Eating-up Stratford
Bite by Byte

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Revolutionary Tasting: Coffee and Dessert Pairings at Revel Caffè

The Savour Stratford Tastings series for 2011 has carried Stratford food lovers through this long winter by connecting people who appreciate good food with the folks who produce it on a weekly basis. The More With Maple tasting allowed attendees to learn about maple syrup from the Hoovers, who had just finished tapping their trees days before. The Wine and Winter Dressings tasting saw us enjoying food cooked before our eyes by a chef using dressings he and his family created and bottled.

But I have to say, the tasting session I attended last week at Revel Caffè was above-and-beyond the culinary experience call-of-duty.

We Canadians love coffee. But there is obviously no way we can grow it locally. Now I like my local product as much as the next guy (ok, maybe a little more) but for me coffee is definitely one of those exceptions to the "buy local" rule.

But last Saturday I came to appreciate that there is at least one company roasting coffee in our region that reflects the same values that underlie the local food revolution: appreciation for family businesses where small scale producers grow an exceptional product with love and in cooperation with the environment. That company is Las Chicas Del Café.

Maria and Valeria are two sisters who roast coffee in London, Ontario. The special thing about their operation is that the beans they roast are grown by their father, Don Rey, on the family farm where they grew up in Nicaragua. Sometimes, after the years' harvest of beans has been picked and dried, Don Rey delivers them to Canada in person. This time, he and his daughters came to Stratford on the invitation of café owner Anne Campion, who wanted to connect her coffee loving patrons with the family responsible for growing and roasting the coffees we all enjoy every morning. The event was stimulating not just in in ts caffeination, but also in its education, as we all learned about the entire process that begins with farming coffee in Nicaragua and culminates with our steaming latte.

It doesn't get much better than learning about the coffee you are tasting from the people who grew it, roasted it, and served it, right?

Well, things were taken up yet another level as each coffee served was paired with a dessert created by students of the Stratford Chefs School to highlight the bean's unique flavour notes. The photo above is of (l to r) student chef Cortney Zettler, roaster Maria, student chef Amanda-Lee Chesley, and owner of Revel Caffè Anne Campion.

Anne and Cortney (above) started Saturday night off with a Whiskey Martini made with Revel Revolution beans paired with a Dark Chocolate Whiskey Truffle. The toasted crunchiness of the martini's full cappuccino bean mingled with the boozy, bitter-yet-sweet confection in a way that really brought out the coffee's bold strength. 

The next dessert also matched a very strong shot of French Press Maracatu with a sweet companion. But this time, the strong flavours were balanced by a nutty saltiness in the form of Candied Walnuts and Pecans. I could've eaten a whole bucket full of this stuff, although I have to say I really appreciated the cleverness of the nuts being served up in coffee filters.

I don't ever recall having polenta as dessert, but the Lemon and Almond Polenta Cake paired with the citrusy Americano Blend opened my eyes to the versatility of this creamy Italian version of cornmeal. This was my favourite dessert of the evening, and I could see that farmer Don Rey also approved of the combination of the tart lemon curd with  his deep, bright coffee as I watched him enjoy his from across the packed café.

The fourth pairing was a Milk Chocolate Mousse on Shortbread with a Coconut Twille, which was paired with the Revel Blend (above). Finally, a Creme Brulee was served alongside a shot of Revel Revolution espresso, which really highlighted the caramel flavour of that particular coffee blend. 

I went home wired to the gills on caffeine and mentally stimulated by all the great stories of coffee growing, roasting and brewing that were shared that evening. I've been to a few "Meet the producers" events over the past few years, but I have definitely never experienced anything on an international scale like this. My congrats go out to Revel Caffè, Las Chicas Del Café, and the Stratford Chefs School for putting this unforgettable event together so successfully.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, I'm now sorrier that I missed it!! Wish I was in town that night...hope there'll be another opportunity!! ;0