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Saturday, March 31, 2012

SPOTTED: Proper Sausages at Legion Park Farmers Market

There's always a few surprises that pop up in my neighborhood now and then.  There's the guy that barricaded himself in a motel room and held his wife and kid "hostage" or the guy that took out his aggression over high gas prices on a defenseless gas pump (Biscayne Times covers these and more incidents in better detail coupled with commentary).

So surprised I was driving by the usually empty lot in front of Legion Park on Biscayne and 64th to see a Farmers Market had sprung up.  I recalled one of the guys at Urban Oasis Project, who had their market at the strip mall on 79th St & Biscayne, mentioning a couple of weeks ago that they were moving locations.  I guess this is where they moved too.  Alas the surprise wasn't as surprising. 

But wait!  Along with Urban Oasis (and the bongo drum guy who seems to know only one beat) there was a small tent with a cool logo that would catch the eye of anyone who reads this blog.  Proper Sausages has come to town, or at least to my neighborhood.  A great write-up in Edible South Florida's winter edition will give you some insight into how this unique local business came about.  In short there were no proper sausages in Miami so a local couple, one American one British, decided to make some. Proper Sausages makes artisanal sausages using local Berkshire pork with unique ingredient blends.  Today's choices included the namesake Proper Sausage with the aforementioned heirloom pork along with Fig & Bleu Cheese, a spicy sausage with habanero and a venison and cherry sausage.  Normally found at the Yellow Green Farmers Market, this new Saturday outpost at Legion Park saves those of us living in Miami proper the trek to Hollywood.  And for those of us too busy to even make it to Legion Park to pick up sausages to cook yourself you don't have to worry.  Local favorites Blue Collar and The Federal regularly feature Proper Sausage creations on their menus.  Easy peasy.

Friday, March 2, 2012

TASTED: Cold Brew Coffee makes it to Miami

It wasn't long ago that here in Miami those that wanted an icy, caffeinated break from the heat were relegated to choose some type of carbonated drink (regular, diet, energy, etc) or <<gulp>> iced coffee.  As adults many of us can't stomach Diet Monster Jolt Bull Guarana colas on a regular basis so we're stuck with iced coffee.  That's regular, brewed coffee over ice.  If we're lucky the coffee had been refrigerated, or at least room temperature, before being poured over ice.  But there's been many a time that I've watched someone behind a counter pour hot coffee over ice and "ta-da" me with a lukewarm, watered down coffee.

In 2011 cold coffee aficionados in Miami were finally cut a break, a few in fact.  Cold brew coffee, a concentrated brew made by soaking coarsely-ground beans for 12+ hours at room temperature, began popping up in coffeehouses (expected), restaurants (logical expansion)  and department stores (say wha?!) around the city. This method of brewing results in a mellowing of the acid in the harshest beans and will make your already smooth Brazilian brew seem like a mocha.  Water is added to the concentrate to mellow it further.  Some places add milk instead which makes cold brew an even bigger treat (though by doing so the nuances in the coffee are muted).

Cold brew coffee in Miami is now prevalent enough that there's no need to put up with drip coffee that's been refrigerated, poured over ice and doctored up to be an iced coffee.  Unlike Chicago, New York or Seattle where every living room has a coffeehouse, Miami's coffeehouse culture is slowly growing.  There are only a few places to get decent coffee to begin with so the list of places with good cold brew is short.  For those that love the thrill of the hunt here's a list:

No place seems to take their cold brew more seriously than Panther Coffee in Wynwood.  Their coffee is brewed overnight but it's the house-roasted beans that make it special.  Panther's brew takes on a mellowness that borders on velvet without sacrificing body.  The cold brew popular enough that Panther is now selling growlers to fill and refill.  Restos around the city like Harry's Pizzeria are also offering Panther's cold brew on the menus.

A department store based in Seattle better have good coffee and Nordstrom takes pride in their brews.  A long wait while D. rampaged the store prompted a visit to their e-bar.  Lo and behold a cold brew was on the menu.  I must try it.  While good for department store coffee it's not close to coffeehouse quality.  They did, however, sell the Toddy, the contraption used to make cold brew at home (more on that later).

Like Panther, eternity coffee roasters in downtown roasts their own beans in-house and brews their coffee for 18 hours.  The result however is not as smooth and complex a brew as Panther's.  Great if you're downtown but I prefer the eternity's hot drinks to their cold brew offering.

My first visit to Alaska Coffee Roasting Co. on Biscayne in North Miami was near disastrous.  The friendly but overwhelmed cashier gave us such a watered down coffee that it was with much hesitation that I returned only recently.  The second time was a charm as this batch, along with the cashier, were much better.  Still some fumbling occurred when I asked the cashier what beans they used.  They apparently change depending on what's been roasted in-house.  The origin of this particular batch will remain a mystery.

Before coffee fans get excited, no, there are no Intelligentsia locations in or anywhere near Miami.  But when making cold brew at home, Intelligentsia's Brazilian offering (available locally at Fresh Market) is incredible.  All that's needed is a Toddy to make acceptable, if not better, cold brew at home.  So with 12 oz of great beans, seven cups of filtered water, a Toddy contraption and 18 hours you've got great cold brew at home.  Make it the night before and the next morning you've got the makings of a great iced coffee for breakfast (great timing as it's going to start getting really hot really soon here in the tropics).