-2 nights per week. Before roasting, he weighs and sorts the beans into labeled containers, all based on a spreadsheet listing the customer, the roast(s) they’ve requested, and how they are to be delivered (6 oz bags, 12 oz bags, etc.). Some vendors brew his coffee for their restaurants, some retail bags of whole beans, and some do both.

IMG_7185
Jason roasts single origin coffees, meaning they come from one specific place, although he does make some of his own blends, such as the espresso blend. The green beans can be stored for a long time; they are processed out of cherries from the coffee plant. The cherries have been pulped so we’re left with just the internal bean, and sometimes the mucilage, a thin layer surrounding the bean itself. Some Ethiopian beans, for instance, are dried out before de-pulping, which lets the mucilage harden around the bean, adding a certain flavor when roasting. Even before these beans are roasted, you can identify different characteristics just by sticking your nose in the bag.

IMG_8339
Roasting takes some time, so we started with a shot of espresso made from his espresso blend.

IMG_8357
Jason has been roasting for a couple years now. He keeps detailed notes of the timing and temperature from each roast.

IMG_7212
All of the essential supplies.

IMG_7237
As the roaster is heating up, the green beans are placed in a hopper on top.

IMG_7186
Jason roasts on a Diedrich infrared roaster. This type of roaster is compact, more energy efficient, and it uses a radiating heat to roast the beans, rather than a direct flame on the drum.

IMG_8342
The entire roasting process takes roughly 20 minutes, depending on the bean, the amount you’re roasting, and the type of roast you’re aiming for. The real factors of roasting include time, temperature, and air flow. The final roast depends on the manipulation of these three elements. While certain beans innately contain different flavor and aroma profiles (some are naturally earthlier, some brighter and fruitier), they can be roasted at different temperatures and for different times to highlight these characteristics.

The first stage of roasting is called the drying out phase. It lasts approximately 4-5 minutes, and heats the beans to the point where the water in them evaporates. Even at this stage, Jason can control how much air is flowing around the beans. Adding more at this point results in a brighter, more acidic roast.

IMG_8360
This tool allows Jason to check samples of the beans during roasting. He can examine the color and aroma.

IMG_8355
At this point the beans are entering the second phase: the maillard phase, also known as the “cinnamon phase.” This happens around 300 degrees F, and here the color begins to develop. (I learned later that “maillard” refers generally to the browning that happens when food is cooked, like bread or meat.)

IMG_7221
Once the cinnamon phase has passed, the roaster is working toward first crack. At this point there’s a literal crack – a whole lot of them, in fact – as the center of the bean is fracturing and the sugar in it melts. It sounds a like tiny little popcorn popping. After this you are headed for second crack, when the sugar crystallizes and burns into carbon, and the beans express oil that can coat them. Most roasts are stopping just short of this point because the burnt sugars lead to more bitterness. Once the roasting is complete, Jason opens the hopper that dumps the hot beans into a lower tray. The darker the roast, the smokier the process, and the more oily the beans will look.

IMG_7223
A series of levers in the tray begin swirling the beans around. At this point, Jason shifts the airflow to a fan that draws air down through the beans. This cools the beans and stops them from baking any further. Given the colder temperatures of December, the beans cooled quickly.

IMG_7238
At the front center of the tray is a flat plate without any air holes. Once Jason turns off the levers, he brushes the beans off this plate. The plate has heated up after coming into contact with them, so brushing the beans away keeps them from burning.

IMG_7260
Here’s a full cooled batch.

IMG_8353
Once they’re cooled, he can slide the plate open, turn on the mechanism, and the arms sweep every last remaining coffee bean into buckets. While this is happening, the roasting drum is brought to temperature and prepped for the next batch.

IMG_7247
The completed roasts are labeled and dated, and ready to be delivered or sorted and sealed into smaller bags.

I very much enjoyed hanging out with Jason. He does incredible work, and his passion for coffee and everything about it shows through his willingness to talk about it and teach it. We’ve been sampling a number of his roasts at home, and have loved every one of them. If you haven’t tried his coffee yet, do so soon. Look up his website (thunderkisscoffee.com) for a list of where to purchase his beans or which restaurants are serving them.

Lucky’s Cafe | Cleveland, OH

IMG_6584
Lucky’s Cafe
(Facebook / @LuckysCafe)

777 Starkweather Ave. (map it!)
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 622-7773
Open Mon-Fri, 7a-5p; Sat & Sun, 8a-5p (bfast served 9a-3p daily, all other hours feature coffee and pastries only)
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/Y/Y
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 9:00 a.m.

Lucky’s is the first breakfast I’ve had in Cleveland, and judging by the recommendations I’ve had for it over the years, it’s a very good place to start. On a recent weekend excursion hosted by Positively Cleveland, our blogger group visited Lucky’s for our Saturday morning breakfast stop. Our exact itinerary was guided by Cleverlanders through social media using the hashtag #HappyinCLE, and they overwhelmingly sent us to Lucky’s.

