Currently viewing the tag: "coffee"

Dunn Brothers Coffee

**This post is sponsored by Dunn Brothers Coffee. As usual, all opinions are my own.**

Coffee is a lot more than just a drink; it’s something happening. Not as in hip, but like an event, a place to be, but not like a location, but like somewhere within yourself. It gives you time, but not actual hours or minutes, but a chance to be, like be yourself, and have a second cup. – Gertrude Stein, Selected Writings

Spending time at a coffeehouse for hours on end has been a huge part of my life. My first introduction was at age eighteen; my friend Laurie picked me up in her sparkly white Saturn and drove me out of the suburbs into South Minneapolis, where we sunk into beat-up old couches in a grungy-but-rad neighborhood shop, sipping granitas. It was a smoke-riddled, Johnny Cash playing-by-day, Sound Garden-playing-by-night kind of place, where the locals sat around talking, chain-smoking, and drinking java until they were kindly kicked out each night. I was instantly hooked.

Sure, I drank some kind of slushy, sugary brew that made the coffee go down easier, but I loved tucking away in a corner and studying all afternoon during the winter months, or else chatting into the evening hours with people who I had nothing in common with, but somehow our coffee connection made us fast friends all summer long. (Also, I may have had a few months where I drove there each afternoon after work to ‘spend some time on my poetry’, sitting in a quiet corner feeling artsy and hip, but let’s pretend that didn’t happen.)

But now it is 2017 and I don’t have to drive far to get my coffee fix, as there is literally a coffeehouse on every corner, in the city and suburbs alike. So the question becomes: where should I purchase my coffee? There are many factors that are important to me when I go to answer this question. Taste and consistency is needed and valuable, but I also care a great deal about ethical sourcing practices (having friends who own a washing station in Burundi has made me even more acutely aware of how important this is).

Which brings me to Dunn Brothers Coffee. I honestly had overlooked Dunn Brothers back in my coffeehouse studying days; I had already established my routine elsewhere and change has always been hard for me to deal with. So when Dunn Brothers reached out, asking me to learn more about their shops and celebrate 30 years of business, I was eager to see what I had been missing. I knew there were quite a few Dunn Brothers in Minnesota, but didn’t realize they were scattered across Texas, Tennessee, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Iowa as well. And while some people may view them as ‘just another chain’, I was happy to discover that they are so much more than that.

Dunn Brothers Coffee

Dunn Brothers Coffee

Dunn Brothers Coffee

Dunn Brothers Coffee

Dunn Brothers Coffee

Dunn Brothers Coffee

Dunn Brothers Coffee

Dunn Brothers Coffee

I recently sat down with one of Dunn Brother’s owners, Skip Fay, who got me up to speed on the history and mission of the coffee company. Dunn Brothers started in 1987, and Skip opened his store (along with Chris Eilers) in 1992, with the intent of straying from the trendy shops on the scene; instead of cigarette smoke and alternative jams it would have a calmer vibe with clean air. People loved the atmosphere, and Dunn Brothers took off.

There are a few key factors that set these stores apart. Unlike chain stores, each is locally owned and operated. Another way Dunn Brothers strays from coffee chains is that individual stores roasts small batches of coffee beans on site daily. Much care and expertise is required here, so there is a master roaster at each location trained to make sure the beans are roasted properly and consistently.

Also, Dunn Brothers still relies on their baristas to make quality drinks; there are no super-automatic espresso machines or computer-actuated foamed milk extruders. There is attention to craft and pride in one’s work, as well as high standards for each drink prepared.

A final important emphasis is on community. Skip Fay highlighted this point in our conversation together, asserting that their mission was not to simply set up shop, but to become a trusted neighbor in the communities Dunn Brother resides in. He notes that “if we treat people right and serve them right, the experience touches their soul. In today’s time-starved, data-driven, mass-produced culture, Dunn Brothers offers food and beverages prepared in real time, by genuine people who enjoy sharing their craft with other people.

Dunn Brothers Coffee

Dunn Brothers Coffee

Dunn Brothers Coffee

Dunn Brothers Coffee

I spent some time hanging out in a few different Dunn Brother’s stores (I especially liked the one in Uptown, on Hennepin, and the Downtown store), each with a completely different feel, but with drinks that tasted the same throughout.

I fell in love with their nitro-brew, which is dreamy and creamy and perfect. Someone mixed me one with vanilla and a little cream (its official name the is the Iced Vanilla Nirvana), and it was honestly the best sweetened cold coffee drink I’ve had, ever.

