Cappuccino Sighting!

In the fall of 2008, we adopted a whale named Cappuccino, a member of the Southern Resident Killer Whale Community’s K Pod. These whales hang out in the Puget Sound during the warmer months of the year, and spend a lot of their time during the rest of the year traveling either to or fro the warmer waters off of Mexico.

Of course, we chose Cappuccino for his fetching name, but we had no idea that he was such a player! He’s rarely seen with his native K Pod when they come to town, favoring the L Pod community instead and — perhaps — its lady population.

Sightings of him lately have been few and far between and, we must admit, we were¬† a little bit concerned that something may have happened to him. But our little renegade was actually spotted off the coast of Florence, OR, by a fisherman at the end of January — in the company of a few K Pod rowdies and, of course, some ladies from L Pod. We can’t hate the player, just the game.

Want to learn more about these whales and how to adopt one? Check out the Whale Museum of Friday Harbor.

Field Trip: Hario USA – Edwin Demos a Halogen Bar

As magical as it is tasty, commercial grade halogen bars are configurable to brew at a flatline temperature, which is fairly unique amongst coffee brewing methods. When we visited Hario USA, Edwin Martinez showed us how this awesome machine works — and while it would be rare to use these at home (or even to see them in cafes in the US, actually), we thought the mad science + brewing tips shed some great light on making great coffee in general.

Western Regional Barista Championship

The world is back on the road toward crowning another barista champion, taking the helm over from last year’s winner Gwilym Davies. The next qualifying event in the US is the Western Regional Barista Championship, taking place in LA this weekend — 2/26 – 2/28 — at Siren Studios on Sunset. Baristas from California and Hawaii will be competing against each other to qualify for the US Barista Championship later this year. That final winner will then compete on the international stage against other national champs from around the world.

In addition to the competition itself, they usually have other great events that coffee lovers in general will enjoy. This year, they’re holding an ‘Origin to Art: Coffee Expo and Art Exhibit’ during all three days of the competition that will feature tastings, demonstrations and interaction.

Hoping to catch one of the competitions in your region? There’s a few more left to go and you can find out more from the main US Barista Championship website.

Baratza Vario H2 Display Upgrade

Baratza recently released an upgraded display for their Vario grinder, which now has memory (so it retains its programming even when the grinder is unplugged) and sleep mode functionality. If you have a Vario that was manufactured before March 2010, you can purchase the upgraded display separately and easily install it yourself. Vario models produced from March 2010 forward will have this new display as standard.

We filmed Henry as he installed the upgraded display in our older floor demo model. Questions on how to program the sleep mode? Check out these instructions.

Field Trip: Hario USA – Edwin Compares Pour Overs

The pour over technique can produce an excellent, single-cup of coffee at home with relatively minimal investment. It does take a little bit of knowledge on the front end, and choosing which pour over is the right one for you can be part of this. We headed up to the US HQ of Hario USA (a Japanese company) awhile back, and talked with the US rep, Edwin Martinez, about all kinds of coffee related subjects. In this video, he explains the concept behind pour overs and compares a few different available models.

Newswatch: Caffeine & Alcohol

Let’s face it: Life can be a little rough around the edges sometimes — and we’re not afraid to smooth out said edges by administering a well-crafted cocktail. We’ve written in the past about a delicious stout that incorporates espresso and about one of our favorite espresso and hazelnut-infused vodkas on the market, so you can imagine our concern when we started reading news last fall that the FDA was examining whether or not the combination of caffeine and alcohol was safe for public consumption.

In November of 2009, the FDA sent out requests to manufacturers who have been producing drinks that have both caffeine and alcohol in them, asking that the companies provide evidence that the combination can be safely ingested. Included in this investigation, however, were a few smaller breweries and distilleries that were incorporating coffee into their drinks.

With health agencies around the world examining the energy drink market because of the adverse impact it has had on the health of some populations (specifically college students), it’s no surprise that alcoholic beverages with an additive of caffeine might also come under scrutiny. But will the FDA’s inquiries lead to the discontinuation of the gourmet microbrews and distilled spirits that have a little kick in their step?

We followed up with PR rep Michael Herndon of the FDA to see where the investigation was at, and what type of impact — if any — the ruling may have on our favorite java stouts and coffee vodkas. According to him, none. “This FDA action is not directed at products that are flavored with coffee.¬† At this time, the FDA is focusing its attention on products in which caffeine has been intentionally added to alcoholic beverages by the manufacturers.” As of this writing, only 19 of the total 27 inquiries have received responses, and the next step is to review any scientific data on the subject. While there is no specific timeline in regard to when the FDA will make its final ruling on the subject, Herndon noted that it is a high priority at the agency.

Recipe: Lamb with Espresso Glaze

Look, we don’t like eating lamb. We’re not afraid to admit it — every time it’s on a dinner partner’s plate, we can’t help but think of carefully choreographed herding or Dolly. While we know we’re not alone in this proclivity, we also know of many folks (including frequent dinner partners) who savor the flavor, so this recipe is for them.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 2 – 3 lbs. New Zealand lamb leg
  • 5 – 6 pieces peeled garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. dry rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp. thyme
  • 6 sprigs mint
  • 1/4 tsp. marjoram
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 3 tsps. olive oil
  • For Espresso Glaze: 1/2 cup espresso coffee, 1/2 cup cream, 2 tsps. honey


  1. With a sharp knife cut slits all over the lamb, peel the garlic and cut into slices. Fill the slits with garlic slices.
  2. Make a mixture from the dried herbs, salt and oil; rub evenly over the surface of the lamb.
  3. Place the roast in a plastic bag and leave it to marinate in the fridge overnight.
  4. Stick the roasting thermometer into the deepest part of the roast and then place the roast onto a flat casserole or baking tray. Roast at 250 degrees F for approximately 1-1/2 hours. If you prefer your roast pink, you should remove from the oven when the roasting thermometer reaches 158 degrees F. Otherwise leave it until 167 degrees F.
  5. While roasting, baste the roast from time to time with a mixture made from the coffee, cream and honey. After the roast is ready, wrap it in foil to allow it to set.
  6. Sauce can be prepared from the skimmed stock of the roast. Strain the stock from the baking tray into a saucepan. (To make it easier to skim the extra fat off, set the stock aside to cool.)
  7. Heat the stock together with 1/2 cup of whipping cream and 1 tsp. of honey.
  8. Mix well while the sauce is simmers at medium heat. Reduce to a sauce consistency .


Crew Review: Saeco Talea Giro Plus

Recently, Saeco re-worked their Talea Giro superautomatic and released the ‘Plus’ version in the US. This new model includes a bi-pass doser, an upgraded grinder and some other minor functional improvements.

Watch Gail talk to us about this new version, brew some coffee and steam up some milk. Whoopee!

Crew Review: Saeco Via Venezia

With a little more sass than the Aroma — like a steam wand with more range of motion, buttons located on the front of the machine and a little drawer under the drip tray — the Via Venezia is an excellent semi-automatic that is simple and easy to use. Watch as Gail takes us through its features, brews up some coffee and froths some milk for us.