Chef Wolfgang Puck at our Spago lunch
As my readers know, I am obsessed with all things coffee! I drink gallons of it during the day and end my dinner with a cup or two of decaf, which is something of a joke since I am already surfeited with caffeine, my drug of choice. So at lunch the other day with Chef Wolfgang Puck at his wonderful Spago, when I ordered an iced coffee at the end of my meal (smoked salmon/caviar pizza), Wolf asked our waiter to fetch some bottles of his own brand. He brought some attractive bottles of WOLFGANG PUCK'S ICED COFFEE. There were four flavors: Café au Lait, Vanilla Fusion, Crème Caramel, and Double Blend Mocha.
Wolf's Iced Coffee is only 120 calories, organic, kosher... and absolutely delicious!
Wolf then educated me in the intricacies of making the world's best iced coffee! "Coffee aficionados have long known that cold brewing iced coffee produces a better taste than the traditional hot brew method," he explained. He then went on to detail the cold brewing method, which I had vaguely heard about. "The cold brewing process involves soaking ground coffee in cool water for several hour. What results is a much more concentrated brew, with more coffee flavor and less 'bite' than the traditional hot brew method creates." He went on to note that leading coffee retailers and manufacturers do not often practice this method because it is labor intensive.
I later spoke to a guy named Manes Alves, President of Coffee Lab Int., who told me, "Cold brewed equals slow brewed; you have to slow down the water going through the coffee beans to one drop per second, as opposed to brewing coffee with hot water, which takes only about six minutes. Cold brewing takes anywhere from 4 to 24 hours, but the results are really worth it."
The esteemed Wall Street Journal did a major story last week headlined, "Why Making Iced Coffee at Home Is Such a Grind," making the point that most home-made iced coffee is undrinkable. "The ideal iced coffee is both strong and smooth-rich enough to stand up to ice, milk and maybe a sweetener, yet also somewhat thirst-quenching, without any bitter tastes." It goes on to say that professionally-made cold-brewed coffee is the way to go, which is where Wolfgang Puck's Iced Coffee shines. More than a billion cups of iced coffee were served outside the home this year! The writer points out that cold-brewed iced coffee is less acidic and better for sensitive stomachs.
Texas businessman Craig Lieberman approached Puck with the iced coffee idea.
Wolf told me of how a leading Houston businessman and food distributor, Craig Lieberman, had come to him two years ago with idea of making the very best iced coffee ever, to be sold under Wolf's name. It was a given that they would not put out the product until everyone agreed that it was better than anything else around. (Starbuck's Frappucino - ughh - are you listening?)
At the introduction of the iced coffee at Spago, Pastry Chef Sherry Yard, Wolf and Lieberman.
What ensued was two years of intense work on everyone's part, including the world's leading flavor scientists and coffee experts. I heard the story of how one flavor, the Crème Caramel, was worked on by Wolf, his Executive Pastry Chef Sherry Yard, and the leading flavor scientists, until after many months and a dozen tries, they got the caramel flavor of which Sherry approved. She came to our table later and told me, "For this flavor, we wanted an iced coffee of espresso and organic milk with notes of vanilla and a toasted caramel flavor. And still with only 120 calories, which is what all the coffees feature." I tasted it, and it was fabulous.
Wolf told me that his new ready-to-pour iced coffees have a superior coffee taste due to the cold-brew process, plus they are made with the finest ingredients, producing a drink which is not too sweet. "We use a special blend of organic coffees from all over the world (Ethiopia, Peru, Colombia and Mexico), mixed with complementing ingredients such as Tahitian vanilla, European chocolate, organic milk, and pure cane sugar. The result is an organic 120-calorie beverage in four favors." (My favorite, incidentally, is the Double Blend Mocha, with the perfect balance of espresso and decadent Viennese chocolate.) They are also kosher.
I inquired from Craig Lieberman, the Houston maven who helped introduce Texans to Häagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry's, where Wolf's iced coffees could be purchased in the Southland, and he told me they are carried in Gelson's, Albertson's, some Whole Foods, Bristol Farms, Henry's Farmer's Market and other places coming shortly. Of course, all of the Wolfgang Puck Express Cafes carry the coffees. I went into my Beverly Hills' Whole Foods today and they were selling them for $2.39 for a single bottle; a four pack was $7.99. Incidentally, this past weekend I used the coffee as a prime ingredient in a frozen custard dessert I made for my Hollywood Bowl picnic basket... the 120-calorie drink is also fabulous with a little spirits (like cognac or tequila, or 'The Wolf,' an Irish coffee with Irish whiskey)... but that's another story. I know you will be attending the 28th Annual American Food and Wine Festival on Sept. 25th at the Universal Studio back lot, so pick up a bottle or two there and sample it yourself.
I have known Wolfgang Puck since 1980, and no one has a greater integrity and respect for the environment than this extraordinary chef and man... so when he lends his name to a product, pay attention. Drink up and enjoy!