The Food Almanac: Friday, November 8, 2013

It's National Cappuccino Day!

The combination of espresso coffee with foamed milk is often had after dinner, which is the wrong time. It's really a morning beverage, with the milk and all.

Annals Of Spirits
Today in 1789 is supposed to be the day that a Baptist minister named Elijah Craig distilled the first whiskey made from corn mash. This was in Bourbon County, Kentucky. Craig was quite a businessman. It is not known, really, what year he started his distillery, let alone the day, but this date is traditional as the birthday of Bourbon. There's an expensive, eighteen-year-old, single-barrel Bourbon named for him that's pretty good.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Whiskey Bend is a trailhead in Olympic National Park, in the northwestern corner of Washington State. It's at the end of a long gravel road that lopps around so you can head back--but only after you take a hike through the woods, or perhaps hike down the twelve-mile Elwah River Trail that begins there. All this overlooks Rica Canyon from a 500-foot elevation above the river. In the rivers that tumble down along the way you can catch fish. But you have to release them. This means you have to pack a lunch (with a flask of whiskey), or go to Granny's Cafe on US 101 after you emerge.

Edible Dictionary
blended whiskey, n.--In America, a mixture of straight bourbon or other barrel-aged whiskey with "neutral spirits." The latter is an unaged spirit similar to vodka, and has no significant flavor or aroma. Blended whiskeys, therefore, are much lighter in flavor than bourbons. These were the dominant domestic brown spirits in the days following the end of Prohibition, and remained so through the 1960s, when they began to fade. Not many of them are around anymore. The best known is Seagram's 7 Crown. Most Canadian whiskies are also blends, as are most brand-name Scotches. The blended Scotches begin with single-malt whiskies (usually more than one), and the diluting "neutral spirits."

Today's Flavor
This is National Cappuccino Day. The combination of espresso coffee with foamed milk is often had after dinner, which is the wrong time. It's really a morning beverage, with the milk and all. It also works--if your system can stand the caffeine--as a late-night drink, in sort of the way we drink cafe au lait here in New Orleans. 

Most cappuccino is made with far too much foamed milk. It should form a layer, not a pile, as it does in the contemporary American coffeehouses. Here's my test for telling when the froth on a cappuccino is just right. Sprinkle two packets of sugar over a circular area an inch in diameter. It will sit there for awhile, then slowly start sinking, while at the same time moving toward the center. The sugar ultimately falls through a small hole, rather suddenly. If the sugar just sits there interminably, the froth is too thick. If the granules fall right through, the froth is too thin.

The name "cappuccino" is a reference to the Capuchin monks, whose hooded habits were the same color as that of a well-made cappuccino. However, an alternative explanation is that "cappuccino" means "out of order" in Italian. (The early machines often were.) But that's just a joke.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez
Just as is true with wine, a coffee blended from several kinds of beans will always have more interesting flavors than all one kind.

The Saints
This is the feast day of the Four Crowned Martyrs: Castorus, Claudius, Nicostratus, and Simpronian. They were stone carvers, but they're also patron saints of cattle for some reason.

Food Namesakes
Harvey Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on this date in 1977. He was openly gay, which was a big deal back then. . . Today in 1990, Darryl Strawberry signed a five-year contract with the Dodgers. . . Alan Berger of the rock group Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, was born today in 1949. . . Frank Gouldsmith Speck was born today in 1881. He was an anthropologist who specialized in Eastern Native Americans. (Speck is smoked prosciutto.)

Words To Eat By
"The truffle is not a positive aphrodisiac, but it can upon occasion make women tenderer and men more apt to love."--Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, French culinary author and chef.


Words To Drink By
"A drink is shorter than a tale."--Unknown.