Monday, December 01, 2008

Barista dreams

Before going to college, I always heard about student spending large amounts of time studying at cafes and developing a palette and addiction to coffee. My older cousin was a big fan of good coffee. So I went to a few cafes in my college career. I spent several evenings with a dorm friend trying to study at cafes and drinking mochas, but it never stuck. Granted, part of the problem was that I simply had poor study habits, but I also never felt the caffeine boost that other people swore they *needed* to survive.

Today, I basically like the taste of coffee, lattes and mocha especially, but I don't regularly crave it. When I'm at a nice restaurant and order a scrumptious dessert, I definitely feel a strong desire to complement it with a hot and fragrant coffee drink. I'll splurge once in awhile if I have a gift card for some local coffee shop.

When it was time to create a wedding registry, I debated whether to ask for something coffee related. Given the limited amount of kitchen counter space, I was not going to ask for anything that would eat up space and collect dust. I opted for this cool looking gadget called the Bialetti Mukka. It came in a sleek aluminum finish and a cute spotted cow pattern. Since it's a stove top espresso and milk pot, I thought it would be a good compromise to have something that would let me make the occasional latte but not take up a lot of space.

We received the mukka more than one month before the wedding. Tim said it was okay to open the package to know what we'd received and make sure that nothing was damaged. I agreed, however, that we could not open and use anything until after the wedding. Still, I browsed the instructions and read up on other people's reviews of the product. While it can work very well, the comments definitely made me concerned about the skill required to make the mukka work perfectly. I decided we should return it.

My reasoning was this. Since we don't drink coffee regularly, buying drinks from the store was a reasonable expense. Alternatively, I still have a very old Krups espresso machine sitting somewhere in my parents' garage. I earned it long ago when I worked at Crate & Barrel part-time as part of a sales contest. It's probably not as much the coffee drink as operating a fancy machine that appeals to me. Assuming that's true, I'm sure I'll be happy playing with the older "toy."

Just before the wedding, we received a heavy package from Costco. My dad's cousin sent us a beautiful, $300 espresso machine. While it was a very generous gift, we hadn't asked for it. If we drank coffee regularly, I would have had a blast playing with this espresso machine. But practical me, I returned it and applied the credit towards our banquet costs. The bad thing is that they've asked a few times how we like the machine. At the post-wedding brunch, she asked if we drink coffee and whether we'd tried the machine yet. She commented how they use it every morning and have saved a lot of money the past two years. When they sent us copies of the wedding photos they took, the card asked if we were getting the hang of using the espresso machine and to be patient because it takes practice. We don't want to hurt their feelings, but it sucks to have to lie about it.

When my parents came up for the wedding, I asked them to dig out the old espresso machine. It's nothing fancy, but it's still in very good condition and simple to use. I finally took it out this morning and cleaned it up. Calcium deposits had really built up inside the water tank, so I spent some 1.5 hours flushing the system with dilute vinegar and then several cycles of water. I wiped down all the parts and refreshed myself with all the dials and accessories that make the machine work. I picked up some decaf Peet's on my way back from hiking.

I wish I had taken a picture, but I must say that my first attempt at a soy mocha latte turned out great! I had my doubts about getting soy milk to froth because I thought the fat content mattered, but it really came out nice. I used an Irish coffee style glass mug. It showed off the beautiful chocolate color of the latte topped off with a two-inch high, ivory mountain of foam and tiny bits of chocolate settling on the bottom. I overloaded the foam just enough so I had to slurp up the foam that began to spill over the side. No store could have made it look better. The latte had a pleasant and mild taste. I can't wait to make a mocha latte for my hubby tonight to eat with my homemade triple-chocolate brownies. Hmmm, maybe Starbucks will take me if my other career plans fall through!

1 comment:

teahouse said...

Mmm..I love coffee!! And have you read "How Starbucks Saved My Life"? It's about a high-powered ad exec who gets laid off from his job of 30 years and goes to work at Starbucks in his 50s..and loves it!

Yeah, I actually started using most of our wedding gifts before the wedding..I imposed no such limitations on myself! I had to return one gift, but it was a bathroom thing that didn't fit in the tub. Luckily I was able to explain to my friend, and I was also able to find something cute to replace it in the bathroo. She was happy. Whew.