Saturday, November 23, 2013

Beignet & Coffee

I recently had the pleasure of dining at Beignet, the brain-child of the good people that brought you Nica's 320 (now Nica's Lagniappe). Beignet takes its namesake (the beloved dessert from Nica's) and makes it the main dish!

These stuffed, powder covered, doughnut-like fritters are the perfect morning-time (or any other time of the day, for that matter) treat! My wife and I split the Pumpkin Pie and Bananas Foster Beignets.

The Pumpkin Pie, because it is fall, and well, since when is Pumpkin Pie not delicious? Never! Stuffing a Pumpkin Pie into a fritter doesn't make it any worse either. This beignet literally tasted like a slice of homemade pumpkin pie had been stuffed inside a beignet.

The Bananas Foster was an obvious second choice, being the chosen flavour of New Orleans (the American headquarters of Cajun food). It was everything that you would hope for from a banana foster dessert: not overwhelmingly banana flavoured, sweet (but not too rich), and creamy.

I could honestly deal with about half as much stuffing in each beignet, but that is because I appreciate the the base pastry quite a bit.

These stuffed treats, being as delicious as they may be, are still based on the ever delicious (and ever simple) plain beignet. At risk of over simplifying the beignet, for someone whom has never experienced one (because it is an experience), it is a rich man's version of the powdered donut (not so much in price, but in quality).

Having two locations (one in the River Market, one on 39th Street) makes a beignet that much more accessible. My preferred location is the one in the River Market. You can enjoy a Beignet break while shopping for produce & local honey (if you aren't against bee enslavement, which is what vegans actually believe). The interior is as eclectic as that of Nica's on the Boulevard. New Orleans inspired paintings, finger painted tables, and a doll head sighting round out the usual suspects.

Beignet can also offer you some pretty spectacular drip coffee to enjoy with your beignet.
Beignet on Urbanspoon

Just mentioning the word "coffee" beings to mind a situation that I read about in the news about the "quaint" Prairie Village Starbucks moving across the street to expand and add a drive though window. I could not believe this! 1) This is the epitome of what we call a Jo-Co problem. There are kids dying of cancer and this is what people are getting upset about. 2) This is the coffee bully Starbucks that we are talking about here, not some "Ma & Pop shop", the words "quaint" and "Starbucks" should NEVER be used in the same sentance! This being said, I write this hoping to help this gentleman (and others like him) realize that Starbucks is in fact the Walmart of coffee shops and in no way "quaint". This is like being mad at McDonald's for not using organic beef.

This city has plenty of great local coffee shops! I cannot even pretend to have been to half of them! On top of The Roasterie and Crossroads Coffee, that I have already written about, there are The Filling Station, City Market Coffee House, and Mildred's Coffeehosue (plus numerous others that I have yet to enjoy coffee in) that I also love. 

The Filling Station is a must-stop for any lover of good coffee or pastries. The Filling Station, like Beignet, also has 2 locations: one in Westport & one on Union Hill. The "Garage" location, on Union Hill, has a slightly larger menu that includes lunch items. This location is also done up with gears and license plates to resemble a garage (or a "Filling Station", if you will). The Westport location is in an old 1-hr Photo (or similar) hut and is decorated with nostalgic cameras and paraphernalia. Cameras that actually took pictures that looked like the filters that you use on Instagram today. The Westport location does have a drive-thru window, which despite what the a-hat Mr. Dehney (see above article link if you are skimming) would lead you to believe, does not ruin the quaintness of it at all!

The pastries are baked locally at SoHo Bakery and the beans are roasted by Broadway Roasting Company (who is said to have one of the best espressos around). This isn't pre-packaged stuff that is sent in from some factory in Seattle. Give Filling Station a try if you are looking for an awesome local coffee shop with uber talented baristas (every time you order a latte, it comes with a different design).
Filling Station on Urbanspoon

City Market Coffee House, located just steps from Beignet, in the River Market, is another great place to grab a cup of locally roasted coffee. The walls and customer side of the coffee bar are adorned with the burlap sacks that their coffee beans are shipped to them in. You will see bags from all four corners of the globe. I like to look around and see if I can find one from Puerto Rico.

They beans are roasted in house. If you are lucky, you might even walk in while the antique roaster is churning away in the corner, just to add to the appeal of the place. Every cup of single source or blended coffee that I have had in this place has been amazing!

Grab a cup, take a load off, and enjoy the atmosphere. Or grab a cup to-go, put some pep in your step, go pick out the freshest produce back beyond the doors to the Farmer's Market. You can even buy a bag of the artisan coffee beans  to take home with you. 
City Market Coffee House on Urbanspoon

Finally, Mildred's Coffee House, which admittedly I have been to far fewer times (and know much less about) than the previous two coffee houses. However, that does not make it any less of a kickass place to get your caffeine fix before a night of art exhibits on First Fridays. Mildred's Crossroads location has the perfect location for First Fridays! The place always smells amazing and, although I have never been for anything other than a coffee, everyone always talks about how great the food is (especially for a coffee house). Needless to say, Mildred's too is a much better place to walk to get coffee than is a Starbucks, Chuck Dehner (again, see above).
Mildred's Coffeehouse on Urbanspoon

My opinion on this whole Starbuck's "dilemma": get a local coffee shop to take the lease of the old Starbuck's location, or God forbid open one yourself, instead of using your energy to cry on the 6 o'clock news. Take all of Starbuck's clients and put them out of business. Then you will have something really quaint, instead of just the illusion of it. 

Be blessed, and until next time... Eat local!

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