Beyond the Food

Monument Coffee Roasters – Manassas, VA

momument coffee roasters

My first experience with coffee was from that notorious red can (you know which one). The constant drip of coffee was a staple in my grandparent’s house and I’m 90% sure it’s the only thing my grandfather ever drank. Although I doubt (as the jingle claimed) that it was the “best part of wakin’ up,” it was clearly vital fuel that he needed to get through early mornings and long days.

He drank it with enough milk and sugar that at five years old, I enjoyed it. Not enough to drink it every day (not that my mom would have let me), but it was a fond enough memory that I would carry into my teens when chain coffee shops started popping up in every corner.

coffee cup monument roaster

Good conversation over a cup of Monument’s Sumatra Karo Highlands.

Nearly twenty-five years after my first sip, I still enjoy my coffee with milk and sugar, but I’ve replaced the red can with coffee beans that were roasted the night before and trashed a drip coffee maker for an Aerobie Aeropress.

Clearly, coffee culture has changed a lot over the years, and Alycia & Ryan Otte couldn’t be happier. The Ottes just launched Monument Coffee Roasters, a small batch roasting company out of my hometown, Manassas, Virginia. (Spoiler Alert:  The coffee is good. REALLY good.)

raw coffee beans

Look at these beautiful raw coffee beans.

It’s probably no coincidence that the couple met at a coffee shop–specifically Alycia’s family’s shop in Oregon. Coffee has been a big part of their lives for many years and their goal has always been to open a roasting shop of their own; however, Ryan’s Coast Guard duties meant a lot of moving around. Tough to open a business, when you’re not sure how long you’re going to be living in a given location.

Eventually, though, they landed in Manassas as their final stop. And although the idea of having their own roasting company was always on their minds, it wasn’t until they began talking with friends in the community that they realized their dream may be set in motion sooner than they thought. They specifically mention BadWolf Brewing co-founder Jeremy Meyers, who urged the couple not to wait and to make their dreams a reality (as he had recently done with his craft brewery).

coffee roaster

This is where all the magic happens.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Manassas, it’s not what anyone would describe as…hip. Sure there are some good local restaurants in old town and a growing craft brewery scene, but other than that, you’re surrounded by chain restaurants and big box SUPERcenters.

It’s because of this that the Ottes saw an opportunity to educate the community and bring fresh roasted coffee to a market often skipped over by other innovative and passionate food entrepreneurs.

Education is key. Right now, it seems as though most coffee drinkers in Manassas and some of the surrounding suburbs consider only two factors: Convenience and familiarity. Convenience coming into play as we drive to work, since a coffee shop with a drive-thru is sometimes the only option we have time for. And given that coffee is more often viewed as simply a fuel, we look to grab a cup of what we know (hence the perpetual red can in my grandparent’s cabinet).

Monument Coffee Roasters

Coffee action shot! #flyingbeans

There are pockets and flashes of really great, local coffee roasters and shops around the U.S., but Manassas is still a pretty good representation of coffee culture in most of the country. It was only a few years ago that I experienced what truly delicious, fresh roasted coffee tasted like (thanks, Caffé Amouri!). It doesn’t just taste different from the bagged stuff at a super market or a chain shop, it tastes infinitely better, resulting in a realization of “Ohhh…so THIS is what coffee tastes like!”

What the Ottes are hoping for is that the coffee industry moves toward what has happened to craft beer. Tons of small breweries have popped up and allowed consumers to experiment and try new beers. Rather than sticking with a staple coffee company, the Ottes want to be a part of your rotation of coffee roasters. “You might like another shop’s Sumatra, but maybe our Kenyan is your favorite,” Ryan noted, pointing out that there are so many different factors involved with how coffee tastes that coffee drinkers should experiment with different brands, varietals, and brewing techniques.

Monument Coffee Roasters

My Kenyan Lenana is ALMOST ready…

They credit James Freeman, founder of Blue Bottle Coffee, for the inspiration. Freeman paved the way for small batch roasters, with his mission to only serve customers beans that had been roasted within the last 48 hours. And if you’ve never had coffee roasted that fresh, YES, YES, YES (a thousand times, YES) it does make a difference.

And it should make a difference, because roasting coffee ain’t easy. While talking to the Ottes in their roasting “laboratory” I quickly forgot the business is technically in the food industry and instead felt as though I was talking to scientists. They’re not making coffee, they’re trying to perfect it. With all the variables associated with a “finished” coffee bean–the location grown, roasting time, temperature, yellowing, the “cracks” and smells–roasting coffee takes hard work and a ton of trial and error. Aside from their decades of experience in the coffee industry as a whole, the two have been perfecting the Monument Coffee Roasters offerings for over a year.

coffee roasting chart

Although roasting can be done by smell, sight, and sound, this program helps document the process. Looks like math class, right?

Their coffee itself is single-origin Certified Fair Trade and Organic, sourced from South America, Africa, and Central America. They have several varieties currently available from their online store (the Kenyan Lenana made for an outstanding Aeropress latte). And they are very excited about their Brazilian Swiss Water decaf, which uses a non-chemical based method to decaffeinate the coffee beans, resulting in a decaf that doesn’t taste like most decafs.