I also took a bottle of their cold press with me (I drink cold press year round, and often make it myself at home), and it was deliciously smooth and deep. I see myself headed back soon to work and read, especially at the Uptown location (which has wine and beer! and a patio!). (Also I can’t stop thinking about that iced vanilla drink.)

Dunn Brothers cold press

Dunn Brothers

Dunn Brothers

Dunn Brothers Coffee

Dunn Brothers coffee

One last thing I was really impressed with is Dunn Brother’s partnership with the American Refugee Committee. Dunn Brothers launched the Changemaker Collection, a selection of coffee beans sourced from the very same communities around the world where ARC works with refugees.

Last year marked the arrival of the second bean in the Changemaker Collection, from Uganda. Sales from the Changemaker Collection Uganda bean helped the ARC team in Uganda provide things like clean water and protection to refugees living in places like Nakivale refugee settlement – a refugee camp established 60 years ago. (You can read more about it here). This year Dunn Brothers committed an additional $10,000 to ARC and the first of the two Changemaker Collection beans will be from the Congo. They will be available in late March/early April and can be purchased in Dunn Brother’s stores.

Coffee is a luxury purchase, and I like knowing the money I spend on it is going towards helping others in need. I appreciate forward-thinking businesses that look to give back to both their community and the world at large, looking beyond cash registers and bank accounts and trying to make a difference as much as they can. I’m happy to see Dunn Brothers doing just that, and doing it well.

So if you are looking for quality coffee that is ethically sourced and carefully prepared, don’t overlook your local Dunn Brothers. You will find me there as well, sipping and reading and thankful for the simple joy of coffee.

“Dunn Brothers has successfully proven to its customers and competitors that, even in the crowded coffee category, great-tasting coffee that is carefully brewed from hand-selected, freshly roasted beans boldly stands out in a class of its own. This Minneapolis-based, award-winning coffee company was founded on the principle that premium coffee customers deserve coffee that adheres to higher standards of quality every step of the way, from cultivation to cup. From sustainable, ethical sourcing practices to daily, on-site roasting, artisan hand-made premium beverages and community-connected local ownership – Dunn Brothers Coffee takes every possible measure to ensure quality coffee experiences at each of its 82 retail locations across the country.”

(I have a little coffeehouse mix for you over on Spotify! It’s a playlist I would have on if I was still a barista. You’ll find I’m a bit stick in the late 90’s with my electro-jazz selections, but there is some other good stuff in there as well. You can find it here.)

**All text in italics (excluding the Stein quote) taken from the Dunn Brothers page.

 

granita
I spent several summers in my almost 20’s frequenting Java Jack’s in South Minneapolis. It was a late-night, chain-smoking, Soundgarden-cranking coffee hangout, an odd choice for an early-morning, non-smoking, Sarah McLachlan-loving woman. But my sister and I drove there every single night after we closed down the shopping mall coffee shop we worked at, and spent our evenings out on the patio slurping down granitas with the regulars. They weren’t real granitas, of course, just some sugary coffee spinning around all day in a worn-out slushy machine, but I drank more of them then I could ever count, and enjoyed every single drop.

So when I got a copy of Tasting Rome  in the mail (Katie Parla and Kristina Gill’s beautiful new book that focuses on both traditional and contemporary recipes from their lives in Rome) and flipped open to find a recipe for a real granita, I got to work right away making it. Strong, cold coffee, a bit of sugar, and whipped cream piled to the sky is a bit more sophisticated than the concoction I drank on those hot summer nights years ago. Both have their place, but I’m looking forward to warm afternoons on the back porch, not a whiff of cigarette smoke, and Ella Fitzgerald scatting quietly while I sip my icy drink.
granita

granita

granita
‘While crafting this book, we sought inspiration in peripheral, graffiti-clad neighborhoods, patrician districts, archeological parks, neighborhood bakeries, artisanal gelato shops, dimly lit cocktail bars, chaotic markets, and innovative restaurants. The result of our explorations is this collection of recipes that embraces Roman flavors and goes beyond the tight focus on tradition to acknowledge that the city’s cuisine has evolved and that strict tradition, while predominant, certainly isn’t the only reality.’ – From Tasting Rome

GIVEAWAY: Clarkson Potter is giving away a 3 copies of Tasting Rome. Each winner will also receive a set of three 8×10 prints from the book, an 18×24-inch hand drawn map of the center of Rome by Lena Corwin and a set of exclusive recipes which aren’t in the book. To enter, please leave a comment below, with your name and email address. (If you want to tell me what music you’re loving lately that would be lovely! But not necessary.) Giveaway open worldwide, and entries will close on Sunday, April 10. The winners will be chosen at random.

