It's too early to know exactly what we're going to with the knowledge Kevin imparted to us. But it's going to be fun figuring out what a small coffeehouse like ours can do, given our limitations of workspace and storage.
We started experimenting with hydrocolloids a couple of years ago, but it seemed (and was) much more complicated then and we gave up trying. Kevin took the time ahead of his visit to think about our situation and what could work here. And he showed us a half dozen techniques that have promise. It's up to us to figure out the recipes and do the testing (and figure out where to store all this stuff!)
As a start, we were baking some bacon for turkey panini, so we collected the bacon drippings and, using some ingredients Kevin gave us, made "bacon powder". The proportions weren't dead-on, but the result definitely smelled like bacon and imparted enough taste to be noticed in some mini-quiches we threw together for an info session here last night for local baristas interested in competing at the MidAtlantics in February.
On Saturday, if all goes according to plan, we're going to try some apple cider spheres in the roasted parsnip/apple soup we'd planned to serve that day. We'll be interested in your reaction.
There appear to be a ton of things we can do to change textures in soups. While we enjoy using the traditional Mediterranean method of using bread as a thickener, that really only works for Mediterranean soups. Using some of these techniques it might actually be possible to gel a soup firmly enough to put on a ciabattina and make a panini - and even put that on the grill without worrying about it reverting to liquid.
Not that we'd do that (and we think you'd be a bit skeptical about buying it) but that's what happens when somebody like Kevin shows you something new that can break down traditional barriers about what can be done, even on a small scale.
What if, instead of adding sugar to your espresso, you added brown butter powder? If we told you it was delicious, you might not believe us. But it is. What if we could replace all of our flavor syrups with powders made in our own kitchen from fresh purees? We're getting ahead of ourselves, but it's something to think about.
There will be more to come on this subject as we continue to learn. It's exciting stuff.
Meantime, Kevin is busy working on opening his own restaurant, Salt of the Earth, while also working at Nine on Nine. We talked a bit about what brew methods would work best with his concept (which currently includes community tables - a neat idea for Pittsburgh). We introduced him to the Chemex and Solo Cafe and talked about the merits of those methods vs. press pots. We'll also be doing one or more cuppings with him in the future using different brewers (including the above three plus pourovers and siphons). Whichever he chooses, we're looking forward to having Kevin provide a different level of professional coffee service that local restaurants have, to date, been reluctant to pursue. And that too, is exciting.