Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Fruity Pebbles Cappuccino

Fred Flintstone insisting this isn't just another faddish trend.

When I'm in town, I spend most of my days at home. Not because I'm lounging around drinking Chateau du Siroc but because I no longer have a real office somewhere else to work. Now my office is at home and I work from home. Oh, how I miss my old office for those late evening cigars while crunching numbers...

But I digress.

I'm sitting at home working a couple of weeks ago when my phone rings. It's Alex Talbot calling to check up on me and see how things are in the Land of Pleasant Living.

What are you doing? he asks.
Just doing some paperwork, what's up?
I know you've been working on a soft serve ice cream recipe but...

That's when he drops the bomb on me.

Have you seen what David [Chang] is doing?
No, why?
Look it up.

David Chang is the owner and chef of the Momofuku chain of restaurants in New York City. He's known for doing tasty and innovative foods and his pistachio soft serve ice cream is just amazing.

I pull up Google and punch in David's name and voila! I'm pissed.

I'm not mad at David. Or Alex. I'm mad at myself. For my lack of vision. For my inability to see what's been staring us in the face for the past thirty five years. I'm mad because I'm lame.

For next half an hour or so, I'm ranting about my house, cursing my existence. Why had I not been able to see this before? After eating it innumerable times?

David is making something called "cereal milk ice cream."

Just what is this cereal milk ice cream? It's milk infused with the flavor of your favorite cereal. Essentially, it's the milk left in your bowl after you've finished your cereal. It's simple. It's obvious. And I've been blind from the start.

Fast forward a few weeks, after I've recovered from the crushing blow to my food ego, and I've been playing around with how to incorporate cereal milks with coffee. Breakfast in a cup, right? It's a no-brainer.

Two weeks (or so) ago, I was at the United States Barista Championship in Portland, Oregon where they've installed a "fourth machine" for attendees and the general public to come and have a taste of great coffees roasted by some of the nations' top coffee roasting companies and prepared by the some of the nations' best baristas.

In an odd twist of events, I was asked to come and prepare coffee drinks on the fourth machine during the USBC Finals with 2004 USBC Champion Bronwen Serna. Since she's the champ and I'm not, I was relegated to steaming and pouring milk.

Quite simply, working the fourth machine is brutal. First off, you're working with a machine you're not all that familiar with and in a portable situation so you're not at your home machine and everything is just a bit out of whack. The line is at least 50 people deep and never abating - all day long. It's intense and if you screw up, the cascade effect is terrible. You've got to keep up with the flow and pace at all times unless you want to fall so far deep into the weeds that the only way to describe it is: Royally Screwed.

Most barista teams on the fourth machines offer a similar menu: espresso, macchiato, cappuccino and latte. That's it. Just those four drinks. Want something else? Sorry. Been watching all these cool signature drinks and want to try something different? Ain't gonna happen.

Which is why I was determined to offer our guests an alternative to the traditional drinks. Let them have something fun. Something interesting. Something whimsical. Fruity Pebbles Cappuccino seemed like a good idea.

It is what it sounds like, steamed milk infused with Fruity Pebbles, free poured with latte art and a sprinkling of Fruity Pebbles as a garnish. There's actually a picture of it here.

People seemed to enjoy it so I thought "why not bring it to The Spro?" Yesterday, after a couple days of testing to get the ratios correct, Fruity Pebble Cappuccino made it to the specials menu where it will run through the rest of spring.

Making the milk infusion is relatively simple, just mix milk with Fruity Pebbles in a bowl and wait. The concern is that in a production environment, how do you achieve consistent results if everyone is pouring different ratios of Fruity Pebbles to their milk? I had to develop a standard:

Fruity Pebble Milk
Yield: one half gallon

300g Fruity Pebbles
80z Whole Milk (Trickling Springs Creamery)

- Stir cereal and milk together
- Infuse and refrigerate for 20 minutes
- Strain and serve.
- Use in the same manner as regular milk

Why twenty minutes? I figured that was the average time it would take a young child to eat a normal bowl of cereal. The ratio offered by Post in their nutritional figures gave us milk that was too sweet and too powerful. It needed to be toned down with a greater ratio of milk.

Maybe in the fall we'll give the Cocoa Puff-A-Chino a try...