Category Archives: Food and Drink

Field Trip: Zoka Cup of Excellence Tasting

You may be wondering, what is the Cup of Excellence (COE)? How will my cup measure up? Will it give me an inferiority complex? I was first introduced to the COE on a recent field trip to Zoka Coffee Roasters, where Sam and I got a tour of the facility and the low down from head roaster Celeste Clark.

The COE is one of the most esteemed awards given to coffee roasters. Over the course of three weeks and at least five tasting rounds, coffees are rated based on the following criteria: cleanness of cup (can the coffee’s terroir show through?), acidity (does it have a brightness to it?), mouthfeel, flavor (a combination of taste and aroma), aftertaste, balance and overall score. Each round eliminates the lowest rated coffees, and the last ones standing that receive 85 points or higher are Cup of Excellence Winners. Among the highest quality coffees in the world, consider yourself lucky to get your hands on these beans.

Zoka is no newcomer to the COE and coffee roasting accolades, their founder Jeff Babcock having previously judged the Guatemala Cup of Excellence competition.  On our recent field trip, we tasted their Espresso Palladino Blend, Tuscan Blend, Colonel Fitzroy and Java Nica according to COE standards. We started the cupping process by experiencing the aroma of the ground coffee in each cup, three cups per blend to compensate for any inconsistencies. We then combined equal parts ground coffee and water, allowing the coffee to bloom and steep for four minutes.  While breaking the delicious brownie-like crust (see photo for action shot), we got to experience the aroma a second time.

Celeste and Dana, pros in the coffee world, then went to work removing the grounds from each cup, and we waited six more minutes before we had our first sip. Like tasting a fine wine, a loud slurp from the spoon was key to getting enough air on the palette to highlight various flavor profiles.  To prevent caffeine overload, it’s commonplace to spit post-slurp, rinse your spoon and repeat with the next cup. Slurp, savor, spit, rinse and repeat. As the coffees cooled down even further, different flavors began to shine through, and I tasted more cinnamon notes in the Java Nica, hints of pecan in the Colonel Fitzroy and the Palladino’s deep molasses undertones. It was a coffee revelation!

I’m often so eagerly awaiting my cup of java in the morning that I throw it back quickly to feed my inner-beast, but this experience reminded me to take the time to indulge in each cup. Savor your coffee as it cools from piping hot to room temperature – you’re guaranteed to taste more complexity with each sip.

Thank you to Zoka for sharing this meticulous cupping technique with us and being so generous with their time! If you’re a lucky Seattlite, stop by one of their cafes and treat yourself to an artfully crafted coffee beverage this winter.

Brewin’ with Brandi: Pina Colada Straight UP

We’re not going to serenade you about how we ‘accidentally’ answered your personal ad in the newspaper, lover, but we will make you one of your favorite drinks! Brandi incorporates Monin’s delicious coconut syrup into this straight-up version of one of our favorite swim-up bar offerings on the planet.

Ingredients

Directions

In a shaker filled with ice, combine all ingredients and shake well to combine. Strain into a martini glass and sip while reminiscing about sunnier days.

Homage to Brewing: Burgundian’s Coffee Beer Festival

Is it possible? Could two of my favorite beverages, coffee and beer, share the same glass at the same time, in the same reality? String theory aside, Burgudian’s Coffee Beer Fest last weekend accomplished this very feat, and Sam and I were fortunate enough to attend.

With over 20 coffee beers, 5 toddy cocktails and a caffeine-infused food menu to get through, we braced ourselves for the long haul — thankfully, doors opened at 10am.  Here’s a rundown of our favorites from the artfully constructed line-up:

Big Time’s Marzen Oktoberfest aged on Stumptown’s Ethiopia Mordecofe: This medium brown combo was light and refreshing, with hints of brown sugar and citrus notes — a solid standby throughout the afternoon.

Fremont Dark Star Imperial Oatmeal Stout aged on Tony’s Ganesha Espresso: The highest gravity mix at 8% ABV, this beer was big and balanced with a hint of sweetness. It highlighted the espresso’s depth and the stout’s molasses undertones.

Elysian’s Split Shot Coffee Milk Stout with Lighthouse Coffee:  Velvety, dark and mysterious, this stout was extremely smooth and mellow, reminiscent of Guinness.

Straight Bourbon Cold ToddyZoka cold toddy, bourbon, vanilla citrus bitters, orange zest. Smooth toddy spiked with citrus made this cocktail refreshing and dangerously sippable. I’m re-creating this next summer.

Bacon Dipped in Coffee-Infused Chocolate: Um, this kind of speaks for itself. Fan-freakin’-tastic!

It’s Friday, and I wish we could do it all over again tomorrow. Thank you to the Brouwer’s crew and Burgundian for orchestrating a killer event. We just hope that we won’t have to wait a full year to again witness another marriage of beans and hops.

Brewin’ with Brandi: Gingerbread Cream Cocoa

The leaves are changing, the air is getting a bit more crisp in the mornings and you might find yourself taking a long, serious look at that fleece in the closet. Like everything in life, the seasons must change, so why not welcome the arrival of autumn with a delicious beverage?

