Friday, March 06, 2009

Lobster and the USBC

It's way late at night here in Portland and I'm still awake after partying at the American Barista and Coffee School, dinner with Eton Tsuno and a drink with Duane, Aleco and Kyle from Stumptown, Drew from Ecco Caffe and Sarah from Barista Magazine. Tomorrow is my time to perform at the USBC (that's United States Barista Championship, not United States Bowling Congress) and I'm still trying to figure out exactly what to do.

I have decided one thing: it's gonna be lobster all the way.

Lobster. Homarus Americanus. North Atlantic cold lobster, a.k.a. Maine Lobster. I spent Wednesday afternoon in Glenn and Beta's kitchen cooking it all up. Celeriac base and cold-infused lobster cream. It takes 48 hours to make this drink correctly and it's still evolving.

Tuesday afternoon, my first stop from the airport was The Meadow where I spied on the Taha'a Vanilla Salt. I'll take a vial of that, please. Add a bar of Askinosie San Jose Del Tambo White Chocolate and I'm good to go.

This morning, I made a jaunt out the New Seasons Market in Concordia because I heard they had a stash of fresh Oregon Black Truffles. Grabbed a couple of knobs.

All of this will go together in a drink that is basically the craziest, most off-kilter drink I've ever developed. It's wild. It's weird. It's intriguing. It's complex and confusing. It, without a doubt, pushes the limits of what we think goes with coffee: the balance between the lobster and coffee is compelling with the white chocolate subtly smoothening out the blend, but is it "good"? Is it "delicious"?

I don't know if even I can say that it's "delicious".

Oddly compelling, yes - but delicious?

Hmmm, that's a tough one.

The drink is meant to be an amuse bouche to a larger body of work. A larger tasting menu that will someday hit The Spro. It's a drink that announces that this isn't going to be your typical coffee with chocolate, cardamom, sugar and cream kind of experience. It's gonna be different. It's going to push, prod and challenge you and your preconceptions about coffee and how it fits in the world. The judges are gonna taste it and may not know how to react. It's distinctly savory with a cloying sweetness undercurrent. Shocking? Perhaps. Appalling? Maybe...

Whatever the case may be, it's going to be celeriac, lobster and coffee with chopped cold lobster tail meat and garnished with freshly grated Oregon Black Truffles. Come down to the Oregon Convention Center and maybe taste it yourself, or tune into and check out the live feed. I'm scheduled to go on around 4pm Pacific Daylight Time.