Coffee Break


(photo courtesy of

I like to start the morning with a brew - brewed coffee that is. I used to drink gallons of coffee throughout the day. I could never seem to get enough caffeine goodness. Then I decided I was getting too much of a good thing and thought it might be time to back off.  I knew people who were drinking coffee substitutes from herbs and maya nuts, but that was a bit much for me to entertain. I decided a cup o' joe a day would be sufficient. However, that cup has now lead to two. Part of the reason I cut back was that I was beginning to have problems sleeping. Shocking! This is not an area where I generally have issues. I used to do six hours now I love 8 or 9. On any given rainy afternoon, I'm happy to nap as well. I've gradually acclimated myself to two cups of coffee - one in the morning and one in the afternoon - without any sleep disturbances so all is right with my world. My mother drinks decaf. She loves it.  I can't knock what makes her happy, but I'd rather swallow swords. My other afternoon indulgence is a bit of chocolate with my coffee. Perfect!


(photo courtesy of

Beyú Caffé: Coffee, Cocktails and Culture in Downtown Durham

My new favorite place I heart Brooklyn. 

Up until August 2009, I was happily immersed in the rat race, scurrying underground everyday for the commute to my son's elementary school, then off to my teaching job.  At least once daily, often more than once, I'd pop into one of my favorite cafes for a coffee or later in the evening for a glass of wine.

The cafe bistro was my living room on the go, a place to do a little work, read a book or magazine, or meet up with friends.
When I injured my back, so badly I couldn't walk,  much less think about popping down to the cafe, I made a very difficult decision to relocate closer to my family who could help me with my recovery and with my school age son.

For a while I was pretty miserable.

But one day, I was walking better and my pain was almost gone and the next day I could see the most amazing opportunities begin to open up for me.  I discovered what a big little foodie city Durham, NC is and I nearly wept with joy.

Suddenly my grey cloud had a shiny silver lining.

Sitting at the wine bar But really, the happiest I have been in six months was the day I walked into BeYú Caffé (335 W. Main St., Durham, NC 27701, 919-683-1058). The cafe bistro, only open about two months, is like a delicious slice of my former urban life served up with a huge dollop of fresh whipped cream.  

Owner Dorian (DJ) Brown has transformed the space in the historic Snow Building into a cozy, ambient place to chill - morning, noon and night. The decor is decidedly inviting with colors that are warm and inviting - walls of deep turquoise, rich burgundy and sunflower yellow - and interesting, carefully curated art.  The staff is wonderfully warm - there is nothing like a Southern welcome - and the coffee is brilliant. I can't wait to try the food, particularly my favorite - Red Velvet Cake. It goes without saying, I'm cheerful about a well-stocked wine bar.

Brown, a former big city finance guy, graduated from Duke University and left to chase money.  He found himself dissatisfied and began thinking about what to do with his life. He researched and he worked a part-time job as a barrista before leaving his suit behind. This is the sweetened condensed version, but the end result was BeYú Caffé.
I, for one, am exceedingly glad he followed his dream.
I heart BeYú Caffé.

Seattle Gourmet Coffee a great home brew

Emerald City Blend is wonderful wake-me-up

Always on the alert for a great tasting new coffee to brew at home, I was delighted to taste test the micro-roasted coffees of Seattle Gourmet Coffee.

The master roasters at Seattle Gourmet Coffee sent me three pounds of beans, one each of Emerald City Blend, Northwest, and Sorrento.

Grinding was a delight as I inhaled the rich and aromatic aroma of the coffees. If the nose of these coffees is any indication - dark, nutty and potent. The kitchen was filled with an enticing invitation to perk a pot.

I tried the Sorrento first. Billed as a darker Italian style roast, typical of Southern Italy, I found it to be lighter than I was expecting. Smooth and low acid, I recommend a higher coffee to water ratio to achieve a fuller bodied brew. 

Northwest,  a medium-bodied roast with a smooth and spicy finish, was next.  This coffee is balanced and has an amazing depth of flavor.  A real bargain at $11.95 per pound.

When I think of Emerald City, I think of the bejeweled fantasy city of the Wizard of Oz.  Now, after tasting Seattle Gourmet Coffee's blend of African, South and Central American, and Indian coffee beans, I'll be dreaming of a hot and tasty cup of java.

Emerald City Blend with its luxurious mouthfeel and intense flavor was by far the favorite. 

