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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Local Joplin Coffee? Ask Momma Llama!


Hello. My name is Frank… and I’m a coffee snob.

I’ve been called a “snob” and a “geek” about many things: food, cigars, beer, etc. Coffee is on that list. I cannot stand a lot of coffees. For example, the stuff they have at my workplace; barf. Watered down, flavorless coffee brewed from bags of grounds that have probably been on a shelf, after leaving the factory, for months, maybe a year. Why bother? This is why I keep a small French press at my desk, and bring my own, freshly ground, coffees from home.



Ever since I read about, and noticed, the trolley sitting on a lot, amongst only a handful of businesses popping back up on Main Street in Joplin, I have wanted to try it out. I also had caught wind of some information that they were using a coffee from Tulsa, Oklahoma. The only coffee from there that I had heard about was a roasterie/café that my friend Heather RAVES about. So, this piqued my interest further. A couple of Saturday mornings ago, I finally had a chance to swing in for a try. I’m not sure why I waited so long…

When the infamous tornado ripped Joplin apart, last May, Christine Cadwell and Scott Brown lost their consignment shop. When facing the important decisions of how to carry on, and whether to rebuild, Christine received a suggestion from a cousin out east. As an owner of a couple of coffee drive-thrus, himself, he suggested she try out a coffee shop. That night, Christine thought she would check into it, and searched E-bay for “coffee kiosk”. What popped up was the trolley, located in Searcy, Arkansas. She felt it was Karma, finding it so quickly.

Scott and Christine headed south to see the trolley, and began the hoop-jumping with the city of Joplin to make sure everything would be okay with bringing the trolley in, and making it a coffee drive-thru. They got everything cleared, and began preparing for its arrival.

They attended a coffee school in Texas back in September, to get a great understanding of the world of coffee. They then began a journey to approximately 10-11 roasters throughout the Midwest, as far as New Orleans, to find the right fit for the coffee they would use and sell. They tried a roaster from Tulsa, and selected their coffee as the main component of their business. Topéca is a family owned coffee company, grown and harvested, utilizing the seed-to-cup model, in El Salvador. Topéca is roasted freshly and sold at their café in Tulsa.



In October, the trolley came to its current place of residence at 2118 South Main Street, and around December 1st, 2011, Off the Track Coffee Company opened. In addition to many various coffee drinks, they also offer pastries, sausage and egg biscuits, and several other treats. You can even purchase bags of Topéca coffee! And don’t call her Christine… she is affectionately known as “Momma Llama”! Chri.. uh, Momma Llama picked up this nickname from a friend of her daughter, Reneé, from her frequent visits to see her in law school at LSU in Baton Rouge. It’s a name that stuck, and is easy and friendly for kids to remember and relate to.

The morning I stopped by, I had the opportunity to speak with Momma Llama. She’s a great, friendly lady, and full of great information about their coffee. You can tell she has a true passion for her new endeavor. I grabbed a cup of the coffee of the day, and grabbed a mocha for my wife. My wife claims it was one of the best mochas she had ever drank. And the cup I enjoyed was fantastic! To top off the great coffee they pour, they offer a punch card rewards system; the heat sleeve around your cup has already been punched, and you just present it to get punched with each purchase. After ten punches, you get a free coffee! You can’t beat that. (Oh, and by the way, the cups my wife and I got our coffee in were paper… a much more biodegradable material than those cups from some other coffee joints!)

Off the Track’s motto is very appropriate: “Helping rebuild Joplin, one cup at a time.” I urge you to get over to the trolley and try them out. You will be supporting a local business, and supporting locally roasted, quality coffee! If you swing by there, after reading this, let them know you read about the trolley on Frank About Food!

Off the Track Coffee Company is open Monday through Friday from 6:00am to 5:00pm, and on Saturday from 8:00am to 1:00pm. You can find them on Facebook: Off the Track Coffee Company 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Traditional Irish Fare: Corned Beef & Cabbage ... or is it?


In the late 5th Century, St. Patrick was a missionary to Ireland, where he was integral in spreading Christianity to the Pagan culture. Many tools used by him are trademarks of Irish culture, today, such as the shamrocks he used to teach the Trinity, and the Celtic cross he originated to incorporate the Sun Cross of the Pagans into a Christian cross to which they could relate. The Romano-Briton was destined for sainthood. St. Patrick appealed widely, to both Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions in Ireland.

St. Patrick's Day, the cultural and religious holiday, was begun by The Knights of St. Patrick, an Irish Protestant organization. The first parade marking the holiday took place on March 17, 1783, in Dublin, Ireland. This day is significant in that it is the anniversary of St. Patrick's death. The holiday is recognized in several religions, and is even cause for lifting of Lenten restrictions on food and drink for the day.

Today, St. Patrick's Day is celebrated as a celebration of Irish culture in many countries around the world. Parades, "wearing of the green", and shamrocks are common symbols of this day. Along with this celebration, drinking takes a center stage. And with that drinking, Irish food!

When many think of St. Patrick's Day, they think of corned beef and cabbage! I mean, after all, it's traditional Irish food, right?

Wrong! 


As with many foods and traditions from other countries, corned beef and cabbage is not a traditional Irish meal. Beef, and the salt used to cure it, was an expensive luxury that few people could afford to enjoy. A more traditional version of such a meal would be boiled bacon and cabbage. The Irish bacon is made from salting or smoking and salting various cuts of pork. Corned beef was written about in the 1600's, in Ireland. It was beef salt-cured with "corns" of salt, coarse pellets of salt about the size of a kernel of corn, served mainly at Easter. In the late 19th Century, Irish began emigrating to Canada and the United States. They found beef and salt to be more affordable, and they began to prepare the beef in the same way, by "corning" it, but with a brine instead of the dry cure. Often, the beef brisket cut was boiled or braised with minimal spices, such as bay leaves, peppercorns, and mustard seeds. This preparation became associated with Irish culture in America. And today, it's the most popular item to be served on St. Patrick's Day, second only to beer.

