This afternoon my sister Annie and I had an Espesso break.
Not espresso but the edible coffee created by Ferran Adria. We weren't at El Bulli or even in Europe but Chicago. And not at a restaurant a la Alinea or Moto, but a small downtown coffee house.
Lavazza introduced the product it developed in collaboration with Ferran in the US today. The Italian company has only three locations in this country and all are within a few blocks' radius in the city.
Espesso's been available exclusively in Europe since 2002. Interestingly, it's been served warm on The Continent, but now the import's dispensed chilled. I speculate it's because Europeans prefer their coffee concoctions hot but Americans suck them down ice cold. Or maybe the idea of a warm solid coffee might be too much for the mind of the average morning commuter.
The name is a play on words: espresso + spesso - "thick" in Italian. It's sturdy enough to stay put in an overturned cup, but deceptively light and airy, without the resistance of a traditional mousse, and delivers a surprisingly bold coffee flavor.
Lavazza alludes to a secret ingredient that solidifies the coffee. They claim this ingredient limits the servings available each day because it needs to set for 12 hours. It did in fact sell out at one location by late morning. The product's dispensed from the iSi Gourmet Whip that Ferran made famous with his foams.
I don't know for certain what they use in their version but Ferran does have a cold coffee espuma that uses simple gelatine. For the warm preparation I'd guess he used agar-agar.
You can take an Espesso to go - and it's spill-proof - but you should eat it immediately since as a foam it starts to collapse within minutes.
I strongly recommend you have it in-house served in the covetable custom cups and saucers with specially designed spoons. The cup's emblazoned with the cute logo - a fluffy mound in an upside-down cup - and the saucer's imprinted around the edge with "Coffee that you eat" in English, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, and Spanish. And when you do eat it, it's with a special spoon - an espresso spoon with a small hole in the bowl - meant to reinforce the idea that the product is solid - the handle engraved with "Espesso by Ferran Adria".
There are three variations: a straight espresso Espesso; cappucino, dusted with cocoa powder; and macchiato, served with an edible milk side-by-side in the same cup. Each are $2.49 a cup.
My sister's reaction? "Coffee foam. What's the big deal?" Ahh, little sisters.
Cold Coffee Espuma
(by Ferran Adria)
- 325 ml cold espresso
- 125 ml heavy cream (33% fat)
- 75 g sugar
- 2-2.5 sheets gelatine
Soak gelatine sheets in cold water until soft.
Heat 100 ml of espresso to 60C/140F then remove from heat. Add sugar then stir to dissolve. Squeeze water from gelatine sheets well, add to hot espresso, then stir to dissolve. Add remaining cold espresso then set aside to cool slightly. Before gelatine sets, add cream, then stir.
Use iSi Gourmet Whip or Thermo Whip. Pour mixture into bottle, charge with one charger, then shake well. Chill for several hours before dispensing. Keep refrigerated.