Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Milk in coffee

In the great Nero Wolfe mysteries, by Rex Stout, our tough guy, competent, clown of a narrator, Archie, is a big milk drinker. It is one the many charming affectations and eccentricities that rhythmically, naturally, and charmingly punctuate the series. There is our tough, savvy, New York City private dick drinking the beverage of babies and small children. Milk. 

I haven't had a glass of plain milk in years. My one great drink obsession is coffee. And coffee is a quintessentially adult beverage. Classic, tough, savvy private eyes normally enough drink coffee like it's water, or scotch. But underpinning my coffee drinking, essential to it, expressing its variations and quality, is milk.

I love milk.

Setting aside the absolute coffee purist, the black coffee drinker, the espresso, straight up, thrown back drinker, and I am happy to set them aside because I am not them, I believe a great coffee drink rests on three legs: the bean, the brew, and the milk. And I am beginning to believe the greatest of these is milk, simple milk.

I have lately much been out of my native element, forced by the exigencies of life to seek dreadful coffee in waiting rooms and nefarious coffee kiosks. I have uniformly found that this poor coffee is made palatable or, alternately, undrinkable by the nature of the milk that can be added. With non dairy creamer it is utterly undrinkable and I will go without no matter what the cost. With a couple of those little hyper pasteurized plastic containers of half and half it is distinctly unsatisfactory, yet drinkable to the desperate, which of course I am. But find me a pint of whole milk somewhere, maybe rBGH free if I'm lucky, throw in a 50 percent portion to that lame cup of coffee and... it's pretty good.

In your big city, or the one nearest to you, you should these days be able to find at least one truly great cafe. Look behind the counter. A dollar will get you ten that their milk comes in glass, is organic, from grass fed cows.

My dream coffee? The best I've ever had has been in the city, but for my dream coffee I believe we'd have to go pastoral, out where the cows spend languid days grazing on a lush variety of grasses. There's still a dew on the flowers, a small chill in the morning air, birds. We pull my espresso, same coffee, same machines, but for the milk, ah for the milk. We walk over to the happy cow and milk right into the pitcher. We steam it up. Creamy. Not too warm. It goes gently into the crema, the espresso. Cappuccino. Heaven.

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