Brandi’s newest recipe uses the one-touch simplicity of the Breville Milk Cafe to do all the heavy lifting. Watch her whip up this lovely cocoa.

Ingredients

Directions

Combine syrup, sauce and milk in an automatic frother, then engage to combine them! Alternately, you could steam up or heat your milk separately, then stir sauce and syrup in afterward.

Back to the Roots: Putting coffee grounds to work

What do you do with your coffee grounds?  Compost them, toss them in the garbage, leave them in your knock box and forget about them until you get yelled at by your house mate? Don’t do the latter, mold is a serious health concern, people. ;)

Co-founders Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora put recycled coffee grounds to work every day at their company Back to the Roots. The pair met at UC Berkley, and were inspired by a lecture that discussed the potential to grow gourmet mushrooms entirely on recycled coffee grounds. Sparked by this fun fact and a little entrepreneurial spirit, they started growing mushrooms in a bucket of used grounds, and eventually developed mushroom growing kits that you can use in the comfort of your home.

The kit comes with a cardboard carrier, bag of recycled coffee grounds, mushroom spores and a water mister.  With a little TLC (mist the bag twice a day) and in as few as 10 days, you can harvest your first batch of oyster mushrooms and most kits yield at least two crops.

Check out my first batch after 14 days. These mushrooms ended up on my plate sautéed with garlic, olive oil, chili flakes and tossed with angel hair pasta. Delicious!

Back to the Roots is on track to recycle 3.6 million pounds of coffee grounds from Peet’s Coffee and Tea in 2012, and help families grow over 135,000 pounds of fresh food in their own homes. Sustainability + yummy mushrooms = many happy tummies. I bet you’re going to think twice before tossing out your coffee grounds now – am I right?

Brewin’ with Brandi: Coffee Punch

You’ve got pals over for the big game, the end-of-summer barbecue, the block party — or all three — and you need something to serve up that is both sweet and caffeinated, right? Right. Well you know that Brandi’s got you covered with a sumptuous treat that will have you cheering for more.

Ingredients

  • 8 cups of brewed coffee – we used Velton’s Twilight Blend
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 pint heavy cream
  • 1/4 gallon chocolate ice cream
  • 1/4 gallon vanilla ice cream

Directions

  1. Brew up a batch of your favorite coffee and, while it’s still hot, dissolve sugar into it.
  2. Chill for at least 45 minutes — more if you can do so.
  3. Add heavy cream and stir well, then chill until you are ready to serve.
  4. To serve, pour coffee mixture into a punch bowl. Scoop the ice cream into the mixture and blend together. Enjoy!

Brewin’ with Brandi: Mocha Butter

Like buttah, baby! Like buttah.

Because Brandi is hell bent on making the rest of us significantly more portly while she remains svelte, she has concocted yet another sinfully delicious recipe for us to tempt ourselves with! This is a perfect way to dress up that jar of peanut butter which has been hanging around the cupboard for a bit too long … if you need a reason to make something so yummy, that is. We’re pretty sure this is part of a balanced breakfast.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 & 1/2 cups smooth peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon espresso

Directions

  1. Melt chocolate chips in double boiler or microwave until smooth. Take care not to burn the chocolate and let it cool a bit so that it’s barely warm.
  2. Scrape melted chocolate into a large boil.
  3. Add peanut butter, butter, sugar and vanilla extract.
  4. Stir thoroughly to combine.

Brewin’ with Brandi: Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate

While the calendar reads summer, the seasons are already threatening to change on us here in the Pacific Northwest! Brandi decided to craft a lovely hot beverage using Bodum’s Hot Chocolate Maker. While using it makes it super easy — and fun! — you could also just heat everything up on the stove together and you’d get similar, albeit less frothy, results.

Ingredients

Directions
Heat milk (on stovetop or microwave – your call), add the sauces and salt, then mix well. Serve with a dangerous dose of whipped cream and enjoy!

Brewin’ with Brandi: Mocha Syrup

Life is sweet when you’ve got Brandi around! Not only does she have a lovely demeanor, she also crafts deliciously naughty treats like this Mocha Syrup! Reminiscent of the chocolate chip pancakes from our youth, this syrup can also be used on ice cream or anything else that needs a healthy dose of rich mocha goodness!

 

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup strongly brewed drip coffee (we used Velton’s Twilight Blend — claro!)
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

In a small saucepan, whisk together the coffee, cocoa powder, sugar and salt, then bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Stir continuously as the syrup begins to thicken — about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. Serve warmed or chilled over pancakes, ice cream, whatever your imagination brings

Brewin’ with Brandi: Power Up Smoothie

Looking for ways to pack more power into your coffee’s punch? How about incorporating fruits and veggies rich in anti-oxidants? Yeah, we said it. Watch as she puts everything from chocolate sauce to kale into the Vitamix … then we drink it — and it’s good!

 

Ingredients

  1. 1 cup chopped kale
  2. 1 frozen banana
  3. 2 tablespoons walnuts
  4. 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  5. 1 cup plain, unsweetened almond milk
  6. 1/4 cup fresh blueberries
  7. 6 ice cubes
  8. 2 shots of espresso
  9. 1 oz Monin Sugar Free Dark Chocolate sauce

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend well until fully incorporated. Enjoy!