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Thanksgiving - Life in the coffee time-tunnel · 26.02.18 by colin newell

Vancouver 1968

Way back in 2008, I popped into Cafe Roma on Commercial Drive in Vancouver – a cafe that has more than a little history for this old part of Vancouver and for me, a big piece of childhood memory too!

One sunny mid-week Spring day, Dave, a contributor to the CoffeeCrew.com website, and I sample the espressos and cappuccinos and taste some delightful locally baked treats.

It reminded me of a unseasonably hot June of 1968, some 40 years earlier, as I walked down East 6th Avenue, Vancouver, towards Commercial Drive.

This was the first trip off of Vancouver Island and the first trip on the fairly new B.C. Ferries and what started as a day trip turned into an overnight adventure as mom decided to hook up with some cousins in the big city.

Mom, who grew up in a multicultural enclave in Montreal, Quebec and spoke 3 languages, including conversational Italian, had brought me over to Vancouver for the weekend to visit the Pacific National Exhibition and to see a piece of the big city. And what a cultural shock it was for a 11 year old to see something so different than sleepy small town Victoria B.C.

Mom’s cousins lived on East 6th Avenue around 2 or 3 blocks from Commercial Drive – a big old character house the likes of which I had never seen before. The original block of houses remain in Vancouver to this day and walking the tree lined sidewalks in 2018 is like a trip through a time tunnel.

On a Saturday morning in June 1968 I started the day with my cousin Dennis by heading out for an exploration. Only in the late 60’s would it seem perfectly normal for a couple of 11 year olds to head out into the urban jungle for a look see.

Caffe Roma Then and Now

Turning onto Commercial Drive on this sunny Saturday late morning, Dennis and I walked down wide sidewalks past Italian delis, corner grocers and bustling cafes.

The street had a life of its own. From a child’s perspective, everything seemed brighter, louder, busier and decidedly more fragrant. For a naive kid from small town Victoria, I might as well have been on another planet.

The aroma of strong coffee, cured ham and fresh fruit drifted over the concrete beneath my feet. I stopped for a moment in front of a busy cafe. It seemed to be packed with men, young, old, mostly old men entangled in a circle of loud conversation and broad hand gestures. They spoke Italian, a language my Montreal raised mother used with me when she was displeased.

A young couple caught my eye. They seemed disconnected from this humming umbilical of community.

A girl, likely in her twenties, wore a canary yellow sun-dress and her male friend a wool suit. The suit seems softened by a few years worth of wear and somewhat sticky considering that it was a hotter than usual summer. Between his sips of strong looking coffee from an impossibly small cup and her demurely drawing from something that looked like a milkshake, they talked in a musical banter – words only they appeared to understand.

Dennis grabbed my shoulder and pulled me along. I looked back at the couple nodding and laughing. The girls hair moved up and down held in place by a daisy-yellow hair broach. Now walking again, Dennis steered me into a green grocers hardly a door away from the cafe. With 90 cents in my pocket, a lot of money for 1968, I bought a Butter-finger chocolate bar, some pixie-sticks (fizzy candy in a paper tube) and a cola.

We exited the store and turned left towards the cafe again.

Caffe Roma is now buzzing louder as we strode towards my cousin’s avenue. The table where the young couple sat was now empty save for a cup and a glass. I spot them exiting onto the boulevard, hand in hand, her dress burning a permanent image into my mind, the itchy smell of his suit offering contrast. They vanished into a pulsating hive of urban humanity – a Saturday morning blend of shoppers, smokers, the odd smattering of fashionably clad hipsters and one wide-eyed child – me.

I look in the cafe window again flashing forward to the present. I stand outside of Caffe Roma on Commercial Drive and time has stood still just for me. The reflection in the window looks alternately young and slightly older.

Clouds pass by offering a broad selection of flattering light. CoffeeCrew contributing member Dave watches me for a moment before holding the door.

“Colin, let’s get some coffee…” he says.

The smells and sounds of the the Cafe and the street envelope me like an old gloved hand. For a moment I hold in my palm the paper tubes of fizzy candy and a half-eaten chocolate bar. Dave asks again, “What are you going to have, Colin?”

I order my usual when I am in a cafe for the first time – double espresso and a snack. In this case, they have very tasty looking apple turnovers. I get one.

The intensity of the Italian coffee and the tangy sweetness of the pastry are the perfect match. As I sip the beverage and feel the caffeine perking within me, I can almost hear the whispered conversations of the young lovers from so long ago at a nearby table. Where are they now? Have the years been kind? Most likely, their grandchildren are half-grown up, much as I was in 1968. I think about my marriage, now almost 2 decades in length, and how in places like these, time just stands still.