Seattle Gourmet Coffees can be bought online and the company also offers a Coffee of the Month Club (a terrific value at $50 for one pound per month, plus shipping & handling, as well as a 30% discount on future purchases ). 

Seattle Gourmet Coffee is offering 10% off your order with the following promotional code: BURKE 1.

Costa Rican agri-tour focuses on all things caffeine

Finca Rosa Blanca Country Inn - Living Room

Whole Travel

Consider what goes into your morning cup of joe. It's more than simply water and ground beans. 

Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation and Inn, with 30 acres of hard bean coffee which is certified organic and sustainable, provides travelers an opportunity to see for themselves.

Caffiene fiends can take part in the hands-on production and cultivation of their morning coffee (well not literally that morning). 

Guests of the inn are encouraged to participate in the picking, processing and roasting of Finca Rosa Blanca coffee as well as touring the farm and learning about the history of  coffee -- how it was discovered, traded, and consumed, while touring the stunning landscape. Inn guests do it all -- from processing coffee, including cleaning the berries and drying the coffee toy roasting their own coffee

Highlights of a visit yo Finca Rosa is a “coffee cupping” session with Barista and Tour Guide, Leo Vergnani. The walk ends with - what else -- a visit to their Inn's coffee bar, where participants learn to make cappuccino, café latte, and espresso coffee. Naturally, they get to drink their hard work.

Two-hour tours cost $25 and include the cupping session, the coffee break and pastries. The inn provides visitors with hiking sticks, and slickers in case of rain. Accommodations from $290.

Tomato Caprese gets a French twist

Chef Jean Stephane PoinardFew

 Few food pairings are as familiar as Tomato Caprese -- ripe juicy tomato, milky fresh mozarella and sweet basil leaf.

Enter Chef Jean Stephane Poinard. Poinard, a member of the elite Les Toques Blances Lyonnaises, gives this classic Italian insalata a distinct French twist.

Retaining the salad's simple and  fresh flavors, the Paul Bocuse-trained chef, uses the whole tomato to present this elegantly easy and nuanced recipe re-invention.  A fresh mozzarella mousse is stuffed into the tomato shell and flash fried basil leaves and a basil oil finish the plate.

Chiffonading the basil

Poinard and his wife, Valerie, a winemaker from the Domaine de la Fond Moiroux, re-create the experience of eating and dining in authentic French tradition at their Bistro de Leon in St. Augustine.  His Tomato Stuffed with Escargots in a Garlic Cream Reduction is a bistro favorite (recipe below) and demonstrates his dedication to good, uncomplicated food prepared with premium, fresh ingredients. Poinard is generous and genial, happy to invite guests into his immaculate kitchen for a quick cooking lesson.

Contemporary take on Tomato Caprese

Tomato Stuffed with Escargots

To prepare the tomato:

4 large, vine-ripened tomatoes

Bring 2 quarts water to a boil. Cut a cross into the bud end of each tomato. Plunge the tomatoes into the water for 15 seconds. Remove and plunge directly into ice water. Peel the tomatoes, pulling the skin back from the cut cross. Cut the stem end of the tomato off, carefully scoop out the seeds with a spoon or melon baller. Set aside the tomatoes and the tops.

For the garlic cream:

6 cloves garlic, finely diced

1 cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix the garlic, cream, salt and pepper in a saucepan.

Reduce slowly over low heat, stirring until thickened.

For the escargot:

2 tbsp. butter

1/2 cup carrot, peeled and julienne cut

1/2 cup turnip, peeled and julienne cut

3 cloves garlic, finely diced

4 dozen snails

3 tbsp. Grande Absente

Slowly saute the carrot, turnip, garlic and snails in butter over low heat until the vegetables have caramelized. Quickly deglaze the pan with the Grande Absente. Flame the Grande Absente by touching a lit match to the edge of the pan.

To serve:

Sprinkle salt and pepper into the tomatoes. Place the tomatoes in a 250 F oven for several minutes. The tomatoes should be just warm, not cooked. Place each tomato on an individual plate. Fill each tomato with one quarter of the snail mixture. Place the tops on the tomatoes.

Garnish with 2 or 3 tablespoons garlic cream sauce around each tomato.

For more info:
Bistro de Leon
12 Cathedral Place
St Augustine, FL 32084
(904) 810-2100