March 16, 2016

Chefs and Java

Coffee beans bring unique flavors to dishes.

Coffee beans bring unique flavors to dishes.

Coffee is an important part of the restaurant experience for many people, whether they enjoy a mug of morning joe or a cup of espresso after dinner. It’s no surprise, then, that people trained in culinary arts programs often take a keen interest in the beverage. Chefs incorporate coffee into their dishes in a variety of remarkable ways, and some have even opened their own cafes. By learning more about java’s culinary applications, you may find ways it can complement your own cooking.

Coffee in recipes
The toasty, pleasantly bitter flavor of coffee can make a distinctive addition to a wide variety of recipes. Joncarl Lachman, the chef and owner Noord, in Philadelphia told Zagat that the taste can be incorporated especially well in savory items.

“Coffee makes a distinctive addition to a variety of recipes.”

Food and Wine traced how California-based chef and restaurateur Daniel Patterson developed the inspiration for one coffee-flavored dish in collaboration with fellow chef Rene Redzepi.The other chef suggested burying a squash in coffee beans to discover whether it would take on the beans’ flavor. The chefs were pleased by the resulting roasted squash, garnished with creme fraiche, but thought that carrots would make for a similarly tasty dish with easier preparation. Hence, Patterson introduced a coffee-roasted carrot garnish served with creme fraiche at his restaurant, Coi.

Serious Eats presented ideas from several other leading chefs for how to make coffee part of the meal. Chef Tse Wei Lim of Study restaurant in Cambridge, for instance, was inspired by Patterson’s combination of coffee flavor and root vegetables. For a more cost-effective alternative to roasting the vegetables in large quantities of beans, he suggested preparing a coffee butter. His method calls for cooking each pound of beans with two pounds of butter sous vide.

Austin-based Charles Zhuo concurred on the tastiness of coffee-infused butter and also recommended soaking beans in neutral-flavored oil to be used cold for dishes like ceviche. The executive chef of New York City’s The Leopard at des Artistes, Michele Brogioni, tops his burrata and Parmesan cheese-enriched risotto with ground coffee, as well as sun-dried tomatoes and dried peppers. Joe Kindred serves a coffee-crusted venison with Brussels sprouts and chestnuts at his namesake North Carolina restaurant.

Coffee beans can make an especially enjoyable component for those interested in the baking and pastry arts. Nation’s Restaurant News reported that coffee or espresso-based desserts are a rising trend. Such treats now appear on the menus of just under a quarter of American restaurants.

Thiago Silva of Catch in New York stated that a coffee reduction makes for a remarkably flavorful chocolate cookie dough, building on the tastes of butter, vanilla, salt and dark chocolate. Maggie Huff, the pastry chef at Dallas cafe FT33, crafted a cinnamon, Valrhona chocolate and coffee dish, which features a cinnamon and coffee-flavored ice cream. Angelyne Canicosa’s Coffee & Donuts Make Me Go Nuts, available at Vie in Western Springs, Ill., consists of doughnut holes dusted with cocoa sugar, mascarpone, a cocoa nib tuile and gelato made with Chicago’s Sparrow Coffee.

A number of chefs have opened their own coffee shops.A number of chefs have opened their own coffee shops.

Chefs and cafes
For some chefs, it’s not enough to include a bit of coffee flavor in a recipe. They take their appreciation for the beverage a step further by opening cafes, either as part of an existing restaurant or a standalone business. These shops may be less profitable than restaurants, but they offer an appealing simplicity and plenty of high-quality, freshly roasted beans.

A number of well-known culinary gurus have developed their own coffee businesses. For instance, Erik Bruner-Yang decided to open a cafe on the second floor of his Washington, D.C. restaurant Maketto. He told Bon Appetit he did so because the Cambodian and Taiwanese-inspired establishment went through a great deal of coffee daily anyway. Atlanta chef Hugh Acheson said that he expanded from two successful restaurants to experimenting with a coffee bar out of his personal interest in the drink’s infinite variations.

“I’m learning the narratives and stories behind different beans and growers,” he said. “There’s a constant learning curve, but we treat it like we do food and beverage an endless topic.”

Coffee continues to bring fresh concepts for new dishes and exciting business pursuits for chefs worldwide. Graduates of culinary academy will likely find even more interesting ways to combine their ideas for food with the unique flavor profiles of beans.