Thursday, August 16, 2007

Contemplating the Flor de Tilo

My head hurts.

We're barely halfway through August and already the pain of developing a signature drink suitable for competition is wearing on me. For the past three days, I've been racking my brain, gnashing my teeth and beating myself (not in that way you dirty-minded scoundrels).

Coffee is such an interesting ingredient - one which I can find a myriad of uses for. However, the twist for competition is that it must be drinkable and prominent, which changes things significantly.

The twist here is that this drink isn't for me, it's for Ana who's pursuing the crown at the 6th annual Competencia Mexicana de Baristas in just a couple of weeks, and I feel as though I'm failing miserably at the task.

Perhaps I'm just an amateur and this is just a bit too obvious, but I've been exploring traditional Mexican recipes and ingredients in a bid for divine inspiration. I've spent the past two days and nights eating Mexican food and touring the citys' tienda Latina.

Through all this, I've found some interesting ingredients that might yield some possibilities:

- Mole
- Chile Mulato
- Chile Ancho
- Flor de Jamaica
- Eucalyptus
- Hojas de Aguacate
- Hoja Santa
- Flor de Tilo
- Alpina Caramel Spread
- Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinegar

From which I'm also pouring through these books:

- Lonely Planet Mexico
- Gourmet Coffee, Tea and Chocolate drinks by Tekulsky
- Mexico, One Plate at a Time by Bayless
- Alcohol-Free Party Drinks by Canada Dry
- Party Drinks! by Rathburn
- Foods of Mexico by Sheen
- The Cooking of Mexico by Locricchio
- The Joy of Coffee by Kummer
- Viva la Vida by Palomino
- Southwest Flavors: Santa Fe School of Cooking by Curtis
- From My Mexican Kitchen by Kennedy

My early idea was to combine Mole and espresso but since this is the Mexican Championships and mole is the national dish, I figure someone had to try them together already. Being the national dish, one of the concerns I had with a mole beverage was the regional favoritism that the jueces (judges) might have. Even on subconscious level, if the mole drink didn't meet their personal expectation for mole, then that might result in a lower score - even if the flavor balance had been on the money. For the US Nationals, not a big deal, but for the Mexican Nationals, it seemed pretty risky.

So now, I've got a bunch of ingredients to try different infusions with and, hopefully, come up with something interesting and delicious. Ana didn't really set any parameters other than "no blenders" so it's kind of open season on the ingredients.

Other options I've been thinking about are a "honey gin" kind of drink - after tasting a variety of infused alcohols at a friends bar yesterday, and an "espresso, olive oil and balsamic tasting" that pairs the three ingredients. Sounds kind of weird, sounds kind of sick and sounds kind of tasty (to me) at the same time.

Until next time, I'll be working a la mad scientist trying different combinations of balsamic vinegar and hibiscus petals...