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Issue #8 October 20, 1997
In This Issue
* Feature Article
LIFE IN THE FLORIDA KEYS, AND THE GREAT ESPRESSO DILEMMA
Fortunately my dear, darling and adorable wife has some clients that lend us one of their houses down in the Keys, which means that we are able to take a vacation. On our first evening we went to a little "biker" hangout called HOG HEAVEN (MM 85, Islamorada). Not many bikers that night, but our friendly waitress delivered good food at reasonable prices. I noticed that they had a LAVAZZA POINT VAPORE machine, so we asked for an espresso and a cappuccino to finish the meal. The espresso was excellent, but the waitress explained that she had no idea how to make a cappuccino. No problem - my wife had another drink instead. With this machine, it's almost impossible to screw up an espresso, therefore I knew that the product would be good.
The next day we experienced "liquid sunshine" (a/k/a rain), so we motored up Route 1 to a little mall that advertised itself as having a bakery and gourmet coffee (question: do you know the difference between gourmet and regular coffee? - the answer: about $4.00 per pound!) The espresso machine was an automatic, with a knock-off automatic milk foamer on the side ( I say knock-off because the original milk foamer is made by FAEMA). The owner of the shop proudly told me that he had spent more than $8000 on the machine. But it produced terrible espresso because it was incorrectly calibrated. When I started to explain what was wrong (which is when my wife began her exit), the owner insisted that it was working just fine. I immediately remembered that I was on vacation, so I left as well.
We did find this great shop called "Island Body & Sol" (800-475-2765) that sold aromatherapy stuff, plus the owner, a wonderful lady by the name of Amy, practiced reflexology. Now let me tell you that lying back in a comfortable chair with a wonderful woman playing with your toes and feet is a great way to spend an hour (and $20) - and who cares about the espresso!
The next day dawned with more "liquid sunshine", so we drove down to Key West, and yes readers, once again my thoughts turned to an espresso. While we walked down DUVAL, I eliminated places that I could see would not produce a good espresso. By the way, the following signs are indications that your next espresso will be less than favorable:
1. Espresso spelt with an X on the menu.
Finally I came upon a French bakery (that shall remain nameless) that had a machine that certainly looked reasonable, plus my wife had a desperate need to use the bathroom, and had just issued an ultimatum. And so whilst my dear wife used the "facilities", I ordered an espresso. I was met with an attitude, but since I was the only customer, I repeated my request. The way in which it was prepared, and the way the equipment was used guaranteed a bad espresso, and I threw it away immediately (but at least my wife was comfortable again!)
Why is it that so many people have espresso/cappuccino equipment, but don't know how to use it? The main reason is that the equipment seller failed to train the customer properly - possibly because even the equipment seller really didn't know how to make a good espresso. And of course, another reason is that restaurants often experience something known as staff turnover.
Remember that great espresso starts with four Italian "M"s:
La Miscela - the blend of coffee
And out of all of the above, the "HAND" is the most important since the hand is connected to the arm, and the arm is connected to the body (isn't there a song like this), and the body is connected to the head. In other words, the person makes the decision to buy the coffee. The person calibrates the grinder/closer, and the person operates the equipment. You can have the world's best coffee together with the absolutely finest equipment, but if you have an idiot operating it, you will end up with nothing. Conversely, an expert can take mediocre coffee, with lousy equipment, and probably produce a very drinkable beverage.
The dilemma of bad espresso is not limited to the Keys. It's unfortunately prevalent all over the world! And ironically, many, many restaurants continue to serve unsatisfactory espresso, and don't even know it!
John Bowerman-Davies can be reached at: email@example.com
(c) 1997 by Ron Hudson
Espresso, The Perfect Way to End a Meal
An Interview with Chef Ron Siegel of Charles Nob Hill
Global Wine News - from Wine Enthusiast
Omaha Steaks - http://www.restaurantscene.com/conteststeak.html
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