Aside from their coffee being really good (did I mention that, already?), I get the impression that this is what they love to do. The Ottes’ veins are filled with coffee.  The saying goes “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” After talking with them and watching them roast coffee beans, I actually think that saying is incorrect. Because, in order to do what they love, they’re working all day every day to perfect it. And I’m thankful for what they’re doing, because, when I sneak coffee to my grandchildren, it’s going to be fresh roasted within 48 hours…but still laced with milk and sugar.

You can stay connected with Alycia and Ryan and their coffee roasting adventures on their website,, on Facebook, and Twitter. Their brick-and-mortar shop is expected to open in early 2015, but until then you can buy coffee from their website (seriously, DO IT!). I certainly can’t wait to use their beans to make some more Coffee-Infused Doughnut French Toast.

Monument Coffee Roasters

The new best part of wakin’ up.




Chipotle Pumpkin Cream Pie

Chipotle Pumpkin Cream Pie

I have two confessions to make, but first let’s talk about pumpkins. THEY ARE EVERYWHERE.

I don’t even need to use a calender in the fall, because I can gauge how far into November we’re in solely based on how much pumpkin per day I’m exposed to. I’m staring at one on my desk right now! And Pinterest might as well just change its name to Pumpkinterest during November.

I really really really really really want to hate the pumpkin. I desperately want to be “too cool for school” and shrug off this ubiquitous squatty squash. But I can’t, because I freaking love pumpkin pie!

Sugar and Spices for Chipotle Pumpkin Cream Pie

Think about it:  It’s one of the few desserts that can actually stand up to Thanksgiving Day dinner. It’s lead-in is possibly the greatest meal of the year and yet despite this, we unbutton our pants, take a power-nap, and burp to make room for a slice of this king of Turkey Day desserts. Thinking about it from a performance perspective, that’s like having to go on stage after Journey! And you truly don’t stop believin’ that you can eat more food.

Okay, enough stalling, here’s the first confession:  I hated pumpkin pie as a child. I always opted to skip the pie for another helping of carbs and meat covered in gravy. I was dumb little boy.

At some point I did learn to love it, but thinking back to my Pumpkin Pie Timeline, I don’t even remember when that occured. It was probably in the early 2000’s, but I can’t find the diary entry that addresses it, so we’ll say for argument’s sake that I’ve only really liked pumpkin pie for the last half of my life. Yup, fifteen wasted years.

Canned Pumpkin for Chipotle Pumpkin Cream Pie

Wet and Dry Ingredients for Chipotle Pumpkin Cream Pie

Anyway, I do remember THE pumpkin pie that left the most impact on my tastebuds. THE pie that stood sat atop a pumpkin pie throne surveying all the other pumpkin pies in its kingdom. It’s THE pie that I had long considered my favorite pumpkin pie. This is where the second confession comes into play. It’s actually very embarrassing to admit where this pie came from. And at this point, as I’m typing, I’m trying to think of a different angle for this post, so I don’t have to put it down in writing.

Up until recently, my favorite pumpkin pie was from the Bob Evans chain restaurant. I know…

Pie Crust for Chipotle Pumpkin Cream Pie

It was a simple, tasty pumpkin pie at a reasonable price. It’s highly possible that I had never actually been exposed to a homemade pumpkin pie before. It’s also possible that I was just too young and stupid to try any homemade pumpkin pie put in front of me. There’s clearly someone at fault here and it’s probably my younger self.

Filling Collage - Chipotle Pumpkin Cream Pie

It’s almost Thanksgiving. We have a food blog. I cannot have my favorite pumpkin pie be from Bob Evan’s. Sorry, Bob. You have a good last name (comprised of an amazing first name), but your pie has ruled my pumpkin kingdom for long enough. Today, we have elected a new pumpkin pie king: Chipotle Pumpkin Cream Pie.

Fresh out of the Oven - Chipotle Pumpkin Cream Pie

Whipped Cream for Chipotle Pumpkin Cream Pie

When we decided to dive into the already over-saturated pumpkin pie recipe stratosphere, we made a list of stuff that we wanted to incorporate and exclude based on our own tastes. Pumpkin lends itself nicely to heat, so chipotle and cayenne add a little bit of a kick, which is balanced by the fresh whipped cream on top. So, leave the Cool Whip and canned stuff at the supermarket, cause this pie brings it’s own cream. We used the same Ina Garten work-horse crust as we did for our Peach Pie with Candied Rosemary.

It’s too bold to say it’s the best pumpkin pie in the world, but it is definitely my new favorite. Goodbye forever, Bob.

