Toddy Photo 1

Meeting Toddy and Conundrum

We’d like to introduce you to an old friend of ours, Toddy.  Toddy Cold-Brew Coffee System that is, and his new partner in crime Conundrum Coffee Company. Conundrum’s locally roasted coffee has recently joined the premium line-up of coffee at The Cupboard, while the Toddy system has been in the store for over 20 years.   Conundrum Coffee was established by Toddy Coffee Company  in 2011.   Toddy Cold Brew Coffee System was invented in Texas in 1964.

The straightforward design hasn’t changed much since then. “Our customers have said, ‘it’s not broken so don’t fix it!’” says Julia Leach, owner Of Toddy Coffee Company and coffee-lover extraordinaire.  Toddy’s design couldn’t be much simpler.  Basically, you layer water and coarsely ground coffee into the white brewing container and steep it for anywhere from 12 to 24 hours.  After letting it strain through the filter, you’re left with a bold, flavorful coffee concentrate that’s similar to espresso, no heat or electricity required!  From there you can mix it with hot water for a classic cup, add cold milk for a icy latte or use it in a variety of foods or baked goods. The different chemical structure of cold-brewed coffee means the concentrate can be saved in the fridge for up to two weeks meaning extraordinary coffee whenever you want it and, no waste!

Green Coffee Beans

Roasted Coffee Beans

As one can imagine, working at Toddy is a matter of passion for many of its employees. When Julia and her husband were offered to buy the company from its founding family a few years back, they couldn’t pass it up. However, they decided to re-locate the company’s Houston headquarters. “We didn’t want to move to Houston,” recalls Julia, “so we brought ‘Toddy’ home.”  In February of 2010, Toddy Coffee joined the ranks of diverse Fort Collins businesses.  Now, it’s operating hand in hand with newcomer Conundrum Coffee, and doing so with fabulous results.

Julia created Conundrum Coffee in order to create roasts that could give people a high-end coffee that was not only for the connoisseur, but also for the everyday drinker.  She wanted people to use Conundrum to experiment with different brewing methods and find what they like best.  Turns out, it’s doing just that! Working through an importer, those at Conundrum found traceable, predominantly direct trade beans and, after plenty of taste tests are now able to “roast coffee we’re really proud of.”  When it came time to start selling, Conundrum and the Cupboard were “a good fit from the start.” (We’re so happy to have them, and all of the other creative and passionate artisans, here at the store!)

Both Toddy and Conundrum are “a lot of fun” according to Julia.  We think so too, and we like how she and the team are “helping people understand how different brewing systems work.”  When you play around a bit with new ideas and methods, your favorite coffee could get even better.

We invite you to join us at the store Saturday, August 18th for a demonstration of the Toddy Cold Brew System and a wonderful sampling of roasts fresh from Conundrum Coffee.  Hope to see you there!

Mandoline at Work

product review: oxo mandoline slicer

Knife work is fun (to some people) but can sometimes be both time consuming and inaccurate, either of which can lead to a variety of problems.  Who hasn’t been the victim of unevenly cooked vegetable pieces or spilled blood on account of a straying blade? For many, mandolines can be a safer, faster and more enjoyable way to slice and dice your vegetables.

The mandoline is a tabletop tool with a stationary blade over which food items are sliced.  As a kitchen tool, it has been around for quite a while. The first recorded use of the tool was an illustration in the book printed in 1570 by Bartolomeo Scappi, Pope Pius VI’s cook. Today, there are hundreds of models to choose from. The Cupboard stocks four mandolines:  Oxo Good Grips V-blade Mandoline Slicer (which took Cook’s Illustrated reccomendation for best mandoline in Season 9 of America’s Test Kitchen), Oxo Steel Chef’s Mandoline Slicer, Swissmar V-Prep Mandoline Slicer and the Oxo Good Grips Mandoline Slicer.  We decided to test Oxo Good Grips Mandoline Slicer and make a classic summer dish, Vegetable Gratin.

The slicer moved through summer squash and zucchini quickly and elegantly, cutting perfect, even slices with an ease that was truly refreshing.  It definitely removed any remains of prep-work gruel.  While we can’t recommend it for onions (the rings got a little frayed when we ran them across the blade) and have yet to try it on the ultimate of cutting tests, tomatoes, we liked this model quite a bit. The design is quite clever with folding legs and a food holder that snaps securely underneath for storage.  The blade slides out easily for cleaning.  One can also switch effortlessly from smooth to crinkle cuts, which is very fun for chips.  The dial on the side also allows the user to transition from thicker (3/8”) to thinner (paper thin) slices and from large to small julienne which is also extremely handy.