Last night, we had our monthly dinner and game night. Since it's March, we naturally went with the Irish/St. Patrick's Day theme. I called upon our guests to make some of the food, and they did a great job! I cooked up Scotch eggs for appetizers and the corned beef and cabbage. Our friend Julie made a moist, perfect Irish soda bread, and our friends Daniel and Mackenzie made a delicious Guinness chocolate cake, with Bailey's Irish Cream frosting!

Everything turned out great! I'm glad the Scotch eggs went over well; it was the first time trying to make them. The idea behind the sausage encased eggs, breaded and fried, is to have a portable meal for workers. Similar to the idea behind cottage pies, and other hand-held savory pastries, it's got a lot of protein in a little package and can be eaten fresh and hot, or cold later in the day.

Below you will find recipes for the Scotch eggs, Irish soda bread, and the corned beef and cabbage, and just in time for you to give them a try for St. Patrick's Day. Pair all this food with some great Irish-style beer, and enjoy! I might suggest some Guinness, or even go a bit more local with Schlafly's Irish Extra Stout!

Enjoy your St. Patrick's Day celebration to the fullest! Let me know if you tried any of these recipes, and how they turned out for you!

Here's to a long life and a merry one. 

A quick death and an easy one. 

A pretty girl and an honest one. 

A cold pint -- and another one! 
                                             Slàinte!


Scotch Eggs

6 hard-boiled eggs, cooled and peeled
1 lb. sage flavored pork sausage
2 eggs
1 Tablespoon water
1 C. bread crumbs

1.  Separate the sausage into six equal portions, and form balls with them. 
2.  Take one in your hand and with your thumbs, start an indentation in the middle of the sausage. Start 
      working it into a cup shape. 
3.  Place and egg into the "cup" of sausage and began working the sausage around the egg. Make sure the 
     sausage stays an even thickness all around the egg. 
4.  Place the completed sausage/egg balls back into the refrigerator as you repeat for the remaining eggs. 
5.  Beat the two eggs and water together, and place into a bowl. Add some seasoning, as desired, into the  
     egg bowl, such as salt and pepper. Place the breadcrumbs into another bowl. 
6.  Take one of the eggs and dip into the egg and water mixture. Remove with a spoon, to the breadcrumbs. 
     Roll the egg around to get a nice even coating. Repeat with the other five eggs. 
7.  Repeat step 6, to put a second layer of breadcrumbs on the eggs. 
8.  Let rest for about 20 minutes in order to firm up the coating layers. 
9.  Heat frying oil to 375°F. 
10. One at a time, carefully place the coated egg into the oil. If using a deep fryer, use an appropriate utensil 
      to periodically rotate the egg around. When the egg appears a light brown, in approximately 5 minutes, 
      remove to plate with paper towels. Drain. 
11. Once all the eggs are cooked, gently split in half with a sharp knife. Serve with a stone-ground mustard. 



Irish Soda Bread
4 C. (16 oz.) all purpose flour**
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
14 oz. buttermilk

1.  Preheat oven to 425°F. Lightly grease and flour a cake pan. 
2.  Sieve and combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. 
3.  Add the buttermilk to make a sticky dough. Place on a floured surface and lightly knead. Excessive 
     kneading will allow the gas to escape. 
4.  Shape into a round, flat loaf and place into the cake pan. 
5.  Slice a cross into the top of the loaf. 
6.  Cover the pan with another pan and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for an additional 
    15 minutes. 
7.  The bottom of the bead should have a hollow sound when the bottom is tapped. 
8.  Cover with a tea towel and sprinkle with water to keep moist until serving. 


** The original recipe calls for all purpose flour. However, my friend Julie found that using cake flour produced a better product, as she did it both ways. 


Corned Beef and Cabbage

3-4 lb. corned beef brisket, with included seasoning packet
1 white onion, sliced or wedged
1 head cabbage, core removed and cut into wedges
1 lb. small red, or new, potatoes
1 lb. baby carrots (or peeled and sliced carrots)

1.  Place brisket and contents of spice packet into Dutch oven, or similar simmering pot. Cover with water. 
2.  Add onion slices to the pot. 
3.  Bring to a boil stovetop, and reduce heat to medium. 
4.  Cover and continue to simmer for approximate 2.5 to 3 hours. Some say a rule of thumb of 50 minutes 
     per pound. But 3 hours is a good cover-all time. 
5.  When the brisket is tender, remove to a plate and seal aluminum foil around it to let it rest. I slipped mine 
     into the oven at the lowest temperature (170°F).
6.  Add the cabbage, potatoes and carrots to the Dutch oven and simmer until your desired tenderness. 
7.  Move the vegetables onto a serving plate, and slice the brisket thinly against the grain. Fan the slices over 
     the vegetables and serve. 
8.  Serve with a horseradish cream sauce and/or stone-ground mustard. 

Frank's Notes
1. You can add your own spices, rather than using the packet. But in reality, it's just easier to use what they 
     provide. 
2.  Corned beef brisket comes in two cuts: flat and tip. The flat is a much neater cut, and is ideal for a nice 
     slicing. If you are not concerned about your meat being perfectly shaped, the tip is much less expensive! I 
     used the flat, last night, for presentation purposes. 
3.  You can add some beer to the simmering liquid. I would not recommend a dark Guinness stout. It would 
     become bitter, and ruin the flavor profile of your meat, with the simmering time in this recipe. Make it a 
     lighter beer, and it will be great.