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Coffee | Manolo's Food Blog - Part 2
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Coffee a la Canuck

Today’s NSFW video comes to us from the dusty plains of Afghanistan. Watch in amazement as these stalwart Canadian soldiers demonstrate proper coffee-making techniques in a battle situation. Revel in wonderment at the fact that people never get tired of arguing about Starbucks. Get your machine gun good and cool before beginning the procedure.

“Step One, check for insurgents. Nuthin’ fucks up good coffee like fuckin’ insurgents.” Amen to that, my brother.

Sunday Food Porn: Coffee!

I started adding milk to my coffee just so I could watch it

Long ago I started adding milk to my coffee just so I could watch it

Pretty! Don’t face your Sunday without adequate caffeination!

Black and White and …

Sometimes Monday needs nothing more than a super-cute little video from Kate Spade New York to remind us that delightful food is essential to a life lived in technicolour (but how many calories are in a rainbow?). And for your delightful, post-rainbowcake espresso, the Kate Spade Larabee Road demitasse set would put the sun back in the sky even in February, if only for a moment.
Kate Spade Larabee Road demitasse set

Not hungry

The deep satisfaction of vegan cuisine on the magic mountain of Koya-san seems to have stymied Mr. Henry’s urge to write. He feels spiritually cleansed. He feels gastro-intestinally cleansed. Ideas and aperçus about food in its many transmogrifications flit continuously through the Henry imagination, but fail to perch on solid outcrop. What is happening?

Mr. Henry is simply not very hungry.

The seasonal combination of warm weather, flowering trees, and a noticeable layer of winter fat round the waist together with a strange energy bounce from reverse jet lag left him without an appetite for anything more than good coffee, bananas, yogurt, pecan raisin bread and dark chocolate in the morning, and for salads, cheese and wine at night – all foods difficult to find in Japan, apart from good coffee, that is, which was uniformly excellent except at the one expensive hotel the Henry party visited, the Swissôtel in Osaka.

Mr. Henry is usually disappointed by restaurant coffee, particularly in fine dining establishments where management bumps up your bill an extra seven bucks for an acrid, watery, lukewarm espresso instead of charging an honest buck fifty for a hot cup of paper filter drip.

A recent New York Times article decried the nauseating coffee you get in Paris. Of all beautiful places where you most want to sit outside, drink a coffee, and watch impeccably dressed women swish-clicking past, Paris was once the first choice. But since the French all suffer from rotten-coffee stomach cramp, it’s no wonder they are so depressed.

People watching in Japan holds special merits. Thigh-high boots are de rigueur. Although this is a fashion mistake, and although women in Japan all seem to have misshapen knees from kneeling on tatami mats, and although high heels induce an awkward gait (apologies to The Manolo), when sitting gazing from behind your cup of rich, delicious coffee you need not wait very long for the happy chance to examine yet another youthful thigh.

Fashion trends no longer originate in Paris. Look to Tokyo for the next new thing in fashion as well as in food. Pickles and raw egg on rice for breakfast, anyone? Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.

Vegan dinner at the temple

For two weeks the Henry family has been traipsing across Japan, land of salty snacks and tepid green tea. Back home in New York they find that crunchy rice crackers (senbei with nori) inhabit each jacket pocket.

The trip’s one great discovery, found in the famous Kyoto covered food market street (Nishiki-koji), were dried umeboshi, the tart salt apricot-plum found in a bento box. Dried ones pack all the punch of fresh ones, but taste slightly sweeter, an amazing mouth experience that keeps the palate satisfied and amused long enough for the shinkansen to travel from Hiroshima to Osaka.

In case you go, be forewarned. In Japan there are very few internet connections, no iPhone service, and no trash cans, all the more remarkable because Japanese streets are immaculate. You could eat off the floor.

In the Ginza Mitsukoshi a fresh-faced young woman offered Mr. Henry a free chocolate truffle imported from Paris (over $1 each). Although excellent coffee is widely available ($5 per cup), fine dark chocolate is very scarce. After eating half, he passed the uneaten portion to his devoted consort who characteristically took no notice of him. The truffle dropped to the floor. Seeing no trash can nearby, confident in the cleanliness of Japanese floors, and unwilling to waste the precious truffle, Mr. Henry straightaway picked it up and popped it in his chocolate-deprived mouth. Her spine shivering, the Mitsukoshi woman squeaked in horror.

