San Juan Bautista is one of our favorite towns and it is only forty five minutes from home. It is a place we will be visiting more often in the future because Tom’s father, Don, and his wife Arlene have bought a home there. Normally we visit San Juan (as it is affectionately called) early in the morning and we are back home in San Jose by lunch time. This time we stayed overnight so were able to spend more time there.
(Click on the photos for larger versions)
Our first stop today was to visit the home of Dmitri and Kathy Fridman. In 2007 Dmitri posted a comment on our first San Juan entry. At that time he invited us to come and have a look at his roastery and sample some coffee. Several times I tried to set up a visit but could never get the timing right. This was the first time we have been able to arrange a meeting.
Dmitri and his wife Kitty live about 5 miles outside of town and Dmitri gave us directions on how to find their place. Don and Arlene came with us and the road we traveled was completely new territory for all of us. It was a stunning ride along Salinas Road, with wonderful views of the surrounding countryside. The road climbed steadily uphill and soon we had a marvelous views back towards San Juan. When we arrived at Dmitri and Kitty’s home, the view was spectacular with Monterey in one direction and Salinas Valley and Hollister in another.
Top Dog was the first to greet us, closely followed by Dmitri. We admired his sheep. They only have a
few and they are a breed which do not need to be sheared. (Forgive me Dmitri I don’t remembering the name of the breed – I knew I should have written it down.) Dmitri built a separate building to house his roasting business, which is called San Juan Bautista Roasting Company and the coffee is called Vertigo. Check out Vertigo Coffee. Inside was his pride and joy, a German built cast iron roaster he bought on Craig’s List. He told us of his journey to becoming a passionate roaster of coffee. He started out by experimenting at home with a small roaster as he was dissatisfied with the taste of the locally brewed coffee. Friends who sampled it liked it so much he roasted more for them and over the years his roasters became bigger. Now he has a flourishing business in the area, selling to local restaurants and online.
Kitty came out to join us and the six of us spent a wonderful couple of hours talking, listening and watching Dmitri roast some coffee beans. It is a very hands on operation and Dmitri cannot wander very far while the forty minute process takes place. First the roaster has to be brought up to the correct temperature before the the green coffee beans are placed in the hopper at the top. The temperature was closely monitored the whole time. At one stage he extracted a small sample for us to smell. The beans smelt of fresh baked bread and nothing like coffee at all. When the roasting process had finished, the beans were emptied onto a revolving screen and channeled down a shoot into the bag. I’m sure there was a lot more to the process but I was enjoying chatting to Kitty.
Dmitri then started to brew some coffee and I was amazed at the meticulous way he went about it. Brewing coffee is a serious business for Dmitri and everything from the equipment he uses to the temperature of the water is important to him. The coffee we saw being roasted was an espresso called Monks Momentum. It was not ready to be drunk but we were given some to take home with us. We sampled some other coffee and I was very proud of myself for drinking it almost black. Normally my coffee has to be a half milk/half coffee.
Dmitri and Kitty are soon going to open up a coffee shop on 4th Street in downtown San Juan, almost next door to the Post Office. We wish them all the best and will certainly pop in every time we visit San Juan. We all thoroughly enjoyed our visit. Thank you Dmitri and Kitty for making us welcome and for giving up so much to your time.
Time to get some lunch so we drove back to San Juan. Downtown was busier than I’ve ever seen it but considering we are usually long gone by lunchtime, that was to be expected. There are several places to eat but we decided to try out one of the saloons. There are two to choose from, Mom and Pops and Daisy’s. There are very close to each other but we chose Daisy’s because a lady stopped us outside and said if we were hungry they were having a clam chowder cook-off and for $5 each we could eat as much as we wanted. Well, who could resist such a tempting offer, especially when you are hungry.
Inside it was buzzing. The judging of the 12 entries had just ended so we had arrived at the right time. I never realized how many different ways you could cook clam chowder and I sampled three of them, steering clear of the spicy ones of course. I spoke to a couple of the cooks and they were very pleased to talk about their entries and what was in them but both had ‘secret ingredients’ which they kept to themselves. A table was found for us at the end of the bar and we were well looked after and all of us enjoyed our lunch. We stayed to hear the results and the commentaries were very funny. This group of people hold many different cook-outs during the year and all monies go to charity. Today’s went to the local firehouse which is manned by volunteers.
We spent a quiet afternoon pottering around the house but in the evening we walked into town for dinner. Our choice was the Cutting House Steakhouse on 3rd Street. We had to wait for a table but that was OK. On the walls are individually designed, quirky cattle brands. The building itself is made of brick and over the last 150 years has been a grocery store, a brothel and, from the early 20th century, a bank. It is reputed to be haunted by several ghosts, the most colorful being “The Lady in White’ or Deanna, who ran the brothel and died when when she fell down the stairs on her wedding day.
After a pleasant meal we sauntered back to the house. Another interesting day in great company and we looked forward to being woken by roosters in the morning.