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Panhandle Pulls 

Coffee roasting in Sandpoint. Plus, Empyrean Coffee is making pizza.

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Rick Evans has really white teeth, which wouldn’t be all that interesting except that he drinks a lot of coffee. “Of course we have to sample everything we serve,” reports Rick Evans, who alongside brother Randy (also possessed of white teeth) created Evans Brothers Coffee Roasters. “When doing tastings, we get pretty wired.”

Considering their schedule, they need a little pick-me-up. With one year behind them in Sandpoint’s “granary district,” they’re already renovating a neighboring space. Planned is an espresso bar with rollup doors opening into their courtyard, the old granary as the backdrop. They’ll also micro-lot coffees (climate-specific plots within a larger coffee farm purported to be exceptionally delish) in either French Press or pourover style.

Evans’ brews include the popular Organic Siberia Dark Blend, named for a Schweitzer ski run. It was while on a Chair 6 run, in fact, that the literally plucked the business idea out of thin air. Randy had 10 years coffee-roasting and business experience under his belt, including in Hawaii, Seattle and Italy. And Rick brought the marketing and sales expertise, including skills he honed while in real estate, which he recently put on hold to pursue the coffee business full-time.

But they both share a commitment to community. Rwanda Abakundakawa, for example, is a new blend from a mostly women-owned cooperative. “The Fair Trade price that these farmers get is bringing societal change to this once war-torn area,” explains Rick Evans.

They’re a cup-is-half-full kind of company, lending support to such charities as Panhandle Alliance for Education and Angels over Sandpoint. Education is near and dear to the brothers, who both have children under five. A recent project included helping Sagle Elementary’s sixth-grade class create a student-run coffee business (recently recognized at Spokane’s Junior Achievement 2010 Achievement Ball).

In a town that celebrates its own — Laughing Dog Brewing, Pend d’Oreille Winery — Sandpoint has embraced the little startup, including Ivano’s Ristorante, Dish Home Cooking and Schweitzer’s Gourmandie. We’re not sure where they get the teeth-whitener, but their coffee is available online, in Sandpoint at the roastery itself, as well as Yoke’s and Winter Ridge Natural Foods and in Spokane at the new Main Market Co-Op and Huckleberry’s on Division. (Carrie Scozzaro)

Evans Brothers Coffee, 524 Church St., Sandpoint, Idaho, is open Tue-Fri 9 am–3 pm, Sat 9 am-1 pm. Visit www.evansbrotherscoffee.com or call (208) 265-5553.

Pizza, What?

When life gives you a pizza oven, make pizza. That’s what entrepreneurs Michelle and Chrisy Riddle did when they uprooted the EMPYREAN COFFEE HOUSE from its remotely troll-ish nook on the outskirts of downtown (154 S. Madison St.) and repotted it on 171 S. Washington St. It was a move meant to salvage the café from an ignominious fate. It had the side effect of salvaging the fading glory of the former Big Dipper Building.

As far as risks of change go, it wasn’t a bad switch-up for the eclectic hangout, whose culture-centered mantra suitably clicks with the SoDo district’s avant-garde vibe.

The new venue has provided ample space for business evolution, too. There’s a bigger kitchen, improved acoustics and a multi-leveled layout that offers stage views from most seated areas.

And, being the creative types who won’t let resources go to waste, the Riddles are rolling with their new accessories.

“We moved in here from our old location and they had a pizza oven, so we were, like, um, ‘I guess we’re doing pizza,’” says Michelle Riddle.

It’s not average pizza, either. It’s freakin’ good pizza.

The setup is simple and clever. It’s a custom, no-frills ordering formula that naturally sabotages indecisive buzz-killers who take 20 minutes staring at the options, reading them out loud and then asking if choices can be modified.

Pick your size (small, $8.50; large, $14.50), type of dough (white or whole wheat), sauce (marinara, Alfredo or pesto) and your choice of three toppings (add-ons are 50 cents each).

I opted for whole wheat and Alfredo sauce, finished with a sprinkling of sweet white onions, juicy artichoke hearts and savory garlic. Eight minutes later, bam: Riddle presents me with an orb of happiness on a retro-looking, sunflower-yellow plate.

I had good intentions of saving some for friends. That didn’t happen.

The wicked-tasty artisan crust — good enough to snack on by itself — is made with Great Harvest’s whole-wheat foccacia. The Alfredo sauce is a homemade concoction credited to the sisters. Certainly not bland, but overbearingly rich either, it’s nicely balanced.

Pair this with a 20-oz. bottle of Crystal Bitters beer from Northern Lights Brewery, and Pizza Hut becomes pizza what? (Blair Tellers)

Empyrean Coffee House, 171 S. Washington St., is open Mon-Sat 3-10 pm, Sun 5-10 pm. Visit myspace.com/empyreancoffee or call 838-9819.

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