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This post is in partnership with The Quaker Oats Company.
Mocha Oatmeal | the vanilla bean blog
January is often a time of reflection and change, and after spending the past 15 months baking my little heart out for my cookbook and buying and consuming more butter than I ever thought possible, it’s time to pay attention to the foods I’m eating. I’ve always been terrible with moderation; I usually cut all sweets and fat out of my life for a determined amount of time and then find myself slowly back on sugar train, in a never-ending circle of ‘bad’ and ‘good’ eating. There is a place for a variety of food in a diet, but I’m still learning how to integrate them well.
Mocha Oatmeal | the vanilla bean blog
Quaker reached out and asked me to be a part of their Bring Your Best Bowl program, a contest that celebrates oatmeal and all the different ways it can be enjoyed (to enter the contest and create your own unique oatmeal flavor, see below). I thought it would be a good fit for this New Year, as oatmeal for breakfast is always something I’ve wanted to incorporate into my routine. I came up with a flavor combination that was a little indulgent; it was inspired by my need for daily coffee and an afternoon bite of chocolate. It was a very good way to start my day.
Mocha Oatmeal | the vanilla bean blog

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coffee pudding | the vanilla bean blog

coconut coffee pudding  | the vanilla bean blog
I haven’t baked a lot with coconut milk, but find myself looking to it more and more for various reasons. I have many friends with food allergies or dietary restrictions and most of them are able to consume coconut milk, so I find it’s a good substitute for milk and/or cream in recipes. Also, sometimes I just need a break from all the dairy in my diet, and have found soy and almond milk to not be very compatible with my body. So coconut milk it is.

Andre Prost reached out to me a few weeks ago and sent me a box of coconut milk to bake with. I was eager to give it a try, and found it to be a great addition to my kitchen. It is rich, creamy, and flavorful, and is a great substitution (or addition) to any recipe. I also appreciate that it is found in the baking section of the grocery store, as I tend to spend most of my time in that aisle anyway.

You can make quite a few things with a whole box of coconut milk. I wanted to make sure I loved it before I wrote about it, and I’m happy to report I found it to be a great product.
coconut cream pie | the vanilla bean blog
My first recipe with the coconut milk was a coconut cream pie, straight from Andre Prost’s website (where Pam has come up with some really great recipes!). I swapped bananas for some chocolate pastry cream I had in my fridge from cookbook testing. It was creamy and dreamy and very indulgent.
coconut coffee cream | the vanilla bean blog
Next I made Nicole’s Vanilla Bean Coconut Creamer, which was delicious, and went along perfectly with my afternoon coffee and Jessica’s new book.
Coffee Pudding | the vanilla bean blog
Laura’s Coconut Coffee Pudding was also on the list (topped with Tara’s magic candied cacao nibs), which was voted a family favorite. My daughter was enamored with it, although I had to cut her off because of all the coffee.
coconut chocolate muffins | the vanilla bean blog
Coconut muffins were also a hit, and I snuck in some chocolate again.
coconut milk | the vanilla bean blog
On the to-do list: coconut sweetened condensed milk sounds fabulous. I think it might also work in my no-churn ice cream recipes, which I’m excited to experiment with. Pancakes are also going to be made soon, as well as coconut brioche.

So, if you have been thinking about baking with coconut milk, don’t be afraid to try! There are so many things you can make with it. (Have a favorite recipe? Leave it below! I’d love to see it.)
coconut pie | the vanilla bean blog
This post is sponsored by Andre Prost. All opinions are my own.

espresso semifreddo | the vanilla bean blog
(1) Turn off the Radio.

(2) Read all the good books you can, and avoid nearly all magazines.

(3) Always write (and read) with the ear, not the eye. You should hear every sentence you write as if it was being read aloud or spoken. If it does not sound nice, try again.

(4) Write about what really interests you, whether it is real things or imaginary things, and nothing else. (Notice this means if you are interested only in writing you will have nothing to write about…)

(5) Take great pains to be clear. Remember that though you start by knowing what you mean, the reader doesn’t, and a single ill-chosen word may lead him to a total misunderstanding. In a story it is terribly easy just to forget that you have not told the reader something he needs to know – the whole picture is so clear in your own mind that you forget that it isn’t the same in his.

(6) When you give up a bit of work don’t (unless it is hopelessly bad) throw it away. Put it in a drawer. It may come in useful later. Much of my best work, or what I think is my best, is the rewriting of things begun and abandoned years earlier.

(7) Don’t use a typewriter. The noise will destroy your sense of rhythm, which still needs years of training.

(8) Be sure you know the meanings (or meanings) or every word you use.

