Reblog: Office Essentials St. Louis Technology Spotlight: Kaldi’s Coffee

I do some writing for my company’s (Office Essentials) blog on occasion and this is my most recent piece. You can find the original HERE and feel free to browse, share or comment on past articles, by me or any of the other excellent folk there. 

As part of my ongoing look at how St. Louis companies use technology, I recently had the opportunity to talk with Frank McGinty, Director of Sales and Marketing for Kaldi’s Coffee in St. Louis, Missouri. Kaldi’s is just one well-known, local partner for Office Essentials and I thought it would be interesting to know a bit about how they utilize technology in their business to bring about the product that is known so well.

Kaldi’s is known for their hand-roasted coffees, but make no mistake, they’re a modern company who understands how to integrate their time-tested, manual procedures with the benefits of today’s technological advances.

I asked Frank to describe the different ways Kaldi’s brings tech into their world of hand-crafted products.

“The first one that comes to mind is with roasting specifically. Everything is still- I call it hand-roasted because the guys are still altering dials that control the open flame, right? But they have a piece of technology that kind of tracks, due to two temperature probes and timers, it’ll essentially track the trajectory of the roast.”

You can picture the massive, old bean roasters, with their rotating blades and huge hoppers, adapted and attached by a few wires to these probes which are then attached to a computer screen or a laptop computer that is tracking the rise and fall of the temperature of the beans in this particular roast over time.

“They’ll pre-warm the barrel, add coffee, then the temperature drops, plateaus and then recovers, then starts increasing as the roast progresses, being able to throw that data on a chart they’re able to save for every roast. Then afterward, as they go back and taste the coffee they can say, “Hey, the recipe you did last Tuesday for this house blend is the best I’ve ever tasted, let’s save that as a new trajectory.” We use that equipment quite a bit.”

Kaldi’s uses these recipes as roadmaps to replicate certain roasts, but it’s nothing that you can simply plug into the computer then set on the roaster and walk away.

“We will kind of copy and paste these trajectories making sure we’re all on the same page with how heat and time are applied to the same product across our brands- We’ve got two other brands. One is Honolulu Coffee Company in Hawaii and the other one is called Frothy Monkey Roasting Company- but the roasters are always there manually manipulating the temperature on the beans, following along with the tracking data we’ve been able to log.”

As you might imagine, they didn’t always have these probes and monitors attached to computers that can log everything and store it for quick retrieval. Technology plays a much larger role in Kaldi’s products today than ever before.

“Yeah, literally only maybe five, six years ago, the guys had a clipboard and pencil and they had waypoints when they would check the time and make notes. As I mentioned, the temperature dips then recovers, and they’d have to log it, things like, “after 1:26 recovery happened- four minutes until the first crack,” throughout the entire roast. The first crack is like the audible sound of popcorn, it’s actually the cell structure of the coffee bean rupturing. They would manually write this down for every single roast we did, and we would just have charts and charts and charts”

So, from the days of their roasters carrying a stopwatch, a pad of paper and a pencil, to today when computers log temperature changes and times for their roasts, Kaldi’s compiles their data and stores it in the Cloud making it easier than ever to share data with their entire company and their partners. This includes all the information they use to run their business.

“We have a guy on our team who built a data analytics program through Power BI (a Microsoft application) and he’s essentially able to pull all of our inventory, sales, and customer information. It’s kind of a combination between a CRM and a data analytics tool. That’s helped us a lot from a customer support, customer service standpoint: What does their product mix look like? How often do they order? And everything in between. And again, before, it was just a bunch of Excel spreadsheets with information.”

The last aspect of technology that Kaldi’s utilizes, and very well I might add, is social media. It’s almost a necessity in today’s business world, to stay in front of customers and investors and I asked Frank if Kaldi’s had someone dedicated to that mission.

“Yeah, for sure. She oversees all of that and all of our community events, charities, donations, event activations, that kind of stuff. She’s managing and she and I work together quite a bit. We’re always trying to figure out through like, Instagram Insights, for example, and all the data we get from that is like, what’s working? What’s not to like? Like lately we’ve been doing giveaways. So, you know, Mother’s Day, give away a free coffee class, or a Cardinals ticket giveaway, and it’s been interesting to see the engagement and how the use of hashtags and all other things that are somewhat algorithm driven, affect what we do. Sometimes it’s just luck of the draw if it works or not.”

I appreciate the fact Kaldi’s relies on someone in-house to accomplish this. Frank mentioned it’s easier now to find someone you can hire from outside, but they prefer to handle it themselves.

