I really miss my tall, dark deliciousness. Its absence from my coffee cup has lead to lethal lethargy. The unwelcome dog-tiredness forces me to crash into bed just shortly after early-bird dinner. Before I shut down, I ritually calculate the number of hours (108) until I can revert back to my mad fixation. And predictably, I dream about every good cup of coffee I’ve ever sipped in my life, including the one I drank at Bijou Café in downtown Portland, Ore.
This organic locale is very Pacific Northwest, serving food so supremely fresh, you’d think the kitchen held a greenhouse (along with chickens, a cow and maybe a goat). The vogue eats were clearly no secret to the Running-of-the-Bulls crowd I saw waiting to herd the door just shy of 8 a.m. Really, was this place that good that it warranted a Black-Friday long line, pre-Church hours? Only one way to find out: taste test.
The clock struck 8, and the herd bombarded the door like freakish foodzillas. Though slightly perplexed, I grabbed a table. After a quick scan of the menu, I understood the reasoning behind the crazy horde, and it goes something like this: buckwheat buttermilk pancakes, grilled cinnamon bread, brioche French toast, Oyster hash, organic grapefruit, organic oatmeal, organic bacon, local apple cider (i.e., organic), and a plethora of French style organic omelets—I bet the tap water was organic, along with my napkin. It didn’t take long before I spotted my petit déjeuner: a French style sheep’s milk feta omelet and a complementing cup of coffee.
A server approached ready to take my order. She looked like an Amish schoolteacher sporting early 90s denim (no further description necessary). Her pen to paper, I attempted to order—attempted the operative word. Could I have some tomatoes with said omelet? “We don’t have tomatoes. They’re not in season,” replied Amish-schoolteacher-looking server. Okay then, how about some asparagus? Amish-schoolteacher-looking server shook her head, “Not in season.” Artichokes? “Not in season.” Avocado? “Not in season.” And at that point, it’s tough to say who was more bothered. So I kept the order plain and simple, the omelet and a café au lait. I should have asked “Is the coffee in-season? And if so, is it organic?”—but I held back, thinking she just might whip out a ruler and teach me a lesson.
Amish-schoolteacher-looking server scribbled the order and quickly dodged my table as if it was on fire. Busy was an understatement that particular morning. I sat back and eyed the progressive café, which bustled with eager energy as the kitchen staff operated in a seamless choreography, grinding away to feed the hungry herd.
Before I knew it, Amish-schoolteacher-looking server once again approached my table, this time with half a smile on her face. Placed in front of me, a piping hot porcelain cup of coffee. For a second (and yes, just a second), I almost didn’t want to drink it because it looked so beautiful. The top was decorated with an ivory smooth foam of milk, which I can only imagine was organic from a cow within 15 miles of the cafe. Fresh much? Absolutely, and that’s why I love Pacific Northwest cuisine.
Amish-schoolteacher-looking server was kind enough to spill the secret as to where Bijou gets their brew: Café Femenino—and yes, it’s organic. Café Femenino is awakening for many reasons. There’s the obvious (caffeine), but what’s more, Café Femenino is also a project created to aid female coffee producers in rural communities around the world. As noted on the CF web site, “More than 1,500 women in Bolivia, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru are active in the project to achieve empowerment, build social and support networks and earn incomes through the production and sale of the Café Femenino Coffee. The success of the Project initiated the creation of The Café Femenino Foundation, which provides grants to select programs and projects that enhance the lives of women and their families in coffee growing communities around the world.” The project has even spawn a documentary, Strong Coffee: The Story of Cafe Femenino.
I can’t find a better way to describe my Café Femenino cup than powerful, inspiring and coffee worth consciously sipping.
P.s. My “in-season” organic omelet was one of the best I’ve ever eaten.