by Tara Davis

Sometimes the stars align in inexplicable ways. We find our paths crossing, our lives making contact with other lives in weird ways.  That’s exactly what happened when I met Margot Brignac.  Without recounting the less interesting details, let’s rejoice in the happy collision of our businesses, and talk coffee.

My staff and I paid a visit to Flamjeaux Coffee Company in Mandeville this week, where Margot graciously spent time talking with and educating us on the process of and differences in roasting techniques, as well as grinding and brewing.  She also shared some of her knowledge on coffee bean origins, history and farming. There is something indescribably valuable about being in the presence of not only well formed information, but also enthusiasm and love of a product. I think we left not only well caffeinated, but better developed in all these areas.

Did you know coffee history traces back to a goat herd observing his goats roaming out of sight and reappearing, energetic and even restless? Me either!  He is said to have followed them out of curiosity over what they were encountering, only to see them eating the berries that contained coffee beans.

Coffee has some interesting parallels to wine, from soil and environment sensitivities to regional flavor distinctions, proper tasting techniques, processing and treatment of the final product.

All this lends itself to not only a better cup of coffee, but a more well rounded experience.  Is it necessary? Of course not. At the end of the day, as always, I say drink what you like.  But if you’re open to new experiences, to elevated ingredients and treatments, consider giving small batch coffee a whirl.  Or order a French pressed cup, a pour over, a house cold brew from your favorite shop.  Take a few minutes to unplug, unwind, and pay attention to the coffee.

It isn’t just a go-to pick me up and breakfast beverage of champions anymore.  These days, we dare to use coffee in many recipe applications as well.  Today, I offer a few you might not have yet tried.

Brew. Cook. Enjoy!

The Recipes:

Coffee Carrots – Toss 1 lb carrots, scrubbed, in 1 tsp olive oil, 1 small garlic clove, minced, Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper.  Heat 1 cup medium-roast coffee beans, (decaf is fine too) in a preheated oven safe pan until aromatic. Be careful not to burn them.  Place carrots on top on beans, cover with foil or a lid and place in a 225 degree oven.  Slow cook for 1.5-2 hours, or until carrots are tender and coffee infused. Discard the beans and serve the carrots warm.

Texas Sheet Cake – combine 2 sticks softened butter, 1 cup brewed coffee, 2 eggs,

2 c. flour, 1/2 c. sour cream, 1 tsp. baking soda, 1/2 tsp. salt, 4 tbsp. cocoa powder and

2 c. sugar. Pour into a greased baking dish and bake at 350 degrees 25-30 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely, then top with prepared icing: 1 stick butter, softened, 4 tbsp. cocoa, 6 tbsp. milk, 1 lb. confectioners sugar and walnuts to taste.

Coffee Rubbed Pork – The Rub:  1 tbsp each salt, pepper, garlic powder, ground coffee, paprika and brown sugar.   Generously rub 1 pork tenderloin or 3-4 pork chops, allow to sir, refrigerated, 2 hours or up to overnight.  Place on a well oiled baking tray and bake at 350 degrees until medium, or a thermometer reads 145 degrees.  Rest 5 minutes and serve with a coffee glaze:  1 cup brewed coffee, 1 tsp garlic, tsp Dijon mustard, salt to taste.  Combine all and reduce on medium high heat approximately 10 minutes.