Cooking Chapbook

Notes from my kitchen in the D.C. area & beyond

Tag: coffee

American breakfast, Deutsch Frühstück

My favorite part of the morning is the cozy warmth under the covers, the haze of thought, the sleepy deliciousness of the body awakening, every synapse cloaked in soft woolen knit. I know some people spring from the bed alert as a crowing rooster, but I’ve never belonged to that kingdom.

Once I’m up, my second favorite part is breakfast.

American breakfast plate

Bacon, eggs, toast – as American as can be.

We live in Germany right now, and the breakfasts here – called Frühstück – are lovely in their own way. Freshly baked rolls, flaky croissants, jams and rich butters, gentle folds of salty ham, dense sheets of cheese. European breakfasts feel more like a picnic than a decadent celebration of a day anew. It’s rare to find French toast, pancakes or eggs any way but soft boiled on the menu.

Typical German breakfast

Typical German Frühstück, this one at a cafe in Heidelberg. I love the jam in the edible cup, like the base of a little ice cream cone.

In the States, we’ll have brunch routinely, but here in Germany, it took me awhile to realize that if I wanted an American breakfast, I needed to make it myself. Not that it’s hard, and it’s so much cheaper than eating breakfast out.

Jam and bread

Jam and bread

A hunk of baguette with a crackling skin, gooey marmalade with strips of citrus peel …

German eggs

German eggs

… and the eggs. Don’t get me started on the eggs. We’ll be here all day. Even the ones from the Rewe, the standard grocery store, are bright with flavor …

Toast in the oven

Warm and toasty in the oven.

… I toast the slices of baguette under the broiled, because we have no toaster right now. They are done in a jiffy …



… and bacon. Another thing you must do at home, because in Germany, the varieties of cured pork are all exquisite and nearly all sliced and cold. Brittle bacon must be an American invention.


Coffee, please!

And then there’s the coffee, heaped with milk (the MinusL brand is lactose-free) and sugar.

Breakfast spead

One happy skillet of eggs for two.

Nothing complicated, but this breakfast tastes of home, an ocean away.


Cafe Spanjola, Croatia


By Friday, I’m ready for an escape. Here’s a place I’d like to beam myself back to … sipping coffee at a fort on Hvar Island, Croatia, on a breath-taking October afternoon.

The view from Spanjola fort on Hvar Island, Croatia

The view from Spanjola fort on Hvar Island, Croatia

We spent one afternoon in October last year climbing to the fort that overlooks Hvar Island, off the coast near Split, Croatia. The view was spectacular, and as we were in Europe, espresso awaited us at the top.

The path up to the fort switch-backs past spiky plants and vendors selling local lavender sachets. The terrain felt a bit like Arizona, until I would look back down to the glimmering Adriatic Sea.

Walk up to Spanjola fort, Hvar Island Croatia

Walk up to Spanjola fort, Hvar Island Croatia

At the peak, along with cannons and a museum …

Cannon overlooking the Adriatic Sea

Who would ever fire at such a serene scene?

… you’ll find a cafe …

Spanjola fort coffee shop

Spanjola fort coffee shop

… where you might consider stretching out into a chair and ordering a coffee. I’d recommend with cream, which might be a sweet surprise.

Two coffees at Cafe Spanjola

Two coffees at Cafe Spanjola

“Cream” in Croatia often translated to whipped cream. We sat and sipped and marveled at the fort, the view, the beauty of the Dalmatian Coast, while the sun blazed down on the canopy above us. I’d love to go back …


View from Hvar Island, Croatia

My first little espresso maker

Don’t ask how it happened. I don’t really know. But I somehow seemed to have missed the part of growing up where you learn how to make coffee. And the part where you buy your first coffee maker.

I also missed “Star Wars” entirely, but that’s a separate transgression.

This month, I finally bought my first coffee contraption – at age 30-something, on the eve of our friends’ visit. (House guests are the key to making so much go from rumination to reality.)

