Tag Archives: coffee

Art meets Coffee

25 Jul

An alluring poster in the Nespresso shop

Standing in front of a giant window display with pods formed into a shape like a London bus, the shiny white walls reflecting the summer sunlight and whispered speech echoing delicately around me, I feel as if I could only be in a museum.

But I’m not. Instead, I’m standing in the new Nespresso store on Regent Street – a flagship among flagships.

The new major storefront, which launched this month, did so with much fanfare, even pulling Phil Howard (of Michelin star restaurant, The Square) on board to integrate espresso into a tasting menu for a few lucky folk.

This is the latest step for the company which is pushing the idea of in-home, high-quality coffee ever further into consumers’ minds. While on our screens George Clooney swoons over the creamy-topped liquid emerging from his favoured machine, the brand seeks to reach consumers’ minds by creating an “experience” which brings together art with the love of the bean.

The new shop is impressive. Situated at the bottom end of Regent Street, the immense space is designed to the esthetic favoured by loft-livers and Banana Republic, clean-cut clothed coffee sippers. Throughout, white cubed tables feature the latest pods and shiny cups and saucers. One whole side is dedicated as the ‘Accessory Collection’ harkening to the latest fashion trends in coffee culture. It is, after all, seemingly attempting to capture today’s dedication to a proper cup of alluring caffeine that many of us lust after with ever greater focus.

After taking in the new space, I sat down to a meal with the master chef himself, Phil Howard. This is the first time in 21 years he has partnered with a brand, his declaration summing up the idea he was in full support of Nespresso. While he said he considered the task of working with coffee beans to create distinct dishes “fascinating” he added it was not always easy.

“In savoury cooking, it only works well with dishes that have a sweet element. As long as there’s some sweetness in the dish, it seems to work,” he explained, saying fish was by far the most tricky thing to partner with coffee.

In making his creations, he added he learned to appreciate how many subtleties there are in various versions of coffee, each of which can pair in different ways with myriad foods.

I tried his roasted granola with coffee, Greek yoghurt and honey (the recipe for which is below); a smoked venison and pork Scotch egg rolled in coffee grounds and served with an espresso brown sauce; and, a duck liver parfait with port, cherry and currant chutney and coffee nougatine.

The first was highly delectable – a crunchy, spicy morning kick that I would happily make at home. The Scotch egg, meanwhile, was deeply flavoured, with a delightfully gooey yolk and just enough espresso bite on the crust and in the brown sauce to make it stand out. The final dish was my favourite however. The creamy duck and sweet and sour chutney did a merengue in my mouth with the Rosabaya de Colombia coffee nougatine. Muy excelente!

While Phil won’t be on hand to cook for those patrons who find themselves tip-toeing around the vaulted Nespresso store space in future, I can confidently pass on the details that his creations (more of which you can view on the Nespresso site, here) will make you rethink how coffee can be used in dozens of delectable dishes.

For now, I invite you to give the granola recipe a go – and let me know if it delights you too!

Roasted Granola with coffee, Greek Yoghurt & honey:

  Ingredients:

  • 225g jumbo oats;
  • 60g sunflower seeds;
  • 60g white sesame seeds;
  • 90g apple puree;
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice;
  • 60g agave syrup;
  • 30g honey;
  • 50g muscavado sugar;
  • 125g nibbed almonds;
  • 1 tsp salt;
  • 2 tbsp hazelnut oil;
  •  20g Dulsão do Brasil grounds
  • Greek yoghurt
  • Runny honey

Place all of the ingredients except the coffee grounds into a large bowl and stir them thoroughly until they are evenly distributed.

Place the mix into a large baking tray and bake for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.

Add the Nespresso Dulsão do Brasil grounds and continue baking until the contents of the tray are golden brown – no darker.

Remove from the oven, set aside to cool and store in an airtight container.

To serve: place the yoghurt into a small bowl, drizzle with the honey and finish with a covering of granola.

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Finding Nespresso Necessary

29 Mar

My weeks of late, have looked a bit like this: get up, write, find time to eat, write more, dash to meetings and a whisky event before a quick sleep and then a repetition of the cycle. Last week I tried 38 whiskies (I write about the stuff; I’m not an alcoholic). I drank lots of water in between, but it was a bit epic.

Now, do not get me wrong – I am not complaining in the least. Every once in a while the boy and I even get a chance to indulge in an episode or two of The Wire (to which we are addicted). I love it (the schedule, and The Wire, that is) and would have it no other way. But, after the first week of this, not only was I developing black circles around my eyes, but a greater need for caffeine.

Nespresso pods sit, waiting to be devoured by me, myself and I.

So, when the team at Nespresso mentioned to me they were launching a new espresso, well, I was down there as fast as my feet would march me (I’ve also taken to walking most places since the weather has improved – this is partially due to the fact I had about as much exercise this winter as a hibernating bear).

And what was the launch all about?

Well, every so often the development team brings out a new flavour of espresso. This time around, it is featuring Naora, made from Colombian Castillo Arabica beans.

Now, I’m sure you’re just thinking: so what? A new coffee pod?

