The Economist on Clover

clover logoMac commented: “I’ve never seen someone so happy about a coffee maker.”

Here’s an excerpt from a recent article in The Economist that helps to clarify why I’m so excited about the previously mentioned Clover.

In the past decade, changes in the way the finest coffee is produced and traded have given roasters unprecedented access to small lots of exceedingly good beans, spawning artisanal roasting and wine-like focus on terroir. These coffees are at their best in a lighter roast, and served as single-origin brews…

By allowing its operator such close control, the Clover permits super-speciality roasters to extend obsessive handling of their beans all the way into a cup and, if they are adept, to bring forth their best qualities. But a Clover is a big commitment…At $11,000…

Bonus: See one in action, the only other one in Missouri as it turns out, at The Roasterie in Kansas City on youtube.com.

Cassoulet

It’s that special time of year when one of my favorites lands on the Atlas menu:

Cassoulet: Sausage, Duck Confit, Lamb, and Flageolet Beans Baked under a Garlic Breadcrumb Crust

Nothing says winter like a good cassoulet, and Atlas’s is awesome.

Check out the rest of their new menu (as of today).

Atlas

The Clover Has Landed

whyCloverPicI emailed Kaldi’s after my post yesterday asking about their Clover coffee machine, and what I found out, is that after a year of occasionally asking them when it would show up in a store, at long last, it’s in the new Clayton location which opened today.

And because almost nobody who reads this will have any idea what the hell I’m talking about…

Their take…

The Clover is a single serving coffee machine developed by The Coffee Equipment Company in Seattle which allows you to “brew each cup to order according to each coffee’s unique characteristics.”

My short take…

In short it’s a customizable single serving drip coffee maker that brews in approximately one minute. I’ve only seen one in person once at The Roasterie in Kansas City and unfortunately, I didn’t see it until being well caffeinated.

Who cares?

The major benefit to coffee shops is the reduction of wasted drip coffee going down the drain.

The benefit to you, the coffee consumer, is that it gives shops the ability to brew higher quality drip coffees than would traditionally be served due to cost. It also gives them the ability to brew these coffees under each origins optimal conditions while also maximizing freshness as it is brewed literally while you wait.

My rambling take…

I first heard of the Clover on coffee blog Tonx.org early last year. Then, after our whirlwind trip to NYC in which I hit a handful of notable shops, Tonx made another post about coffee shops in NYC in which they talked about Cafe Grumpy having two clovers in their Chelsea location. Somehow we missed Grumpy, but my interest was definitely piqued as we’d been to several of the shops mentioned (Ninth Street Espresso…oh yeah!). It was around this time I spotted Kaldi’s name on the Clover website and an email turned up that they did in fact have one at their roasting facility with plans to move it to the Demun store someday.

And all this ties in nicely to Chance’s comment to my previous post about Kaldi’s beginning to offer Cup of Excellence coffees. To my knowledge Kaldi’s will be the first roaster in the area to offer COE coffees, and I hope this plays out well for them as it’s very exciting local coffee news.

Using Intelligentsia as the example, some of the COE coffees they roast regularly go for $50 per pound or more. While that might seem like a lot, when you consider the 30-40 cups of coffee you get per pound, it’s pretty much on par with America’s favorite caffeinated beverage: Coca-Cola.

And what is Cup of Excellence?

Although it’s a massive oversimplification I always refer to Cup of Excellence as a sort of “conservative implementation of fair trade.”

The goal of Fair Trade is to set a fair price floor for growers without much regard to quality.

With Cup of Excellence, however, a competition is held in each growing country where a single farmer represents himself only by entering his crop for a given year. Coffee buyers from all over the world will descend upon the nation in question and do a tasting of the roasted beans in what is known as cupping. Through this cupping they will vote on their favorite coffees and places will be awarded.

This offers farmers the immediate prestige of being singled out in the coffee community as exceptional growers, and more importantly, after judging, an auction takes place in which quality is awarded financially as record breaking prices are paid to those farmers who rank high in the competition.

