Friday, April 22, 2011

Rainy Days and Lattes

As I waited for yet another Morri “Classic” to finish up in the oven, my self-reflections were continuing on where my last post left off. I felt the heat coming off in waves from the kitchen in comparison to the coolness of the rest of the house, and how people embody that warmth with the meals they cook.

This is it. This is the reason why I cook, the reason why I love cooking for others. The warmth from the kitchen is born from the oven turning on, the stove-tops alight, and the presence of the person preparing their latest masterpiece. That same warmth seems to travel from the person cooking the food to the appliances to the food to the person cooking the food to the people eating the food.

Truly it is a phenomenal cycle, filled with loving intentions and care. I may have said I was joking about opening a restaurant, but after Andy Shallal’s talk and the image of Busboys and Poet’s dancing in my head, it has become more than a consideration.

It is becoming a vision.

Bella's Bistro in Simrishamn, Sverige

I romanticize the restaurant business, the dynamics beyond what guests see. Though it’s not just any type of restaurant I idealize, but the quaint locally owned café. Coffee and I go way back. As in, almost eighteen years back. Yes, I’ve been drinking coffee from a sippy cup since I was two, three parts milk and one part of the dark stuff with a little sugar. Shaken, not stirred.

When I graduated from high school I realized my passion for coffee went beyond big business, and I set out for locally owned establishments to work part time. I found myself behind the counter, completely Zen while learning the art of coffee, perfecting the espresso, making a café latte from scratch. Opening and closing were my favorite times, turning on and off the machines, wiping off the counters, listening to music play, and talking with my coworkers. Oddly enough, my times as a barista didn’t last very long. The first time I went to art camp for the summer and came back to the coffee shop overstaffed. The second time I came back from being in Sweden, and it ended up closing down.

I still remember the aroma of the espresso heavy in the air, the heat of the milk as it was frothed and foamed, the smell of chocolate, the taste of quality tea behind the counter. I miss those days, but I still remember the art.

The boyfriend's and my tea date last year

And I took the art home with me.

In Sweden they have this thing called a fika. In my travels blog, I wrote about the wondrous fika often. Fika means "coffee break", which in Sweden implies a true-blue break in the day with a cup of coffee or tea and a sweet. Along with paid lunch breaks, the Swedes are given two fikas during their workday, one in the morning and another in the afternoon. I fell in love with the concept so much I even hosted a few while abroad, but tea was my drink of choice. After getting sick early in the semester, I started having tea in the afternoon before dinner. Since I came back, the tea has been altered slightly into various chai latte concoctions of my own design. 

And on this rainy day, I tried Yerba Mate for the first time. It warmed me to my toes.

So, for those who do not know about coffee and tea, they are prepared in different ways based on the ratio (there's that word again) in which they were prepared.

There is the cappuccino: 1 part espresso, 1 part hot milk, and steamed milk foam on top.
There is the Americano: 1 part espresso, 2 parts hot water.
There is the black eye: 2 parts coffee, 1 part espresso.
There are countless variations to your personal taste, but lattes are my drink of choice.

The Yerba Mate latte didn’t disappoint.

Yerba Mate Latte
3 parts steeped Yerba Mate in hot water for three to five minutes
1 part frothed or steamed milk
Sweetener, to taste
Dash of nutmeg

In your favorite mug, add the Yerba Mate and sweetened.
In a smaller mug, froth up the milk using a hand blender (or if you prefer steamed milk, put it over the saucepan until hot).
Add the milk to the tea, with a dash of nutmeg on top.

Serves as many as you like. :)

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