Dawn on the Gulf Coast, the clouds part for the sun to stream its golden rays upon early morning sun worshipers sipping their morning brew and admiring the vista from the seaside sun deck of the regal Beau Rivage. OK, so maybe the sun is a little high in the sky – it was sunrise for this west coaster!
Invited by the Mississippi Gulf Coast Visitors Bureau to experience their regional cuisine, a little blues and BBQ, some brews, and a whole lotta Gulf seafood, I’m inspired by how the entire Gulf Coast region has come together with the courage, strength and perseverance necessary to rebuild their lives and businesses after being crushed by the wrath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
My gift on Mother’s Day was arriving at the beautiful Beau Rivage hotel in Biloxi and being able to enjoy the amenities of the southern sister of the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Beau Rivage was conceived and built by Steve Wynn in 1999. Initially the Bellagio was going to be named “Beau Rivage”, which means beautiful shore in French. But once Mr. Wynn visited the Gulf Coast and selected the site, it was appropriately named Beau Rivage and the name of one of his favorite vacation spots in Italy bestowed upon the Bellagio.
Now a part of the MGM family, the Beau Rivage was designed to withstand a Category 4 hurricane and was the only Mississippi casino south of Highway 90 that remained attached to its mooring structure during Hurricane Katrina in August of 2005. MGM invested an additional$550 million to rebuild Beau Rivage and reopened in August of 2006. Besides gorgeous ocean views, the Beau, said with a proper southern drawl, has the most gaming tables on the Gulf Coast, a spa and salon named one of the Top 20 Hotel Spas in the United States by Travel + Leisure, and award-winning Tom Fazio-designed championship golf course Fallen Oak. Since I don’t game – the word that finally saw a ballot measure for legalized gambling approved after two failed attempts, or play golf; an afternoon of relaxation following a quick workout was where I chose to spend my Monday.
But first things first, I headed downstairs in search of caffeine since there was no coffee maker in the room (not allowed in hotels with a 4-star hotel designation). Lo and behold, I discovered the Roasted Bean with an array of irresistible pastries and cakes and its own signature coffee blend. No chain coffee here, thank goodness southern charm and hospitality runs deep in these parts.
I totally fell for the alluring aroma of this medium roast coffee and loved that its smoothness was followed by no bitter aftertaste, instead there was a subtle sweetness that required only a tiny bit of stevia to wake my morning palate. Gazing through the full length glass that teases the line of people with a view into the roasting room and the scent of freshly roasted coffee, I tried to take a few pictures but the glare from the windows worked against me. Besotted with the idea of this southern belle that roasts her own coffee, I emailed Mary, my contact at the Beau, and arranged to take some photographs the next morning.
Rustic burlap bags full of green coffee beans line the wall.
The entire operation is orchestrated by one petite redhead named Tammy.
A mix of Sumatran, Guatemalan, and Columbian beans, Beau Rivage’s namesake blend is flavorful with a well balanced complexity and subtle sweetness and none of the bitter after taste or unpleasant acidity that I experience with certain coffee chains.
The Sumatra has a grassy, earthy taste, the Guatemalan lends sweetness, and the Columbian has a chocolatey, citrusy taste. She roasts for Gold Strike and for the Beau. Tammy is a sweetheart and when I asked where she got her degree in coffee, she laughed and replied that it was all on-the-job training. Tammy roasts all the coffee for the entire property – restaurants, room service and banquets and for sister hotel Gold Strike – which requires 10,000 to 15,000 pounds of coffee beans per month.
She may be a petite gal, but make no beans about it, she has the strength required to sling coffee and pull steel levers all day and with laser focus on the time and roasting temps – all of which are recorded in a computer program that her husband devised for her. She is rightfully proud of her coffee and excited that visitors from as far away as Florida have heard about it and come specifically to try it during their stay. Even more exciting – it is soon to be in the stores of a major retailer (most likely distribution will be limited to stores in the South), so if you live in the area, watch for it!
Just back from a coffee conference in Seattle, Tammy gave me a quick Coffee 101 tutorial (video above). The beans are roasted separately for 12-13 minutes. There are three different roasting points, the first is a low temp of 198, the second about 380 degrees when you can hear it crack – that’s when the moisture comes off the bean, after the crack it starts developing its characteristics. The Sumatran beans are roasted a little darker to temper the earthy taste, then Tammy blends the three types of beans together for the coffee that is uniquely like her – not a jolt to the system, but rather a gentle eye-opener with a touch of sweet and lilting southern drawl.
Disclosure: My trip to Biloxi, MS and stay at the Beau Rivage was hosted by the Gulf Coast Visitors Bureau, all opinions are my own.