This breakfast was provided as part of our weekend visit. If you want to read about Part 1 of the visit, see here!

IMG_6585
Lucky’s is situated in the heart of Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood, an up-and-coming area full of beautiful houses with little shops and restaurants tucked in between them. Approaching Lucky’s from the front, you’ll see a large patio and a garden next to it. By 9 a.m. on a Saturday, the place was filling up.

IMG_6603
We learned that the owner Heather Haviland is originally a pastry chef, and she began her role at Lucky’s baking an array of delicious goods before she eventually took over the business.

IMG_6597
Because of that, there’s a big counter up at the front with loads of beautiful baked goods and full coffee service. The cafe even has opening and closing hours during which they only sell coffee and pastries.

IMG_6602
The inside of the cafe is bright and crammed full of tables, with the rear section raised up a couple steps.

IMG_6587
Our meal kicked off with an appetizer of sorts: a few orders of Lucky’s pecan bacon. I’m a fan of bacon in general (that goes without saying), but you’ll always keep my attention by doing something to the bacon. Lucky’s bacon is cooked through without being too crisp, and the topping is earthy and sweet without being over the top. If you were just coming to Lucky’s to eat a plate (or four) of pecan bacon, you’d be in good shape.

IMG_6593
I ordered one of the suggested dishes: the Shipwreck. There are certainly days when I can’t or won’t decide on what to get for breakfast, and that’s when catch-all meals like the Shipwreck are handy. It’s a little bit of everything: bacon, eggs, potatoes, veggies, cheese, plus toast and fruit on the side. Although it’s a big dish to reckon with, it was all cooked well without being dried out. Suffice to say, I finished it.

IMG_6589
Another member of our party order the bruleed steel cut oatmeal, a heaping bowl of oats covered with winter fruits and lightly torched. It also came with a beautiful side of eggs en croute, baked in a dish with spinach and cream.

IMG_6595
There’s also the biscuits, topped with cheese, eggs, and gravy, plus a side of potatoes and fruit. It’s a big chunky gravy, served in a huge portion.

IMG_6208
Our server did a great job handling our slightly larger group, and the food came out quickly (although it was nice having the pecan bacon appetizer). Part of me really thrives on seeing busy breakfast and brunch cafes on Saturdays and Sundays. These are the biggest days for the morning meal, and places like Lucky’s are at the heart of any local scene.

IMG_6600
On our way out we sneaked a peak at some of the bakery offerings, although we were so stuffed we couldn’t imagine picking up anything.

IMG_6608
Like many of the restaurants we saw over the weekend, Lucky’s prides itself on usually locally-produced goods. Behind the patio lies a little garden. We were told that Lucky’s employees work part of their shift tending to the garden, so everyone is invested and knowledgeable in the cafe’s mission.

So there you have it: breakfast stop #1 in Cleveland. I’m happy to have finally been to Lucky’s. It’ll certainly be on my radar during any return visits.

Lucky's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Trillium Haven | Grand Rapids, MI

IMG_2072

UPDATE July 2013: Trillium Haven has changed ownership and been renamed Terra GR. Expect that the menu and hours have changed.

Trillium Haven (Facebook / @TrilliumHaven)
1429 Lake Dr. (map it!)
Grand Rapids, MI 49506
(616) 301-0998
Open Mon-Fri, 11a-3p & 5-11p; brunch served Sat & Sun, 10a-3p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Saturday, December 29, 2012 at 10:00 a.m.

IMG_2065

Although we have a favorite breakfast in Grand Rapids – Real Food Cafe – we’re always trying to explore the new options around town. Grand Rapids has a growing food scene, with new cafes and breweries and coffee shops popping up in every neighborhood. One other development is an increase in farm-to-table dining, which means restaurants responsibly sourcing their ingredients from local farms, roasters, wineries, butchers, bakers, and maybe even candlestick makers, too. Enter Trillium Haven.

IMG_2031

Trillium Have is set up at a three-way juncture in Eastown, one of Grand Rapids’ hipper neighborhoods. The name derives from Trillium Haven Farm, about 15 minutes outside of Grand Rapids. A trillium, by the by, is a three-petaled perennial; it’s illegal to pick them from public land in Michigan. Hence, the farm name Trillium Haven.

IMG_2033

The very tall and bright space echoes the natural character of their menu: lots of smooth wood accents, warm lighting, creams and reds, greenery. Just the restaurant space itself is worth a visit.

IMG_2036

The restaurant is split in half with an open bar; on the right you’ll find a large seating area plus an open kitchen. On the left is more seating, with curtains indicating even more space for larger parties.