We found Oxo’s Mandoline Slicer to be the epitome of user-friendly and we love how it consistently produces flawless and professional results at home. At only 4 pounds and reasonably priced, this mandoline is a great addition to the average kitchen, for both novice and experienced home cooks. (Fans of Mario Batali might enjoy this video-Oxo Good Grips Mandoline Slicer)

The recipe we used to test the slicer came from the July 2008 issue of Cook’s Illustrated. It was a little time intensive to get the veggies to their most dehydrated state but the final product was lovely: perfectly cooked, exceptionally flavorful and not watery at all. Leftovers were splendid on a crisp piece of toast!

While you can find current issues of Cook’s Illustrated and an assortment of other popular food-related magazines in our store, Michael Natkin’s Herbavoracious and our other veggie-based cookbooks would also be worth a look. We can’t wait to use our new mandoline to slice purple potatoes for his Blue Potato Tarts with rosemary, chevre, and balsamic reduction. His recipe for Portabello and Summer Squash Lasagna would be similar to the recipe we used for the Gratin, too: healthy, hearty and totally meat-free.

The environmental, health, and economic benefits of eating more (local!) vegetables are undeniable but so is the fact that quick-cooking vegetarian dishes require more prep work. Investing in a mandoline slicer can eliminate the skill and time requirements that may be holding you back. Beyond that, we found the mid-grade Oxo model to be a good choice.

Stop by the store to see our collection of mandolines, cookbooks, magazines and everything else you’ve come to know and love.  We’ve got the tools and toys you need to enjoy the bounty of summer and to make the work of veggie slicing much easier.

Immersion Blender Photo 1

product review: cuisinart immersion blender

Immersion Blenders. Do you have one? Want one? Love them or hate them? Do you even know what they are?  We have been selling the Cuisinart SmartStick, blender for some time, but wanted to take a fresh look at what it can do for you in the kitchen. What exactly is an immersion blender? Well, it’s kind of a culinary multi-tool used primarily  to blend, puree or otherwise chop/mix ingredients right in whatever bowl or container you may be using. We like to think of it as a smaller, handheld food processor with a few usage modifications.

Immersion blenders first came on the American scene in the 1980s but the original was invented by Roger Perrinjaquet in Switzerland in 1950. He called his design the “Bamix” coming from the French “battre et mixer” meaning beat and mix, cleverly enough. By the 1960s, the blenders were already well established in professional European kitchens.

Today, there are quite a few models to choose from. We decided to test out Cuisinart’s Smart Stick and report back to you. This blender has a cord and a 200-Watt motor in addition to a detachable and dishwasher-safe blending shaft. We found that clean up was a breeze, a quick rinse was all it needed for most jobs before the shaft was snapped back on and was ready to go again.

We were surprised by how this immersion blender won such admiration in our kitchen. Suddenly, we were using it for everything: emulsifying sauces and dressings, whipping up a quick summer pesto or making crepe batter. The Smart Stick also excelled at one of the immersion blender’s top claims to fame: pureeing soup. We used it on a summer squash and fresh corn chowder (no cream!) and had absolutely stunning results. Our only negative finding? While the size of the blade head is small enough for most vessels, it is a bit too small to reach and blend large chunks of ice in smoothies or mixed drinks. It’ll whip up ice-free smoothies in a jiffy but you might want to leave the ice crushing to the counter-top blender.

blade of the Cuisinart Smart Stick Blender


Though it may seem like another extravagant gadget, we found the immersion blender to be anything but. It has more than earned its (particularly compact!) space in the kitchen. While we don’t want to get too hasty in thinking about school just yet, and immersion blender could be a wise addition to a newly-independent and space-deprived student as it can perform most of the functions of a bulky food processor and an unwieldy blender at a fraction of the size and cost. Not to mention it’s really perfect for smaller portions and so easy to clean!

This test definitely convinced us of the value of an immersion blender and the Cuisinart Smart Stick could be the perfect choice. If you agree or are at least curious to find out, stop by the store to see for yourself.