Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Everybody Wants To Be In A Book...

I hope you won't mind if I indulge myself a little.

Back from Mexico City, I'm once again behind the bar at The Spro for a couple of weeks. Back to find a nice bag of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe from Hines Coffee in the queue with it's heavy blueberry character calling my name, begging me to brew a cup or four. I can't resist.

And yes, you're eyes are not deceiving you - there is some amount of half and half cream in that cup (from Trickling Springs, no less) and a half teaspoon of sugar (cane, pure).

As I'm preparing my coffee, in comes the UPS guy with a small package from Ten Speed Press in tow. Hmm, I don't remember ordering any books before my trip to Mexico. Then it hits me: this must be an advance copy of the book I shared a recipe with. I tear into the package with reckless abandon.

I once wrote somewhere on the Internet: "Everybody wants to be in a book. Until they're actually written about. And it's true. It's fun being the subject of an article or included in a book. But you never know what they're going to write about you until it's too late. God forbid they might write an accurate portrayal of you for the world to see - and you're an asshole.

That would be bad.

Luckily, my write up in Michael Turback's Coffee Drinks isn't that bad. It reads:

"I like the ideas of using memories to trigger positive responses," explains Jay. His signature drink, in a mad-scientist-tinkering-in-his-lab way, invokes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches of our youth. A rediscovery of the American childhood experience is magically captured for the adult palate in a deconstructed formula, presented in three acts: a shot of espresso stirred with hazelnut butter and a side of grape gelee, all washed down with cold, frothed milk."

Not too bad. Although one of my staff facetiously remarked that hazelnut butter is something that "everyone" has at home.

Every victory has to have detractors.

So please run out to your local bookstore and buy a copy of "Coffee Drinks." It's a great book filled with recipes from many of the baristas I respect. Baristas like Chris Deferio, Lem Butler, Steve Fritzen, Dismas Smith and the incomparable Jon Lewis. Ask for it. Demand it. Stand in line for it. It's only fifteen bucks (ten at

Just a note: we don't make any money off the sale of the book. I'd just like to see the word of coffee spread throughout the kingdom.

Coffee Drinks
by Michael Turback

photography by Leo Gong
2008 Ten Speed Press
ISBN-10: 1580089267
ISBN-13: 978-1580089265
Hardcover, 104 pages

Mexico City: Biko

Reg, Arturo and Cleofas offer a toast.

For our final meal together in Mexico City, Antonio, Arturo and Cleofas treated us to the cucina vangardia of Restaurant Biko in Polanco where we had the seven course menu de degustacion. By now, I'm starting to feel like an old hat with multi-course tasting menus, but it's always interesting, educational and delicious to sample the cuisines of different chefs.

Offering a Basque-inspired menu, chefs Bruno Oteiza and Mikel Alonso have created an intimate world to present their take on cuisine. Wedged between the fanciness that is Presidente Masaryk Avenue in the fashionable and ever-so-expensive neighborhood of Polanco, Biko announces that it's set apart with it's private portico in flat black offering recipes written on the walls in chalk. A private elevator whisks you above the riff raff satisfied with Abercrombie and to the upper levels where only Chanel will suffice.

Antonio, Sonja and Sarah.

Step out of the elevator and the receptionist is waiting to whisk us into their private wine cellar dining room.

The wine cellar is a dark and gorgeous place. Black walls with illuminated wood and glass wine bottle storage makes for a lush cocoon to insulate you and your guests from the vagaries of the Chanel laden crowd. It's dark, moody and feels just like Admiral Cain's quarters on Pegasus in the television series Battlestar Galactica. If you've seen that show then you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.

A large wooden table dominates the room with inlaid black place settings and stainless hose clamps performing as napkin holders. It's unique and fun, and instantly reminds me of Wylie Dufresne's WD-50 in New York City.

On the other side of the restaurant is the main dining room clad in slatted walls and bathed in white. It's a room for seeing and to be seen. It's a place for the hip and upcoming while the private dining room is for those who do not wish to announce their desire to be seen. In other words, it's my kind of place.

I've decided not to go into too much detail about the food and let the images speak for themselves. The food was good. For my money, I thought the wrapped scallops was just rockin'. Their sweetness was stunning and their texture was perfect.

The stuffed chile was also another hit, though I didn't think the foie gras was very pronounced. The escolar was absolutely delicious and appeared a couple of times during the evening. The americano was to be expected: terrible - but at least there was a lot of sugar around.

The medallions of Manila mangos were beautiful and the accompanying tonic foam rocked my world - I'm working on recreating it. And finally, of the Alegrias, the chocolate covered cereals and sheet of white chocolate were my favorites.

Have a look and I'll let you decide for yourself.

Picas de Aperetivo - Beet Root Soup

Picas de Aperetivo - Spoon of ceviche and mushrooms with fried plantain.

Callo de Hacha y Camaron con Recaudo y Ensalada

The Ensalada

Pimientos Rellenos de Pato y Queso de Foie.

Escolar con Gelatina de Pisto y Amaranto

Cordoniz Empalomada

A "side" of "lasagna" for Cordoniz Empalomada


An as expected Americano.

Tocinillos de Mango con Crema Limon y Mango


Alegrias - dark chocolate truffle, white chocolate sheet, cereals in chocolate and sweet toasts.

407 Presidente Masaryk
Mexico City
+52 55 5285 2064