“You can pay people to come in, a consultant, to tell us what might work or what all the data means, but you know, we’re trying to figure it out internally, it’s kind of almost beta testing, like, hey, if we do this, then this happens. Then if we do it next week, and it didn’t have the same effect- it’s a learning curve all the time.”

I’d say they’re learning a lot and putting their knowledge to good use. Their list of accolades is available on their website https://kaldiscoffee.com and while there you can also see other ways they’ve integrated technology into their business. You can also sign up for coffee classes, get tips for home brewing and a lot more on their site, including what’s next to come from this innovatively traditional St. Louis roaster.

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Cabbage and White Bean Soup with Sausage

Last night I made this delicious soup for dinner. It took roughly an 1:45 from prep to eating, not too bad as far as time, and it was very good if I do say so myself, well worth the minor effort.

Plenty of veggies, low sodium chicken stock, All-Natural chicken-apple sausage = good for you and easy. I used Aidells brand sausage, because that’s what the grocery store had, and it fit the soup perfectly. 

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 12 ounces fully cooked chicken-apple sausages (about 4), halved lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 4 cups thinly sliced green cabbage (about 1/2 small head)
  • 3 leeks (white and pale green parts only), halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced crosswise (about 3 cups)
  • 2 cups baby carrots, cut in half lengthwise, then halved crosswise
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste concentrate (from tube)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 8 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 15-ounce can cannellini (white kidney beans), rinsed, drained

I didn’t use baby carrots, but I don’t think they would add much specifically to the flavor. Use whatever carrots you have. I’d be interested to see how the soup turned out if I used Savoy cabbage or even bok choy. I think a large chopped tomato would go well in this.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add sausage slices and sauté until brown around edges, about 5 minutes. Add cabbage; sauté 2 minutes. Transfer to bowl. Add remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil to same pot and heat over medium heat. Add leeks and carrots and sauté until soft, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste, parsley, and rosemary and stir 1 minute. Add broth, sausage-cabbage mixture, and beans and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 40 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

I tasted throughout the cooking time, as any good chef would, and added salt & pepper very near the end, after everything had cooked together. The tomato paste gave the soup a reddish tint and I think there was a good balance of ingredients to broth. Hope you enjoy as much as my girlfriend and I did.

Monday Eats – Pazzo’s Pizza

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Pazzo’s Pizza has quickly become one of my favorite pizza joints in town. Another excellent product of the Del Pietro family, Pazzo’s pizza offerings are, in my opinion, traditional but gourmet at the same time. A super crispy, thin, but yet still hand-tossed crust serves as a base for a wide variety of tomato sauce pies, but their specialty seems to be olive oil based creations with toppings like goat cheese, artichokes, roasted apples, and shrimp. This is not your average pizza hut.

I’ve yet to be adventurous enough to try the olive oil or exotic (to me, for pizza) toppings, but the place always smells amazing. I’v eonly had carry out, but the place has a large, but yet cozy feeling dining room, with a full bar. The young ladies who greet you and take those carry-out orders are always friendly and quick to say hello, give you a menu, and take your order.

IMG_1449[1]My two favorites so far are the Sugo’s: tomato sauce, sausage, hamburger, bacon, pepperoni, and mozzarella, and the Dad: tomato sauce, sausage, pepperoni, bacon, green peppers, olives, and onions. The Mom swaps mushrooms in for the pepperoni and is also great.  You get plenty of toppings, though for my taste, there could be more cheese piled further out to the edges, but it doesn’t take away from the pizza at all. The crust is what’s really incredible about Pazzo’s pies. If you prefer a floppy, New York style, it’s not quite there, but here in St. Louis with so many people preferring the thin cracker crust, Pazzo’s has, in my opinion, hit the sweet spot right in the middle.

An almost famous in St. Louis, Del Pietro’s house salad is the perfect accompaniment, but the menu at Pazzo’s has plenty of other salads, pasta, and appetizers. I look forward to taking the time to visit and dine-in, try some of the other menu items, but I’m already sold on their pizza. Even if I never had anything else they offer it would be one of my favorite places to eat here in town.

Great job, Michael Del Pietro!

 

Thursday Eats: Thanksgiving Edition

Woke up from my food coma just in time to get this post up today. Here in the US we celebrated Thanksgiving today complete with the tradition of eating until we’re full up to our eyeballs. Don’t lie, you did it too.

