Kaffetur 19 / Coffee Tour #19: Starbucks Reserve / Starbucks Clover

Before moving here, we didn’t think twice about finding anything other than a national chain for coffee. I guess that’s mostly because we had not yet been exposed much to locally roasted and handcrafted coffees. But that was probably also because we didn’t have many independent shops around us.

So it was pretty normal of us to stop by Starbucks. But since getting into the local coffee scene and learning more, Starbucks has become less about coffee and more about a travel tradition.

Yes, it’s really become more about the place we stop by when we are traveling, so we can pick up a city mug. Now don’t get me wrong: I like their specialty drinks. And yes, whenever the season and my travels align, I have to pop in for a pumpkin spice latte! But we are not regulars.

But today I have to share with our readers that it is possible, though not frequently, to get something from Starbucks other than their mass-produced drinks. We discovered this as we were transferring planes at Schiphol Airport, in Amsterdam.

It’s there that we discovered one of the rare Starbucks Reserve shops. They offer small batch single origin coffee, and will be glad to brew a cup for you on the clover machine.

Clover is a single cup system that takes into consideration water temperature and brew time in an effort to produce a higher quality cup of coffee.

While I still prefer locally roasted beans, hand brewed coffee, and supporting local businesses, it’s nice to know that Starbucks is recognizing the changing market and seeking to offer something that fits the niche a bit better.

Read more about Clover at http://www.starbucks.com/coffee/learn/clover

This is a personal blog.  The authors have not receive any compensation for posts, monetary or otherwise. The opinions expressed are solely that: opinions. If you find anything helpful, feel free to share but please reference the original work.

Twenty Years and Counting

Friday was 20 years since Zack and I went on our first date.

20 years since we sat in a restaurant overlooking Atlanta, and talked about our backgrounds and our futures.

20 years since we saw the movie Dangerous Minds.

20 years since we first held hands.

20 years since I got back to my dorm room and told my friends that I knew who I was going to marry.

We’ve lived through a lot together in twenty years! Of course not every day has been easy. But the hard times pale in comparison to the seasons of fun and laughter, adventure and unknowns, excitement and opportunity. It’s been crazy, and it’s been great!

I love getting to spend each and every day with my best friend.

 

As we walked through our city Friday night, I looked around and once again tried to take in the fact that we’re living on the other side of the world, speaking another language (or at least trying to!), the parents of two pretty rockin’ kids, with friends and family from one side of globe to the other…

… and then I looked at Zack and said, “could you have imagined all of this twenty years ago?”

 

They say time flies when you’re having fun. And I believe it’s true.

Here’s to twenty more… and twenty more after that!

 

 

 

 

On the Table: Curried Sweet Potato & Lentil Soup

Taste.com.au

It’s a vicious cycle, I’ll admit it. We eat healthy most of the year. But then summer arrives, and our food choices aren’t quite what they should be.

So as we often do after the summer, we are getting back on track with our more typical eating habits and exercise routine.

Zack and I have also decided to take a break from meat, as we do once or twice a year. NOTE: I am not a vegetarian! And I know myself well enough to know this is not a permanent change. But I have found that reducing my meat intake works really well for me and my health.

The thing I’ve experienced in the past when cutting out meat is that I get bored with the same old recipes over and over. And that’s typically what ends it for me.

So this time around, I’m really trying to branch out and try some new things. Ten days in, and I’m feeling pretty positive! So far I’ve made lasagna, spaghetti, sweet potato & chickpea curry, tacos, spinach paneer, greek pizza, and kung pao cauliflower.

Last night, I tried a new soup. I used a few different recipes as inspiration and came up with this curried sweet potato & lentil soup. Everyone liked it, so we’ll definitely be adding it to the vegetarian rotation.

If you have meatless meal ideas you’d like to share, I’m all ears!