Well, what was interesting about this blend was this: the new coffee has been made using (what Nespresso says) is a first-time technique. Working with the Federation of Colombian Coffee growers and inspired by wine-making techniques, the coffee cherries have been left to grow for as long as possible on the branch. These are then picked and the “late-harvest” bean is extracted to be dried for coffee production.

Company coffee expert, Jonathon Sims, said the decision to try out this experiment was based around the fact customers’ palates are changing.

“People want to try different flavours,” he told me, while I nodded and chugged down as much espresso as seemed polite in the company of others.So, what did I think of Naora? Well, I’ll be honest – it wasn’t my favourite. The stuff I chugged was mostly the Kazaar, another special edition release. I found Naora to be extremely acidic on its own, despite Nespresso only categorising it as having a “juicy acidity”. There is a slight sweetness and light bitterness, so it will appeal to those who don’t love really bitter beans. But, for me, it wasn’t a winner.

The new Pixie, featuring side panels made from recycled capsules.

What was intriguing though, was just how much effort goes into making those little coffee pods. Johnathon told me that “much how a master chef comes up with things for the coming season, we’re thinking two years ahead.”

As such, if you own a Nespresso machine, Naora is worth trying just to experience the sheer effort that went into the planning and experimentation around leaving the coffee cherries on the tree until the last possible minute.

And as for me, I’ll be the one you see standing outside of the company’s new capsule-crazy, modern-art styled flagship store, opening on Regent Street in July. I’ve heard there is a tasting counter and I might just make it my “go-to” stop in between meetings.

Sexy Italians or Swiss in the morning? Quelle Dilemma!

18 Nov

Eighteen months ago, I fell in love.

He was so sexy this little Italian devil, I just couldn’t resist. His name: Federico. He was my Italian stallion that got me out of my comfy bed in the morning. Those who know me, know that’s no easy feat.

The boy had even introduced us, started off the whole thing. It wasn’t my fault.

When I went away traveling over the summer, it was with trepidation that I left him behind. How could I? I knew he would feel so used!

But, leave him I did. I thought he would be happy in the hands of my friend Chris who has the sexiest kitchen in Essex. I thought Feddie could help my mate have some perky mornings that even the tarts from “The Only Way is Essex” couldn’t provide…

I was wrong though. Federico languished away in the corner all summer. My suave little espresso machine was not used or even understood. It seemed I was the only one who truly got him; who really understood his inner workings, what made him tick and flow.

When I returned, our relationship flared again – it was espresso love at first sight! And how could I not love a piece of machinery so exquisitely lovely as this?

My Italian stallion Federico...

So, it was with heartfelt shame that I found myself at Sketch Restaurant on Regent Street recently. I was there for a coffee tasting with Swiss company Nespresso.

But, my curiosity about the company’s new machines overpowered my desire to remain fully faithful to Feddie. This wasn’t really cheating…I wasn’t replacing him, simply taking a look…right?

Ooo, aahh...compact goodness!

On show were a few new specimens which use the handy pod system – all surely able to get even the most exhausted worker out of bed early doors. The Lattissima+ was a super compact espresso and milk steamer combo that did everything from cappuccinos, lattes and macchiatos at the touch of a button. What most surprised me was its size and speed – in under a minute, I was standing back – feeling slightly guilty but cozily warmed up – with a lovely latte. There was also another even more compact bit of kit. Sitting nearby on another table was the Pixie. The designers definitely had something right when they decided to call it a pixie: this machine is so small (11cm wide x 34cm high), it would easily pack away into a side cupboard when not in use. Handy for those tiny London kitchens a lot of   us must suffer with.

So, what did I think of Nespresso?

In short: I thought it was delicious. The company has a whole host of different flavours in various coloured pods. If you own a machine, you can pick up a random selection or just go for the type you like best. It prides itself on providing quality coffee, according to Justine Hunter, the company’s PR manager, who added there is a test to try out the quality of an espresso, which involves putting a sugar cube and seeing how long it takes to sink. She mentioned the Nespresso ones last a good eight to nine seconds before the sugar falls through the top, signaling the high quality.

Nepresso products try to woo me while Johnathon Sims shows me how it works

I was most impressed with the Arpeggio – also known as the shiny purple pod. It was a rounded, full-flavoured espresso with a cocoa punch and woody notes. I also gave the special edition Christmas coffees a go, which this year include: vanilla, chocolate and cherry. I can’t say it was my favourite, but the vanilla was rich and didn’t have any hint of that horrid, fake vanilla flavour you often find in coffee products.

Johnathon Sims, one of the company’s coffee experts, also explained the company is going for the goal of making sure 80% of its products will be AAA standardised by 2013. In laymen terms, this means: making sure their production lines are working with farmers to train them on productivity and sustainability, while also ensuring there is a sustainable development platform going forward. A worthwhile goal, I would suggest.

So, did this exposure to my lovely Federico’s rivals do anything to make me waver in my commitment?

I won’t lie – Nespresso was very pleasing indeed. But, then again, Feddie’s stood by me for so long, even in my absence, that I can’t just abandon him out of the blue. For now, Lavazza will stay my coffee of choice, but I can’t pretend I haven’t been Gwiltily tempted…

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