I was waffling between the ordinary drip coffee pot (cheap, hulking, the usual starter appliance) and the French press (cheap, slim, fussy to clean). Both could produce adequate coffee, though nothing like the strong stuff I’ve come to crave in Germany. We’re expats at the moment, and anything bought with a cord is perishable. A fancy expresso machine seemed unreasonable, and though some friends have trekked their beloved Keurigs across the Atlantic and attached a hefty voltage converter, that seemed a bit much to me. (I’m a coffee novice, clearly.)

But it turns out there is another option. No electricity required. No throw-away filters. Stronger than your average American brew coffee. Simple to clean. Shiny and cute. And less than $40.

I present to you: the moka pot.

Bialetti Venus moka pot

Bialetti Venus 4-cup stovetop espresso maker

You might not recognize this little pot, but you’ve probably seen him before – looking more angular. The original moka pot was patented in the 1930s. It’s still made today in aluminum by Bialetti.

Bialetti man on a moka pot

One more, please! Apparently, the little Bialetti man is a caricature of the company founder’s son (Wikipedia)

This particular version is made of stainless steel, which I read was better – at least in some ways – because it doesn’t impart the taste of aluminum. And it’s friendly to all types of stovetops.

Venus espresso pot, separated

Two parts of the three-part espresso stovetop maker.

The bottom half holds the water and a little removable compartment of ground coffee beans. Once the pot boils, delicious espresso bubbles up into the top pitcher-like half.

Where the ground coffee beans go

Where the ground coffee beans go

Hochland espresso kassico

Our current espresso beans from Hochland. Yes, we like bears.

Venus pot compartment with coffee beans

Fit it up with ground coffee beans – just don’t press it in

I made the mistake of leaving lots of room in the coffee compartment, because the instructions warn against packing it too tightly. But our visiting friends (experienced coffee connoisseurs) showed me the way: If you want the strongest brew you can get, you have to fill up the little cup as much as you can.

Venus stovetop maker – on the stovetop

Please don’t leave me. I like to be watched.

Then screw on the top part and set it on a burner. I had to experiment with temperatures, because I started way too low. Turning the knob to medium-high (about 9 o’clock) works well for my stove, but I’d suggest starting lower to find your stove’s sweet spot.

Coffee brewing in Venus pot

Here comes the coffee!

After a few minutes – maybe 4? I should time it – the water begins to rustle. A minute later, it will start percolating up the spout and spilling over into the top compartment. From that point, it takes little time at all. (Sometimes, I’ll just turn off the burner at this point. The residual heat keeps it going.)

I love the gurgling sound. It rises to a growl, which reminds me of a tea kettle. So organic and pleasant. When you hear the growl, pull the pot off the burner.

Pour of espresso

Sweet taste of near espresso. Call it super coffee.

The taste is so much stronger than a typical drip pot of coffee, a big jolt in the morning. And bonus: Once the pot cools, just rinse the three parts and set them aside to dry. No soap recommended!

The only downside is that I bought the 4-cup version. 4 cups ≠ 4 cups. “4 cups” = 50 ml times 4, or 4 pseudo-espresso shots. Oops. This meant that we made 5 or 6 or 7 “pots” of coffee during each breakfast with the four of us. On the upside, the brew was tasty enough that our friends sought out the Hochland beans to take back to the States.

Next up: Foaming milk to make a cappuccino. Any recommendations?

In Europe, coffee as art

I never quite got coffee in the States.

I didn’t get the cheap cups at 7-11 or the communal coffee pot in the newsroom or the “first coffee” period in business school. (I tried to do the coffee thing then, really tried, out of some duty to the “process,” and ended up switching to green tea after headaches ensued.)

In Europe, though, I have fallen madly in love with cappuccinos. They are delicious. They make my head buzz happily and productively. I crave them. Sitting in a cafe for a few hours with a book or my sweetheart and a warm cup filled with rich espresso and delicious cream is heaven. Bliss for 2.50€.

And I never fail to be delighted if  my cappuccino comes bedazzled with art.

These three beauties came from a breakfast in Croatia.


I wondered how one creates such prettiness, a question YouTube promptly answered.

Watch a barista make a bear and a leaf in this video. I really can’t wait to get a bear on my coffee.