What We’re Diggin’ on August 26th

| August 26, 2014

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School is finally back in session for many of the kids, ending a summer filled with swimming pools and late nights.

But unlike those who are forced to sit in a classroom and stare at their textbooks all day long, we here at Vita have a ton of other things that are going on.

From our recent pop-up shop at Rudy’s Barbershop in Bellevue—where we’re giving away free coffee from 9am-4pm through September 5th—to upcoming events and fundraisers we take part in, there’s a lot of things that we’re diggin’ on today.

Here are just a few of them.

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Shawn P. Jennings, Digital Media Manager: “I’m diggin’ Buster Simpson’s treehouse at the Pilchuck Glass School.

Erin Bednarz, Customer Service Rep: “I’m diggin’ John Lennon Sunglasses and vintage silk dresses from Portland thrifting. I also can’t wait to watch Queen Bey’s VMA performance! Flawless”

Pearl Nelson, Sales: “I’m diggin’ on giving out free coffee in Bellevue Rudy’s and Vita’s pop-up.”

David Hong, Vita’s Renaissance Man: “I’m diggin’ on building a café in 17 hours in Bellevue. We walked into a small white room, and left it as fully functioning Caffe Vita.I’m also diggin’ on Daniel Shewmaker’s lamb and pork taco creations over the weekend—second to none!”

Nick Dimengo, Content Creator: “I’m diggin’ on the new furniture that I finally bought for my apartment. On the contrary, this is really just a sad way of realizing that I’m almost 30.”

Allison Campbell, Manager, Alberta Café: “I’m diggin’ the morning rush, the single origins as a French press on cooler mornings, the new green iced tea that we’ve been brewing (as another option to the black iced tea), and diggin’ on The Rolling Stones in the afternoons!”

Charlie Holloway, Sales Manager, Portland: “I’m diggin’ a midday stop at Cacao on SW 13th for a shot of Del Sol and a superbly rich Thai peanut butter cup. Also that I planned ahead and picked up an extra peanut butter cup for a picnic tonight at Cathedral Park. Yeah summer!”

Rick Friel, Grocery Field Representative: “I’m diggin’ our friendly morning barisras that I see here five days a week at the Capitol Hill cafe. Sam, Jeremy, Derek, Reese, Whitney, Leah and all. You’re the best!”

Something you need this week: Filtron Cold Water Coffee Brewing System—In order to increase your home brewing skills. (Buy Here)

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Vita Cohorts: New York’s Black Tree

| August 25, 2014

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You know the old adage that says it’s not the fight in the dog but the dog in the fight? Well, when it comes to the restaurant Black Tree in New York’s Lower East Side neighborhood, there might not be a better motto to describe this spot.

Not the largest space—featuring just a handful of tables and a narrow bar area—the food that chef and owner Sandy Dee Hall makes every day makes up for what the outside appearance may lack.

That’s not to say that the location doesn’t have charm and character. The interior makes you feel like you’re in a rustic old building, with exposed brick and solid wood accents.

But what makes Black Tree as unique and competitive in the popular New York City food scene is Sandy, who uses his self-taught love for food to whip up open face sandwiches that are some of the best I’ve ever tasted.

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Anytime a chef is as fixated on getting the freshest ingredients as Dee Hall is, like sticking to a 300-mile radius for all of his food components, it’s easy to see why the restaurant was featured on the popular Food Network show, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, with host Guy Fieri amazed at the way Dee Hall prepares and serves his dishes.

Cooking up his popular Pork Winter sandwich that uses Caffe Vita coffee as a dry rub, Fieri’s taste buds were blown away by the strong taste that came from the complex sandwich.

I had the chance to sit down with Sandy during a recent trip to New York, and he gave me the skinny on how the concept for Black Tree came to be, and where he developed a passion for using local and fresh ingredients for all of his dishes.

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How does coffee as a dry rub add to a dish?

“I think it just stands out a little bit more. When you first taste green coffee; it’s just a little tannic and sour. But, with meats especially, I think that coffee does a lot with our profile because it adds an acidity that’s missing when you don’t use something like a lemon. Just using the dry rub with the coffee, I think that’s really cool.”

Can you talk about the 300-mile radius you use to get your food?

“From New York City, we only go as far as 300 miles around, so I don’t have any citrus at the bar, or anything. All my liquor is beer or wine, and all the food comes from within that 300 miles. But, for instance, with Vita, I understand that the coffee beans themselves aren’t from around here, but they roast them right around the corner, (in Vita’s Lower East Side café).”

What drew you to Caffe Vita?

