Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Coffee makes strange bedfellows

March 22

When Oldways and Dunkin’ Donuts invite you to the same lunch, how can you refuse?
And if the topic is coffee, well, I’m totally there.
Oldways as an organization isn’t as elitist as, say, Slow Food, but I still didn’t expect them to team up with a fast-food restaurant. I don’t mind fast food, but I thought Oldways did.
“We’re talking about coffee, not donuts,” one of the hosts from Oldways said to me defensively when I brought it up.
It was an educational luncheon about coffee and health, and it was held at Craft, a restaurant that’s all about finding great products and not doing much to them.
Craft’s chef-owner, Tom Colicchio, wasn’t cooking. Instead, Stan Frankenthaler was. He used to be chef of high-end Boston restaurants like Salamander and Beehive, but now he’s executive chef of Dunkin’ Brands and develops their breakfast sandwiches and so-on.
Coffee amazes me, because for some reason people have been trying for the past 500 years or so to find something about it that’s bad for you, and they haven’t succeeded. Sure, if you’re sensitive to caffeine you should be careful, but the same is true of wheat or asparagus or rhubarb. Don’t eat things that don’t agree with you.
Indeed, during the luncheon we were presented with recent findings about how coffee — which has many components other than caffeine that affect your health — appears to fight all sorts of things, from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s to cancer to Type II diabetes.
Oldways likes to present the latest information on health, and you can see why Dunkin’ Donuts would be psyched about such a program.
On top of that, subtle nods were given to Dunkin’s lighter approach to roasting. Food wonk Corby Kummer spoke about different types of coffee and coffee culture, and said that cultures that sought out the best coffee beans, such as Germany and Scandinavia, tended to enjoy lighter roasts, whereas the French and Italians developed darker roasts to cover up defects in inferior coffee.
And some of the health guys mentioned that excessive roasting tended to make coffee marginally less good for you.
But it wasn’t a hard-sell, and I wouldn’t insult Corby Kummer or the scientists by accusing them of altering their presentations to suit a lighter roast. How cheap would that be?
It’s nice when everyone’s messages coalesce, though.

What I had for lunch:
arugula salad with raw beets, toasted walnuts, dried cherries (soaked in coffee, red wine and balsamic vinegar) with warm coffee balsamic vinaigrette
Breast of chicken (marinated in ground coffee and other stuff) with a tumble of hominy, kale and roasted red, yellow and poblano peppers, garnished with a single ear of baby corn, with one leaf from the husk still attached
Cappuccino ice: an espresso granita with chocolate and vanilla flavor shots, topped with foamed skim milk.

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