Feb 5, 2012

January KTC Event: Brunch and Coffee Roasting with Damian and Rick!

Gray. Rainy. Sunday. That's right, Kissers: This could only mean one thing...No! Not that it is wintertime in the Pacific Northwest! It meant that it was time to brighten things up with a Kiss the Cooks brunch!

Grab hold of your cucumbers (but please don't grab someone else's without permission!), Kissers, and settle in for the scoop!
That's right, on a recent Sunday morning we gathered for a quick meal at the gorgeously appointed Chez Par-tay, AKA Chateau Kellobach. Rick and Damian had planned a simple-yet-deeeee-licious brunch to keep us sated during our scheduled coffee roasting lesson in Downtown Kirkland later in the afternoon.
Damian was our morning mixologist, shown here exactly as he is: a veritable maestro with a Boston Shaker full of Bloody Marys!
Wow!!! Look at his toolkit! (Get your minds out of the gutter, I don't mean THAT toolkit!!)
And, speaking of Bloody Marys, the good folks over at Bon Appetit are always looking out for their booziest readers. Check out the "Bloody Mary Bandit" - a slot machine-type contraption designed to fancify your standard Bloody Mary recipe so you can try a new twist on an old classic!
Try it yourself over at: http://www.bonappetit.com/magazine/bloody-mary-bandit
We were bummed to spend the morning sans Fernando and William, but we enjoyed an extra-special guest in their stead: Bladesmith Daniel O'Malley of your favorite knife shop and mine, Epicurian Edge. It was a real treat to have you, Daniel-thanks for joining us!

Here's Daniel and Jessica observing the panache with which Anne sips that oh-so-fabulous Bloody Mary that Damian shook up just for her:
Damian was our hero that Sunday, and not only because he was shaking up the best Bloody Marys this side of Spokane. Worthy of his previously-bestowed title of "Jamkeeper," Damian brought along the infamous Tomato Jam that we canned at the end of the summer during our jam-making jam session (see what I did there?) back in September.

Allow me to jog your memories:

It was even more tasty than I imagined it would be - Soooo delicious!
Damian had also brought along a batch of William's famous Effing Good Cinnamon Rolls, albeit a gluten-free version to share with us. They smelled like heaven, even through the plastic. Don't fret - you'll see more of these up close in a minute!
As usual, we enjoyed our typical Kiss the Cooks kitchen antics. Here, Anne is using half an egg carton to catch herself some rainbow rays of Tomato Jam Joy before they put someone's eye out.
Joyce took on the meditative task of removing tiny thyme leaves, one by one, so we would be guaranteed the most lurver-liest garnish on the block for our brunchtime pièce de résistance. She still had time to interrupt her serious work for a grin, though! ¡Qué pícara!
During a lull in the festivities, several of us hiked out around the back of the house to visit the wine shed. Single-file, we followed Rick down a short path and into an innocent-looking door.
Holy wine-storage, Batman! You might not be able to tell from the photo, but this was a seriously groovy space to stash your favorite grape-based beverages!

Built into the ground on three sides, the open side is covered year-round by a thick copse of trees that keeps out virtually all the light. All that protection from the elements keeps the temperatures in the shed moderately and consistently cool all year round--perfect for storing your wine!
We filed back into the house, where it was MUCH warmer and drier, and got down to business. We planned to use a basic pasta recipe from the book James McNair's Pasta Cookbook, available on Amazon.
The basic recipe consists of:
  • ~2 cups all-purpose flour, preferably unbleached
  • 3 large eggs (at room temp, please!)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Jessica took a turn at mixing things up, and in no time flat, we had a perfectly-formed ball of pasta dough waiting for its time in the pasta machine. Have a look!
Jessica sprinkled and rolled like a pro:
Our friend Daniel pitched in to help out:
Meanwhile, Damian was busy mixing up and rolling out a gluten-free batch of pasta, using a special gluten-free pasta flour (Damian? Which one did you use? Let me know and we'll give them some link love here - it was tasty!). 