From the letters of CS Lewis: TO A SCHOOLGIRL IN AMERICA (who had written, at her teacher’s suggestion, to request advice on writing)

***********
I would never classify myself as writer per say, but writing has always been an important part of my self expression, for better or worse (worse being a stash of badly rhymed love poems written in my high school years that are stashed away where no one will ever find them). I’ve always best articulated my musings via the written word. This past year has been quite busy and full of change (moving and cookbooking, especially), and I’ve found myself struggling to write words, or even find words to help move my thoughts along. The good news is I’ve been reading more, mostly in hopes that someone else will have the sentences I’ve been looking for.

I stumbled upon CS Lewis’ book of letters. I had just finished reading Dorothy Sayer’s, and then Tolkien’s, and have discovered in the process that reading other people’s mail might be my favorite past time. Lewis’ book is quite a read: he starts off an athiest and ends up religious (which makes for an interesting storyline that may not be everyone’s cup of tea) but along this personal journey are letters of his travels, pages and pages of books that have inspired him, notes to young readers, tips on writing, thoughts on the death of his father and then his wife, mentions of tea-time, walking tours, and all of the other in-between times a day holds. There were moments reading when I nodded along in agreement, and then times I threw the book down in frustration (his views on women: two thumbs down). There were letters where I loved him, and letters where he absolutely annoyed me. But over the course of the book he made me want to ask more questions, and read everything, and never stop writing. A mark of a good teacher, I think.
espresso semifreddo | the vanilla bean blog

espresso semifreddo | the vanilla bean blog
Espresso Semifreddo. I tried to think of something clever to tie the above paragraphs to this dessert, but I’ve got nothing. I’ll just say that Linda Lomelino’s Ice Cream book is a gorgeous read, and while it may not send me to my desk with pen and paper, it does impel me to grab my camera and do a better job at capturing the beauty around me. Also, it absolutely inspires me to make ice cream.

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peanut butter-banana-coffee shake
A few months back I took part in With Food + Love‘s “21 Days to Lean and Green” program. It’s a three week mind and body reboot, focusing on slowing down and putting yourself, and your health, first. It was a great experience – Sherrie is a constant and thoughtful encouragement, and in that short time she gave a lot of great tools to help me stop and think about not only what I am eating, but why I am eating it. If you are looking for a little New Year motivation to work on healthy eating habits, this is a great place to start. The course consists of a 45 minute coaching session, 100+ plant-based seasonal recipes, unlimited email support, great handouts and resources, plus much more (which you can read about here). While my healthy eating is constantly in flux, I’ve found myself going back to recipes and handouts from this program when I need to refocus. There are also a few things Sherrie spoke to me over the phone that were so helpful to my personal food struggles, and they have really inspired me make better choices in my daily life.(Sherrie’s next session is starting soon, and if you sign up now and mention this post, you can take 10% the Lean and Green program.)
peanut butter shake | the vanilla bean blog

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maple mousse with coffee syrup | the vanilla bean blog
The world
is a table
engulfed in honey and smoke,
smothered by apples and blood.
The table is already set,
and we know the truth
as soon as we are called:
whether we’re called to war or to dinner
we will have to choose sides,
have to know
how we’ll dress
to sit
at the long table,
whether we’ll wear the pants of hate
or the shirt of love, freshly laundered.
Its time to decide,
they’re calling:
boys and girls,
let’s eat!
-Pablo Neruda, ‘Ode to the Table’
maple mousse with coffee syrup | the vanilla bean blog

(I recently purchased Neruda’s All the Odes, and I’m smitten.)

Thank you so much for all your kind thoughts on the last post regarding my house allergies! Things are much better, and we seem to have pinpointed the problem. This week has actually been great regarding my health, and I’ve found myself constantly in the kitchen baking and making, reveling in the beginning of fall. Right before we moved I was sent a copy of flourless. by Nicole Spiridakis, and now have finally had a chance to make a few things from it. This maple mousse is such a treat. While it stands rich and creamy all by itself, I couldn’t help but add this coffee syrup, making it quite an indulgence. Topped with sea salt and a sprinkle of maple flakes, it became downright fancy. This is another gluten-free cookbook that works well in my kitchen- Nicole shies away from hard-to-find ingredients and focuses on ground nuts, egg whites, fresh fruit, and chocolate. It’s a beautiful book.

