My neighbors, the coffee farmers, are opening a cafe in Safety Harbor

Kent and Logan in front of sign

Logan and Kent Runnells outside the soon-to-be Cafe Vino Tinto

Lifelong Safety Harbor resident Logan Runnells and her father Kent are set to open their coffee shop, Cafe Vino Tinto, on Safety Harbor’s quintessential American Main Street at the end of this month. The coffee will come directly from the Runnells’ coffee farm in Costa Rica and will be micro batch roasted onsite at the cafe.

Kent, a former Safety Harbor mayor turned coffee impresario, told me, “We’re not going to be just a local coffee shop; we’re going to be a special coffee shop.” Cafe Vino Tinto joins the ranks of locally owned cafes with brew roasted onsite; it is one of, if not the only, coffee shop in the Tampa Bay area that sells coffee sourced directly from the owner’s coffee farm.

 

13 Spilling the Beans

“Spilling the Beans” – Photo courtesy Kent Runnells

For two years Kent and Logan have seduced coffee drinkers with their fresh-roasted brew at Safety Harbor’s Third Friday festival. Now they are setting up shop for good. Nestled between the Safety Harbor Arts and Music Center (SHAMc) and wine bar On the Vine, Cafe Vino Tinto comprises a small kitchen and a wrought iron-wrapped patio reminiscent of the New Orleans’ Cafe Du Monde.

Logan, who will manage the coffee shop, described a cup from the Runnells’ cafe as a simple yet memorable experience built upon the trademark “Pura Vida,” or “Pure Life” mentality of Costa Rica. At Cafe Vino Tinto the focus is plain and simple: serve quality coffee and offer locally sourced goods like pastries, jams and art.

Kent, a real estate lawyer and former mayor of Safety Harbor, had no intention of selling coffee when he bought his farm, Finca Vino Tinto, eight years ago. The farm owes its name to the waterfall it overlooks, which the town locals say “flows like red wine.” In an email Kent explained, “Occasional Spanish speaking persons think we are nuts, stupid even, because they think we have unwittingly named our coffee the red wine coffee. I wish they would just read the bag, the story is on there!”

King of the hill

Finca Vino Tinto – Photo courtesy Kent Runnells

The story goes something like this:

Kent found the farm on a hike off the beaten path in what he describes as a storybook town in a valley of Costa Rica. After having spotted a majestic waterfall, pouring forth at a proud 80’ upper fall and +100’ lower fall, Kent and his guide Rafa made their way to the bottom of the upper of the two falls. Across the valley Kent saw a silver roof and said, ‘That house has a beautiful view of the waterfall!’ and Rafa (his guide) says, ‘Well it’s not a house, it’s a shack. The people that work the coffee are called ‘collectivos’ and that’s where they stay when they’re working the coffee fields. It’s a coffee farm and it’s for sale.” Three days later Kent tracked down the seller and the rest is history.

 

The Coffee Farmer

Showcasing the beans – Photo courtesy Kent Runnells

He bought the farm because of the remarkable views: a waterfall on one side, the Pacific Ocean on the other. That he loved the coffee was a happy coincidence. He brought bags home at first for the simple pleasure of sharing, but the more he brought the more people asked for it. Finally he decided it was time to give a go at selling it. Kent and Logan set up a stand at the Third Friday festival where, Logan told me, they built a clientele base and learned the business of brewing.

“People have been asking for a shop for about a year and a half, but it’s got to be in the right location,” Kent explained. Cafe Vino Tinto is a few hundred square feet, a couple of sinks and a large outdoor patio. The coffee shop will operate in a space shared with Kent’s friends, Todd Ranquist, Kiralinda, and Heather Richardson who use to area to host artistic events under the auspices of the SHAMc.

Kent and Logan foresee future Friday night events at the cafe, where guests can enjoy live acoustic music, beer and wine, tapas, and, of course, coffee. In our interview they also discussed the possibility of eco-tours on Finca Vino Tinto, and their commitment to conducting a perpetual shoe drive for the children of the indigenous and impoverished Panamanian workers who spend their days in the coffee fields.

It’s nice to know where your coffee is coming from, and it’s even nicer when you know it’s coming from good, hardworking people who happen to be your neighbors. No one can deny that we consumers love the idea of local business. We dedicate festivals and create organizations for it. Politicians blabber about it. Tourists eat it up. The trending love for local isn’t just about economics or novelty. Thanks to Amazon and Facetime, we can execute most every human interaction without ever interacting with a human in person. Could it be that our whirring fingers and LED inundated eyes are finally fatigued? Maybe we want local because we are human and we want to share that with others. Or maybe it’s just me.

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Pizzaria Gregario, Safety Harbor

On a Friday night, Pizzaria Gregario offers hungry patrons supreme service in a small, cozy, romantically lit space. Situated inside a small house, the low lighting and intimate atmosphere fit the bill for a Friday night dinner. There is a wait for indoor seating so we opt a picnic table outdoors.

