The Best Part of Waking Up


There is never a morning, as I rise before the sun or with it, that I do not think of my first cup of coffee. I struggle to remember my very first real cup of coffee, but I have memories filled with grandparents and parents scenting the morning with a fresh brewing pot or of meetings in college concentrated at a coffee shop: homework getting done, enjoying friends, watching local Indie bands. 

This dark brew was more than a drink or a pick-me-up in the morning, it became a culture, a way to bring people together, something to look forward to or something to talk about. The lingering at coffee shops or simply around a table with steamy mugs, lend to times of being present, of offering solace or bringing joy, of deep conversations, deep thinking and productivity. 

Even as I travel, I know that solace can always be found in a coffee shop. I search them out as much for their comfort as for the experience of tasting the place. Coffee is much like food - it is strongly influenced by its locality. When I first moved to London, the coffee was awful: maybe it was that many Brits still used instant coffee (it being a tea society and all) or that the milk had a different flavor from what I was used to. The delight was finding out of the way shops serving such caramely, artisan coffee that I still have dreams about it. While In Italy, I cannot remember ever being served a bad espresso. It is dark, rich, sweet, joyful. 

As a foodie, I also care about what is paired with the food - whether that is wine, spirits or coffee. A bite of good food would be recklessly ruined with a sip of a bad drink. Which is why, this summer, The Wild Table found a local Billings roaster to supply all of our coffee for the shop (and my home). Revel coffee is owned by Gary Theisen: a coffee connoisseur, an artisan, craftsman and master of flavor. He carefully selects each bean he uses, and like a winemaker, conducts taste tests of many different roasting methods, types of beans, and brewing methods to determine the absolute best product. I have never experienced a roaster who is more joyful and passionate about his craft. 

This year, Revel was one of fifteen coffee roasters to win the Good Food Awards in the coffee category. The awards program is designed to recognize “American food and drink crafters who demonstrate a commitment to creating tasty, authentic and responsible products and in doing so, better the nation’s food system.” This should be reason enough to want to start your day with Revel @ The Wild Table.

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Q & A with Gary:

If not in Billings I would live:
Though I love Billings, I think I'd like to give desert living a try.  I don't seem to mind the heat, and not having to shovel snow or mow a lawn sounds pretty nice.

My current food (coffee) obsession:
For coffee, it seems my obsessions change with the seasonal crops.  Kenyans and Yemens at the moment.  On the food front, I'm currently obsessed with crispy brussel sprouts and a rice noodle salad I recently tried at the Wild Table.

The craziest/weirdest food I have ever tried:
I'd like to say something like tarantula or balut - but in reality the 'craziest' for me was probably chicken sweetbread. 

One of the more 'weird' food experiences is probably with Synsepalum dulcificum or "Miracle fruit".  Miraculin molecules in the fruit binds on the tastebuds and makes sour things taste sweet.  You can bite into a lemon or lime and it will taste almost cloyingly sweet with no pucker.

For coffee, the weirdest would probably be the various forms of coffee I've tried that have previously spent time in an animals digestive tract.  

The food (coffee) trend I can’t get into is:
Coffee that has been consumed and expelled by various animals haha. That and the coldbrew coffee trend - I have nothing against it, I just think that there's a lot more tasty options.

My favorite thing about my career:
Honing my craft in the pursuit of unachievable perfection.  Each coffee presents a new challenge on how it needs to be roasted.  Every step in any coffee's life can either preserve the quality that is present, or diminish the quality.  My job at Revel is to select coffees with the highest quality potential I can get my hands on and unleash that quality in the roasting process without influencing it in a damaging way.  It's ceaselessly enjoyable for me to hunt out great coffees and see what I can bring out of them.

If I had to eat one cuisine for the rest of my life, it would be:
Cuisine category: Asian   Food category if diabetes didn't exist: breakfast cereal.

I would rather own a horse or a boat:
"Never have a hobby that eats" is some advice I got a long time ago from an elderly dying man; or I heard it in a movie, I can't remember ... sage words nonetheless. 

My favorite kitchen (coffee) gadget:
My Veggetti - just kidding, I used it once and discovered I'm not a fan of zoodles and nicked finger tips. 

Two gadgets that can be used for both coffee and cooking that I think every kitchen should have is a Thermapen and a quality gram scale (like an acaia pearl)

But a true gadget just for food would be my Searzall torch adapter for sous vide meats, melting cheese, cooking the top of an egg while the bottom gets cooked on the pan because I don't want to risk breaking the yolk during flipping it and I'm really just a kid that wants an excuse to play with a blowtorch, etc.

My cocktail/spirit of choice is:
Though I really enjoy tasting and experiencing various spirits; beer or wine would be my first choice, though I really don't imbibe all that often.  Probably my favorite wine thus far was a 2010 Domaine Leon Barral Valiniere.  For beer, it's between this one ephemeral saison from a local brewery in Billings a while back, or last year's "The Dissident" sour ale from Deschutes.  

My friends and I like to:
Drink coffee, golf, go to the movies, and talk about theology, philosophy, politics ... and coffee.


Sheena Ernst