Here, he's rolled the dough out and is cutting with a pizza cutter. What concentration!
Damian's hard work amply paid off. Here's his final product, resting before cooking! Et voilà!!
We were putting the finishing touches on the pastas when Frank arrived. He'd been singing at an event just prior, and was wearing a very cool vest. You can't tell from this photo, but it has very snazzy yellow and blue stripes!

Without exception, everyone in attendance at Anne and Rick's house was happy to see Frank. And I mean everyone.
While we rolled out the pasta, Meg was hard at work on one of her Meg-olicious salad offerings. Here, she whips together a quick citrus marinade...
And slices up some ripe pears and some gorgeous Honeycrisp apples...
And tosses the fruit into the marinade to somehow become even more delicious than it started out...
Daniel showed us how his Italian grandma used to rest the pasta on the back of a chair before cooking it...
A "sauce" for our pasta awaited, a heady mixture of olive oil, red pepper flakes, anchovy, garlic, and spices...
Joyce had turned out quite a harvest of tiny thyme leaves...
Anne mugged for the camera (what a babe!)...
Damian revisited the bartending toolkit...
At this point, we were finally ready to prepare for The Poaching.
Yes, this would be a feat of true ovoid fun. We planned to poach 10-12 eggs at virtually the same time, so we could plate, serve, and dine together at the table.We reviewed Tamara Murphy's (most recently of Terra Plata fame!) tips for egg poaching in her beautiful tome, Tender.

Rick had readied our egg-poaching mise en place, with individual eggs (courtesy of Coop Arcadia and Meg's Girlzzz!) awaiting their respective baths and shallow pans of hot water simmering on the stove.

We were nearly ready to eat! Rick and Damian made the plan: We just needed to simultaneously plate the salad, boil the pasta, and soft-poach the eggs all at the same time.
But wait! What was that? Is someone at the door?
It was our old pal Mikey, over to visit from Walla Walla!
He was freshly trimmed and coiffed, and looked great. He reports a fruitful ski season on the other side of the Cascades, and some hilarious-because-they-aren't-happening-to-you goings-on at Chateau Rollat. Mikey said he was here on a super quick visit, so we were extra-tickled to see him!

We took a quick conversation break to say hello and visit, and in typical Kiss the Cooks fashion, more kitchen antics ensued. In Fernando's absence, Anne helped Shawn create a romantic "first family portrait." Ain't they sweet?
Of course, that was the second take...The first take was way funnier:
Ahem...Back to business... The table was pretty much ready for us...
Someone put the pasta on to boil. We still needed to plate the salads and poach the eggs. Rick decided to use a method that almost no one was convinced would work. However, the laws of physics were on Rick's side, and his technique worked beautifully!

Into a pan of barely-simmering water, Rick carefully dropped an egg.
Then he dropped in a second egg...Can you see the second little guy in there?
When they were ready (not sure if he timed them or eyeballed them...Rick?), Rick fished them out carefully with a slotted spoon...
And gently placed them into a large, shallow bowl to await their final destination...
Rick patiently manned the Poaching Station...
Meanwhile, the rest of us (and I mean lots of us! Have a look!) got busy plating the salads. We decided on a rather deconstructed version of a salade composée...
First, a lettuce bed...
Then, more hands adding more goodies!
Shawn declared the fruit marinade delicious, and slurped up the extra straight from the plate.
Daniel watched us with amusement as we scurried around to get everything on the table at the same time:
Finally, we had a pretty nice-looking series of salads!

We unwrapped the cinnamon rolls and got them onto the table. They smelled sooooo good!
Have a closer look...
Meanwhile, thanks to Rick's loving ministrations, our bowl of poached eggs steadily reproduced. Not too shabby, eh?
We managed to get the salad and cinnamon rolls onto the table...
We were finally ready to plate up our main course! First, we tossed the cooked pasta with the aforementioned olive oil-garlic-anchovy-pepper flakes mixture.
Next, we sprinkled the pasta with crispy-cooked bacon, a poached egg, and Joyce's winsome thyme. Doesn't that look divine?
We plated everyone up, and a couple of lucky folks got an extra egg or two. We aren't quite sure what happened to this guy, but he looked a little sad and naked next to his eggy brethren:
Note that he looks MUCH happier in the company of his friends and family. And really, wouldn't you agree that this is the truth for most of us?
Here's the birds-eye view:
And a closer view. Oh. Em. Gee.