IMG_2023

This type of menu is designed to make a breakfast- or brunch-lover drool. Try reading some of it aloud: hash with coffee-smoked pork belly and root vegetables. Kale eggs benedict with Canadian bacon and brown butter hollandaise. Frittata with black beans, ancho chilis, and squash.

IMG_2029

Coffee is locally sourced from Rowster New American Coffee, about a mile away. Inspired by Trilium’s menu, we visited Rowster after brunch. Trillium offered a nice coffee setup, with pottery mugs and dishes, and a carafe left on the table.

IMG_2057

This is the pork belly hash, complete with slices of the belly (smoked with Rowster coffee), root vegetables, brussel sprouts, a white cheese, and a couple eggs to order. It’s all drizzled with a little maple syrup. It’s a really interesting contrast of flavors: smokey and salty in the pork belly, earthy notes from the veggies, a little tart from the cheese, and then a sweetness from the maple syrup. This certainly isn’t a traditional hash, but there’s a lot to like about it, although oddly enough the syrup sometimes overpowers the other elements.

IMG_2058

Mrs. Bfast w/Nick’s favorite breakfast is pretty much anything with good smoked or salted salmon, so she ordered the smoked salmon scramble. It’s an open-face scramble served over toast and featuring the expected salmon accoutrement: capers, red onions, cream cheese. Overall, a really solid breakfast.

IMG_2061

Pork belly hash in progress.

IMG_2040

What’s brunch without a good Bloody Mary? Trillium’s was rich and heavily spiced.

IMG_2049

And you can’t pass up a good breakfast pizza. This one featured potatoes, bacon, greens, hollandaise, and a fried egg for dipping. A very good representation of breakfast in pizza form.

IMG_2062

The meal ended with a nice little touch: recipe cards given with your bill. This helps you continue your dining experience by recreating some of the dishes you’ve tried at the restaurant.

Our overall experience at Trillium Haven was a good one and I certainly recommend it as a brunch spot, although at times the farm-to-table descriptions can be overwhelming. I appreciate the attention to detail, but sometimes being given the low-down on everything from even the dab of butter to the glob of jam next to your toast can amount to so many details you can’t keep them straight. If you’re a person who prefers the simple eggs-and-bacon breakfast, Trillium may prove to be sensory overload. All the same, they offer a solid brunch with some really creative plates, attentive service, and a really beautiful space.
Trillium Haven on Urbanspoon

Eat a local breakfast!

Local Foods Week is nearly upon us! Join Local Matters from August 11-19 for a jam-packed schedule of markets, tastings, tours, classes, trucks, and family events (see complete schedule at the link above). Remember that you should always start with a good breakfast, so if you want to get a solid beginning to the week, you need a hearty early meal. You can kick off the celebration by stopping at one of these suggested places.

One of my regular breakfasts around town, Katalina’s Cafe Corner, prides itself on sourcing local ingredients whenever possible. Their favorite Mazatlan pork and egg sandwich uses a succulent pork shoulder from Bluescreek Farms. Likewise, the spices for their Latin-themed dishes come from local markets or from North Market Spices.

Likewise, Rick and Krista at Knead Urban Diner pride themselves on creating delectable meals out of Ohio ingredients. They cure many of their own meats, bake their own breads and pastries, and literally hang a map on the wall showing from where their ingredients are sourced. Rick’s house-made bacon is worthy of note, or their homemade sausage gravy and biscuits, featuring eggs from Holistic Acres.

And don’t forget the coffee! Columbus is full of strong coffee roasters. The recently opened One Line Coffee in Short North roasts their own beans in Heath, Ohio. They use all manner of coffee preparations – hot and cold, simple and complex – to show off their roasts.

Even if you’re making breakfast at home this week, try picking up some local ingredients to build your dishes. Stop by the Clintonville Community Market or North Market Poultry & Game for Ohio eggs. Pick up some challah from Eleni-Christina Bakery in Short North. Visit any one of the city’s farmers’ markets to get fresh veggies for an omelet.

Join me for the start of Local Foods Week tomorrow morning! I’m hosting the pancake breakfast at the Hills Market from 8-11, and I’ll be selling/signing books, too!

Banana Bean Cafe (German Village) | Columbus, OH

UPDATE: This location is now home to Skillet. Banana Bean moved to a new location on Greenlawn Avenue but has since CLOSED.

Banana Bean Cafe (@bananabeancafe)
410 E. Whittier St.
Columbus, OH 43206
(614) 443-2262
Open Monday 11-2:30, Tuesday-Friday 11-2:30, 5:30-8, Saturday & Sunday 9-3
Accepts cash and credit cards

Date of Visit: Saturday, February 2, 2008 at 10 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: Beth and I have been hearing about Banana Bean Cafe for about a year now, including lots of raving on Columbus Underground, so when a Saturday morning opened up for us, I made a reservation and we drove down to German Village to see for ourselves. The Cafe is a tiny restaurant on East Whittier Street, in the southeast corner of German Village. I can imagine this place as a great place to start a day of wandering and shopping in the Village. We found parking on the street right next to the restaurant, even on a fairly busy Saturday morning.

