A four-course brunch menu comprised of Birchwood Cafe’s greatest hits, carefully paired with different Peace Coffee offerings, like wine paired at dinner? Yes, please, and why haven’t we seen more brunch meals presented this way, as the coffee scene continues to grow?
When Birchwood’s owner, Tracy Singleton, launched a Kickstarter campaign to expand the restaurant in 2013, one of the proposed enticements for investors was the promise of this special event, done in coordination with Peace Coffee’s head roaster, Derek De La Paz, who worked with Birchwood’s chef to come up with the pairings. Last weekend round one (of many) of these tasting menus took place. Note: There will be similar meals served with pairings from Verdant Tea. Asked if she’d consider doing these events for the public in the future, Singleton said she’d consider it, depending on feedback.
Both Singleton and De La Paz spoke about what they do, their commitment to local and sustainable, and the long-time partnership between the two companies, while guests tasted this year’s Breakaway Blend, comprised of three medium coffees from Honduras, Ecuador, and Ethiopia. De La Paz noted that this is the third year of this seasonal blend, timed to coincide with bike race season, but that it’s different every year. It has a summery taste, with notes of citrus.
The first paired course was roasted tofu hash, made with flavorful marinated tofu and served with a Shepherd’s Way Hope cheese, which, while lovely on its own, also supported the dill oil drizzled on the plate and blended well with the grapefruit marmalade on birdseed toast. The accompanying coffee was Alchemy #10 from the Democratic Republic of Congo, an earthy, complex roast that mellowed when following a bite of the marmalade.
The savory waffle is a Birchwood classic. Since reopening in late May, the waffle has been available all day long, with more than 1,300 sold so far. Its myriad flavors work together unexpectedly well, instead of fighting each other: The waffle has asparagus, parmesan, and quinoa, and it’s served with lemon pepita butter and rhubarb jalapeno marmalade. Bacon lardoons — very generous lardoons — and a sunny-side-up egg finished the plate. Maple syrup was optional, and not really necessary. It only seemed logical to pair this with the Birchwood Breakfast Blend coffee.
Beans and rice was ostensibly the name of the third course, but it’s more like a deconstructed taco. Pureed black beans with lime and cumin were served with coconut-sweet pea brown rice over grilled corn tortillas and topped with a perfectly poached egg. Salsa roja, pickled vegetables, and avocado puree rounded out the accompaniments, adding a depth of flavor to the quieter taco ingredients. Sumatran Full City Blend highlighted the subtle pleasures of the beans and rice.
The final course of the morning started with Yeti Cold Press Blend, served cold and sweetened with maple syrup. After so many savories, it almost tasted too sweet — until the food arrived. Chef Marshall Paulson noted wryly, “It takes a lot to get me to eat oatmeal.” Not when it’s served in a coffee cup with maple and topped with crème brulee — the most ardent oatmeal-hater would have to rethink his opinion. Contrasted with the sweet brulee, the cold press became less sweet, a welcome balance.
One of the nicest aspects of the event was its community nature. Birchwood and Peace Coffee have always been community-focused, and the structure of the tasting reflected that. Tables of six people each were served family style, rather than individually plated, which led to much conversation and new introductions. As Kickstarter investors, the guests were very much Birchwood people — at one table was a couple who have been coming to Birchwood since it first opened, along with a young couple who had their first date at Birchwood and are getting married in October. Between Singleton’s and De La Paz’s commentaries, each table buzzed with congenial discussion and banter, with many variations on “No, you take the last bacon lardoon, I insist!” Offering these types of events to the public, structured in the same manner, would serve to keep building that community.
Learn more about this business on Heavy Table’s Atlas of Ethical Eating and Drinking.