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chocolate bread | the vanilla bean blog
‘In a way, baking stands both as a useful metaphor for the familial warmth of the kitchen we fondly imagine used to exist, and as a way of reclaiming our lost Eden. This is hardly a culinary matter, of course; but cooking, we know, has a way of cutting through things, and to things, which have nothing to do with the kitchen. This is why it matters. The trouble with much modern cooking is not that the food it produces isn’t good, but that the mood it induces in the cook is one of skin-of-the-teeth efficiency, all briskness and little pleasure. Sometimes that’s the best we can manage, but at other times we don’t want to feel like a postmodern, post-feminist, overstretched woman but, rather, a domestic goddess, trailing nutmeggy fumes of baking pie in our languorous wake.’ – Nigella Lawson

I don’t actually own Nigella’s How To Become A Domestic Goddess, but I’ve checked it out of the library a crazy amount of times, and have baked so many things from it’s pages. I’ve always loved the above quote by her; I’ve connected so much with her words: cooking cutting through things, and to things, which have nothing to do with the kitchen. There have been many moments stirring, or kneading, or dicing, that have brought me to my knees. My kitchen floor may be coated in flour, but some days I’m okay finding myself there.

Also this chocolate bread. I’ve baked this hundreds (and hundreds) of times at a little coffeehouse I worked at, but it has been years since I made it at home, just because. I was feeling rather celebratory today, and it seemed to fit the occasion perfectly. I wish I could share some with you; to say thanks, and cheers (see below).
the vanilla bean blog
And in other news: I don’t know how it happened, but somehow all you nice readers and friends nominated me for the Saveur Blog Awards, and I actually am a finalist in the Best Baking Blog category. I’m still a bit in shock, feeling stunned and terribly excited at the same time. So first of all, thank you so much. Thank you for coming to this space, and being so kind. I appreciate you all. That of course leads into secondly, which is in order to win the category, I need your votes. So if you wouldn’t mind, you can just click on this huge picture above, and it will take you to Saveur’s webpage, where you can vote. You do have to register to vote, but it just takes a login name and password to complete. Thank you so much!
chocolate bread | the vanilla bean blog

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banana-chocolate-coffee muffins with whole wheat flour | the vanilla bean blog
I just got the notice, school is closed again due to cold weather. This never happens here in Minnesota, where we complain about the weather always but secretly pride ourselves in surviving it every winter. We are so strong, we can bike through blizzards! My daughter’s face will light up in the morning when she hears the news: you get to stay home yet again. She likes school just fine, but she loves home so much more.

And I like home so much more, too; I enjoy days tucked snug in our little house. But there are moments where the walls feel a bit too close together, and we are bumping into each other all day long, snippy and snappy and dreaming of oceans. We pull out mixing bowls and curl up with the same old books; there becomes less and less to say to each other.

‘Of course I’ll hurt you. Of course you’ll hurt me. Of course we will hurt each other. But this is the very condition of existence. To become spring, means accepting the risk of winter. To become presence, means accepting the risk of absence.’ (The Little Prince)
banana-chocolate-coffee muffins with whole wheat flour | the vanilla bean blog
I risk winter every year outwardly, but it’s taken me many years to begin to take a chance with it otherwise. I tend to fight it at first, but once January has set in, I usually decide to take the plunge. There is snow that muffles all sounds except a mind that won’t quiet, and a moon that seems to burn straight through frosted windows, it’s light cutting through skin and bone. There’s a wind so cold and clear it keeps the senses alive and awake through the darkest of nights. I breathe deep and rush in to ice and dark, and the hope of spring waiting for me, nearby.

A few things:

-Chris Pratt’s Ode To Jean Claude Van Damme (deleted Parks and Rec scene)

-‘My smart little sister says that people are wrong when they talk about how you need to be brave to get out of your comfort zone, travel, and see things. The travel and perspective–the escapism, really–are a privilege. The real courage is needed at home, where the ordinary things don’t change unless you work to make them so, where you face old demons and new challenges, and where you can’t just get on a plane to the next destination.’ –The Yellow House

-I love Izy’s photographs.

-I was terribly excited to find myself on the Food & Wine blog last week. Also, some talk about books + food + other such things over on Paper/Plates.

 

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spice cake with cardamom-coffee frosting | the vanilla bean blog
I’ve been sick for quite some time – going on 6 weeks, in fact, with this on again off again cold and cough nonsense. I’ve spent the last 3 days under my covers, rereading comforting books and pinning my little heart out. I have lots of things racing through my mind (it always seems to happen when I’m sick), but I just don’t quite have the energy to articulate them. Somehow I did find the strength to sneak out of bed and bake a cake, but, well, I just couldn’t help myself.

So, here is a cake, and here is a recipe. My thoughts I’ll keep for now.
spice cake with cardamom-coffee icing | the vanilla bean blog

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