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Talking Coffee With Linton And Gina Hopkins of Atl...

Talking Coffee With Linton And Gina Hopkins of Atlanta’s Holeman & Finch, Restaurant Eugene

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Chef Linton Hopkins is the Executive Chef behind Resurgens Hospitality Group, an Atlanta food & beverage haus that includes Restaurant Eugene, Holeman and Finch Public House, H&F Bottle Shop, the newly opened Linton’s in the Garden, and two forthcoming spots in Atlanta’s exciting Ponce City Market urban project, H&F Burger and Hop’s Chicken. His wife, the sommelier Gina Hopkins, has been a close collaborator and co-owner throughout the development of these projects, all of which serve coffee sourced by our partners at Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roasters.

You could call them a power couple, but that would kind of be missing the point; hospitality and accessibility are running themes throughout the team’s portfolio of restaurants, where concepts are executed with a soft touch and high degree of professionalism that suits Atlanta just fine. Yes, there are the accolades—Chef Hopkins has won the 2012 James Beard Award for Best Chef Southeast and 2009 Best New Chef honors from Food & Wine Magazine—but this underlies a passion for exploring food sources and creating informed dining experiences for their guests. It’s a passion that’s led the Hopkins to farms across the American south, wine vineyards in Europe and now, coffee fincas in Guatemala and Costa Rica, where they recently accompanied Batdorf & Bronson on an origin trip.

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The Hopkins—Gina and Chef Linton—are at the forefront of the chef-driven movement to bring better coffee to the American restaurant scene. They sat down digitally with Sprudge to tell us more about their experience at origin, Chef Hopkins’ journey down the coffee geek rabbit hole, and what’s next for their growing family of Atlanta area restaurants.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

Sprudge: You’ve recently been on a trip to origin, visiting Finca El Valle in Guatemala and La Minita in Costa Rica. How did this trip come about with Batdorf?

Gina Hopkins: Cherie and Larry Challain do this type of sourcing trip with their staff at Batdorf & Bronson, and they thought restaurateurs would benefit from seeing the farms and meeting the farmers. It’s a story we can share with our staff and guests to deepen their relationship with the cup.

coffee batdorf & bronson sprudge linton hopkins

Who else was there with you?

Chef Linton Hopkins: Cherie and Larry. Stacy Eames from Highland Bakery. Bob (Benck), Batdorf’s chief green buyer and Jen Dalmy, who runs sales in Atlanta for Batdorf & Bronson.

So why did you want to go?

Chef Hopkins: We are ingredient-focused, and Gina and I had gone to the soil to see farm production for nearly everything we serve at our restaurants. We’ve been to wine growing regions; we’ve visited most, if not all, the farms where we source meat and vegetables; and coffee was really the last ingredient on our list. We believe you can’t truly understand a superior ingredient until you actually see the agricultural practice of harvest. We knew meeting the farmers who pick the beans and seeing the harvest process firsthand would provide us with a deeper understanding of the product we could never gain otherwise.

coffee batdorf & bronson linton hopkins sprudge

Coffee types talk about origin trips as potentially life-changing experiences. Did it feel like that to you?

Chef Hopkins: This trip has changed forever how I think about coffee. I think about it now with the same fervor I have for sorghum and corn and the Carolina Gold rice we use. But it’s gone even deeper because we learned about the business of coffee on a global scale—from farm to co-op to broker. It taught us a lot about the culture of the people who make it and what is coffee to them.

In a nutshell, what’s the approach to coffee service in your restaurants?

Chef Hopkins: We have a Batdorf & Bronson coffee blend for Restaurant Eugene and one for our espresso program over at Holeman and Finch Public House. We also sell coffee beans at H&F Bottle Shop. Batdorf & Bronson has been such a wonderful partner. They are our local roaster, and we’re about to have a lot of fun differentiating our brands by creating specific relationships with different coffees and farms.

Following this amazing trip, I now see a journey going into more specific types of coffee: rotations or pairings to types of food. Why not start pairing coffee? Especially on our tasting menus. I love [a] macchiato, and it would pair well with a house-churned vanilla bean ice cream for dessert.

I also want to serve a perfect cup of coffee, the classic American diner profile, at H&F Burger in Ponce City Market. It’s not just a black cup of coffee; there’s a thoughtful process behind why we serve that ingredient and we hope our guests will appreciate the quality of product.

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The Cafe at Linton’s in the Garden.

You’ve just recently opened a space at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, serving quite a bit of coffee—what’s different there as compared to your other spaces?

Gina Hopkins: What’s unique to the Cafe at Linton’s in the Garden, compared to our other properties, is you can go and just have coffee. So we’re not just looking at it in the context of a complement to dinner, but as a standalone beverage. The mouthfeel and flavor profile of a cup by itself can be a totally different experience to one you have after enjoying a meal.

I’m curious about how you approach coffee as a literal ingredient, beyond being served at the beginning or end of a meal in brewed form. Do you like to use coffee in rubs or marinades? Is it something your desserts team has as a go-to? 

Chef Hopkins: Coffee is absolutely an ingredient that comes into our culinary world. We grind and roast coffee specifically for rubbing, especially for pork and beef dishes. For one of my favorite recipes, which ran in Food & Wine magazine, we rub a whole pork shoulder with coffee, cayenne, and a little brown sugar, and roast it in high heat in the oven. It’s a shortcut to getting the flavors of a slow-cooked barbecued pork shoulder. In addition, we make traditional southern sauces like red eye gravy. We deglaze pans with coffee, swirl in a little butter for sweetness, and you’ve got a great sauce.

As far as the end of the meal goes, I love the classic combinations of coffee with chocolate, caramel, vanilla, and cherry. We consistently employ these flavors in the pastry programs throughout our businesses and in our mignardises and truffles. My wife and I also enjoy affogatos for dessert.

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The bar at Holeman and Finch, Atlanta.

What are your favorite places to drink coffee in Atlanta? This can be whatever’s comfortable to you—the go-to spot in your neighborhood, or the destination coffee bar if you’re that kind of coffee drinker.

Gina Hopkins: Of course, we love to go to Dancing Goats at Ponce City Market and have a coffee that we know is freshly roasted and sourced so thoughtfully. But we really love our coffee at home.

Chef Hopkins: I geek out making coffee at home. I was making a good cup in our Chemex pour-over before we took this trip, but having now experienced the cupping rooms in Guatemala and Costa Rica—looking at the detail in brewing a perfect cup of coffee—is sending me on a wonderful journey.

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Now, I’ve got my gram scale out, and I’m using my thermometer to get my water to hit exact temperature. I’m also timing out my brewing process stages. In fact, I created a little matrix in Excel, and I record some tasting notes there in the mornings. It’s a fun way to wake up, and I’m really nailing some good cups.

I’m also noting how subtle differences in technique—grind, temperature, time, steps of pouring—affect the different origin coffees. I have Batdorf & Bronson coffee from the three farms we visited and there is absolutely a difference in how you brew La Minita versus how you brew Finca El Valle.

coffee batdorf & bronson linton hopkins sprudge

Photos courtesy of Batdorf & Bronson and Resurgens Hospitality Group. 

Want more food & coffee coverage? Check out our restaurants archives

 


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