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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Blackstone Coffee Company - My Newest Café Crush

Across the street from UMW sits an unassuming coffee shop in the Eagle Village shopping center in Fredericksburg, Virginia. I will admit that I thought this coffee place was another chain, a renamed Starbucks meets Caribou meets Joe's. I had a coffee bean on my shoulder and a bad attitude to back it up.

But assumptions only made an ass out of me. Working behind the small counter inside the lovely, wood tabled and stone decorated shop stood the owner and founder of Blackstone, Don Merritt.
He has one of those smiles that makes you like whatever he's selling before he tells you what it is.

"We roast all of our own coffee beans, just so you know," Don said. I'd just ordered a medium coffee, dark roast, room for cream.

I was giddy, but kept a straight face. Don let me know in one sentence that he was doing what I value most in a restaurant, keepin' it local. As local as possible that is. I was crushing pretty hard on Blackstone. Then I saw they do French Press. Pause for harps and angels.

Around that moment I made the silent, sacred Foodieverse pact; I would revisit, reorder and review this cool café.

As I left Blackstone after my first visit; I picked up the scent of free WiFi by the quantity of full tables with twenty-somethings packing serious laptop and headphone paraphernalia. It was a great open space for people to study, surf and just vibe. The atmosphere was decidingly non-corporate, and welcoming, which is a major turn-on for repeat customers.

It wasn't long before I was back.

An elderly gentleman in front of me in the line cracked a few jokes with Don and then said, with all seriousness, "I'd like some wookie."

Wookie wasn't a sexual innuendo, rather, the name of a pumpkin seed, walnut and dried cranberry bejeweled cookie. It was stunning - toasted greens and creamy browns with gems of ruby. I had to have it in my mouth.

Don didn't hesitate to tell me that the wookie was sweetened only with honey, and something he was quite proud of concocting.

"Wait, do you make your own food here?" I asked. I had been trained by other coffee shops to expect prepackaged, frozen and reheated café goods, not fresh, homemade healthy stuff.

"Sure do. Everything is made in house," Don said. "Except the bagels! We get those shipped in from New York, half cooked. We finish them here."

Knowing the food was made from scratch made every delicately chewy bite of that wookie a masterpiece. And as the slow release of carbohydrates and sugar hit my bloodstream, I swear the whole place took on a glow.

So why should everyone come to Blackstone for their caffeine fix? Because each cup, and each plate of food, ranging from deli sandwiches to muffins, scones and more, are dream builders. No kidding.

You buy from Don and you get expertly roasted, hand selected coffees and, even better, you are part of the mortar that binds his future. Pretty cool in my book.

Don let me know before I left his shop on my most recent visit that he'd just acquired his liquor license, and will soon be hosting wine classes for those of us food nerds who want an education with our calories. I'm all in.

One last note - there's even a book exchange located in the shop. You like what you're reading? Take it. Bring it back when you're done so someone else can read it too. Or donate a book you own, and share the literacy.

I've got such a wookie for this place. Yeah, I said it.


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