“I think you guys have an outstanding product. Since it’s such small batch stuff, I really like that it’s a nine-pound roast, and that’s it. The fact that you guys supply all of New York with your coffee by using just those nine-pound batches, I think that’s pretty exceptional and is a cool concept. I can really appreciate what you’re doing; it adds a special quality that you can tell makes a difference. It’s some of the little things that you’re doing that people come to appreciate.

How did you get to know about Caffe Vita?

“I’ve actually liked your guys’ brand for a long time. I opened up The Meatball Shop in Williamsburg, which is the first time I was introduced to Caffe Vita. And I always liked the coffee and the roast profile. It wasn’t particularly sour, which I like, since I prefer a dark, bold taste.”

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Where did the idea for Black Tree’s unique menu come from?

“I’m just basically insane, I guess? We wanted our menu to show things that people would normally get on a plate, but that we could do as a sandwich. When you get something as a sandwich, it can look messy, and doesn’t have to be exactly plated; which takes out a lot of labor since things don’t have to be peeled a certain way. All the meat doesn’t have to be formed in a certain way. And I thought that the only way to do that was by doing a sandwich. So lots of my original ideas were things that would normally be plated, but I can prepare as a sandwich. I can do a lot of these things on a plate, but it would cost me about twice as much because I would have to put so much effort into the entire process. But because it’s on a sandwich, the flavor stays the same, but it doesn’t matter how it looks because it’s not on a plate anymore.”

What separates Black Tree from some other restaurants in New York City?

“It’s the concept of a farm-to-table that’s accessible. It’s the price point being really low that continues to drive back regulars each week. I used to work at these really high-end restaurants, and when I started Black Tree, I knew that I couldn’t afford a $34 pork dish, even though it might be good and fresh. I could do the same thing at a lower price, though, because of the plating concept; which is really our main difference.”

How did you get the idea to use Vita coffee as a dry rub?

“I actually use your guys’ coffee in almost every piece of meat. The duck leg, it has coffee on it, but I just don’t advertise it on the menu like I do with the pork. Coffee, in a sense, can be difficult to use in certain things when cooking because of the texture, and because I’m using different braises and stuff, it almost dissipates into the liquid to make it a gritty texture. But it hits something in your mouth that just tastes good.”

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Where did you get the name Black Tree?

“It’s like an old concept that came from something I thought up a long time ago, which I knew would probably never happen. I just wanted this tree that would be growing in the center of the restaurant, and a floor that showed the root system underneath. So when I opened this place, people were wondering what I would name it, and I thought Black Tree, and my friends just thought it was cooler than Sandy’s Sandwiches or something.”

What made you decide on this location?

“I knew that I wanted to be on the Lower East Side. You get scared, because you don’t want to open up anything too big, but I feel like, even though we’re in a tiny area and get overwhelmed at times, the vibe’s good and we’re staying busy, so that’s always good.”

How do you deal with so much food competition in New York?

“You know, I’m really self-conscious with my cooking because I wasn’t classically trained. There are lots of people who went to culinary school and then traveled around to some of the better restaurants in the world, but just seeing people’s reaction to our food, it kind of changes my mind on things, and proves that our dishes are at the same level as some of the higher end places in the city. We might get a bad wrap because people think we’re just sandwiches or whatever, but if they want great food at a great price point, I always tell people to come here over spending $80 somewhere else.”

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10 Things You Need to Know On August 25

| August 25, 2014

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After a few Monday’s of traveling to different events, we’re finally back with our “10 Things You Need to Know” column.

And since there has been plenty going on, we’re sure you’ll find this useful as you try to get through yet another sunny, summer Monday.

From more events coming up to fantasy football glitches, here are the 10 things that you need to know today.

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10. A few of us had the chance to travel to Los Angeles last weekend for the A Walk on Water surf therapy, which helps special needs children use surfing as a therapeutic exercise.

The smiles on the kids’ faces were enormous and nonstop the entire event.

9. If you didn’t already hear the news or see the bags in our cafes, Vita released a new, single origin roast called Mexico Sierra Sur De Oaxaca a couple of weeks ago, with it available for purchase both online and in any of our cafes.

8. There wasn’t anything crazy that happened at last night’s MTV Video Music Awards—which is probably a positive thing—but Beyonce seemed to kill it with her full set of songs during her performance.

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7. Did you know Vita recently opened a pop-up shop in Bellevue at the new Rudy’s Barbershop? If not, you do now, as we just launched this past Friday, August 22, and will be serving FREE coffee from 9am-4pm each day until September 5.

6. If breakfast is what you crave, check out some of the best places in the country to fill your appetite at, courtesy of Thrillist.

5. For all the fantasy football gamers out there, last night turned out to be the worst time to have a live-draft—well, if your league is using Yahoo! as it’s platform.

