I rarely mention restaurants – unless I’m dining out of the country – but this week I had a lunch that was so foodie-oriented, I can’t resist writing about it. It was a coffee-pairing lunch hosted by Starbucks at Lucques, a restaurant in Los Angeles. The lunch was held at the end of Coffee College, a day long seminar that Starbucks hosted (and was generous enough to invite me to) that discussed everything from how coffee is grown and harvested, to how the beans are roasted and cupped (tasted, essentially) to try bring out their fullest flavor. Lunch was dedicated to seeing how different flavors in food brought out, or paired with, different flavors of coffee from different regions of the world.
The first course was a yellow tomato soup with pesto, parmesan and opal basil. The coffee pairing was with Kenya and Costa Rica La Candela coffees. The Kenya was known to have citrus notes, but turned out to be overpowered by the coffee. The Costa Rica, on the other hand, had a very bright flavor that was similar to the acidity of the tomatoes and turned out to complement the soup, drawing out peppery notes and just making it taste more flavorful. You wouldn’t necessarily expect a cup of coffee to have such an impact on a dish – especially a soup – so it was surprising, in addition to being tasty.
The second course was a grilled Niman Ranch steak with “potatoes parisienne,” arugula and roasted shallots. The steak, incidentally, was delicious with the simple sauce it was served with. The “potatoes parisienne” tasted like very buttery polenta and looked nothing like previous renditions of the dish I’ve had, though it was still tasty. This course was paired with Sumatra coffee, which generally has a bold, deep and somewhat fruity flavor. It seemed to complement the sauce and the meat well, but blended in more than the previous pairing and was a little more subtle in its contribution to the dish.
The final course was a chocolate bread pudding with vanilla ice cream. The bread pudding was rich and contained many secret pieces of melted chocolate in between pieces of bread. The ice cream was very flavorful and lightened up the pudding nicely. This dish was paired with espresso roast coffee, brewed in a french press rather than an espresso machine. The dark roast and slightly bitter note went well with the bread pudding, giving the chocolate a bittersweet flavor, and was lightened somewhat by the ice cream. I think I would have preferred the extra richness of a pulled shot, but it was still obvious why espresso is such a popular pairing (I know it is with me!) with chocolate desserts.More details about the rest of the Starbucks Coffee College experience can be found on Brewed Daily.