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Happy-Gourmand

Running hot and cold

Mmmmmm, coffee

Perhaps it is my need to stay energetic in this busy early spring, but I have been thinking a lot lately about coffee. With my ever-curious brain and its search for more trivia, it led me to thinking about the psychology that goes with our coffee culture, and why a simple beverage has become a ritual for us, an intrinsic part of everyday life. 

Even people who don’t partake of the stuff know the steps in the ritual, and the places that support such rites are rife with adaptations for these non-believers. No one wants to be left out, after all.

The discovery of coffee gets credited to an Ethiopian shepherd who lost his sheep and later found them dancing around a red cherry bush. The bush was a coffee plant, and when he tried the red cherries (unroasted coffee beans) he began to dance around the bush too. He recounted his story to local  monks who told him that they made a drink from the beans. As you can see, celebration was obviously an early part of the coffee ritual.

The first coffee shop opened in Constantinople in 1475, and in those days, coffee was so important that a woman could legally divorce her husband if he did not provide her with her daily quota of coffee. Wouldn’t that make an interesting Timmy’s commercial? When Pope Clemente VIII was asked to place a ban on coffee drinking, he refused, "This beverage is so delicious it would be a sin to let only misbelievers drink it.”

There is much research and documentation to prove the relationship of coffee to the development of our culture. 

Bach wrote a Coffee Cantata. 

Many a politician and literary personality developed their craft in coffee houses around the world. 

The Boston Tea Party made drinking coffee a very patriotic thing to do in the new United States. 

You can consider yourself in good company the next time you sit and sip your grande non-fat latte.

 

Mmmmmm, ice cream

Some people are not coffee fans, and as the weather warms, a hot drink might not be what you crave. Do not dismay, consider another trend that has created a culture around itself, that all familiar treat – ice cream. It, too, has existed since somewhere in the 2nd century BC, although there is no record of the inventor. 

We do know that Alexander the Great, King Solomon, and Emperor Nero were all fond of iced concoctions reminiscent of today’s treat. Marco Polo is credited with the somewhat modern version of sherbet, then advancements allowed for adaptations with cream. 

It was a delicacy mostly reserved for the rich, however, as storing frozen goods was no mean feat in the days before refrigeration. It was not until the 1800s that insulated ice houses started a new industry in America. Years before, President George Washington spent the tidy sum of two hundred dollars on ice cream consumption in one summer.

During World War II, ice cream was a symbol of America’s prowess – the armed forces took great pride in being able to serve it to the troops, with the piece de resistance being a floating ice cream parlour built by the Navy in the South Pacific. Can’t you imagine Christine Aguilera dancing there in her sailor outfit? When the war was won, Americans celebrated by eating ice cream: They consumed 20 quarts of the stuff per person in 1946.

As with most things today, ice cream has become an expanded concept. It can now include soy or rice milk products. You can have it scooped, or blended with bits of extra stuff. You can even have it in tiny balls that are flash frozen, which apparently seals in more flavour to every mouthful. 

 

High tech wizardry with a touch of retro simplicity

Technology is part of the attraction in today’s food world, and the perfect combination seems to be a bit of high tech wizardry with a touch of retro simplicity. With these elements in balance, you get the blending of new and old worlds. 

That may be the way to bridge the gaps we have in our world, to bring generations and cultures closer together over a cup of half-caff extra hot caramel latte or a cup of Mini Melts. There is long tradition in sharing ideas while taking a break from the hectic pace of everyday life, and we all deserve a break, don’t we? Maybe we won’t solve the problems of the world, but at least we can say we enjoyed ourselves for a moment or two.

There are lots of great coffee shops in Kelowna and surrounding areas. I enjoy GioBean for their handcrafted lattes, and Bean Scene has a delicious chili chocolate cookie that dunks well in a cup of joe. Third Space Cafe, with its communal tables and meeting space, is a great hangout if you plan on social discussion as you sip. 

If you need a cooling break, it's still a bit early for some of the seasonal ice cream joints such as Paynter's Fruit Market on the Westside. However, you can enjoy Mini Melts anytime now at Landmark Extreme cinemas. How’s that for a cool movie experience? Moo Lix offers a convenient detour on a walk near the lake or downtown Kelowna, and GioBean serves gelato as well as coffee, if you want to please everyone in a single stop.

In case you don't feel like leaving home, you can try this recipe for Coffee Crème Brulée. If you put the mixture in an ice cream maker, you get coffee ice cream . . . you’re welcome!

 

Coffee Créme Brulée

Serves 6

Ingredients

1/2 cup milk
1-1/2 cups whipping cream (33% or more)
5 tbsp brewed coffee (espresso is best, but you can use instant if you want)
6 egg yolks
7 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325F

Prepare 6 ramekins (approx. 1/2 cup size) or ceramic souffle dish (essentially a large ramekin). NOTE: Do not be tempted to line the dishes with butter or flour - leave them naked!

In medium pot mix milk, cream and coffee. Heat at medium and bring to boil, remove from stove right away. Let mixture rest for a few minutes.

In large bowl, mix together egg yolks, vanilla extract and sugar to a white/yellowish soft texture. Fold in warm cream mixture using rubber spatula.

Pour mixture into ramekins and place in pan of cold water so molds are sitting minimum half way in the water. Cover pan with aluminum foil. Remove foil after 35 minutes.

Bake in middle of oven for 30 to 60 minutes depending on size of your ramekins - until filling is still soft but firm-looking in the middle (it jiggles, but doesn't slosh around like a liquid).

Chill for 30-45 minutes, to serve to guests a bit colder than room temperature. Sprinkle with sugar, and burn top with a blow torch to a nice golden colour. Depending on the oven, broil does not work well enough - don't try it.

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About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."

 

E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com

 



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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