Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Corner View - Coffee Companion

Today's Corner View is about coffee companions.  I've always wanted to live in France which is an obvious place to be if you love coffee (there, and Italy, but I'll get to that) and you want to have faithful and regular coffee companions. Living in France it would be de rigueur to bring your French dog along with you to watch the world go by.

A fluffy, stately, and highly protective Briard would be just the thing.  To lean against your legs in case of cold drafts. And to lean against the rest of you and growl MENACINGLY at unwelcome panhandlers, flower sellers, religious cults and persistent "dragueurs" who might be a little spoiling your quiet moment on the terrasse.  And blocking your view of the passing "foule".  As long as he did not wrap his leash around the table and topple it in a moment of exuberance. Spilling coffee all over your new coat and shoes.

Photo: Francois Halard, Vogue March 2010

I would welcome company in the form of handsome Eurasian French men.   Like Frederic Fekkai.  I like to fantasize that since he is Aixois, I used to rub elbows with him at places like "Le Grillon" on the Cour Mirabeau (in Aix-en-Provence) which was the bar where all the beautiful young people congregated to smoke their cigarettes and plant kisses on each other four times on the cheek.  (That would count already as a coffee companion, wouldn't it?)  He's got great taste in animals.  My, doesn't his French donkey look a little like my Briard?  You know what they say, "Great Minds Think Alike!"  Do you think he ever gets his scissors out on that shaggy moptop? (The donkey's.)  And if we got quite cozy as coffee-buddies, do you think he might consider getting them out for mine?

Of course the ultimate coffee companion in the culinary sense is chocolate.  And if I were to become a long-term denizen of the French scene I would almost be morally obligated to intiate a Bicerin campaign in my neighborhood to make the drink a standard item on the cafe menu. Isn't it strange that Bicerin's have never made it to France yet????? Or perhaps it has, but they call it by another name.  Anyone know?

Bicerins come from Piedmont in the North of Italy (as did my Grandfather, who actually considered himself French - a long story).  In fact there is a little cafe in Turin called the Bicerin, where the drink originated.  And they serve it in voluptous glass goblets "Bicerins" instead of coffee cups.  

So what IS a Bicerin ALREADY?  You might well ask.  It is expresso, mixed with hot dense French (Italian) style drinking chocolate and served with thick heavy cream.  Throw in a couple of biscotti and dear hearts, you will know that you have died and gone to heaven!

The picture above is from Carlucccio's in London, which is where I first experienced this breakfast drink of the Gods.  I like that they serve the different components in their own little jugs (the chocolate and coffee MUST be impossibly hot) so that you can mix according to your taste.  I usually let my Bicerin get creamier and then sweeter as I go on.  I do drink and mix very slowly.  To prolong the ecstasy.  Sadly, VERY SADLY, Carluccio's has recently been sold to an CORPORATE RESTAURANT GROUP and the Bicerin now being served there though still charmingly presented, exhibits pronounced characteristics of instant chocolate pudding, i.e., not proper European drinking chocolate at all, and tastes instead of artificial sweeteners and cornstarch.  ICK!  (Nothing lasts.  Sigh.)

So my recommendation is, start your own Bicerin campaign, and in the meantime, order all the different components at your next cafe visit, or try to make it at home.  You will not be sorry.

Photo credit: Unknown

For more about Bicerin, you can click these links:  from David Lebovitz's blog and the New York Times.


  1. Great post! I was feeling uninspired...but you've inspired me. I'm with you on Mr. Fekkai. SUCH a hottie. And the donkey's attractive as well ;)
    We used to have Belgian Terveruns (berger belge), which we got in France and shipped over (the silver ones that you don't see here in the US) when I was a kid. They were great dogs.

  2. Hmmm Maia, I don't know those Belgian Terveruns - I will have to look them up. I do adore the Briards but I have also witnessed considerable damage that they have wrought when over-provoked. I also love the Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen. Some day....when I am done with cats......... (I did NOT say THAT mi gatos muy linditos xoxoxo)

  3. Oh I like this post and I agree with both of you on Monsieur Fekkai... Who would not? And I love the paintings of your next post. The colors, the faces of women. All very impressive.
    And to answer your questions:
    (1) for the lentils, use the brown typical French ones I guess. But you can also use any other sort as long as they are small.
    (2) For Holi --completely indoors with a nice meal (that was Monday). I still can't understand and hope will never understand the propensity of some to be aggressive against people they do not know just for the fun of it. Mix with that the fact that many have reached a strong state of narcosis by 8 AM (due to Bhang --a mix of milk with hashish) and you can understand my feelings.

  4. Oh too bad about Holi Kenza. I have heard that it can be a bit of an uncertain environment. It's so visually dazzling. One gets the impression that people are having so much fun - but I guess that has not been your experience or what you have heard. I always had reservations about the powders - not knowing what they might actually be made up of. I did not realize that some are actually also "impaired".