I remember as a kid that it was very important to bring coffee cake when invited to dinner and anything else that the hostess requested. The coffee cake my family brought did not have coffee in it and I questioned why it was not called “Cake for Coffee” or something of that nature and my parents responded “Shhh! You’re too young to drink coffee”. Yeah thanks a lot, but what about a piece of that cake that may or may not contain coffee?
When I was eighteen my mother’s new beau took us to a Greek restaurant. It was lively, flavorful, and exciting. Manolis, who later became a sort of stepfather, paid the maitre d’ for permission to throw our table over in a gesture of love to my mother. I had gotten a little tight having just tried ouzo, so by the time the table was thrown, I barely noticed. That’s when my mother said “We’ve got to get some coffee into you, don’t we?” It arrived in a cute little coffee pot called a briki and the coffee itself was already sweetened glykos. Each sip felt like velvet flowing down my throat. So I asked for more… I fell asleep two days later. It’s no exaggeration, but I was exhilarated. Needless to say, I have never had it again, but I have never forgotten how fabulous that coffee tasted. So I hesitate until a time comes that demands I stay awake for 48 hours.
Working in the Cafe
At the age of nineteen, I got a job in an Italian Cafe in lower Manhattan. It was a very pretty place filled with traditional Little Italy ambiance. The boss that trained me was named Bennie and he said it was a little slow during winter time and the perfect time to learn to make espresso and cappuccino.
Fill the portafilter basket with espresso grounds to just below the rim and pack them, but not too tight. A little trick is to tilt the espresso cup under the spout and let the coffee run down the side in the cup. This achieves a rich foam on top. In this cafe, a cup of espresso without foam was undrinkable.
When making cappuccino, don’t turn on the steamer until the steaming wand is in the pitcher. I learned that the hard way. Steam milk in the bottom of the steaming pitcher for only a few seconds, then steam only the top portion of the milk. When the milk is frothy and steaming, pour it into a cappuccino cup, then slowly pour your double espresso in the center of the froth with an espresso pitcher.
Cuban Coffee Heartbreak
Just down the street from work a quaint little Cuban restaurant opened with appetizing lunch specials and wonderful coffee. Cuban coffee is an espresso that is sweetened during brewing. It gave me a much needed pick me up, but did not keep me up at night. I could drink cup after cup and of course that’s what I did until my favorite lunchtime hang out closed. I had tears in my eyes as they broke the news. Gone were the days of conquering sleepless nights with a few sips.
Today, I bring the cake for coffee otherwise known as coffee cake to our little gatherings. I also bring cheesecake, which is by far the best cake for coffee imaginable. Do a side by side at your next gathering and see what your guests think.
These are the fond memories of my favorite coffee experiences. If you happen to have any of your own, please share them here.