Katsuyuki Tanaka is a trip. After living in the United States for more than 20 years, the former advertising executive and his wife returned to Tokyo and opened Bear Pond Espresso in 2009. Neither had any professional experience making coffee.
Tanaka discovered the coffee scene in New York when they lived there and decided to open a coffee bar that would push past the boundaries of American-style espresso. He and his wife took over a former candy shop in Setagaya, a newly fashionable district with narrow streets and good shopping.
The drink to order at Bear Pond Espresso is espresso. It isn’t anything like the espresso you know. It’s as viscous and syrupy as aged balsamic, and so naturally sweet it tastes strikingly like melted chocolate. By the numbers, it’s a .5-ounce shot pulled from 22 grams of coffee. (As a comparison, a standard 1.5-ounce double shot is pulled from about 20 grams of coffee.)
Tanaka first fell in love with espresso in Buenos Aires, where he was working on a commercial for canned coffee with Diego Maradona in 1987. One morning at his hotel, he watched a local stagger into the cafe next door. “The guy orders an espresso,” Tanaka said. “He’s drunk and smoking cigarettes, 4 a.m. Nobody there, still dark. How much sexy, right?”
The memory came flooding back in 2005, when he had a shot at Ninth Street Espresso, in Manhattan. Now Tanaka works with the coffee roaster Noriaki Yoshime (pictured) to finesse Bear Pond Espresso’s distinctly dense flavor profile. “We’re not going to copy anything,” Tanaka said. “Everything imagination.”
You can’t just show up at Bear Pond Espresso and order the espresso. There are rules: No espresso after 2 p.m. (according to Tanaka, a wonky power grid affects the machine), no photographs. Most important, no Tanaka, no espresso. Because only Tanaka is allowed to use the B.P.E. Original Technique, sketched out here in his book, “Life Is Espresso”
And only Tanaka makes the “Dirty,” pictured here — a shot of espresso floating in a Mason jar of cold milk topped by a second shot of espresso. It tastes like ice cream dusted with dark cocoa. “First aroma, then fresh mouth,” Tanaka said. “It’s espresso, normal whole milk. Nothing special. But the way it’s put is most important. It’s technique.”
Part of the adventure of Bear Pond Espresso is getting there. (A second location, No. 8 Bear Pond, has cappuccinos and lattes but no espressos or Dirties.) You navigate the multistory maze of Tokyo’s Shibuya Station, line up for a commuter train on the Keio Inokashira Line, and pour out a few minutes later at at Shimokitazawa Station. Trains slice through the neighborhood, civilized chaos.
Tanaka lets his freaky espresso flag fly because the move from New York to Tokyo was liberating. “I’m a hippie,” he said. “I was born here and traveled the world, several times to the United States and back to here, and no house anymore, so that’s why. Hippie. And freedom. And revolution. Right?”
If you’ve been following my blog long enough, you’ll notice a trend of me comparing the fashion and the food industries. I’ve always said to people that if I wasn’t doing fashion, I would probably be in the food industry (and equally loving/hating it.)
In Chef David Chang’s latest issue of Lucky Peach, there is a great article by T-Magazine food editor Christine Muhlke comparing the nature of the cooking and fashion industries: how recipes spread from innovators to mass market family restaurant chains, Award winning chef’s “selling out” promoting frozen foods to survive and the stealing of ideas.
“The tween buying jeggings at Forever 21 in 2012 has no idea that they derive from the Spring 2010 runway of Balmain (which was styled by a French Vogue Editor, who last year became editor-in-chef). Meanwhile, her mom is ordering a Triple Chocolate Meltdown at Applebee’s, happily unaware of who Michel Bras is, or that he invented the half-baked chocolate cake in Laguiole, France, in 1981. To her, haute cuisine is a frou-frou luxury with no bearing on her life-not unlike $1,200 designer jeans. And yet…good ideas will always find a larger audience. Class becomes mass, and the beet chip goes on.” - Christine Muhlke. “Trickle-Down: The Circuitous Path of Ideas in Food and Fashion.” Lucky Peach Spring 2012: Pg 62-67
For anyone that has a mutual interest in both industries, I suggest you picking up this issue and reading the article. It ends with a very insightful Q&A with Che’s Alain Ducasse, Eric Ripert and David Kinch.
Æbleskivers are traditional Danish round pancakes that are made with a unique pan. I take mine to a new level by dropping a slice of banana in the middle during cooking and then rolling them in cinnamon sugar.
To make them, you’ll need to get an Æbleskiver pan. Traditional pans are made of cast iron and can hold even heat for a long period of time, but cast aluminum ones work just as well and are easier to find.
For the batter, I used Thomas Keller’s premixed Gluten Free Waffle and Pancake mix since I have a gluten intolerance. It’s a variation of his Cup4Cup Gluten Free Flour with added sugar and vanilla. Comes in a box of 2 measured servings packs, which makes 20 Æbleskivers per pack. You can use any traditional pancake recipe however. Gluten free people, get these flour mixes, they will change your life.
Cooking Æbleskivers properly is tricky at first, you need to do a series of half turns to allow the inner batter to pour out and cook. This also creates the nice beautiful sphere shape. It only takes a few attempts to start cooking them right, I suggest you watch this video on how to turn them before you try this recipe.
Perfect pancake ball with a banana inside.
Enjoy! Happy Sunday.
So the Superbowl is coming up, so I thought I’d reshare my famous guacamole. You might want to triple this recipe, it goes fast.
I spent the weekend throwing a taco party for my friend Chrissy’s Birthday. The big hit? The guacamole I made, where one party-goer proclaimed “I’m not a guacamole fan but I can’t stop eating this.”
Once you’ve had this you will never go back to that disgusting store bought melted plastic looking guacamole ever again. Please excuse the rough measurements, I really do all this by eye/taste.
- 2 large ripe hass avocados
- 1/2 chopped white onion
- 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped (make sure you wear gloves when cutting these. I made the mistake of not wearing any and my hand was on fire the whole night)
- juice of 1 small lime
- bunch of cilantro (about a cup), roughly chopped
- kosher salt
- fresh ground black pepper
- Halve and pit the avocados. Using the back of your knife, cut horizontally and vertically making rows of squares (see pic) and run a large spoon under the skin to scoop out the avocado.
- Add the white onion, jalapeno, lime juice and lightly mash and fold together with a wooden spoon.
- Add cilantro and fold in.
- add salt and pepper to taste.