In the final moments before we leave for our next stop on the drive, the owner pops by to gather up our spent cups. I tell him the coffee is fabulous. His expression is priceless and without words – a combination of ‘of course it is son…’ and ‘I have a cafe to run today…’

As we step onto the still vibrant sidewalk of Commercial Drive, two ten year old boys approach on skate boards. One sails past me like a low flying seagull.

The other swishes to a stop and is immediately hypnotized by the activity in the cafe, the noise, the smells, the starling chatter of the old men.

The cycle continues season by season, year by year through the generations. We are thankful for our memories and the time we have ahead of us. Thanks for the memories Vancouver!

A few months later in 1968, Jimi Hendrix would play a stellar concert at the Pacific Coliseum and a couple of weeks before I arrived in Vancouver Robert Kennedy would be assassinated in Los Angeles during his presidential bid. Here in 2018, Caffe Roma is now part of the history books – but while in Vancouver, you can visit The Drive – Do so. You will be glad you did.

Vancouver - commercial drive - 1968

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Living with the Instant Pot - Pot in pot steel cut oats · 12.02.18 by colin newell

Pot in Pot Steel Cut Oats in the Instant Pot

We have had our Instant Pot less than 1 week and we are firmly in love with it. Ours is the 1000W 6 quart. We have a 7.5” Steel bowl that we put to use for a “pot in pot” process classic.

What is pot in pot? Well, you add the requisite cup and a half of water to the bottom of the Quick pot stainless steel insert. Drop in the trivet. And then drop in a suitable bowl that fits well. The 7.5” standard stainless steel bowl is perfect. Doing porridge or oats this well takes a few minutes longer BUT it is as tasty (if not more so) and the clean up is a breeze!

Measure out 1 cup steel cut oats.
Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt into the oats
Add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon to the oats
Add 1 tablespoon of brown sugar.

Combine.

Add 2 1/2 cups of cold water into the mix – stir well.

Peel and chop one apple into small cubes.
Add to mixture.

Add this to your 7.5” stainless steel bowl and put on top of the trivet into the Quick Pot – that already has a minimum of 1 cup of water (I add 1.5 cups water for good measure).

There is a porridge setting for the Quick Pot. So, when you are ready – locked and loaded as it were: Press the porridge preset and you are off to the races. Steam time is 7 – 10 minutes and 10 minutes of natural pressure release.

We add pecans, dried apricot bites and dried cranberries to the oats (and some milk, cream or almond milk) but the options are as limitless as your imagination.


Colin Newell is a Victoria resident and coffee expert always on the look out for something simple and delicious.

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Living with the INSTANT POT - CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA · 10.02.18 by colin newell

Instant Pot 2018 Chicken Tikka Masala

My New Years resolution for 2018 was doing more meal planning and preparing meals in our gourmet country kitchen. Now don’t get me wrong. I do my share of sous chef work; chopping, mincing, blending and eating!

Part of this plan was getting onto the pressure cook bandwagon that is currently sweeping the nation. So, off to the online marketplace to get an Instant Pot – and after watching a handful of instructional videos from Florence Lum and her husband of Vancouver, B.C. I was ready to dig in and start steaming!

My favourite foods are South Asian Punjabi spiced cuisine and Italian – so the Instant Pot was the right tool to start the experimentation and learning process.

Chicken tikka masala is good recipe to start with, and one of the most popular Indian dishes ordered at South Asian restaurants in Western Canada. It goes great with basmati rice to help soak up all of the delicious sauce, or with some plain naan bread on the side.

I enjoy Indian dishes that most of us Westerners simply label as “Curry”, which is completely inaccurate and misleading – Curry literally means “gravy” or “sauce” – so calling South Asian cuisine “Curry” does not do this very broad spectrum of cuisine justice.

Anyway – as I said, chicken is really easy to work with and really showcases the fragrant and aromatic spices that make up this dish.

Let’s do it!

Ingredients

For marinating the chicken:
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 cup Buffalo yoghurt (you can use cows or sheep yoghurt)
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

For the sauce:
15 ounces canned tomato sauce or puree
5 cloves garlic minced
4 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 cup heavy whipping cream added last

The process

Getting the most from your Canadian Instant Pot

Rice: I prepared 1 cup of Basmati rice with a 1 cup of water and a few scratches of salt in the Instant Pot in 4 minutes of pressure cooking. Perfect! I set that aside while I moved on to the chicken.

Marinating the chicken: Combine all marinade ingredients (minus the chicken) in a bowl and mix well.