Chef Greg Seymour crafts pies made of locally sourced ingredients and handmade sourdough. In addition to pizza, Gregario offers spreads, meatballs and salads.

Beef and pork meatballs in tomato sauce are too good to turn down. The meatball appetizer consists of three meatballs, approximately 2-3″ in diameter, sitting in a saucy bath. It does not disappoint.

After a 20-25 minute our waiter brings the good lookin’ pie we’ve eagerly awaited. None better attests to a restaurant’s pizza prowess than the margherita pizza. It’s simplicity is what makes it both beautiful and tricky. Each of the four ingredients must be supreme. Sadly, most of the ingredients used in Gregario’s margherita fall short.

The foundation of the margherita pizza is a thin, wood-fired crust. It is neither soft nor crunchy; it dances the boundary with all the finesse of a fine crust. The sauce, made of Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes, is too sweet. I prefer a tangy, full-bodied sauce. I do not doubt the quality of the house made mozzarella, but it served as little more than chewy lumps to add texture. The absence of flavor is a tease. With only five or six puny leaves, the dearth of basil breaks my heart. A good margherita pizza must have a healthy measure of basil.

Save the crust, this pizza is certainly inferior to its cousins in New York.

I allow that I am scrutinizing, maybe even excessively, but I do it in the name of true, steadfast love for margherita pizza.

The great service compensates for what the pizza lacks. Through some miscommunication in the ordering process, the smiling waiter brings out a pie topped with parmesan cheese, as advertised on the menu. I am allergic to parm, which was lost in translation during the ordering process. The waiter is very kind when I explain this. He brings a new one, sans parmesan, within 10 minutes. More than one waiter checks on us during our stay. They are attentive without hovering, and they are exceptionally friendly.

Though the pizza is not a Top 10, it is decent. I look forward to returning to try the meaty Lombardi and Eh Mate pies.

Ess-A-Bagel, Lower East Side

Dear kids,

I’ve lived here for awhile now and in that time I’ve consumed many a bagel. Yet until I went to this place, Ess-A-Bagel, I didn’t really get the hype. Maybe my spot in RVA was that awesome (yeah, it really was that awesome). The coffee shop that served as my second kitchen for five years, Harrison St Coffee Shop, sold RVA-local Cupertino’s bagels that were always so freshhh. So I started off my journey here with already high standards. BUT ALAS! After almost nine months, I have enjoyed the most epic, delicious, mouth-watering, crave-inducing, can’t sleep until I have another BAGEL. Auntie Katrina and I went last week. Read more about it here –> yaybagel yaybagel yaybagel yaybagel yaybagel

Image credit: Jennifer Feuchter via Melissa Stanger @ Business Insider

Image credit: Jennifer Feuchter via Melissa Stanger @ Business Insider

Don Antonio, Theater District

We are greeted by friendly faces. Not in an overbearing in-your-face way that’s contrived and obnoxious, but I get the impression that this is truly a family place.

The pizza is divine. The hubz and I get the classic Montanara Starita to split. The slightly fried crust makes for a unique and distinct taste, the pizza sauce is delicious, but the cheese – holy cow, that smoked mozzarella is THE BEST cheese I’ve ever had. So flavorful, and it pairs perfectly with the crust and sauce.

The pizza is just big enough for two hungry people to be sufficiently full, but I think it’s more typical for people to order one per person because of the way the manager(?) man lingers around our table somewhat uncomfortably after we tell him we want the pie … to share. If you’re shamelessly frugal like us though you can eat here for about $25, including +20% tip, for two.

All in all a fantastic culinary experience. We will return.

We got the Montanara Starita Pizza (Photo credit: Layla L. Yelp user)

We got the Montanara Starita Pizza (Photo credit: Layla L. Yelp user)

Saturday, Feb 22: adventures on high with free fancy coffee (plus a monster mash & Ukrainian bar!)

Hey, folks!

Last weekend, B and I took advantage of the warmest temperatures we’ve experienced since moving to NY and spent the day exploring Central Park and Chelsea. I’ll have to save the Central Park trip for another post, because that was a lovely endeavor in itself, so let’s talk Chelsea.

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part one

Our first stop in Chelsea was the High Line Park. This story behind this park begins with my beloved NYC Subway system. Before the train was underground in the olden days, it was above ground. Above the streets, above many of the buildings. Up high. Then the glory of the underworld was unleashed and eventually all of the old trains moved down below. The advent of the NY underground left several high line tracks high and dry. Instead of demolishing the tracks completely, a group of awesome citizens came together to turn the landmark into a park.

