Monday, March 14, 2005

Introducing my first guest writer!

I am pleased to introduce my first guest writer today! It's my very special sister, who is the epicurean in our family. You see, I am really a budding food photographer, not a budding food critic. I don't think I have what it takes to be a food critic, but my sister - she does. She even guessed right all three varieties of green tea (matcha, not the 'green tea' we see around here) at a blinded tea tasting event when we were kids in Japan.

She posted this message as a comment on one of my previous posts, and I decided that it was so well-written that it ought to be featured here in the spotlight! I've added some coffee-related pictures from my recent visit to the Blue Bottle Coffee stand at the Ferry Market, although if my sister were to taste their coffee, she may object to having her article decorated by these pictures. It was definitely several steps above many of the local coffee joints, but it didn't live up to my standards that I cultivated while in Paris. This coffee would've been too bitter for me to drink without cream/milk and even with the milk, the after taste that I don't care too much for never went away. Coffee in Paris needed no additions and anything else would've been adulteration. I now know what my sister is talking about here...

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bluebottle1

So, after reading these meticulously written explanations of food, I thought I'd drop in more than one or two sentence "comments".

My obsession for a while now, has been a perfect cup of espresso. Some uncultured people may call it expresso, but by any means, it ain't "expresso". It is Espresso.

After reading this article in the NY Times, I too yearn for a day that Baristas become hot commodities, a career, where I can go to a good Italian restaurant, and finish a perfect plate of beef cheek raviolis with mint with a properly made Espresso.

Go to Starbucks, go to your local coffee house, go to the most revered Italian restaurant in New York City, and you're still not going to get that perfect cup. It's usually made by the bus boys or the wait staff, and it comes out like a cup of over brewed coffee...no wonder people cringe at the thought of Espresso!!

bluebottle2


I've only had one chance to have a properly brewed Espresso...and it was in Canada. You see, Canada, unlike the US, is still a country accepting immigrants from various nations. Go to downtown Toronto, and you'll find the BEST Vietnamese Sandwich. Yes, I'll challenge that spot in SFO with my sandwiches from Co-Yen. Go to Woodbridge, a thriving suburbia consisting of many first generation Italians, you'll find the best gelateria...and with it Espresso.

Great Espresso will not be bitter. It will have all the nutty rich aroma of the best coffee. That wonderful smell you inhale as you walk into a coffee house - is all in one cup. All good Espressos will have creamy foam on top. The foam so thick, you'd think it was cappucino. The foam is a result of oils from the coffee grinds. The foam will gently deliver what packs underneath - a POW of earthy coffee. The coffee would also have a natural sweetness, perhaps triggered partially by the acidity of the grinds, that makes sugar unwanted. Never add sugar to a properly made Espresso - your Barista will thank you for that too.

Proper timing, proper technique, proper way to 'load' the grinds...all these result in a great cup of Espresso.

Is it time that we learned to appreciate Espresso as a drink that actually takes technique and knowledge, rather than just something you shove down to keep you awake after a thick meal?

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You can check out my sister's blog, where she chronicles her virtual adventures - it is so full of technical language, it is essentially incomprehensible for me...

2 comments:

The Papa Bear said...

Thanks for the great post, Alice's sister.

In the past, a number of people tried to convince me to drink coffee without cream and sugar, lamenting that most people just didn't know how to enjoy a good cup of coffee. The problem was that I thought they were using an "emotional" explanation and didn't show me anything specific, so that I wasn't sure that it was I who dreamed up all these "good" qualities, while sipping the unadulterated coffee with fake appreciation.

Upon reflecting on those earlier experiences, I am pretty sure that all that I tasted was a lot of bitterness in the coffee. Now, I like bitter food (ever tried bitter melon - they ARE bitter), but I just don't like bitter coffee. In light of this article, those coffee snobs didn't know what the heck they were talking about now.

Thanks for a lucid write-up. Now, I'm on the hunt for that elusive good cup of coffee (thanks, I think). If I ever end up in your neck of the woods (or is it "wood"? Alice always tries to correct me on the pluralities of things), I'll be sure to get your recommendation on a good coffee house.

Kevin Jackson said...

Well, this is interesting. I did a blog search for barista training and found your site. When I get some time I'll come back and find out where barista training appears and how it relates - if it even does. Take care - nice work.