Some say that this coffee drink dates back to when Spain occupied Cuba. Soldiers would drink coffee and rum to give them courage–coraje in Spanish, which later transformed into the current name of the drink: “carajillo.”

There are many variations of this drink. For January’s supper club, the carajillo I’ll be making will have Licor 43, Bella Aurora coffee, whipped coconut cream and citrus chocolate.

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Menu for the Jan 23 coffee flavored Dinner with Daniel

Matt Gebis has chosen a few select coffees for the upcoming Dinner with Daniel. I have designed the courses around each coffee’s unique character. You will be amazed to be introduced to a whole new range of flavors in this familiar daily beverage:

  • Coffee BBQ Pork Ribs – Miju Sali Coffee, Ethiopia
  • Pan-seared Emerald Valley Ricotta Chiesi with Cocoa and Coffee – Las Capucas Coffee, Honduras
  • Sea bass with Marcona Almond Crusted Prawns in Coffee and Coriander Sauce – Unafe Co-op Coffee, Peru
  • Brussels Sprouts with Onion and Coffee Jam – Finca de las Delicias Coffee, Mexico
  • Bella Aurora Coffee Roasted Carrots and Beets – Bella Aurora Coffee, Nicaragua
  • White Truffle Panna Cotta with La Dorita Dulce de Leche Liqueur and Coffee – Unafe Co-op Coffee, Peru
  • Carajillo – Bella Aurora Coffee, Nicaragua

Emerald Valley is a local farm in Scenery Hill, producing artisanal cheeses.

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January 2016 Dinner with Daniel: coffee flavor

Matt Gebis drinking an espresso
Matt Gebis, coffee maven and owner of Espresso a Mano, drinking his favorite coffee preparation (an espresso shot)

Coffee has always been a cherished part of my life. Even before I could drink it, the comforting smell of coffee and the sound of it percolating in the moka pot was a call to start the day and meet the rest of my family at the table. I am pretty open about my coffee obsession. Who else do you know who has a grove of coffee trees in his house?

My friend Matt Gebis may have me beat. He has converted his obsession with coffee into a career. In 2009, he opened the Lawrenceville coffee spot Espresso a Mano, a mecca for coffee lovers that’s still making headlines. He has been at the forefront of coffee culture in Pittsburgh for many years.
Matt will provide some of his favorite coffees to be featured in January’s Dinner with Daniel. Come to get a new perspective on coffee and let the coffee aroma call you to the table!
Here I am with Matt in Espresso a Mano in 2009
Here I am with Matt in Espresso a Mano in 2009

coffee tree trim

New growth on pruned coffee trees

Coffee is an interest of mine that fits right into a couple of my passions. “Soy muy cafetero” I would say in Spain. I’m all about coffee. I love the coffee culture, traditions, aroma and taste. But I also get great pleasure from growing my own coffee trees.

Coffee cultivation in the north hemisphere is, well, difficult. Especially if you take into consideration western Pennsylvania’s winters.

But I have managed to keep coffee trees here in a fashion that’s similar to bonsai. I keep them potted. Every so often I trim their roots. In the summer I put them outside, right by my fig and bay leaf trees.

Coffee trees only produce flowers–little beauties that smell like jasmine–on new wood. So, in order to control their growth and get plenty of coffee berries, I apply the Beaumont-Fukunaga system. It’s pretty scary! I cut down the tree to a stump. And then it’s all new growth from there, new wood.

The stump of a coffee tree after pruning
Cutting the coffee tree down to a stump is nerve wracking, but buds soon begin to appear.
New growth on the pruned coffee tree
New growth on the pruned coffee tree. (Whew!)

This method is practiced in Kona by Tom Greenwell at his farm, Greenwell Farms. It’s amazing to see the new growth and by next year the trees will produce more than in previous years.

Buen provecho!

getting serious about fresh-ground coffee

I think of myself as a down to earth guy in the kitchen. As with most things in life, it’s important to take care of the basics first. Fresh food, sharp knives, clean counters, and so on.

This is why some people laugh when they discover my array of fancy coffee-related equipment.

The Breville Smart Grinder is not cheap, but it's easy to use and clean.
The Breville Smart Grinder. Maybe a bit of a luxury, but it’s easy to use and clean. And I use it every day. So maybe I have to give up Starbucks for a couple of months…!

To them I say, “Here’s some freeze-dried decaf–off you go!”

Life is too short to drink bad coffee. And though you can make a good cup of coffee with basic equipment, I prefer to make a fantastic cup of coffee. We have a number of different coffee machines in our house: french presses, an old school moka pot, a drip machine for family gatherings, even a ROK manual espresso maker. Each one performs best with a different grind.

We used to use a little Krups coffee grinder from the grocery store to grind coffee beans. You could only grind a small amount of beans at a time. In each batch, the coffee at the bottom was always ground to powder. I would carefully save this for espresso, but then I wasn’t able to have freshly ground coffee for my espresso. And we were always just guessing about how fine the grind was. If you opened the grinder to check, it made a mess. So there’s some inaccuracy, some inefficiency, some waste of coffee, and sometimes not the best coffee.

I know what you’re thinking: How can you live under these conditions? Exactly. This is how I justified splurging on a new, state-of-the-art grinder. With this grinder, you dial the type of grind (filter, press, etc.), enter the number of shots or cups, and the brew strength you want and it automatically produces just the right amount in the correct grind. It’s perfect. Easy and fast. I have only had it a couple of months now, but so far this is the best home grinder I’ve ever had.

(Don’t worry: the Krups is still put to good use as a spice grinder.)

Buen provecho!

Breville Smart Grinder
KRUPS Coffee Grinder