Curried Sweet Potato & Lentil Soup
1.5 lbs sweet potatoes, baked & skins removed, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 small carrots, diced
1 apple, peeled, cored & diced
Ginger (dried, or finely sliced, to taste)
1/2 cup dried lentils, cooked well and drained
1 can light coconut milk
3 cups water or broth
Curry powder (1 tbsp or more, to taste)
Salt & pepper, to taste

Place onion, carrots, apple and ginger in a pot with a bit of water. Bring to a boil and continue cooking until vegetables are tender. Drain. Place all ingredients in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for about 20 minutes. Using an immersion blender/stick mixer, blend the soup until smooth. Serve hot. If desired, you could top it with coconut milk, sour cream, or quark/kesam.

Here are some other recipes you might want to check out:
The Gracious Pantry’s Curried Sweet Potato Soup
BBC Sweet Potato and Lentil Soup
She Likes Food Curried Sweet Potato, Carrot & Red Lentil Soup
Taste.com’s Curried Sweet Potato Soup

Back to School

William MY1 (7th grade) ~ Daniel PY4 (4th grade)

As of about two weeks ago, William and Daniel are back to school!

They’re starting their fourth school year in Norway (the first was only a half of a year, but you get what I mean…). We continue to be thankful for the education they are receiving at the international baccalaureate (IB) school in our city.

We get a lot of questions about the boys’ school here. While I cannot speak for others, our family’s experience with IB school has been great. The way they teach is less about sitting at a desk & looking at a book, and more about learning hands-on. I feel our boys are getting a well-rounded education and experience. The IB approach is a whole-learning focus, seeking to create lifelong learners who are inquisitive, thoughtful, involved, and engaged. Its focus does not isolate academic subjects, but uses units of study that incorporate a variety of subjects and concepts at the same time.

The boys love their school experience, and that makes us happy! They have good relationships with the teachers and staff. The classes are fairly small (in primary school there are typically 15 – 20 students). And I think another benefit is the multi-cultural aspect of international schools. A lot of their friends have at least one Norwegian parent, and the majority have one foreign/non-Norwegian/expat/immigrant parent. So they have classmates who come from all over the world. And their teachers are very international as well!

Daniel is now in fourth grade, or PY4. The PY (Primary Years) program covers grades 1 through 6. Daniel is excited that he is now in the upper grades part of the PY program. This means more responsibility and more self-sufficiency. This is a big change and challenge for him, but also a great opportunity!

William is in his first year of the MY (Middle Years) program, MY1. In American school it would be 7th grade. He is still in the same building as before, but on a different floor. He is changing classes, has a lot more responsibility, and must do much more without teacher guidance. This is the first year of foreign language, and he chose Spanish. He laughed yesterday as he said that he’s basically working on three language right now: English, Norwegian, and Spanish.

So we’re geared up and ready for a new school year.

Here’s a look at the boys’ first day of school each year since arriving in Norway…

February 2013
Daniel PY1 ~ William PY4

 

August 2013
Daniel PY2 ~ William PY5
August 2014
William PY6 ~ Daniel PY3
August 2015
William MY1 ~ Daniel PY4

 

Kaffetur 18 / Coffee Tour #18: Stockfleths, Oslo

With 10 locations scattered all over the city, Stockfleths is a bit of an Oslo institution. While my niece was here in June, we stopped by their largest location on Prinsensgate for a morning coffee.

Once we managed our way around the construction outside, we walked into a clean and well-lit cafe. Not especially unique in its design, but appealing and comfortable all the same.

 

Stockfleths has been around since 1895. They are easy to find throughout the city. With a nice selection of coffee, as well as tea, pastries and sandwiches, it it a good choice for breakfast, lunch, or a coffee break.

We were on our way to the airport and a bit short on time, so we opted for their daily coffee. It was a nice medium roast with a good, smooth flavor, although I felt it was served too hot. That’s the drawback of getting the daily coffee, I guess!

The Prinsensgate location is two stories, and the downstairs also has a room for holding coffee classes.

A little taste of America

Daniel’s passport is set to expire early next year. And since it is recommended that you not travel with less than 6 months remaining on your passport, we thought we should probably tackle the job before school starts back.So off we went to Oslo to visit the U.S. Embassy.

It was our first time since moving here. Everyone there was extremely friendly, and the process itself went smoothly. We even had a sports celebrity sighting (no name dropping – but there is a Norwegian who plays in the NHL).

While sitting in the waiting room, we discovered the vending machine. And it was like its own little corner of America.