As much as we wanted to gawk and stare in admiration at our plates, and eat as leisurely as possible to prolong our collective culinary pleasure, time was a-wasting. We were expected in about 30 minutes in downtown Kirkland at Caffé Rococo!

When we realized what time it was, we inhaled the rest of our breakfast, and leaped up from the table. Rick told the folks who opted for a rainy walk that they should leave post-haste.
The rest of the Kissers stayed behind for a few minutes longer to straighten up a teensy bit before driving down the hill to Caffé Rococo.

Today, we would be enjoying a tour of Caffé Rococo's downtown storefront and coffee roasting digs. We would also be treated to a mini coffee-roasting class, courtesy of Jake and Adam, resident coffee roasting experts. We fueled up for the class:
And we headed around the corner behind the bar to see this crazy contraption:
The roaster-on-duty, Jake, smiled disarmingly and invited us all to come on in and have a closer look, so we did.
We introduced ourselves and informed Jake that we had arrived for our 3pm coffee class, and he beamed. Here was a guy (and a kinda muscle-y guy, to boot!) who loved his work! We picked our way over coffee sacks and other impediments, "abuzz" with excitement about learning how coffee is roasted.

There is a wacky mural in the roasting space, visible in the photo below. You can see that Jessica smiles next to the Pie in the Sky, relaxed. Poor Daniel, on the other hand, wonders what in the hell that tree up there is drinking, and why it looks so despondent.
Jake walked us briefly through how coffee beans go from this:
To this:
The first thing I can say is, WOW. I had no idea that coffee-roasting was such a scientific and intricate process! We had such an interesting afternoon, and we learned so much! 

Jake empties out the hopper where some already-roasted beans have been cooling. He says that he pours into the hopper about 9.4 pounds of coffee beans at the beginning of the roasting process. During the process, the beans lose so much water and mass from the chemical reaction of roasting that only around 8.6 pounds remain at the end of the roasting cycle. Whoa!
Now, Jake gets down to business. His 7 years in the coffee business have made him one knowledgeable guy about the noble plant Coffea. At Caffé Rococo, Jake tells us, they favor a highly-controlled quality-focused outcome approach to roasting, in small batches.

Jake describes the fascinating process of how coffee "talks to you" - he says you don't necessarily roast coffee by temperature or by time, but rather that you can hear when it has reached the "crack" stage.

Adam, one of Rococo's owners (isn't he?), joined us about this point, and he gave us some more specific temperatures for these different stages. Adam told us that the "first crack" happens around 400 degrees, and reiterated Jake's statement that first crack is is called such because it sounds like popcorn! This is the process during which the beans swell and crack open along the seam, or butt, of each bean.

Jake pulled out some beans to let us listen to what the crack stage sounds like:

Here's a handy list of many of the different roasts that coffee roasters produce. I found this list on an Orlando, Florida coffee roaster's blog, The Weekly Roast. Check them out!
1. City/Light (first crack, a volatile sound of the beans cracking, has finished)
2. City+/Medium (shortly after first crack is complete)
3. Full City/Medium Dark (second crack is about to happen at any moment)
4. Full City+/Dark (the first few moments into second crack, a quieter snapping sound)
5. Vienna/Light French Roast/Very Dark (second crack is happening) – this is the darkest roast Weekly Roast offers (if we roasted any darker, the coffee would taste burnt and bitter)
6. French Roast/Extremely Dark (second crack is almost done) – Weekly Roast does not offer coffee this dark
We learned that coffees from different regions have different specific characteristics, similar to the idea of terroir in winemaking. For example, South American coffees are typically fruity and light-bodied with high acidity, typical of breakfast blends and other lighter roasts. Sumatran coffees, on the other hand, are more robustly flavored or earthy, with lower acidity and heavier body. These pair particularly well with chocolates.

