's Sites We Love Saveur Magazine has listed The Skinny Gourmet among its "Sites We Love"

I've been having a great time checking out Nashville's high end dining on the cheap thanks to Groupon. Have you tried it yet? Its awesome. I don't know why I ever hesitated.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Is Coffee the new Wine?

As I promised last week in my rant about airport "gourmet" I'm back with another installment of my investigation into all things gourmet (or not).

Like so many fashionistas regularly announcing blue (or brown or red) is the new black, the high-end coffee industry is now emulating the well established snobbery of the wine industry. As I sit in Starbucks, gleefully sipping my mocha cappuccino with its fully creamy head of foam, a large sign proclaims “Coffee is culinary.” I read that Starbuck’s “master roaster” Andrew Linnemann is a “culinary expert” collaborating with top chefs to pair food with coffee. Similarly, an artfully chalked sign describes the tantalizing wonders of Ubora blend “Created by a renown chef and master coffee blender, this coffee is elegant with a layered complexity of delicate floral, citrus and herbal notes.” Coffee is culinary?

I can’t tell whether I want to celebrate or resist this trend. Already we live in a world transformed. Not so long ago people would have quaked to think of spending four dollars on a morning cup of coffee. In those dark ages we relied instead on relatively inexpensive filtered drip coffee makers. The very lucky could automatically program the machine to start brewing in the wee hours of the morning, so we could wake up to coffee brewed by the adult version of a mechanically nurturing nanny. Today we relish a cup expertly prepared with the highest quality exotic inputs on expensive precision tools that blend science with art, an ideal foam temperature with an illusively perfect tilt of the wrist.

It has all the markings of gourmet traditions. Exotic and high quality ingredients. Expertise in preparation. Elegance in presentation (that creamy chocolate and vanilla swirl in the top of my mocha). I write a blog that manifestly proclaims to care about things gourmet. So why do I feel so resistant?

Perhaps it is because I worry that like other truly extreme terms being devalued by overuse, gourmet will soon cease to mean anything. I am one of those people who believes that some terms should remain just that: extreme and therefore rare. I object to the metaphorical extension of specific terms into all sorts of other realms. Can we really speak meaningfully of gourmet shaving? Perhaps too, some small part of me also worries that I, in my own small way, am participating in that degradation by having the audacity to suggest that truly elegant and delightful, even gourmet, food can be prepared at home more healthfully. It is a blasphemous marriage of healthy diet and gourmet delight that would offend James Beard.

Some simpler part of myself also resists the marketing feel to the whole endeavor. Because all I really need in life is one more realm where I can purchase freedom from my own ineptitudes and insecurities. A Starbucks master roaster collaborates with culinary experts to pair food with coffee. Eek! Pair food with coffee? Now for some period of time I will nervously wring my hands at the end of the dinner course as I worry whether I have adequately paired the gourmet coffee blend with the dessert course. Are the elegant floral and citrus notes of the coffee ideal to bring out the fresh citrus notes in the fruit tart or will it be too much? What is a girl to do?! But then, mercifully, we will certainly find a whole industry glad to tell us just which beans to pair with which desserts. Perhaps Robert Parker will begin rating coffee beans so I can thankfully pay $38 dollars for a bag of beans comfortingly rated a “97,” confident in the fact that my guests will receive nothing but the best of expertly sanctified and quantified quality coffee.

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