Certainly that’s a whittled down version of the happenings at a Cup of Excellence competition, but there’s a vast  amount of information about the events online if you were interested in reading more.

Here for instance is Sweet Maria’s posting about the 2006 Nicaruagua COE. Tom’s postings are always great because he’s not shy about camera usage and has an amazing pallet.

I can’t wait to try the Clover and the COE.

RSS Feed Tweak

rssicon100In a few days if you find yourself thinking “man, Bill hasn’t posted since that stupid ‘Feed Tweak’ post” you might want to resubscribe.

More than likely you will never find yourself thinking that, and life will go on as planned with your continued misuse of company resources to read my blog.

Cheers!

Kaldi’s Expansion

KaldiKind of old news but Kaldi’s Coffee is expanding the empire

Here:

Kaldi’s Coffeehouse – Columbia
29 S. Ninth Street
Columbia, MO 65201
Phone: (573) 874-2566

And Here:

Kaldi’s Coffeehouse – Clayton (downtown)
187 Crondelet Plaza
Clayton, MO 63105
Phone: (314) 726-2900

I saw the one being built in Columbia and it was like the other branded chain-like ones.

The reason for continued expansion is that founders Howard Lerner and Suzanne Langlois sold their remaining 50% share of Kaldi’s earlier this year, and the former co-owners-gone-new-owners hope to continue Starbuckifying Kaldi’s successfully towards a current goal of 10 million in sales.

You can read an article in the St. Louis Business Journal here.

I read it a few months ago and forgot to comment, but the thing that struck me is that the article says they notified customers of the change of ownership. Talking to people in other shops around town, I’m under the impression few knew, so I’m curious if any readers might be regulars of a Kaldi’s (specifically the original Clayton location) and can confirm whether that was in fact the case.

Also, it will be interesting to see if Kaldi’s can continue to expand in the way the Zimmer’s hope while continuing to maintain semi-manual semi-automatic espresso machines on site. The green mermaid folded on that dream years ago.

For my take on Kaldi’s in general; that’s definitely for another post. I will tell you, however, that my main peeve with them has always been the issue of freshness with the coffee being sold in their shops. With upwards of thirty varieties on hand at any one time, it’s impossible to move through the coffee fast enough to keep it from staling. Add to that the fact the containers are not even air tight, and it’s a sad, sad tale.

Oh, and I’m not sure how I overlooked this for over a year, but Kaldi’s has a blog which you can read here.

edit: I changed semi-manual to semi-automatic…it was a quick typo on my part

FYI – Bacon Bar

As a heads up, if you missed it on the first go ’round, the Vosges Mo’s Bacon Bar is back at Whole Foods.

Although I still think it was a criminal omission to leave out the maple syrup, I’ll admit, upon further consumption (following their detailed instructions to a “T”), its bizarre smoky quality along with the saltiness has really grown on me.

One still being enough, I hoped I could conjure up the same sort of feeling without the odd taste of bacon when I instead purchased the Barcelona Bar. It’s hickory smoked almonds, grey sea salt, and deep milk chocolate offered exactly the saltiness I was hoping for, but I can’t taste a single hint of smoke on the almonds.

Someone should make me a chocolate bar with just smoked salt in it; I think that would really work nicely. Anyone?

Mo’s Bacon Bar

»crosslinked«

MoKabe’s Coffeehouse

mokabe cappWhy in 2007 an establishment that bothers to have a non-smoking section situates it in such a manner that you have to walk through the smoking section to get to it I will never understand. And that’s exactly what happened before taking this picture after making it safely to the non-smoking side of MoKabe’s Coffeehouse on Friday.

When you belly up to their counter to place your java order you do so through gasps of smoke filled air. The barista will then proceed to foam milk and poor it into a glass followed by the shots of espresso rather than the other way around. They will then ring you up, and as their last trick, follow your payment by hovering a hand under a little hole they have cut out of the counter where they chide you into tipping. Apparently the vibe they’re going for is: “if you don’t tip you’re not cool enough to be here.”

