What's more important to a busy New Yorker than a good cup of coffee? That was my thought process when I got invited to this coffee-centric dinner and drinks event last week, hosted by Alma 33 and Dallis Bros Coffee. The event was to promote the coffee from Octavio Cafe, named the best cafe in Sao Paolo, Brazil in 2009 and 2010. From start to finish, our drinks and dishes were laced with a bit of Octavio coffee and served with either a coffee-based cocktail or a cup of smooth and nutty espresso. Aside from the effects coffee and cocktails will have on your bladder, it was a lovely tasting and I learned so much about coffee! I had no idea it could get so involved. They showcased three different brewing methods on these contraptions that you would expect to see in some crazy, mad scientist's lab. I have a Keurig Mini – it's all I can handle. This is embarrassing to admit, but despite my cooking skills, I still don't know how to make coffee. There, I said it. My mom is probably reading this and shaking her head in shame…
Starting out with some coffee cocktails – the classic espresso martini. This one was different though; it actually tasted like espresso or cappuccino spiked with alcohol as opposed to that sweet, syrupy stuff you usually get. You can even see the color is different and there was some foam on top with a little heart designed from cherry extract. Mmmm delish.
The food at Alma 33 was a nice surprise – we enjoyed everything that was brought out to us…and there was A LOT. Chef Enrico Primarti (a native of Florence, Italy) prepared a special tasting menu for this event including salmon tartare with apple, fennel and avocado, ravioli with goat cheese and beet puree (so good), grilled steak entrana (smoked skirt steak), branzino with a red pepper sauce and grapefruit/onion salad, and a plethora of coffee-spiked desserts. Hard to pick a favorite, but the steak was juicy and cooked perfectly, served with a side of chimichurri sauce (an Argentinean classic of parsley, garlic, red pepper flake and olive oil). I also thought the flavors he used in the salmon tartare and the ravioli were intriguing; the mixtures of savory, sweet and tangy were great. When I got the branzino with a side of grapefruit salad I thought "fruit and fish? really??" but it worked. My compliments to the chef.
I have to say that the espresso and dessert pairing portion of the meal was definitely my favorite (shock). I've literally never tasted such smooth espresso. Normally it has that bitter aftertaste or that bite that makes your eyes pop a little – this went down nicely and with an "ahhhh".
You know what goes well with coffee? CHOCOLATE. =D Coffee-chocolate mousse with brandy-glazed pears and balsamic drizzle? Yes please. I'm actually not a fan of pears (the texture bothers me), so I pushed those aside and just ate the mousse. When there's a will, there's a way. We chased those with German Chocolate Cake Shots (!) made with Godiva liqueur, Stoli Raz, Octavio Cafe espresso, and Kahlua. A little sweet, but goes great with little chewy brownies..
I wish I could describe the brewing methods accurately, but all I know is that one of them was like a syphon or a vacuum; a glass bubble/beaker that you put over a direct flame, and it created a little water-tornado inside and then sucks up the water through a tube and brews the coffee on top. Does that make sense? Probably not. The pics didn't come out great, but you can kind of get the idea..
To purchase Dallis Bros. Octavio Cafe coffee click here.