Saturday, January 17, 2009
Hidden Jewels of the Cumberland Plateau
Since moving to Cookeville, Tennessee in October 2007, I have been pretty busy working full-time and going back to school at Tennessee Tech. However, I do from time to time happen upon a rare find in the Cumberland Plateau region: a good place to eat!
One of these such places is the coffee shop the Intrepid Traveler. I try to make a pit stop there at least two or three days a week for a cup of coffee on the way to work. I'm a simple girl when it comes to coffee drinking, so my drug of choice is usually simply a large coffee-to-go. When this order is placed, you're handed a go-cup with a smile. Then you can choose from all of the currently-brewed coffees available at the moment. I usually go for the dark roast, but after talking to owner and coffee expert Rene Albert I was informed that the dark roast actually has less caffeine than lighter roasts. After inquiring as to why this would be (shouldn't stronger taste = more caffeine?), Rene told me that the lighter roasted coffee beans are less "messed with," and therefore retain more caffeine. Darker roasts, therefore, have been leeched of their caffeine because of the roasting process. A true coffee drinker will begin his or her day with a "breakfast" roast, which is light but full of caffeine, then slowly progress to a rich dark roast with after-dinner dessert because it is relatively caffeine-deprived.
This is just an example of the richness of life customers experience at the Intrepid Traveler. In addition to coffees and teas, the coffee shop offers an extensive array of chocolates provided by the former business The Cocoa Ladies. This specialty coffee shop used to reside next door; when they started to close their doors, a partnership was born and they moved in with Rene. Now you can purchase a cup of joe and a gourmet chocolate bar in the same location. The shop also offers sandwich and wrap choices at lunch, and other desserts in addition to the chocolates. Everything is good for you -- they even offer organic and vegan chocolates. Rene's wife makes the sandwiches and wraps with all-fresh ingredients. My personal favorite (after plain black coffee, of course) is the Vosges Haut-Chocolate Bar with bacon and sea salt. I know, I know. It sounds really weird (some would say terrible), but not so. In fact, it is the perfect blend of salty, savory, and sweet.
The atmosphere is nothing to sneeze at, either. In a revitalized section of downtown Cookeville, the Intrepid Traveler has brick walls and comfy seating. Magazines and books abound for those who want to come in and stay awhile. The shop's website touts itself as "a meeting place" and "a destination." It tells the truth. It is both and much more.
Around the corner from the coffee shop is a small restaurant and deli which you might overlook, even after driving past it every single day. The Cafe Trio is on N. Cedar Avenue in Cookeville's Westside Shopping District. It is a small space -- seating for 15-20 at most. But the women behind the counter pack a punch with their unbelievable recipes. According to a newspaper article which appeared in the Herald-Citizen just after the cafe opened last year, the owners/cooks came to the cafe from Cookeville's IHOP. Let me tell you, these women can cook! I've only ever eaten there for lunch, but they are open for breakfast, as well. What, might you ask, do they serve?
There is quite an assortment of sandwiches, which you might expect from a location which calls itself a "cafe and delicatessan." However, the sandwiches are unusual -- a Cuban, an eggplant panini. Mmm. My mouth is watering just thinking about it! And I haven't even eaten a sandwich -- yet, anyway. Instead, I have been a difficult customer each time I've gone and asked the people behind the counter to make me a "special plate" with an assortment of the things I see in their deli case. And what an assortment it is!
The Cafe Trio touts everything from stuffed grape leaves (dolmathakia) to tabouleh to baklava. They also have a delicious brandy tiramisu and too many salads to name (Greek, several types of pasta, cucumber & tomatoes, just to give you a few). They make their own hummus... Need I say more? They also do a different quiche each day. On the days I've been, that has been everything from spinach to portabello & sundried tomatoes to cheeseburger.
My friend Caroline and I went there for lunch before Christmas, and we absolutely pigged out on everything in sight. I took my mom and aunt there on New Year's Eve for lunch, and they had the same reaction Caroline and I had... yum! My mom took some hummus and baklava home to my dad, but I'm not sure it all made it there!
The atmosphere at the Cafe Trio doesn't quite make the splash that the Intrepid Traveler does, but the food more than makes up for it. Try either (or both!) sometime when you're in the area. I can promise you won't be disappointed.
Labels: Restaurants and Eating