Lake Country Escapades: KenapocoMocha is a must visit coffee shop near Manchester University

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By: Loren Shaum

Flavor 574 photo/Loren Shaum

The first known settlers to the area that is now North Manchester were Miami people from the Potawatomi Tribe. What is now called the Eel River they originally named Kenapocomoco, and they built a village near where the Manchester University football field exits. The first white settlers moved to the area in 1834. Originally plotted as Manchester, the name was changed to North Manchester in 1836 because another Manchester existed at that time.

Early in the 20th century the town was very industrial — the DeWitt High Wheel Auto Buggy was invented and built there until a fire in 1910 destroyed the manufacturing building. An original buggy was recently discovered in Ottawa, Ill. There are reproductions, however, and one is at the North Manchester Historical Society.

Some famous people were born in North Manchester including Thomas R. Marshall — Indiana governor from 1909 to 1913 and vice president to Woodrow Wilson from 1913 to 1921 — and Andrew W. Cordier, who was a co-founder of the United Nations and president of Columbia University.

Today, the town is most famous for the university (my son, Steve, is a graduate), the wood-covered bridge over the Eel, and its elegant Victorian-style homes. House tours are available, and the Christmas tour is spectacular as many of the homes go all out in Victorian era decorating.

Creating a community owned coffee shop

Eight years ago, Jim and Debbie Chinworth had a vision of converting one of the town’s elegant Victorian homes into a boutique coffee shop and bakery. They also wanted to involve the community, but first they had to totally refurbish the house to the original design as it was divided into small apartments. They kept as much of the original interior intact as possible. The original wooden floors and high ceilings add grace and elegance to the house.

Then they reached out to the community to invest. KenapocoMocha now has more than 40 local investors, including my grandson, Eli. He donated his weekly allowance ($1) when he was 9 years old (Eli will graduate from Manchester High School in May and plans to enter culinary school). To honor that donation, his dollar is framed and hanging on the wall in the foyer.

Before opening the shop in April 2008, the owners hosted a contest to select a name. The winning name was submitted by resident Julie Garber. She did a play on words by incorporating the Native American name for the Eel River, Kenapocomoco, with mocha to cleverly create KenapocoMocha. Now, it is always a fun test to see if visitors can pronounce the name correctly.

Handmade dishes

Starting May 1, Amber White will be the new shop manager and does much of the baking. She emphasizes the shop’s philosophy: “We aren’t fast food. We are slow food. Everything is handmade to order.”

Using seasonal ingredients from two local farms — River Ridge Farm in Laketon for vegetables and Hawkins Family Farm in North Manchester for pork and poultry — plus their own garden on the grounds, Amber’s team offers creative, daily sandwich and soup specials and a chalkboard full of unique sandwiches and salads that may change weekly. Many are offered gluten free.

The curried chicken salad is a favorite for many, and I found it particularly tasty. A large and delicious chicken breast is combined with curried mayonnaise that’s made in house, minced onion and celery, chopped dried cranberries and chopped walnuts. Layered between two thin house-made focaccia slices, this combination makes a large serving. When combined with any one of the salads or a soup, it is enough for two.

Another popular item is the turkey, Swiss cheese and apple butter sandwich served on their homemade oatmeal bread. The apple butter kicks this sandwich above any other turkey-cheese combo I’ve eaten.

The most popular salad is the Cobb. This entree salad includes chicken breast combined with lettuces, onion, bacon, tomato, egg and avocado and is topped with blue cheese crumbles. Other salads include Greek, house, taco (chicken optional) and chicken and hummus. All dressings are made in house.

Soups are seasonal

Having enjoyed only two of the shop’s myriad of soup recipes, they were light and highly flavored, making the soup and half-sandwich combo one of the most popular items. One soup that particularly stands out is the garden zucchini chowder. This delightful concoction includes garden vegetables combined with two cheeses in a light, creamy chicken stock. Seasoned perfectly, you’ll savor every spoonful! It’s so good, I coerced the recipe from Amber.

Another soup I enjoyed recently was the spring orzo soup. This is a made from a light chicken stock with small pasta floating and a combination of onion, carrot, asparagus and other veggies.

Some soups are rotated. As new recipes are created, they are incorporated into daily menus. Soups are served with two thick slices of one of the daily breads and butter.

Daily breakfast

With a large focus on coffees, the shop offers three standards — Ethiopian, Sulawesi, Costa Rican — all mild-flavored and offered in bulk. They make coffee to order, but also specialize in lattes and mochas. A popular but simple latte is the Café Miel (simply coffee and honey). The favorite mocha is the Black and White, where black and white chocolate syrup is combined with your coffee of choice.

Breakfast-goers often combine these excellent coffees with muffins (which are made fresh daily, with blueberry being the most popular), scones of all flavors (butter-pecan is popular), biscotti (favorites are maple-pecan, cinnamon-sugar and lemon-poppy seed) and breads (baguettes, oatmeal, focaccia and bran-molasses-sunflower and zucchini and banana breads).

Creative quiches based on available ingredients also help to draw a morning crowd, and they are not disappointed. Favorites are the tomato, chard and asiago quiche and the bacon, cheddar and chive quiche (also offered with ground pork incorporated), each use a potato crust to make them gluten free.

Also popular with locals is baked oatmeal. Made daily, a variety of fruit and nuts are offered.

On Saturdays, KenapocoMocho offers traditional breakfast: eggs to order, bacon, pork sausage, toast and hash browns. Hours on Saturday are 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

A really cool hangout

When the university is in session, students frequent to sample any one of the coffees or hot or iced teas. The African Nectar is favorite iced tea.

The four seating rooms are populated with single and community tables, and there is outside seating on the porch. One of the rooms is a library, with comfortable seating for conversation, and there are always magazines on the reading ladder in what probably was the original dining room.

KenapocoMocha employs eight people and is looking for more. They do catering, often for university events, and offer take-out for local businesses. The last week of April, KenapocoMocha will celebrate its eighth anniversary with a week of special offerings. That would be a great time to checkout this unique town filled with Victorian houses and a historical business district featuring a number of boutique and antique shops. You won’t be disappointed, especially if you find your way to KenapocoMocha Coffee Shop.

KENAPOCOMOCHA GARDEN ZUCCHINI CHOWDER

Adopted from Taste of Home Cookbook (1998)

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup butter, divided
  • 3/4 cup onion, diced
  • 2 medium zucchini, diced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • Two, 14-ounce cans of chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • One 14-ounce can of tomatoes, diced and lightly drained
  • One 12-ounce can of corn, drained
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • One 12-ounce can of evaporated milk

Directions:

  1. In a skillet, over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter.
  2. Add onion and cook for a minute, then add zucchini and season lightly with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to simmer.
  3. In a soup pot, melt remaining butter over medium heat.
  4. Add sage, garlic powder and parsley then a quarter cup chicken broth. When heated, add flour a bit at a time, whisking each time until smooth. Continue alternating broth and flour until all is incorporated.
  5. Add all remaining broth, lemon juice, tomatoes and some tomato juice, and corn.
  6. Increase heat to medium high and bring soup just to a boil. After reaching a boil, reduce heat to medium, add cheeses and whisk to combine.
  7. When melted, add evaporated milk and the heated zucchini-onion mixture.
  8. Simmer soup for 15 minutes and serve with additional cheese, if desired.
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