Monday, November 15, 2010

Do you serve decaf with fish, or only with poultry?

I'm astonished to find out that there's a new global trend to match various flavors and types of coffee with different dishes, just as one would do with wine. The Age reports from Australia:

Coffee is the "new wine" and Australia is at the forefront of this growing global trend, matching specialty coffee with fine cuisine.

Over in South Melbourne, at pioneering cafe St Ali, they are busy planning a gourmet night early next month when beans from four expensive, award-winning Cup of Excellence coffees, which were bought at auction, will be brewed at a dinner created by chef Ben Cooper.

And at restaurant Vue de Monde, Shannon Bennett's kangaroo with coffee and chocolate crumble is proving popular with diners.

On a simpler scale, the new kid on the block, funky coffee-roasting cafe Monk Bodhi Dharma in Balaclava, is serving three-course vegetarian breakfasts with choice of siphoned or pour-over single-origin coffees.

Growing interest in single-origin coffees means that coffee cognoscenti want to draw attention to its many flavours, and what better way to explore those tastes than with food.

We have been teaming coffee with food for decades — mostly with cakes and desserts. Or using it in recipes — tiramisu, coffee cake or coffee and almond slice. Now ground-breaking chefs are trying out bold recipes such as Joe Grbac's king fish marinated in coffee at the Press Club or Ben Cooper's striking country-of-origin dinners where coffee is matched with dishes from the same region.

Crucial to this development is the arrival of new methods of making coffee, such as the siphon, which allows a more subtle version of the beverage to be drunk at lower temperatures without milk or sugar. This delicate coffee can be teamed with food successfully.

. . .

A coffee degustation dinner is certainly different but is it really a gourmet experience with emphasis on enjoying the taste of the coffee bean or a fad or a marketing ploy?

One of the first to serve coffee with food was Salvatore Malatesta, of St Ali in South Melbourne. "We treat coffee with the same respect that winemakers treat varietals," he says.

"If you're drinking coffee from a siphon, letting it cool for three minutes . . . the myriad flavour profiles are 800-plus and therefore you can match it with food."

Originally a daytime cafe, St Ali now opens for dinner and chef Ben Cooper is in charge. He enjoys the challenge of the country-of-origin dinners. Cooper, who has worked at Ezard, Longrain and London's Nahm had a eureka moment when he discovered that Balinese coffee went well with Balinese food, hence country-of-origin dinners.

"You're forging new ground every time you do one of these dinners," Cooper says. "There's no reference to a set of guidelines. You're completely open to challenge whichever boundaries you want and that excites me."

. . .

Lindsay Corby ... runs a coffee palate training course at William Angliss Institute's Coffee Academy. "Coffee is not going to replace wine at the dinner table," he says.

A master of wine and wine appreciation at La Trobe University and a winemaker at Bianchet Winery in the Yarra Valley, Corby turned his tasting skills to coffee about three years ago, and uses wine glasses for some coffee tasting because they are better at concentrating aromas.

Corby sees parallels between the wine and coffee stories. Our knowledge of wine varietals and regions has grown enormously in the past three decades whereas our interest in coffee regions is just developing.

In some ways, Corby believes, coffee tasting is a simpler skill, and he spends one day teaching it, while his wine course is three days.

He can taste 120 to 150 wines in a six-hour session but recently discovered he couldn't taste more than 16 coffees in a 3-hour period.

He was bouncing off the walls after 10 coffees and could not focus despite spitting out the coffee after each tasting.

There's more at the link, including a number of suggested 'pairings' of food and coffee.

I'm afraid I won't be trying the 'new wave' of coffees-for-courses. I'll stick to wines for that, and enjoy coffee as a wake-me-up or pick-me-up, and perhaps (on special occasions) after dinner with a liqueur. I guess I'm old-fashioned. However, I have to admit that the mental image of a wine-maker "bouncing off the walls" after a coffee-tasting is more than a little entertaining . . .



Bob@thenest said...

I must admit that I find Irish coffee incompatible with hot dogs and chili, but I don't expect to be in the same league as those in the article.

Anonymous said...

A nose I am not, but I do appreciate good coffee; I'd be curious to see what someone who understands it and good food could do.


PS - It seems topical.