The Highlands of Vietnam

Di Linh (Vietnamese: Di Linh; French: Djiring) is a district (huyện) of Lâm Đồng Province in the Central Highlands region of Vietnam.

As of 2003 the district had a population of 154,472.The district covers an area of 1,628 km². The district capital lies at Di Linh.

And, that is about all Wikipedia has to say about the place. But, we would add so much more!

IMG_7729First off, going from sea level in Phan Theit, rolling through hills up to about 4000 feet into the highlands was spectacular! And the stops on the way up offered a taste of some of the best coffee in the world. And, for those who don’t know, coffee is one of Mr. Hollands love languages.

The coffee city that gets the most attention in the region is Da Lat and I’m sure it’s a wonderful place for tourists. For us, however, connecting with locals and learning about life through their eyes is more important. So, we were pleased when our friend Joe invited us to come with him up to visit Di Linh, to share a meal, story and sacred space with his kinfolk, who all happen to be coffee farmers.

IMG_1214The community treated us to a traditional meal, coffee of course, and we sang together. We were honored to find out we were there first international guests! We shared our story and they shared theirs and what we learned is that they have the same struggles many of us have around the world with desires for a good, healthy, long life and dealing with the many obsticals that can get in the way.

IMG_1230We met Than, a generational coffee farmer. Thans ancestors had farmed over a hundred hectares but after the war, his families land was seized and he now farms about two hectares. From that 2 hectares he produces 10 tonnes of bean; Arabica, robusta and a third coffee which is a blend. Most is sold to dealers to be exported.

He taught us about the growing process stating that the trees last for about 50 years, and produce bigger yields each year. Harvest time is in December and he hires on about 6 extra migrant workers to help with the harvest. A tarp is set on the ground that catches the beans as the workers pull them off the branches. Then the beans are then set out in the front yard to dry for 10 days before being packaged. Than also grows red flamingo flowers in green houses through out the year and sells them to stores all over Vietnam.

Honestly, Di Linh could have been any little rural town in the US where folks are hard working, value the land they live on and care about their families and their faith. It’s off the beaten path but for us Di Linh and the people we met there will always hold a special place in our hearts. And the coffee, that was just the warm up to the truest love language there is, connection.



Out of the Box in Green Bay

In a town dominated by chain food, out of the box ideas really have to stand out and one of our favorite stops in Green Bay, WI is Kavarna Coffeehouse adjoined by Parisi’s Delicatessen.

There are so many things I love about these two restaurants, starting first with the owners, Alex and Linda Galt. They are two of the most exquisite folks you’ll ever meet. They are focused and care very much about their trade and what they have to offer the general public. You sense this attitude of food knowledge and warmth when you enter their two adjoining restaurants, Kavarna and Parisi’s Deli.

We have a long history of frequenting this venue and have watched it go through many changes. All for the better! Although, if they hadn’t changed they still would have been exactly what we craved. Besides the immediate feeling of welcome by the staff and owners, the decor is creative and clever recycling. Eye candy everywhere. From the sand blasted brick walls and exposed ceiling, especially delightful for Craig as he is a builder and love to see the under work, to the windows on the front of the building. And if earth tones aren’t your thing you cross over to the Parisi’s side and experience the calming creams and and light pastels. The clean lines and softness of these colors makes me feel like I’m sitting beachside in the French Riviera in the 1930’s, so I tend to sit on this side even when I order from the Kavarna side.

Kavarna: The food is delightful! It was the Black Bean Burger that one me over on my first visit some 10 years ago. I think Andy Gordon made my first one and to this day if he’s in the kitchen I’m confident that all will be well with my dining experience. Since then I’ve enjoyed the Cheesy Artichoke, the Black Bean Quesodilla. And, the Sweet Potato Fries are out of this world.

Parisi’s: I’ve lived in Wisconsin for nearly half of my life so cheese has become a mainstay in my diet. I tend to shy away from the highly processed cheese curds and orange cheddar’s but a sharp white or a soft goat cheese or brie and I’m in cheese heaven. So, When Alex and Linda decided to bring in Parisi’s Delicatessen I couldn’t have been more excited. It is a full service delicatessen specializing in artisanal meats and cheeses, particularly from Wisconsin. My favorite so far is the “New Deal” incorporating the most beautiful spreadable cheese from Belgioioso, Prosciutto di Parma and argula on a baguette. Pure yumminess!

Whether you choose the Kavarna side or Parisi’s side or a little of both, they will run you about the same price. For a sandwich (side of chips or grapes) and Rosewater Lemonade, my beverage of choice, the bill usually ends up about $12-15. So, this tends to be a place that I meet friends out at or a lunch date with Craig. On the rare occasion that the whole family goes we usually share a couple of sandwiches and soup for a final bill of $40 or we can spend half of that if we stop in for dessert and coffee, both of which are top notch.

Another side note, sometimes Alex hosts music and over the past 5 years we have played a handful of times. He also hosts “talks” and they are actively involved in the Broadway Farmers Market. I love their sense of community and openness to bring real food to Green Bay. There would be a huge void without them. That is the truth.