Signature drinks imagined by some of the best pastry chefs offer a delicious twist on Mr. Espresso
By Jeremy Martin
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE
Crapes and cappuccino, sweet rolls and Sulawesi ”the combination of pastries and coffee is as old as the café itself.
In a retail setting, the two have mostly been created separately, the comestibles by a pasty chef and the espresso by a barista. But Luigi Di Ruocco, who operates the Oakland-Calif.-based Mr. Espresso with his family, thinks the time has come for unification.
In the spirit of collaboration, Luigi invited some of the Bay Area’s most respected pasty chefs to create delectable desserts to pair perfectly with Mr. Espresso’s famous coffee offerings. The program, which you can follow on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #sweetforCB, has been a great success in its month-long iterations at Coffee Bar’s outlets in San Francisco, thus far, and will continue in July with a new chef and pairing.
“I always have seen the potential there between coffee and pastry for the two to work together,” says Luigi. “I can create basic coffee drinks, but when you’re looking for something more creative, it’s nice to e able to tap into the creative minds of pastry chefs and their world.”
The program launched this past January when Coffee Bar offered its customers a bicerin created by Jessica Sullivan of the Delfina Restaurant Group. With her contemporary take on a classic Italian staple, Jessica introduced gianduja drinking chocolate into the café.
The giandjua, which is a fine mixture of chocolate and nut butter similar to Nutella, was blended with hazelnut cream and Mr. Espresso’s Neapolitan espresso, before being topped with a gianduja shavings.
That delicacy was followed by a winter mocha crafted by Laura Cronin of Perbacco and Barbacco. Laura’s mocha employed orange, cinnamon, vanilla, Valrhona dark chocolate, and handmade vanilla whipped cream, once again along with Mr. Espresso’s Neapolitan espresso.
“Part of our guidelines are that the drinks can’t be too intricate ”there can’t be too many steps involved,” says Luigi. The drinks have to be easily assembled by the Coffee Bar baristas even when it’s busy. “The mocha, for example, it was delicious and it was basically like making a regular mocha. Laura provided the sauce, which was the orange and cinnamon-infused dark chocolate, and also the whip cream.”
The bicerin was a little bit more complex, Luigi says. “That one involved some layering of the gianduja and espresso and cream, but we figured out how to do it efficiently.”
Each drink is featured on the Coffee Bar menu for four weeks, and they cost around $5 each. Ten percent of each sale is donated to Meals on Wheals of San Francisco, giving customers an added incentive. “It’s for a good cause,” says Luigi.
Most recently, Coffee Bar offered a Flat White dreamed up by pastry chef Francis Ang of Dirty Habit.
The drink features a marmalade of Japanese citrus fruit called Yuzu, which is blended with caramelized white chocolate and topped with shaved black cardamom.
Once the initial recipes are finalized, the chefs prepare batches of any ingredients that need to be pre-prepped, which means that the drinks are not only consistent, but actually prepared by the pastry chefs themselves.
“We asked the chefs to prepare the main inputs that are outside of what we normally have on hand,” says Luigi. “Not all of our locations have kitchens, and anything they prepare on their end would require a level of skill that is easier for them [the chefs] to pull off. We wouldn’t want to mess that up on our end.”
Next up: A summer drink. Look for it on Coffee Bar’s menus in July.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jeremy Martin is a freelance writer and photographer who has reported on coffee, craft beer, college sports, and business for a variety of publications over the past six years. A veteran of the café industry and graduate of Western Michigan University, Jeremy lives in Seattle where can often be found making sandwiches from whatever is left in the fridge and cracking wise for the amusement of his adoring wife Amanda.