E for Espresso was a no brainer for me; after all it is my liquid gold! Even though I was raised in Delhi, India, I quickly got on the bandwagon as a coffee addict once I moved to the States. I have done it all; daily grinding coffee beans ( I hand-picked after skirting the entire city, NY), religiously seeking out coffee bars to experience different styles of coffee, creating my own concoctions experimenting with retail coffee machines and grinders.
15+ odd years ago, Starbucks was making a statement in NYC. They opened a barista 2 store down from my place of work at that time. I am not ashamed to confess that my first sip of a freshly brewed cup of Starbucks was revolting. Oh my! It was super bitter. I can still recall adding sugar and milk to dilute the strong flavor. Lo and behold, over time I transitioned from milk/sugar to plain black coffee. I was hooked.
My Kids thoroughly enjoyed making fun of me on our travels since I had to research the closest ‘Starbucks’ to get my morning fix. Every time they spotted a Starbucks, I was teased.
I was happily married to my morning cup of Joe from Starbucks until I traveled to Italy. I couldn’t write about Espresso and not mention Italy. Without Italy, Starbucks or any other café would not exist and without coffee, the world would come to a grinding halt. Coffee was not invented in Italy but coffee culture as we know did originate here. Today, I have joined the coffee aficionados who will not tolerate an establishment that has bad coffee.
During my many visits across the entire country of Italy, I tasted espresso religiously throughout the day (even though that isn’t the ‘Italian way’). Interestingly, regardless of the location, be it a coffee bar, restaurant, or even a gas station, Caffe tasted similar. Wow, what high standards!
On my return from Italy, I embarked on a mission to discover something, anything similar to my experiences in Italy. I quickly realized that one can’t replicate the espresso machines of Italy unless you are in a high-end coffee shop or lived in Seattle. Not all coffee drinking in Italy takes place at the bar; morning coffee is often made at home using a Moka. The Moka is Mr. Coffee of Italy and the most popular home method. To coffee puritans, it may not be real espresso; it does make a very good full-bodied coffee.
As you can tell, I am passionate about my Espresso and could write a thesis on it. To keep it simple, over the years now here is my daily coffee ritual:
Weekdays: 5 AM – drive to Starbucks for a Grande Black Eye (Bold Black Coffee with 2 shots of Espresso).
Weekends & Weeknights: I make my own Espresso with my trusted Bialetti using only Illy Espresso Beans. Mid day run to Starbucks for a Grande Mocha, non fat, no whip, 180 degress, and double cupped. (Yes! I am finicky).
Speaking of Espresso, my all time favorite dessert is Tiramisu. My quest for coffee and Tiramisu decades ago had taken me to this compact coffee bistro in the Village in NYC called La Lanterna Caffe ; a coffee bar where they serve the BEST Tiramisu I have had the pleasure of tasting in all my travels.
Over the years, I have simply stopped ordering it, no matter where I am, as nothing came even close to La Lanterna. Somehow this week I was craving it and decided to finally give it a shot. Is it a surprise that I chose a recipe which is not only made from scratch but is one of the more challenging ones? There is no room for error here.
One bite, sliced with nervous hands, and I was literally in heaven. Ultra light and fluffy, melting in your mouth with the right hint of coffee. Superb!! I whole-heartedly concur with Mr. Todd English.
“In my most humble opinion, I think this recipe makes the best tiramisu I’ve ever tasted which is why I can’t take it off the Figs menu and why I include it here”. This is the most complicated dessert we make at Figs. Although this recipe looks arduous, most of it can be made ahead of time and assembled the day you want to serve it.—Todd English and Sally Sampson
You can find the recipe at Leite’s Culinaria’s Website – Tiramisu Recipe.
So for you brave souls out there, get your strong-arm and professional mixer out. This one is a ‘keeper’.