RSS Feed

Tag Archives: local

Photos: Roasting with Thunderkiss Coffee

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.

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.

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.

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

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

All of the essential supplies.

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

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.

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.

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

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.)

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.

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.

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.

Here’s a full cooled batch.

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.

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 ( for a list of where to purchase his beans or which restaurants are serving them.

Lucky’s Cafe | Cleveland, OH

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!

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Pork belly hash in progress.


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


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.


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!



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 237 other followers