The menu at my dad’s included:

A deep fried turkey: awesome crispy skin & so juicy, nice job Dad

Mashed potatoes & gravy

Roasted sweet potatoes: thank you for doing half w/o marshmallow, I don’t like marshmallow

Green bean casserole, a must have

2 kinds of dressing, my favorite part

Rolls, etc, and the only dim spot: canned cranberry jelly thing stuff, which was fine because it made my 9yo happy and I don’t eat that anyway.

So, dinner was a hit and I ate too much. Had both pumpkin pie AND really good pumpkin bread pudding, for dessert. It was rich, delicious, and had caramel pecan sauce, yum.

I’m very thankful for my family, and for the opportunity to do it all over again tomorrow with my mom’s side. If you’re reading and celebrated today (some of you may be Canadian) what was the highlight of your feast?

Thursday Eats, “Smell That Smoke”

If you listen to radio in St. Louis, or in other parts of Missouri and in certain parts of Iowa, Indiana, and Illinois, you may be familiar with that second bit. I’m here tonight to praise the delicious offerings of Bandana’s Bar-B-Q, specifically their ribs. “Smell That Smoke,” is a big part of their advertising, at least around here. I picked up dinner on the way home tonight and it was well worth the trip and the money. Didn’t cost any more than dinner for three would anywhere else, highly recommend it.

I like pretty much everything on the menu at Bandana’s, but my daughter is partial to their ribs. She’s 9 and could probably eat at least a half slab all by herself and we all love ribs so that was a no-brainer. Smoked the way Bandana’s does them, with Chicago Sweet and KC style sauce on the side, dinner was delicious. I combined the ribs with their fried corn on the cob (awesome) and their Bar-B-Q beans, a bit of green salad and their bread, mmm, I may have to go eat some leftovers after I write this, I think I’m getting hungry again. Yes, it’s a chain, and yes, I know there are places in St. Louis everyone raves about for good ribs, but I’ve not been to them. Bandana’s has the best I’ve personally tried.

Take-out from Bandana’s is super easy to call ahead and order, but my daughter and I have eaten there more than a few times, and the dine-in service at the Rock Hill location is always fantastic, friendly, and fast. If you’re ever near Manchester & McKnight you should stop in for a meal.

Wednesday Eats, Another Review

It occurs to me that I’ve sandwiched a disgusting post about dirty toilets with posts about food, but I kind of like that about myself. Dare to be different, or something. I didn’t use the bathrooms at either restaurant so I can’t say there’s a connection. Anyway…

Had another opportunity to dine out Monday night, this time at a neighborhood Italian “pizzeria & trattoria:”

It’s a very warm, cozy, comfortable little corner place with an upscale menu serving everything authentic you’d expect when you think Italian food.  They advertise supporting local farmers and list the ones whose food they serve and note most of them can be visited via various farmers’ markets around town. St. Louis is big on those markets, one small reason I enjoy living here.

The local farms are featured in the specials but our party opted for menu pasta standards though the quality and taste of our dishes was anything but. Everyone enjoyed their meal and I can say the Eggplant Parmesan was *excellent.* Huge portion of roasted, very lightly breaded layers of eggplant, in a delicious red sauce over spaghetti.

Not an actual image of my dinner but the portion size isn’t far off

We shared (comfortably between 5 adults) an Arancini appetizer that was bigger than a softball, cheesy and served with a just-spicy-enough bolognese sauce. When entrees were served we half-joked about the portions being so big we couldn’t eat everything since we’d already been plied with garlic knots, buttery and a little too dense for my taste, but still a nice variation on a basket of bread.  I commented that I likely *could* eat all of mine, though probably *shouldn’t.* In the end, I *did* because it just tasted too good to stop.

We had a wonderful, mellow, California red wine with our meal and had a really nice time in general, enjoying lively conversation with folks we care about. The restaurant is kid friendly and, even better than the food (which again was outstanding,) was the service.

If you live in or are visiting the St. Louis, MO area, I HIGHLY recommend stopping to indulge in lunch or dinner at Onesto, who is not paying me to say any of this, it’s just that good. You can link directly to their website through their logo above, which I hope I don’t get in trouble for using, lol. The staff was fantastic and took such good care of us that I know I’ll be going back there, and often.

Visit Onesto at 5401 Finkman Street, St. Louis, MO 63109

Sunday Eats, a Review

I finally had the chance to eat at the Syrian restaurant in town and it was delicious! I’m not well versed in Middle-Eastern food, but I’ve had some, and thankfully my girlfriend knows all about it and could tell me what was good.