The one unforgettable meal took place in a 15th-century Buddhist mountaintop temple (Shojoin-in, Koya-san) partly converted for use as a ryokan. In a beautiful tatami room adorned with painted six-panel screen, a muscular monk with shaven pate served a vegan dinner comprising every conceivable fresh bean, mountain yam, and tofu preparation.

Koya-san signature fresh tofu had a toothsome custard-like texture and a slightly caramelized flavor. Cold boiled spinach had been quick-pickled in a light rice wine vinegar and seasoned with a sesame peanut sauce. Of the many pickled and preserved fruits and vegetables, the most unusual was the whole pickled kumquat. You eat the whole thing, seeds and all.

Heavenly city

At this instant in Barcelona’s old city Mr. Henry is posting from the wifi at Cafe del Born Nou. Its beamed ceiling reaches as high as Mr. Henry’s spirits. Vintage Joe Cocker is playing on loud speakers without distortion, loud enough to highlight Cocker’s peerless growl but not loud enough to split Mr. Henry’s jet-lagged head. Sparkling cava light and bright in the glass welcomes the arrival of white anchovies on toast, first in a line of tapas that will stretch from evening until night.

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Thirty years ago when a callow Mr. Henry first set foot here Barcelona was emerging from under Generalissimo Francisco Franco’ heavy boot. Each plaça exploded with folk singers shouting their long forbidden language. If you spoke Spanish in Catalunya, locals frowned.

Now Catalan cuisine has seized the vanguard. Foam overspreads the culinary world. In one day Mr. Henry has already eaten foam crema catalan and foam tempura soy dipping sauce.

As a mark of confidence in themselves today if you speak Spanish badly or Catalan barely at all, locals smile graciously and respond in beautifully phrased English.

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Wandering down the Argenteria Mr. Henry found Café El Magnífico, purveyor of estate coffees so rich and so delicate that not only is their name not a boast, it is a sharp understatement. Its natty proprietor, Salvador Sans, launched into an eloquent disquisition on the virtues of drip coffee over the iniquities of espresso. An acolyte of Bostonian George Howell, “god of coffee,” Salvador argued that espresso method’s heat and pressure not only destroys subtle florals and aromatics but also transforms desirable bitter flavors into harsh metallic ones.

Mr. Henry appreciates the opinions of enlightened iconoclasts especially when their opinions bolster his own. For years he had hidden his preference for drip coffee over espresso fearing that to foist unwanted opinions on friends and relations might spoil their after-dinner happiness. No longer. Drippers unite! Take back the aromatics!

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In an act of divine mercy deserving of his name, Salvador telephoned his favorite Catalan restaurant, Taverna del Clínic, to secure a table for the Henry party who passed an evening feasting on sea worms with artichokes, whole squid with its ink intact, and braised rabbit ribs no bigger than the wishbone of a quail. Desserts were created by a chef who in 2006 won best chocalatier in the world. Magnífico.

Tiramisu & Stinky Accusations

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Emboldened by freely wandering the antique byways of Rome, Little Henry’s friend Stinky launched an accusation that Mr. Henry will not permit to stand uncontested in this or any other forum:

“Mr. Henry talks a lot about cooking but never does any!”

Ha! Only weeks ago Mr. Henry prepared a tiramisu at home that even the skeptical Stinky admitted was a bona fide, authentic, and glorious tiramisu.

It wasn’t exactly cooking, mind you, because no heat was applied. But it greatly impressed the crowd. Here for his gentle reading public so long ignored because he has been re-arranging his life, his office, and his books, Mr. Henry offers up a recipe of sorts, or rather recipe guidelines, for la vera tiramisu di Signor Henry.

Don’t worry. The thing is failproof. You can fudge any proportion and it turns out just fine.
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Mr. Henry’s Tiramisu

6 eggs
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
splash of scotch
1 large tub mascarpone (500g)
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
1 package ladyfinger cookies (200g)

First brew some coffee quadruple strength (In deference to the children Mr. H. chose decaffeinated.) and let it cool to room temperature or colder. Grate some good chocolate like Scharffenberger, mixing half a bar of bittersweet withScharffen.jpg a modicum of unsweetened to intensify the flavor. Have close at hand, as well, a bottle of single malt scotch whiskey. (Mr. Henry believes this to be sound advice for any recipe.) For this recipe, Mr. Henry chose The Macallan.