That’s because the company servers crashed at the most inopportune time, causing an Internet freakout by fanatics who were choosing their teams at the time.

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4. Looking for the best records to buy before or after a flight from SEATAC airport? We stopped into the recently opened Sub Pop Records store and got some advice on which ones are the must-haves, so make these albums your next carry-on.

3. Thanks to the pop culture site Buzzfeed, anyone who goes to school in Seattle can definitely identify with some of the things that one of their writers compiled in this list.

2. During the aforementioned trip to L.A., we were fortunate enough to sit down and talk with Jeremy Adler, General Manger of Eveleigh on Sunset Boulevard.

With a menu that changes daily, Jeremy spoke to us about a number of different things that’s happening at the restaurant, including how it hopes to change the food culture in the city.

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1. After fully rebuilding our Probat GG45 Roaster a few weeks ago in Seattle, we’re in the process of building a brand new roasterie in New York’s Bushwick area, expected to be complete by the end of the year.

The Vita Escort – Cold Brew Tips From Chad Freilino

| August 22, 2014

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As the Director of Coffee for An OTG Experience—an award-winning travel restaurant company with more than 200 restaurant and retail locations in ten airports across North America—Chad Freilino knows a thing or two about what trends in the food industry.

With that wealth of knowledge comes the duty to share his craft with others, which is what Freilino is doing today, giving some tips on the wildly popular cold brew that coffee lovers are drinking all over the nation.

As a great alternative to the normal, hot cup that people drink each day, Chad talks about the differences in brew methods and the process it takes to make cold brew, and considering each Caffe Vita café has cold brew on tap, we appreciate his insight.

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Walk into any café this summer and, chances are, you will see cold brewed coffee on the menu. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of cold brew yet, it is a delectable and extremely efficient way to get your caffeine buzz on during the hot hot summer months. Cold brew isn’t a new concept, in fact Toddy (the OG company) has been around for over 50 years, so why hasn’t it caught on until now and why is it better than iced coffee?

Time. Time is the key (along with some other essentials you’ll find below) to making cold brew special. In a classic extraction, we steep our coffee in hot water (around 200 degrees F) for about 4 minutes. Heat is the catalyst that speeds up the melting of solubles, a.k.a the good stuff like caffeine that lives inside coffee beans. The longer we steep in hot water, the more we are going to get out of the coffee and at a certain point we reach the perfect steep time where flavor is optimal. The bad news is, we haven’t fully extracted the caffeine from the beans and if we go any further we will start to develop undesirable flavors (bitter, burnt, acidic). This is were cold brew coffee is unique.

With cold brew, we steep coffee in cold water. Take away the heat and we lose our catalyst in the reaction so the timeline gets much longer for brewing. About 16 hours to be precise. At the end of our overnight steep we get a sweet, syrupy coffee concentrate that has about 70% less acidity than any other brewing method out there. And the bonus, ALL of the caffeine is extracted from the beans. Yep, all of it. So, how is that sweet, delicious, super caffeinated, ready to go coffee better than traditional iced coffee? Because iced coffee is brewed hot then poured over ice. What that means is we have less caffeine (because of our short steep time), more acidity and less sweetness (because of heat) and once the ice melts we have watered down coffee to boot. If you don’t believe me, try it at one of our World Bean cafes. You won’t go back.

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Here are my recommendations for home cold brewers for all types of budgets:

For the Hipster: The Cold Bruer - $75.

Originally a kick starter project, this mod design is all about minimalism. Made of mostly glass and a little plastic (its blue!) your friends will certainly notice your passion for both design and coffee while you are hosting your next farm to table dinner at your apartment.

View the Hario Woodneck Dripper in our Online Shop.

For the caffeine-a-holic: The Toddy System – $39.50.

While this system may not be the prettiest, It sure is a workhorse. Made of durable BPA free plastic, you can count on this little 3-legged bucket to deliver over and over.

View the Filtron Cold Brewing System in our Online Shop.

For those who like countertop bling: The Yama Glass Cold Tower – $235.

Yama glass is a one of a kind hand blown glass company based in Thailand. They have recently created an entire line of analog coffee brewing devices sold exclusively through Espresso Parts. This cold brewer is made of hand blown glass and hand carved wood. Make sure to measure your cabinet height though, this beauty stands 30 inches tall. Everyone will be jealous.

A little note if you get into home brewing: follow the directions that come with your brewer and remember, you are making a concentrate so make sure you dilute with at least 40% water unless you are drinking the cold brew as a 2oz shot. Otherwise you may end up like Chef Billy in DC who lost the ability to speak for couple hours after drinking a glass of cold brew concentrate. Ask him about it if you see him.

View the Bonmac Syphon Brew System in our Online Store.