Thursday, April 4, 2013

A new gustatory experience - Starbucks international coffee and food pairing

White wine with fish. Red wine with meats. That's the standard way of pairing wine with food, right?

But recently, some of us sat down to a food tasting lunch paired with -- Starbucks coffee blends!

The Starbucks team, combined with the Spanish restaurant Tapella put up a gastronomic menu interspersed with 4 different coffee blends.

Choosing the right coffee blend to go with a particular dish is very important, we learned. Most of us in the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia, according to Starbucks, are in the developing stage. Not everyone is well educated in coffee. We probably go to Starbucks, order our favorite beverage, then walk out without really paying that much attention to the blend or how it is prepared.  But that is a good thing, they say, because it leaves so many possibilities for us to be educated about coffee. And yet in emerging countries, like Europe, people know their coffee. They order a double shot of espresso, want their coffee black, and specify other add-ons to go with their favorite drink.

Let me digress first and tell you about the latest Starbucks coffee blend.

Creating the New Asian Blend

For the longest time, while some blends could be identified with certain regions (e.g., espresso is identified with Europe), there was no blend identified with Asia. This time, Starbucks launches the Asian Dolce Latte, strong and smooth, with an Asian twist. Double shots of the premium dark-roasted Starbucks Espresso Roast give the latte its distinct flavor complemented by a dolce sauce created just for this blend.

Tip when drinking Asian Dolce Latte: DO NOT STIR! Drink it as served and you will get a better coffee experience as you savor the flavor and texture of each of the layers of the latte.

Here's something you should also know. If you are not happy with how your beverage is prepared, Starbucks will gladly prepare a new batch for you to get it right.

Making double shot espresso

Espresso in 3 layers

Did you know that there is actually a bad espresso shot? Yes!

A good espresso shot is poured by the espresso machine into glasses within a desired range of time and has 3 distinctive layers. The espresso must be poured into the beverage before these 3 layers dissolve and combine. If the layers are allowed to combine, drinking it leaves a bitter aftertaste in the mouth - a sign of a bad espresso shot. The people at Starbucks said that they always want a perfect espresso shot and will be willing to replace any beverage to ensure the espresso shot is perfect each time.

Both Asian Dolce Lattes are similarly made although the iced version comes with a generous heaping of espresso whipped cream and a dash of espresso dusting. The two variants will be available until May 14, 2013.

Now back to our gastronomic lunch paired with Starbucks coffee blends.....

Starbucks decided to do something different this time around by letting us try what a 5-course Spanish cuisine would taste like when paired with different Starbucks coffee blends. The Starbucks team actually sat down in the initial stages of planning for this event and tried different coffee blends with the Spanish dishes to find the perfect combination. They were looking at matching blends that would complement and not overpower the dishes being served. The result was this outstanding Spanish lunch...

Appetizers (or Tapas) paired with Tribute Blend

Starbucks' Tribute blend is a spicy and full-bodied blend with berry and dark cherry notes. It is a returning blend and is a combination of beans from Sumatra, Papua New Guinea, Africa and Colombia.

Left: Bruchetta on Tomato Salad on Slice of Baguette topped with Goat Cheese and Herb
Right: Chorizo Spread on Slice of Baguette, topped with Manchego Cheese

Tomatoes found on the bruchetta went well with the berry and cherry flavors of the Tribute blend. In addition, the strong spicy taste of the chorizo spread was complemented by the full-bodied blend.

Soup and Salad paired with Asian Dolce Latte

Cold Tomato Soup topped with Vegetables (left) and
Grilled Mixed Peppers Tower of Salad (right)

The strong and sweetish Asian Dolce Latte complemented very well the soup and salad combo.

Main Course with Colombia Blend

The Colombia blend is a smooth, balanced coffee with a nutty flavor -- just the right touch to go with either the fish or chicken dish which served as our main course. I naturally chose the fish dish which turned out to be a great choice because it came served with Paella!

Cod Fish cooked the Viscaina Way

Paella for Cod Fish with the other main course in background
(Moorish Chicken drizzled with Almond Sauce on Bed of Couscous)

Dessert and Espresso Shot

What better way to pair this yummy dessert duo but with a strong espresso shot made perfectly. The sweetness of the Creme Brulee and the Mille Crepe is mellowed by the strength of the espresso.

Europeans can have wine with their dishes. As for us Asians who drink coffee more than wine, we can stick with our coffee preferences knowing the right blends can go hand in hand with fine dining.

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