Not surprisingly, the park is very narrow. It’s more or less the width of the train tracks. Last weekend NYC experienced a brief relief from the harsh frigidity that has beaten us up all winter, so you can imagine that this place was packed tighter than Fifth Avenue and 34th Street during the weekday rush hour. The crowd made picture-taking very difficult, but I’ve included some photos and a video below, courtesy of Time Magazine, New York Guest, Colectiva TV, and Urban Splatter. I hear the High Line park is quite beautiful in the springtime, and I look forward to visiting again soon when the weather brings us all back to life.

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part two

As daylight started to dwindle we wandered into the Robert E. Rauschenberg Foundation Gallery to see Shirin Neshat’s exhibition, “Our House is on Fire.” I don’t know if you guys have yet picked up on this or not, but I’m kind of crazy about art. Furthermore I have a special appreciation for Islamic art as a result of the time I spent studying the Arabic language and Islamic history. Shirin is a very talented Iranian artist who often mixes black and white photography with Arabic and/or Persian calligraphy to capture the complexities and contradictions of the human condition. I have a particular love for her because so much of her work is focused on the experience of women, in particular Muslim women. Her exhibition, “Our House is on Fire,” spoke to what has been lost in Egypt as a result of the war. It was a fascinating collection of work.

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We strolled along for awhile after the exhibition until we stumbled upon free coffee. Not just any coffee- “sexy coffee” (as [Uncle] Tim calls it). Nespresso has created a new pod-based coffee machine (kind of like a Keurig) that gives your coffee a lovely foam. Best of all, they were dishing it out for free in fancy plastic cups, which we have now turned into our daily coffee to-go cups.

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epilogue

After a pit stop home for dinner we headed down to Lower East Side East Village, which has become our new favorite spot.

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More about that later.

When we stepped off the L train and onto 14th street, we headed toward “Otto’s Shrunken Head” to enjoy their epic weekly monster mash with a couple of friends.

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On our way to the bar we passed a Ukrainian bar, the Sly Fox, which offered even cheaper beer than the stuff at Otto’s.

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Our friends were still about 20 minutes out, so we said what the hell and popped in for a round. We chatted it up with a group of people we met, who were gathering for a kind of unofficial high school reunion, finished our drinks, and met up with our people. We finished out the night with two $1 slices (how else?).

And that was our Saturday.

For next time: Central Park & jazz at the Lincoln Center Atrium

Lots of love,

-Cat

End of January Recap

Dear kids,

A lot has happened in the past few weeks! I’ve combed the city: from northern Manhattan, which is where I live, to southern Manhattan, which is where Wall Street and the World Trade Center are located. There’s so much that it’s difficult for me to write in depth about each place, SO- I want each of you to pick one spot and I will write more about it. Here are some highlights. By the way, this list is in no particular order.
  • Greenwich Village: Thrift shops, coffee shops, bars- oh my! This home of the show, Friends, is the epitome of fabulous.
  • Riverside Library, near the Lincoln Center (see below), where I did yoga on a Saturday morning and made a new friend 🙂 Let me tell you something- as a yoga lover and a word nerd, doing yoga in a library was pretty much heaven.
  • Bagels!!! NYC is the motherland of bagels. Hot & Crusty in Greenwich Village & Mike’s Bagels in WaHi (=Washington Heights, where I live).
  • Chinatown, where we paid only $1(!) for yummy dumplings at Prosperity Dumpling. And they said this city was expensive… When in Chinatown we also saw the Dragon Fighter Fire Squad. No, seriously. That happened.

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    “Chinatown Dragon Fighters”

  • One World Trade Center, which is supposedly the tallest building in the U.S., but in my opinion it’s not because they cheated by adding this giant antenna that’s not actually usable space. Kind of insulting, actually…
  • Nancy Whiskey Bar, where Uncle B and I stopped in for a drink when we came back from a long voyage to VA to visit Cody and family.
  • Times Square– went again one day after work because it was snowing. And by snowing, I mean blizzarding. We got a foot! The most snow I’ve ever seen in my life, and it was absolutely beautiful.

    A foot of snow, and it kept on coming! It was wonderful.

    Me & B 1.21.14

  • New job, which is right next to Radio City music hall, and very close to Fifth Ave. And by very close, I mean one block away. (sidenote: more on this new job business later)

    En route to work

  • Wall Street where I had to do some stuffy boring business, but I did see it for a few minutes.
  • The METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART!! I’ve dreamt of going here since I was very young. Younger than most of you. I was not disappointed. I visited this Islamic arts collection, the Impressionists collection (where I saw many Van Goghs), and the Modern Art collection. Faaaabulous!
  • The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, which is where Cher and “Nick Cage” hang out in the epic classic, Moonstruck (ask Auntnet or Becca about that one).

    That’s me in the background, with the pink yoga mat.

Well kids, now it’s up to you. Tell me what you want to know more about! If you don’t, I’ll harass you like I did last time. 😉

In the next few days I’m going to start posting a map of all this. I would’ve done it in this entry, but I’m having technical issues. Thanks so much to your Uncle Tim/dad for the awesome idea!

Love you all.
xoxo