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I am sitting here looking at my empty eco-friendly coffee cup from the School Grounds Coffee House and David A Morrow Gallery that used to be filled with the best Chai tea I have ever had pass my lips. It was a gift from the owner of what is now my favorite Midwest coffee shop this morning: School Grounds.
My cup isn’t empty because I scarfed it down, sadly, because I was savoring it. The delicate blend of flavors that kept it from being too bold or bitter, like most other cups I have tried. I internally weep because my 13-year-old had walked by, sniffed it out, grabbed it, and chugged it after that first sip. I saw the dawning of instant love cross her face as she let that flavor combination roll across her taste buds.
I was screwed instantly.
Then I realized it had come full circle. The man who had made the perfect Chai tea, David Morrow, was an apprentice of the man who started my own coffee addiction a little over 35 years ago: Victor Allen.
I was a young teen, working in the ice cream parlor of a restaurant long gone in the Whitney Square property of Madison Wisconsin’s near west side. Through the open window design of the mini-mall, I could see into Victor’s store. The dazzling bean roaster where he created his magic was front and center in the display, and if I close my eyes and think hard? I can still smell that ambrosia-bean-roasting aroma. That kind man often gifted me with a cuppa, or even chocolate covered-coffee beans.
This Chia tea recipe was actually a collaboration between the two men, days before Victor passed. What a legacy…
School Grounds Coffee House and David A Morrow Gallery
Now, let’s talk about School Grounds, technically called School Grounds Coffee House and David A Morrow Gallery.
This quaint refurbed schoolhouse from 1910 was originally Gaston School. It had been carefully restored after being purchased from the town in 2007. Considering David is a master woodworker, you will see amazing details everywhere you look. They even tracked down the school bell! I got a kick out of the nod to the building’s heritage, with the quaint display of vintage school desks.
I was there to meet my new publisher, and knew I had to write about the place the more I looked around. They have a passion for what they do – and care about where their ingredients come from. I have talked farm to fork before, and that movement is really growing.
The generous lemon poppyseed scone I snagged went well with my double mocha. There were several baked goods offered, even frittatas, and personal sized square pies – a math pun brought to edible art.
The waffle bar is astounding! An extensive waffle menu boasts creations like the Maine Thing: stuffed with blueberries and topped with bananas, or even the Farmer Josh: stuffed with a choice of Boar’s Head ham, sausage, or bacon and cheddar and topped with fresh pineapple and cranberry slaw? You can even make it “Barnyard,” and they will use all three types of meat, instead of your choice of just one.
The ham frittata I sampled was amazing. The right blend of potato, diced ham, cheese, and egg, along with spices that came off to a perfect peppery taste. Next time, I will try the spinach one – it was so hard to pick!
They have soups and so much more yumminess to be tested in my future – but that is now what drew me in. Schoool Grounds is not just a coffee house, it is a community.
Share the Warmth
Dave took me out to their deck and shared with me about their “Share the Warmth Coat Drive,”
Have a coat to give? Give it.
Need a coat to take?
That’s it…no need to over-complicate things.
He told me they take coats to people and pass them out, as sadly, the Madison area has its share of homeless. We had a nice chat about it as I have helped with my church’s homeless mission over the last few years.
You’ve heard of Ted Talks? Steve is better. Steve is local. Steve Cantley is an alumnus of NASA’s Mission Control Center in Houston and has traveled to Earth’s South Pole to help construct the cubic-kilometer-sized IceCube Neutrino Detector, based here at UW-Madison.
Memory after hours
My mom’s got Alzheimer’s, and I fell in love with his program about early-stage memory-challenged people with their caregivers. Dave told me about an after-hours program they will be kicking off soon for individuals with mild dementia and other mild cognitive impairment and their caregivers.
Summer Door County Style Fish boils?
Shut the front door! I have to check these out for myself when the season is back up and running. I believe it starts off June 5th, and comes with live music!
They have plans to enlarge their deck to accommodate their growing crowd, as well as upgrading their class B (beer and wine) license to a class A. It is quickly becoming THE place for local live entertainment – it reminds me of the Little Swan Lake Winery in Estherville, Iowa.
I didn’t explore this part of the community as much as the others – but David is a artist with wood. Not everyone can look at a piece of a tree and see what it is trying to become. Coffee Grounds started out as an art gallery and morphed into it’s current community.
The School Grounds Coffee Shop and David A Morrow Gallery is conveniently located just off of I94 – the junction of Hwy N and oddly enough: Gaston Road. If you keep in mind that they are closed Mondays, you can grab your cuppa and absorb the awesome feelings the place exudes for yourself at 4691 County Road N, Cottage Grove, Wisconsin 53527.
Tell David the Traveling Cheesehead sent ya and ask about the School of Arts and Smarts posters….