ATMOSPHERE: When you open the front door to the cafe, you are quite literally standing in the middle of the restaurant. Take one step too far, and you’ll bump into a table. I counted a total of nine tables, plus a bar with three seats. When we waltzed in on Saturday morning, every table had a piece of paper noting that the table was reserved. EVERY table.

Here’s a shot of a couple tables. This comprises about half the restaurant. They were playing the music of Pink Martini, and great band from Portland, Oregon. Points!
Here’s a shot out the window next to our table. Beth said I wouldn’t use this picture, so just to prove her wrong, I did. We were seated right next to the front window, and right above a register. So all of my impressions of Banana Bean Cafe are formed by a warm, cozy feeling. Seriously, the hot air from the register, on a brisk February morning, nearly put me to sleep.

The restaurant is simply decorated with flags and pictures from Key West and the Caribbean. Banana Bean features “the patina of Key West,” which means it blends the cuisine of Cuba, Jamaica, the Caribbean, and the Florida Keys. I don’t know about your town, but there’s nothing else like this in Columbus. So, bonus for uniqueness.

Hanging above the bar is a flat screen TV. At first, Beth and I thought it was a live camera trained on the back patio. But then we noticed people setting up tables wearing shorts and T-shirts. We figured something was amiss. We asked our server, and she said it was a live feed from the Hog’s Breath Saloon in Key West, Florida. So cruel, in this cold Ohio February.

You can view the webcam yourself by checking out the Hog’s Breath’s website.FOOD: Remember that vent underneath our table? The one that pumped warm air around us on a cold, cold February day, as we watched a live feed of folks in shorts living in Key West? Now here’s the culinary equivalent of that cozy feeling: the Bananas Foster French Toast.This has become one of Banana Bean’s signature pieces, and quite rightfully so. It’s a heaping mound of custardy sweet slices of French toast, topped with sliced bananas, strawberries, and blueberries. The menu says it’s topped with a Captain Morgan spiced rum sauce, although to us it seemed more like a lightly-spiced syrup. Still, it wasn’t drenched on like high-fructose corn syrup. All in all, this wasn’t the most nuanced French toast I’ve had the pleasure of stuffing in my face, but this certainly was a huge pile of tasty comfortable-ness. I could go back again and again for this dish. Really: you should try it.We also tried another Banana Bean signature: the Eggs del Mar. Another amazing tasty treat: two poached eggs on top of lump crab cakes (!) on a bed of fresh spinach, tomatoes, with a light hollandaise sauce. The seasonings and herbs make this an incredibly tasty dish. It’s the right-sized portion, bursting with flavors.

Here’s another shot of our two breakfasts. Note the big, wide coffee cups. Banana Bean serves Cuban coffee, which is delicious. Fits the breakfast perfectly.

Banana Bean Cafe’s menu is a little pricier, although not bad for what you get. The French toast was about $9, and the Eggs del Mar $12. I think the prices were definitely fair, because the food was so rich and flavorful.

Another challenge to their menu: it’s HUGE! There are so many items on it, and to complicate things, the morning we went they had FOUR specials, all of which sounded great. Overall, it’s great to have a big selection, but it’s overwhelming to the customer. If there were more menu items, I would honestly worry that they were spreading themselves thin with too many specialties. That being said, just reading the menu aloud made my mouth water. I want to do a staged reading of it someday. Check it out: Huey, Louis, Andouille; Roasted Corn & Blueberry Pancakes; Cedar Key Shrimp & Grits; Floribbean Jerk Chicken; Calle Ocho; Oyster Po Boy; Slash & Burn Grouper; Ancho & Coffee Rubbed Flatiron Steak. The list goes on and deliciously on.

SERVICE: Our server was great, and the food came out amazingly fast. Seriously, if it came out any faster, I’d be worried about whether it was nuked or not. Then again, when you’ve got nine tables, two visible servers, and probably another two or three people working the kitchen, it must be easy to keep up.

OVERALL: I can’t wait to go back to Banana Bean Cafe. It was a cozy, flavorful experience. The only things keeping me away are the slightly-higher prices and the absolute need for reservations. Knowing the quality of the food and the overall experience, I’m sure there’s a steady stream of folks heading there for dinner. So you can’t go here for a cheap, spur-of-the-moment meal. There are other places in Columbus for that.

That being said, I’m still planning our next visit here. After all, there are about 40 more menu items we need to try!

Bye-bye!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 273 other followers