Separate six eggs. Whip the whites until stiff. Cream the yokes together with a cup (or more) of confectioners’ sugar, beating until the color becomes pale. You raw-egg worry-worts at home, please relax. The sugar preserves the egg. In the fridge the concoction will stay perfectly fresh far longer than it will survive repeated servings to you and yours.

Finally to the creamed yokes whip in a splash of scotch, dark rum, or any other spirit appropriate for a coffee, chocolate, and mascarpone confection. This last touch brings a perfume to the dish that separates it from a quotidian custard.

With big gestures and a big rubber spatula, lightly fold in the mascarpone and then the egg whites. Ecco! Mascarpone custard cream. Now you build.

Slice the ladyfingers in half lengthwise if you like. (This is a decision more of style than of taste.) Spread half of them loosely in a deep dish pan. Using a pastry brush soak them – yes, soak them – with coffee. [A Mr. Henry Dictum: Italian desserts must be either soggy or hard as brick.] Cover with a layer of mascarpone custard cream. Then cover the cream thoroughly with half the grated chocolate. Repeat the procedure to create a second story. Chill until set, at least three hours.

Mr. Henry is reminded of an equally false accusation hurled his way by his diminutive and opinionated life-long consort, Mrs. Henry, namely, that whenever he gets an idea for a new dish he feels compelled to purchase a new kitchen utensil. This is falseness itself! Mr. Henry always makes do with whatever is at hand. (A recent purchase of a Le Creuset oval enameled gratin pan was NOT an indulgence. Someday soon she will thank him for it, and mean it sincerely.)

As an example of his resourcefulness, on the morning after returning late from JFK he prepared a fine breakfast of marmalade and crackers borrowed from several of Italy’s nicer hotel breakfast baskets and conveyed trans-Atlantic in Aunt Bev’s backpack. Although there are grocery stores within walking distance of his apartment, Mr. Henry prefers not to conduct his marketing at 3:30 a.m., an hour when he receives stares from street strays and riff-raffy youth.

He prefers the adoring glances he believes he got in Florence from American college students envious of his casual insouciance and his fluency in Italian. He did not actually witness these glances, mind you, being too polite to stare slack-jawed at breathtakingly beautiful young women. Mr. Henry, you see, has faith in the unseen.

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Mr. Henry goes camping

When days grow long and hot, Mrs. Henry’s small apartment terrace with view of rosemary, basil, and the neighborhood flasher no longer satisfies her cravings for nature. She becomes consumed by urges to strike off into the great outdoors. To Mr. Henry’s recurrent horror, each and every summer she takes the family camping.

She approaches this activity with jaw set in grim determination. Each task becomes an emergency that requires Mr. Henry’s immediate attention. When he spies the camping face, he tries to follow the only prudent course:

He hides. French.press.jpg

But inevitably he is found. Despite absolutely refusing to ever go camping again no matter what, he packs his hiking boots, UV-protectant shirt, wide-brimmed hat, and all the sport socks on the closet shelf. To lure him this year, Mrs. Henry bought an outdoor French press coffee pot. Was this sufficient inducement for the endurance trial that lay ahead?

Preparations are beyond scientific. Weight and space are carefully measured even though during the trip Mr. Henry will be piloting a borrowed SUV. Tea bags are counted out and placed, like everything else, in separate plastic baggies. Moonshots have taken along more serendipitous items than the Henrys take to Yellowstone.

Weeks before the baleful excursion, Mrs. Henry has shipped the tent and sleeping bags to Wyoming via UPS Ground. On the eve of departure, at Albertson’s in Jackson Hole Mr. Henry tries to add spice to their zero-gravity diet by throwing a single package of Cajun bratwurst into the cart, but he is reprimanded. At base camp in Moose, she stews up a vat of Mr. Henry’s least favorite meal – chicken noodle soup – and counts out the ladlefuls into a great wiggly plastic baggie. (Whoever said that chicken soup can’t hurt? The stuff is revolting.)

On the fateful morning of departure, however, he manages to squirrel away two beers under the ice in the mini-cooler. He grabs his pillow, too, masking its presence by cruelly binding it up with twine and hiding it in a trash bag under the driver’s seat.Kitchenaid toaster.jpg

Before pulling out of the driveway, Mr. Henry begins to miss his treasured bed. Is not the bed the greatest invention of man? The pop-up toaster runs a distant second.

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