Chipotle Pumpkin Cream Pie


Pie Crust (Ina Garten’s Perfect Pie Crust from

  • 6 Tablespoons (3/4 stick) SUPER COLD Unsalted Butter
  • 1 1/2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
  •  2 Tablespoons + 2 teaspoons COLD Vegetable Shortening
  • 1/2 Tablespoon Sugar
  • 4-6 Tablespoons Ice Water

Pie Filling

  • 1 15oz can pure pumpkin
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Whipped Cream Topping:

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. For the crust: We’re no strangers to Ina Garten’s recipes and her “Perfect Pie Crust” is definitely a winner. Consistent, tasty, and most of all easy. If you’re looking for a flaky, no fuss pie crust Ina’s will certainly serve you well.
  2. For the filling: Mix together pumpkin, milk, and eggs. In a separate bowl mix the dry ingredients. Combine the wet and dry ingredients.
  3. For the pie:  Preheat oven to 425°. Place the crust in a 9-inch pie pan (preferably glass), leaving about a half inch over the edges for crimping. Pour pumpkin filling into the crust and gently pound on counter to release any air bubbles in the filling. Bake at 425° for 15 minutes, then reduce to 350° for 40 – 50 minutes, or until filling has set and crust is a nice golden brown.  Let cool for approximately 3 hours.
  4. For the whipped cream topping:  After the pie is cool, go ahead and make the topping by whipping the heavy cream in a stand mixer (or handheld, or food processor, or by hand with a whisk if you have muscles). As the cream starts to whip, add the confectioner’s sugar, cream of tartar, and vanilla. Whip the hell out of it, until just before it looks like it’s going to turn into butter.
  5. Use a piping bag and your favorite tip to make the whipped cream look all pretty on top of the pie. Don’t have that fancy stuff? Then, place a large dollop of whipped cream on top and smooth out.
  6. Serve immediately or refrigerate to let the pie set and get colder (if you prefer). Garnish each slice with a dusting of cinnamon.

Chipotle Pumpkin Cream Pie


Mouf Links

Mouf Links: Travel Edition

MOUF links

Although this is mostly a food blog, you can’t find great food without a bit of traveling. With the travel bug still in our systems from our recent California trip, we figured it would be a good idea to share a few travel-related links. The recipe is simple: Click the links. Travel. Find food. Eat. Mouf is happy.

No, this isn’t an online store that sells hallucinogenic mushrooms. Trippy is a travel-based social media site designed to connect travelers around the world in a user-friendly Q&A style site. Expert travelers also engage with the community, so your travel question may be answered by the likes of Andrew Zimmern or Anthony Bourdain. The design is clean and site allows you to integrate maps, links, and pictures in your answers, resulting in a rich, intuitive design that will be your new BFF in travel. Seriously, this site makes that other advisory travel site look like an old Buick station wagon.

2. The Dining Traveler Blog
Our DC #Foodiechats friend, Jessica van Dop DeJesus recently re-branded her travel blog from the DC Repatriate to The Dining Traveler. Go check out her new site, packed with travel and food info from not only her current home in Washington, DC, but also other places like New York City, Chicago, Belgium, Germany, Australia, and especially her childhood home, Puerto Rico. And if you’re planning a trip to Washington, DC, feel free connect with her on Twitter for some advice from a local (she’s pretty much eaten at EVERY great restaurant in DC). WARNING:  When you visit her website, you will become extremely jealous of all the beautiful places she’s visited and delicious food she’s eaten. 

3.  Lowepro StreamLine 250 Camera Bag
I’ve been using this camera bag for the last year and it’s graduated (with honors) into an all-purpose travel bag. Since it’s supposed to hold all your camera goodies, there are lots of nooks and small pockets for batteries, lenses, etc. I’ve found it works great as your “one personal item” for flights since it easily holds an iPad, magazine, plane snacks, headphones, and anything else you might need to help you forget you’re stuck on a plane for hours. You can even squeeze in a 13-inch Macbook if you don’t mind not being able to zip it up.  For those of you traveling with mushrooms, the small front pockets should work wonderfully. This little guy is also perfect for hiking since you can tote around some camera stuff, with plenty of room for a bottle of water and a burrito. Yes, a burrito. What do YOU pack on your hikes? (I’m not getting paid to write this and I actually bought the bag with my own money. I really like it.)

4. Costco Travel + Alamo
There are lots of travel packages and deals you can find on the Costco Travel site, but I’ve never actually used them. I’m sure they’re fine, but what I do use almost every trip is the rental car section. If you travel and rent a car (even just a couple times each year), it’s worth it to become a Costco member. The deals are always the best and the booking process is fantastic since you don’t have to pay upfront and you can cancel at any time.  I may save it for another, longer post, but Alamo is the company I always try to use since they have check-in kiosks (yay, no human interaction!) and they let you physically walk around and pick out your own car at most locations. When you combine Costco and Alamo, renting a car is smoother than room temperature butter. (Again, not paid to say any of this. I mean, come on, like Costco is going to pay to be on this silly little blog.)

5. Alton Browncast Episode #43:  Samantha Brown
Fill your ear-moufs with this podcast full of tips and stories from the undisputed queen of travel, Samatha Brown. She’s been around the block (or globe) more than a few times, so heed her advice with more than a grain of salt. I specifically enjoyed her explanation of why taking a simple walk can help open up your travel experience to something beyond tourist traps. Not to mention, Alton Brown is as good of an interviewer as he is a devious Cutthroat Kitchen host.