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Best Local Bets for a Good Cup of Joe

There’s obvious truth in the observation that unforeseen slips often come ‘twixt cup and lip. It’s easy to forget, though, that much goes into making the cup’s contents worthy of attempting a sip to begin with.

Local roasting experts agree that starting with freshly roasted coffee beans makes all the difference.

Coffee flavor stems from the bean itself and Eric Tate of Bootleg Roasting Company takes time to learn the best roasting profile for each bean he sells.

Bootleg specializes in a dark roast, but they have found certain high-end beans, such as those from Hawaii’s famed Kona Region, taste much better at a medium to light roast. BRC, derived their name as a joke about being a black-market bean provider: they were an underground source for fantastic coffee for their family and friends.

Calfkiller Brewing Company’s fire-roasted blend sprung from roaster Don Sergio’s love of a quality cup of coffee and a need for something special to add to a coffeehouse stout beer. After experimenting with a homemade contraption over an open fire, Sergio developed his own roasting system to take advantage of his unique take on flame-based roasting.

It isn’t too difficult to fashion your own intermediate-sized coffee roaster, like this one one built into a propane grill.

Roasters in our region all tell a similar tale that starts with equal parts love of good coffee and passion for local marketing. They began roasting at home, then grew to providing coffee for family and friends. They built their own intermediate-sized roasters – each adding a unique take on the concept. And as their skills developed, they took the plunge into the retail market.

Yet there is more to roasting coffee than simply applying heat to a green bean, according to Zach Buckner of Broast in Cookeville.

Ambient temperature, airflow and relative humidity can impact the speed of the roast as well as the flavor of the end product. Buckner compares using freshly roasted coffee to using fresh herbs.

Buckner says there is just no comparison between a coffee roasted four days ago and one that has been sitting on a shelf for six months. In sum: Freshness matters.

With the growing number of micro-roasters in the Upper Cumberland region, there is likely a fresh bean that meets the preference of any coffee drinker. Consider trying something new in your morning brew from a local craftsman.

Local Microroasters
● Calfkiller, Sparta: http://calfkillerbrewingco.storenvy.com/
● Broast, Cookeville: http://www.broasttn.com/
● Bootleg Roasting Co., Cookeville: https://www.facebook.com/bootlegroastingco/
● Holler Roast Coffee, Lancaster: HollerHomestead.com

Nicole Sauce is a local coffee roaster, backwoods podcaster and publisher of Center Hill Sun. Learn more about her homesteading endeavors at LivingFreeinTennessee.com.

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Go Green in White County

Time to mark your calendars to start setting aside a little early evening time on the third Friday of each month for dropping by the Sparta Green Market.

The monthly festival of fresh food, open-air local shopping and lively music begins Friday at Metcalfe Park near Liberty Square in downtown Sparta.

Starting at 4.pm., it’ll include a full pavilion of food and craft vendors, talented musicians and entertainment for kids.

Green Market chairwoman Margaret Petre says to expect more than two dozen booths and attractions at the May 19 fest, including local beef-raisers, bakers, produce growers, face painters, balloon-animal designers and honey producers. Featured musicians scheduled to perform include Green Market veteran Whitney Newport, a keyboardist back for her third season, and guitarist Eli Payne, who’ll be playing the market for the first time.

The Green Market takes special pride in attracting and displaying “top quality products from the Sparta area,” said Petre.

In addition to free entertainment and educational booths, the market provides a vibrant hub for buying and selling local meat, fruits and veggies, honey, flowers, eggs and a whole lot more, she said.

“An evening event in Sparta is a good way for families and friends to eat dinner downtown, visit local businesses, enjoy the Green Market, and listen to a free bluegrass concert starting at 7 p.m.,” Petre said.

Don’t forget: it is always a good idea to bring chairs and an iced cooler for meats, poultry or other items you might purchase at the market. Also, because Sparta Green Market is in fact a “green” outing, organizers encourage shoppers to bring reusable bags for produce and other goods they purchase. No smoking or pets are allowed.

For more information, contact Ms. Petre at spartagreenmarket@gmail.com, or send a message on Facebook.

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Friendly Flavor at Foglight Foodhouse

Out-of-the-way White County restaurant prides itself on amiable ambiance, hearty cuisine

Chef Edward Philpot and his right-hand woman, Lisa Harris, know their alluring little supper-serving outpost in Walling is hard to locate.

Their motto is, “You’ve got to get lost to find us.”foglighbutterfish

The actual address is 275 Powerhouse Road. That’s well off the beaten path for most folks who don’t happen to be visiting Rock Island State Park’s Twin Falls observation area just down the lane.

If you know the restaurant is there, you might catch a glimpse of it glimmering above the Caney Fork River banks as you zip across the Highway 136 bridge. If not, you might just keep cruising along — unmindful that you’ve just missed one of the Center Hill Lake region’s most distinctive, scenic and relaxed first-class dinner venues.

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Click on the map for directions

Their forte at Foglight Foodhouse is superior fare made from fresh ingredients.

“We don’t rely on a freezer here,” says Lisa. “Our steaks are hand cut. Our salmon is fresh and so are all our sauces and vegetables, which we always try to get locally in summer. We use farm-fresh eggs in all of our desserts.”

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Lisa Harris, assistant chef at Foglight Foodhouse

Innovative appetizers, hand-cut steaks, Cajun dishes made from scratch, crisp and creative green salads, smoked pork, tasty tossed-pasta concoctions, grilled chicken, seafood and freshwater fish aplenty; Lisa describes the menu as “an eclectic collection of everything — eating here is truly a unique experience.”

Despite the not-so-obvious location and the backwoods backdrop, the Foglight isn’t a particularly well-kept secret. “If we’re open, we’re busy,” says Chef Edward.

A typical night’s clientele is both homegrown and far-flung, with regulars mixed in from both groups. Much of Foglight’s business is return customers from out of the area and out of state.

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Fresh seafood and hand-cut steaks are Foglight Foodhouse’s strong suits. Chef Edward Philpot believes running a successful restaurant means trying every night to reach perfection — even if you know there’ll always be room for improvement. “It’s taken us 19 years to become an overnight success,” he says.

Foglight doesn’t take reservations, so it’s probably not a place you want to visit when you’re in a hurry. Sometimes the wait for a table — either inside or on the veranda overlooking the forest and the water — can be a little lengthy. But with plenty of cold microbrews on tap — including selections from nearby Calfkiller Brewing Company — and an outdoor fire pit to gather and relax around, the wait tends to be quite bearable, even enjoyable.

“That’s part of the entertainment,” says one of the Foglight faithful. “You meet friendly people here from all over.”

The Foglight Foodhouse serves dinner Tuesday through Thursday 5-8, Friday and Saturday 5-9.