And just what the hell is that picture? Amazingly it’s a cappuccino. Even more amazingly they put the spoon in it themselves when serving it to me as if it were a root beer float. Kinda looks like one, no?

Shockingly, MoKabe’s wins best coffeehouse all the time. I can only hope it’s the liberal vibe people are applauding and not the coffee. Call me crazy, but when a business slaps the words “coffeehouse” on the side of the building, and then proceeds to win “best coffeehouse,” I think it’s fair to assume they’ll have at least a passable cappuccino. MoKabe’s does not.

Unequivicably the worst I have ever been handed; the hipster baristas hovering hand grabbed nothing more than a handful of air after which I quickly decided I wasn’t cool enough for MoKabe’s and left.

Sadly, it was not before my one brave sip verified my assumption and I made one last detour — to the bathroom to pour it out!

Extra Virgin, An Olive Ovation

evooLately I’ve been looking for a more full bodied olive oil with a a bit more spiciness than the Yellingbo I keep on hand. Shopping online, several times I’d had an oil in the cart ready to buy, but because some of the really fine olive oils cost considerably more than what I’m used to spending, I couldn’t bring myself to pull the trigger without knowing how it tasted.

The local solution to my dilemma of course is Extra Virgin, An Olive Ovation — cruising through Clayton yesterday I remembered to swing by and have a look.

As you would suspect, olive oil is the main event at Extra Virgin, but there are also cured olives, a selection of high end vinegars, olive tree made cooking utensils, and a few other kitchen related items for the cook with everything needing more.

Definitely the coolest thing about the store is the “tasting bar” where you can sample about 30 olive oils which represent almost every oil in the store. Laid out around a curved counter in what appear to be soap dispensers, it’s the first thing that hits you when you step in. The oils are arranged from lightest (left) to strongest (right), and owner Marianne Prey’s suggestion is to squirt two pumps into the small paper cups available and sling it back unadorned to appreciate the oils true flavor. If you find this a little overwhelming there is also bread for you to sample with, but I agree you won’t get the full effect this way.

As I sampled oils a couple women must have had stomachs of lead because I watched them throw back at least 3 tablespoons of olive oil a piece – very impressive! 120 calories per tablespoon aside, I couldn’t taste more than about one tablespoon worth before my stomach was starting to get a little shaky.

Fortunately I knew what I was looking for and was able to avoid about the first 20 oils from the get go. Ruling out a few more do to their expense, I sampled about five total and quickly settled on the DanDaragan Estate extra virgin olive oil. It has a really interesting fruity sweetness that hits you when you first take a sip; followed by a bit of that burning spiciness I was looking for in the finish.

Another oil I loved was Pons Primum Oleum. If you’re cooking for a family I highly recommend it, but do to its impressively large bottle, I knew I’d never get through it before it went bad. It does seem a little pricey, but considering it’s 1.5L and a normal bottle is only about 1/2L it’s not so bad.

Which brings me to another point: one of my main concerns about the store when I first heard it was opening was that, do to its location, the prices would need to be a little steep to pay for things like rent. At $28.50, the DanDaragan is certainly not a cheap olive oil, but a little Googling once home showed it was fairly priced. It was around $22 online before shipping.

Overall I’m still skeptical as to whether or not St. Louis will manage to sustain this store, but if like me you’ve always found it difficult to spend a lot of money on a bottle of olive oil you haven’t tasted, it’s worth a visit. It really is a neat store.

Roughest Food Ever

I’ll eat just about anything once — I have my limits though, and they are drawn somewhere before the balut eggs of the Philippines.

Not for the faint of heart, I offer no pics here, so brace yourself if you dare, and have a look at the pics on offalgood.com.

but don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Frisée, it was there all along.

frisee

Why could I not find frisée before?

Because like an idiot I was looking in the wrong spot.

They definitely have it at Whole Paycheck as many of you mentioned previously.  My blurry picture shows, however poorly, that it’s over by what they apparently call “loose carrots” — hopefully they use protection.