Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Overcaffeinated with Wolfgang Puck

March 17, 5 p.m.

It’s St. Patrick's Day in New York, so many people are already drunk. Me, I'm overcaffeinated.
It’s hard to overcaffeinate me. I drink a lot of coffee, and usually the caffeine just tickles my dopamine receptors and goes on its way.
But one of the results of this lousy economy is that I have slashed my coffee budget and am making my own. I make delicious coffee — better than what I was buying, or at least more suited to my personal taste — but it’s strong, and I drank it with gusto on the subway this morning on my way to the Loews Regency hotel, where Wolfgang Puck was granting a 9:45 a.m. audience to journalists over breakfast at 540 Park restaurant.
People who know my habits will tell you that it is rare, indeed, for me to be seen in public at 9:45 a.m. If you need me to be somewhere early, I'll be there. I'll be there at 4 a.m. if necessary. Otherwise, I'd rather shake the morning cobwebs out of my head more gradually.
But if Wolfgang Puck's hanging out for breakfast, I’ll go ahead and hang out with him.
A lot of chefs stay at the Loews Regency. My colleague Paul Frumkin tells me that Mr. Puck has been staying there for decades, and I know I’ve met other chefs there, too, and no one can explain why it draws chefs. I asked Wolfgang Puck this morning, but he had nothing to say on the matter.
I think one such explanation might be the coffee, which is both rich and smooth, gently roasted to allow the subtle fruity qualities of the 100 percent Colombian coffee that they serve to come through.
So I drank a lot of it, and now I feel jangly in my nerve endings and really need a slice of pizza and a nap.
I also ate of the fruit plate set before me and had a miniature pain au chocolat and something like an almond croissant.
I learned a lot about Wolfgang Puck, but I think I’ll make a separate blog entry about that as a courtesy to visitors to this blog who might want to know about Herr Puck but could not care less about me. I respect that.
I will say that Puck and his wife, Gelila, drank several cappuccinos, but they sent one of them back, lecturing whoever on staff would listen that the milk was too hot. The Pucks managed to do that graciously, but with the confidence of people who knew how they wanted their milk steamed.
Gelila is from Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, and she roasts her own beans most mornings.
She said that the word “coffee” comes from Kaffa, an ancient kingdom in Ethiopia, which might be true. She also said that Ethiopians make coffee leaves into tea. First roasting them a bit and then steeping them in hot water for a few minutes.
I didn’t know that.

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