An adventure of the senses at Blue Bottle Coffee

An adventure of the senses at Blue Bottle Coffee

Enveloped by the fragrant aroma of coffee, the loud hum of roasters and the chilly air of the former produce market, James Freeman, founder of Blue Bottle Coffee, escorted SFPFS members throughout the company’s fascinating roasting plant on Feb. 18.

While showings sacks of (mostly) organic coffee beans, James pointed out their global origins and explained that the bean is actually the pit of the fruit. (This fruit is referred to as a “cherry” by the coffee trade.) The group next made a diversion to the incredible bakery where his wife Caitlin was brushing absinthe (yes, absinthe!) onto biscotti and sprinkling them with sesame seeds, resulting in their namesake Regina’s Biscotti. In fact, all Blue Bottle pastries emanate from this flagship bakery with the exception of those at SFMOMA, where an additional selection is available.

Art meets science in the roasting process. Experienced supervising artisans evaluate the beans for appearance, taste and smell while monitoring the environmental conditions. Today’s unplanned challenge was a power outage, thankfully restored by PG&E just prior to our visit. For blending coffee beans, the surprising piece of equipment used is none other than a cement mixer.

“Cupping” ensued–a three-stage process where first we smelled a variety of ground single origin beans. Next, hot water was poured over these grounds and we inhaled the aromas of each one. Finally, spoons were provided for sipping. Here are some tasting notes about each:

Sidama – highly fruity
Yirgacheffe Peaberry – dried apricots
Sulawesi Peaberry – Molasses
Brazil Poco Fundo – pungent, excellent for espresso
Daterra Reserve – maple, almonds
Ethiopia – tangy, sour, peach acidity

Lively banter about favorites was interspersed with more information about Blue Bottle from James, including plans for a new location in Manhattan. Incredibly, after only eight and a half years, this brand is recognized as premium in the category.

A platter of Caitlin’s pastries provided the sweet finish to our visit. SFPFS members will be dreaming about Parmesan-Fennel Biscotti, Stonehouse Olive Oil-Caraway Shortbread, Saffron Snickerdoodles and Michael Recchutti Chocolate-Chocolate Cookies for months to come!

By Kathy Lassen-Hahne
Photos courtesy Nader Khouri Photography

Notes from Cooking Teacher SIG Meeting

Although it was a windy and rainy night, the enthusiasm at the February 16 meeting to discuss this year’s Cooking Teacher SIG programs was palpable. The meeting was high spirited and productive.
This was my opportunity to listen and absorb all the wonderful ideas that will help shape future meetings. It was unanimously agreed that cooking must continue to be an integral part of our meetings. This provides the forum all of us to continue learning and growing, which helps further our abilities and, in some cases, our businesses.

One of the ideas discussed is to conduct cooking demos (either individual or teams) at a few of the SIG meetings. Themes are unlimited and could include vegetarian, gluten-free, working with kids, and cooking for health, among others. Additionally, there was enthusiasm for the idea of presentations in which SIG members can gain knowledge from other teachers, such as asking Weezie Mott to demonstrate her method of conducting in-home cooking classes. For those of you with a large collection of recipes and notes who are interested in information on how to publish your material, the topic will be addressed at a future meeting featuring SIG members who have “been there, done that.”

Other recurring requests are for help with marketing our skills and businesses, learning the art of blogging, and becoming more proficient on Facebook. It looks like we’ll have a lot on our plates in 2011! I look forward to fun and instructional meetings.

We agreed to start themed potluck meetings. The first will be a Mexican theme at our meeting on April 26 in Novato (address to come). The meeting will feature two guest speakers. Ann Humphrey will dedicate an hour to the subject “Marketing Your Business.” Ann worked in channel marketing and international marketing at Autodesk and for the last 7 years has done marketing projects, marketing plans, and coaching for small and medium businesses in a variety of industries. Her favorite projects involve working directly with entrepreneurs on tactical projects to generate sales leads and orders. Ann will share practical, measurable marketing strategies to grow a small business. She will also cover some common marketing money-wasters to avoid.

We will also welcome SFPFS member Gayle Massey, who will spend a few minutes helping us to connect to the SFPFS Facebook Site and showing us how to utilize the site in our business life and SFPFS communications.

Thanks to all who attended our last Cooking Teachers SIG, and a special thank you to Marie Simmons for opening her home to us for the February meeting.

By Carl Drosky