Even more interesting, we learned that the darker the coffee's roast, the less caffeine it actually contains. He also said that, typically, Spanish and Italian roasts are even darker than French Roast, so have less caffeine. Perhaps that explains why I drank espresso all day long in Spain and could still go to sleep at night with no problem!

We also learned that coffee beans aren't really beans at all, but rather seeds of the fruit of the coffee plant. The fruit of the coffee plant is actually called a coffee "berry" or a coffee "cherry." Each coffee berry contains two coffee seeds (beans). The beans are covered by a tough membrane called silverskin, which is covered by a mucilage, which is surrounded by the coffee fruit, or berry.
The silverskin and mucilage must be removed before the beans can be roasted, and there are a few methods for doing this:
  • Washed: Commonly used in South America, water is used to remove the additional layers from the coffee beans
  • Semi-washed: Commonly used for coffee from Java/Sumatra. Partially washed, partially dried naturally.
  • Unwashed or natural: Whole coffee cherries are picked and left to dry in the sun naturally, like a raisin. Typically these coffees have a more rustic flavor, more fruity.
Lest you think these washes mean everything to the taste of your morning cuppa, consider this: Adam told us that we should think about the role of bean origin in the process. To use a cooking analogy, he said the coffee beans' origin is the ingredient, and the processing method through which the silverskin, etc. is removed is the seasoning. Interesting!

Shawn borrowed Jake's ever-so-easy-on-the-eye manly strength to spin around this huge bag of coffee so she could snap a photo of it for Fernando, who if you recall, was MIA. Three cheers for el café colombiano!
As our class wrapped up, it was time to do a little coffee tasting. Adam prepared two French press pots: One with Caffé Rococo's Breakfast Blend, and one with their French Roast. He even presented a few treats to accompany our coffees!
Adam chatted up Rick and Daniel while we sipped and discussed. Our small group seemed to be in agreement that we all preferred the French Roast blend. It was darker, smoother, and had more body in the mouth. The Breakfast Blend was plenty tasty, it was simply thinner, and more acidic. "Diner coffee," someone said. "It reminds me of Diner Coffee."
Adam told us that our preference for the darker French Roast was not the minority opinion in the Pacific Northwest, and that typically, coffee drinkers here appreciate a darker roast way more than a lighter one. He told us that the lighter roasted Breakfast Blend was more inkeeping with what people gravitate towards on the East Coast (think Dunkin' Donuts, yo).

Sundays are Caffé Rococo's re-stocking day, so pickings were slimmer than usual. However, many of us still found some goodies to buy - including a freshly-roasted batch of French Roast blend!
Jake told us to wait 5-7 days if we planned to use our coffee for espresso. He said that between the extraction method, the crema, and the stronger flavor profile, the beans really needed a few days to rest before using. However, if we were drip coffee folks, we should use our beans right away. I'm guessing French Press counts as drip in this sense - anyone know?

That wrapped up our visit and coffee roasting class. We bought our goodies and headed out.

We heart Caffé Rococo!
Many thanks, Caffé Rococo! We'll be back for sure!
I do encourage you to check out Caffé Rococo - not only was their coffee delicious and their space lovely and comfortable, but the service was simply impeccable. From the gal who carefully prepared our coffee to the young man who went to inquire about our coffee roasting appointment to our extra-knowledgeable  roasting buddy Jake (who even dug out a huge burlap coffee sack labeled "Product of Colombia" for Shawn, what a sweetie!) to Adam the owner, we all felt so warmly received and well-treated - I'll definitely be making Rococo my stop of choice for a snack or a cuppa in Kirkland!

Next up, Kissers, is another date change in February (per our recent annual meeting): Joyce and Anne will dazzle us with something on February 25 (changed from the 18th due to the holiday weekend).

Quick reminder of upcoming dates:

  • March 17 (Shawn and Rick)
  • April 21 (Fernando and Jessica)
  • May 19 (Frank and Meg)
Note: We don't have anything scheduled after May, so we may need to consider working on that soon...I know how our calendars fill up!

See you soon, Kissers - Enjoy the sunny day/Super Bowl/beginning of February!

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