Add chicken chunks and coat with the marinade.
Let sit in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Pressure cooker saute mode:

Select the saute mode on the pressure cooker for medium heat. When it has reached temperature, add chicken chunks (along with any marinade sticking to them) to the pressure cooker. Saute until the chicken is cooked on all sides, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Turn off the saute mode.

Pressure cooker high pressure mode: Add all of the sauce ingredients except the cream to the pressure cooker, over the chicken, and stir. Secure and seal the lid.

Select the manual mode to cook for 10 minutes at high pressure. Use the quick steam release handle to release pressure.

Pressure cooker saute mode: Select the saute mode on the pressure cooker for low heat. When it has reached temperature, add cream to the pot, stirring with the other ingredients. Simmer until the sauce is thickened to your liking, a few minutes.

Serving: Serve with basmati rice or naan. Garnish with cilantro. It’s crazy delicious and there is enough here to serve 4 folks hungry for some great South Asian eats!
You can check out Florences YouTube channel for more hands-on recipes and inspiration.


Colin Newell is a Victoria resident and coffee drinker who is always looking for better ways of cooking great food faster with less hassle.

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Stamping out breast cancer with Erica and Sue. · 27.01.18 by colin newell

Run for the cure special event

Join Erica & Sue

– Stampin’ Up! Demonstrators, for an afternoon of stamping in support of breast cancer research.

Make six all occasion greeting cards while learning a few cardmaking techniques.

When – February 25, 1 PM-5 PM
Where – Cedar Hill Recreation Center
How Early registration: $50 / after Jan 31 until Feb 11: $55
Seating is limited so register early

Proceeds to be donated to the Run for the Cure – including 25% of sales (minus material costs)

 supplies by Stampin’ Up!
 bring an adhesive (tape runner or liquid glue)
 materials pre-cut and packaged

You DO NOT have to be crafty to take part. Just come and enjoy the company of friends and have fun.

 pick up Stampin’ Up catalogues
 view sample projects
 hourly prize draws
 thank you gift

Contact Event Coordinators Erica or Sue to register. Erica: 250-686-3402; [email protected] Sue: 250-661-5680; [email protected]

Stamping-out-2017.pdf

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Steeped coffee from Santa Cruz - what's new. · 13.11.17 by colin newell

Podcast – Talking steeped coffee with Josh Wilbur of Steeped Coffee – Santa Cruz, California –

We spoke with Josh Wilbur, brainchild behind the “Steeped Coffee” concept just out of beautiful Santa Cruz California.

Hey. People love coffee. I love coffee and have been talking about it for over 20 years

Just when I think I have run out of things to talk about, something interesting comes down the pipe.

And that is Steeped Coffee.

Steeped Coffee has just launched, arguably, the easiest way to make a great cup of coffee with their fully compostable single-serve bags.

Steeped Bags replace the need for wasteful pods, expensive machines, and time-consuming homebrewing equipment. And for the first time, this new brewing method combines the quality and ethics of specialty coffee with the convenience of a single serving. Not only that but the packaging is Earth friendly too! Wait, what?

My lab mates and I tried some free samples of the Steeped coffee product recently – simply following the dead simple instructions – Hey, if you can make a cup of tea you can make a darn fine cup of coffee. As the press info goes: “Each portion is delivered in a fully compostable nitro sealed packet for freshness, essentially halting the coffee’s aging process so it’s like it was ground within moments.” And we found this to be true. Just ground freshness in an envelope.

As Josh pointed out in our audio interview: “Sometimes simplicity is the most difficult thing to achieve. I came up with this idea 7 years ago—knowing that there should be an easier way to make great coffee. When I first started it was just coffee in a tea bag,” said Josh Wilbur, CEO and Founder. “There’s a reason this hasn’t been done before. We had to innovate to account for a number of factors such as sourcing ethical and quality beans, getting the right grind size and density, maintaining the freshness of ground coffee, controlling the water permeability of the filter, and making sure everything we do is environmentally sustainable. Turns out there were a lot of challenges to overcome to make something this simple work.”

Whoa. We love it when a plan comes together.

In our lab at the University of Victoria, we enjoy great coffee every day. We grind and brew for Hario V60 brews as well as Newco pro drip brewers. In a pinch it would be nice to have a slightly faster process that we can count on in a pinch – and have a clear conscience too! We have reviewed numerous “instant brew” type machines with PODS and such that are a blight on the environment. Steeped Coffee has thought it through and brought us something that we can live with. And a product that tastes good. Stay tuned!

For more information, visit Steeped Coffee online.

Podcast – If you cannot see the HTML audio player above, click here for the mp3 download.

Steeped Coffee - yes, it's new

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