We had falafel, kibbeh, tabbouleh, fatayer, hummus, baba ganoush, and warak inab. There was very little meat but it wasn’t missed. I *love* eggplant and there was plenty of that and I’d heard of falafel but never tried it. I think the falafel was my favorite, along with the baba ganoush (which I’d had before, though at another place.) Everything was so fresh tasting, including the warm pita, mmmm, SO good, and it smelled incredible. I’m mostly a carnivore, but this meal was amazing without featuring meat. They have shwarma, a more meat centered dish, but I’m glad I tried some new things. I can’t wait to go back.

Today was a very lazy Sunday otherwise, with coffee, NFL football and more lounging on the sofa. I’m struggling with NaNo so far, barely getting out a few hundred words a night, but I’m committed to the challenge, and I believe the characters in my head *do* have somewhere they’re going, even if I’m not sure where yet. Hopefully as a month wears on I’ll have more positive things to say about the experience.

Summer Grilling: What’s for dinner tonight?

A fellow blogger, I cannot for the life of me remember which one, linked to a foodie chef blogger, Bev, over at Bev Cooks the other day. If you read this and it was you, feel free to give me a virtual slap upside my head! Anyway, when you visit Bev’s site, you are in for a TREAT. Frankly, everything she has posted on her site looks and sounds delicious, but she had made this lobster tail dish that makes my mouth water every time I see it! Check it out:

Seared Lobster Tails with a Garden Vegetable Sauté | Bev Cooks.

I also just saw this, which I love, and that dish has bacon in it, so yeah…

In all seriousness, that colorful base of veggies would be great under just about anything I can think of, or even on its own! It screamed SUMMER GRILLING at me, even though it’s not really a grilled dish. It made me want to cook something and it’ll definitely take another trip to the Kirkwood Farmers Market, which really is a treat all in itself:

I probably wont be buying any lobster tails any time soon, but hey, you never know. Some things I’d be more likely to grill this summer and would devour with those veggies:

  • tuna steaks
  • ribeyes (my favorite!)
  • lamb chops
  • B.A.S. (Big Ass Shrimp)

Eggplant and mushrooms are also awesome on the grill. Back in another life, I used to make Portobello burgers using the really big caps, grilling them brushed with olive oil, and adding roasted red peppers and a thick slice of gorgonzola cheese. Oh man, were they good. Use a bun that’s got a little substance to it, not a super soft one like you might for a beef burger, but not one so stiff the interior slides right out when you try a bite. Maybe add some arugula. Grill these up tonight and you can thank me later.

Spinach, Mushroom & Cheese Quesadillas

This is still a work in progress and I’m just trying out a few things. Most blogs have a very specific theme, like perhaps a “food blog.” Well, I like food, so sometimes I post about it, but I’m mot sure if I want this to be a food blog or not, we’ll see.

 

This is something that takes a little time but tastes so good it’s worth it. Nice as an appetizer or party food. I am fond of baby portabellas in this dish, or just about any mushroom dish, but criminis would work just as well. Use what you like!

 

6 Tbsp unsalted butter

6 Oz any mushrooms, thinly sliced (2 C)

Salt & pepper

1 Lg zucchini, coarsley chopped

One 10oz pkg frozen, chopped spinach, thawed & squeezed dry

1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 Med white onion, finely chopped

1 Garlic clove, minced

2 Med jalepeno peppers, seeded & finely chopped

1 Tsp dried oregano

1/4 C finely chopped black olives

1/2 C grated cotija cheese or crumbled feta (Manchego would also work well here)

3 Oz shredded mozzarella cheese (3/4 C)

Eight 8in flour tortillas

  1. In a large skillet, melt 1 Tbsp butter, add mushrooms, salt & pepper, sweat until brown, 6-7min.
  2. In a food processor, pulse zucchini until minced, add spinach & pulse till minced.
  3. In a large saucepan, melt 1 Tbsp butter in olive oil, add onion, garlic, jalepeno, & oregano, cook, stirring frequently until onion is soft, ~8min. Add zucchini mixture & olives, cook, stirring often for ~5min. Season with salt, remove from heat & let cool ~5min, then stir in cheeses.
  4. Top 4 tortillas with vegetable/cheese filling & mushrooms. Top with remaining tortillas and press firmly together.
  5. Brown quesadillas in a large skillet over medium high heat in 1/2 Tbsp melted butter.

Cut into quarters or eighths, depending on how many people you’re serving, and be sure to have salsa, sour cream & guacamole on the side.