Diet Coke, Root Beer. Starburst. Cheetos. Oreos. Gatorade. And more.

I think we were all drooling.

But the saddest part of the situation wasn’t that I had left my wallet in the security screening room. I would have gladly gone back and begged to grab some coins out of my bag. No, the torturous moment was when we discovered the note on the machine…

Out of Order

Sorry, no photos from the embassy or the machine – again, we had to leave everything in security. But trust me when I say that it seemed like a very cruel joke.

After our appointment, we walked around the city a bit and explored the
fortress/festning for the first time. What a cool area!

 

Svartkaffe, takk!

What? No sugar? No milk?
No, it’s very Norwegian, you know.
(Taken from a Norwegian coffee magazine)

It took time. It didn’t happen overnight.

I remember back in college. Yes, many years ago. When we were facing a late night study session, we would head for The Otter (a local convenience store) and both Zack and I would get a really big ‘coffee’.
Well, it had coffee in the name. But it was mostly sugar, flavoring, and other artificial junk.
We gradually graduated to coffee with milk and sugar.Then we dropped the milk.

In 2011, after I traveled to Ethiopia, we transitioned to black coffee with a bit of raw sugar.

And now it’s only the real thing for us. No extras when it comes to a regular cup of coffee. Just quality beans, clean, cool water, and good equipment.

How do you take your coffee?

I recently read an Alton Brown article on coffee that I found interesting, and thought I would share it here.
http://altonbrown.com/how-to-brew-best-cup-of-coffee-at-home/

Memorable Eats: Pastéis de nata / Pastéis de Belém

If you’d told me two weeks ago that my knees would go weak over an egg tart pastry, I would have laughed.But after trying Portugal’s signature sweet, I think it was probably a good thing we chose to take a seat at a table instead of ordering from the outdoor counter service.

Pastéis de Belém – the volume of pastries was almost unbelievable!

I wasn’t sure what to expect when our Lisbon friend took us to try them. But a pastel de nata packs a lot of yum in a cute little package: a sweet, flaky pastry cup, filled with egg custard, and baked to perfection.

Pastéis de nata have been around since the 18th century. They were created by Portuguese monks, looking for a use for all of the egg yolks left over after they’d used egg whites to starch their laundry. And thus a Portuguese tradition was born. In 1837 the recipe was sold to a family whose descendants continue to run Lisbon’s Pastéis de Belém to this day.

A little cinnamon and powdered sugar on top, a light-roasted baca (a Portuguese espresso) on the side, and you have yourself the perfect afternoon treat.

We really enjoyed the fresh-made pastries at their original home, Pastéis de Belém in Lisbon, as well as those we had at local pastry shops in Porto.

 

Pastéis de Belém
R. Belém 84-92
1300-085 Lisboa, Portugal

Kaffetur 17 / Coffee Tour #17: Fábrica Coffee Roasters

It’s always nice when we can work a quick vacation around a business trip – and particularly when it’s to a place we’ve never visited before. Our recent trip to Portugal started with a couple of days in Lisbon, visiting friends and checking out a really cool city.And of course checking out a really cool coffee shop!

Fábrica Coffee Roasters is a newbie. Our barista told us they opened about two months ago.

But with high quality locally roasted coffee, a menu that includes great drinks and a nice selection of food, and an atmosphere that makes you want to sit and relax, we feel it’s safe to say Fábrica has the potential to become a favorite for locals and tourists alike.

The boys had an ice coffee. It was as delicious as it was cute.

Zack and I tried an affogato (espresso shot and ice cream – wow!!) and a V60, as well as an espresso.

From the staff, to the drinks, to the presentation: everything was fantastic. Located just a block behind Hard Rock, the location is close to all the action, yet one street makes a big difference in setting up a quieter and less touristy locale.

Most of Lisbon’s cafes seemed quite similar to each other. But Fábrica has created a place and space all its own. It’s a must if you find yourself in Lisbon.

Check out Fábrica Coffee Roasters on Facebook here.
Portugal, R. das Portas de Santo Antão 136
1150-265 Lisboa, Portugal
And be sure to check out our Tastemade video for this cafe: