Saturday, May 16, 2015

Coffee Party!

This morning I hosted a coffee tasting party for the North Iowa Bloggers!  It was my first-ever bloggers event since I joined the group in March, and it was so fun!

It was a cozy party, with just three of us.  :)  Jenny and Laura came over for quality conversation and yummy treats.  Our sweet Loni dropped off her Keurig for us to use, and spent the day with her poor little man who is sick.  Still praying, Loni.

Three of Mason City's wonderful coffee shops provided us with the complimentary goods.  Weren't they kind to give them to us?  We received fresh, in-house roasted coffee beans from Cabin Coffee and Jitters.  My friend Catherine of Coffee Cat gave us a fantastic platter of homemade bars.  I LOVED hosting this little party and can't wait to have the bloggers over again!

The main event was the coffee, of course.  When I contacted the owners/managers of the shops, I asked if they'd share their most popular coffee beans OR the product that they, as artisan coffee roasters, are most proud of.  From Jitters, owners Scott and Candi shared their "House Blend," which is a fair trade, organic, bold roast.  The Cabin Coffee friends shared "Fiesta," which is a medium roast.  

I ground the beans in my NutriBullet which was slick and easy.  It only took about 5 seconds to achieve a finely ground coffee, ready to brew.  

Now, let me say that I ADORE coffee.  I've loved it since I was twelve years old, sipping it out of thick ceramic white-and-gold coffee cups at the Methodist church in my hometown.  There is something about the warmth, aroma, and strong taste that "gets me" every time.  I am an ADDICT.  In college, I was spoiled with an on-campus coffee shop that served wonderful, flavorful brews each and every day.  I've spent hundreds of dollars at coffee shops over the years, and I can't see myself quitting anytime soon.  When we got married, the coffee pot on the registry was THE most important of all household items and I squealed when we opened it up.

This leads to a topic I'll call "Lessons Learned In Marriage."  I used to purchase only high-quality coffee, like the brews we drank this morning.  I would grind it myself and not think twice about the slightly heftier price tag.  However, when I married Tom, I gave in to his cheaper Folgers, Maxwell House, and Hy Vee brand coffees in the huge cans...I figured that "it was fine" and I could still get my quality coffee at the shops when I would visit.

I WAS DEAD WRONG, PEOPLE!  WHY DID I EVER STOP BUYING QUALITY COFFEE BEANS?!  Tom Kirby, I love you so much but we are so done buying Folgers.  Oh my gosh.  Today, as we brewed our Jitters and Cabin Coffee beans, the house smelled like a coffee shop.  And it was perfect...strong and smooth and delicious and oh man...goodbye, goodbye, goodbye yucky cheap coffee.  I will gladly pay the extra dollars to get this thrill every morning!

I set up our kitchen table with Cat's baked goods, some European chocolates, my sweet little "milk cow" cream pitcher, and the beautiful spring flowers I received from my co-teacher after my concert last week.

Lindt dark chocolate, Zoet milk chocolate, Ghirardelli caramel squares.

(Can you spot my true feelings hanging above the Keurig?  This is how I feel about mornings.)

I served baked buttered toast cut from fresh French bread and Clinton Kelly's egg muffins to accompany the sweets.  The egg muffins were a hit!  I'm glad, too, because I was nervous that they wouldn't be good.  I tweaked the recipe quite a bit -- using 9 eggs instead of 6, bacon instead of ham, adding cheddar cheese and mushrooms, and baking at 350 for 14-16 minutes instead of 10-12.  I am happy to give Clinton credit, though...I LOVE him and his show "The Chew."  I would watch it every single day when I was on maternity leave last year!  :) 

Here is the plate of deliciousness from Cat.  Vegan oatmeal biker bars with walnuts and cranberries, gluten-free peanut butter oatmeal bars, chocolate chip cookie bars, and double chocolate brownies.  OH HEAVENS.  They were all fantastic.

My favorites were the brownies and the biker bars.  I highly recommend visiting the CoffeeCat and trying both of these!

A little sidebar about the CoffeeCat: when I went in to pick up the bars, I wanted to slap my forehead and say to myself, "why don't you come in here more often?"  

I've played solo sets at the Cat several times, and the band has played a couple shows there as well.  This photo is from a solo set during the Christmas season of 2011:

Catherine has done such a nice job with that sweet little shop.  She is dedicated to displaying local art and hosting live music every week -- something that is unique and very valuable in our town -- and her drinks and treats are always super fresh and VERY special.  I have noticed that her monthly feature drinks are designed around whichever fruits and flavors are in season.  

I asked her what was her latest "pride and joy" on the menu, and she mentioned two things: the lemon rhubarb bars (she can't keep them on the shelves!) and the carrot-orange smoothie.  I promptly bought one of these gorgeous smoothies when she told me about it:

It was wonderful and a PERFECT pick-me-up for a warm day!

I can't wait to spend more time with the lovely North Iowa Bloggers -- they are such quality people!  I have many more of them to actually MEET in real life :) 

So, here's to GOOD COFFEE!  I challenge you to ditch the Folgers and visit one of our wonderful LOCAL shops so you can bring some of their fresh-roasted beans home.  You will not regret it, I promise!

Love, Betsy