Comet Coffee

At least once a week, I stop by Ann Arbor’s Comet Coffee. A short, pleasant walk from my office can have me there in five minutes. This is not a place I visit for quotidian caffeine supplements; rather, it is somewhere I go for pleasure- a brief escape from my workday.

Comet Coffee
Comet Coffee. 16 Nickels Arcade, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
734.222.0579 | Facebook | Twitter | Yelp

Admittedly, I was pre-disposed to like this place. It is nearby. It is aesthetically pleasing. It has a limited menu of coffee drinks and locally made pastries (some from Pastry Peddler, on occasion some from Miette). And, perhaps most importantly, the baristas make consistently good macchiatos, which they’ll serve you with a glass of still or sparkling water. If you’re not in the mood for a flaky croissant or a plate-sized oatmeal cookie studded with dried fruit, coconut, pecans, and chocolate chunks, you can order one of the bite-sized Ossi da Mordere to sit on the edge of your saucer.

Comet Coffee

MacchiatoSo, how is it that this coffee shop gets alternately lauded (by even the New York Times) and derided (as in this worth-reading coffee roundup from A2Gastroboy)? I believe it is a matter of customer expectations and coffee rituals. Not everyone wants the same thing. Here is my quick take on people who do and don’t like Comet:
If you’ve never been there before, try visiting during a less-busy time (avoid beginning of workday and lunch hour). And if you’re getting something to go, consider bringing your own mug (you’ll get a nominal discount, and your beverage will stay much hotter than it will in the takeaway cups).

For a little more about the business, try this article from the Michigan Daily.

Cooking from: Kate Zuckerman’s The Sweet Life

Cinnamon Caramel Mousse

Zuckerman, Kate (text) & Tina Rupp (photogs.). The Sweet Life: Desserts from Chanterelle. Bulfinch. Oct. 2006. 224p. photogs. index. ISBN 0821257447. $35. [AMAZON]

I’ve heard that on average, people make only two recipes out of each cookbook they own. I can’t verify this statistic, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were true. In my own rapidly expanding collection, there are piles of cookbooks I’ve never cooked from. But for every few titles i’ve only read, there will be one whose frequent use is written upon its pages in spilled cake batter and chocolate fingerprints.

After I made this Cinnamon Caramel Mousse, I took a look through my old photographs and realized i’ve made at least twelve recipes out of The Sweet Life. It was a birthday gift from my mother, given to me a few months after its release. At the time, I didn’t have much pastry experience. I quickly grew to appreciate the book for its neat organization, sophisticated recipes, soundly explained techniques, gorgeous photographs*, and consistent results. (*Tina Rupp also photographed Poliafito & Lewis’s Baked and Baked Explorations. You can see some examples of her work on her portfolio, or this great post from DesignSponge.)

I have yet to make a recipe from it that I didn’t love, and if that’s not enough endorsement, my husband (who has next to no baking experience) managed to whip up the Chocolate Caramel Tart while I was away at a conference. Zuckerman’s emphasis on instruction is, in my opinion, one of this book’s greatest strengths.

For your enjoyment, here’s a slideshow of nearly everything i’ve made out of this book:

 

Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer

François Pralus Boite de Mexicaines

Pralus Boite de Mexicaines
François Pralus is a French chocolatier whose company manufactures and sells nearly 100 tons of chocolate annually. In 2007, the only place I could find any of this chocolate was Mon Aimee Chocolat, a retailer in Pittsburgh’s Strip District that began stocking his colorfully wrapped pyramids of single-origin bars. I stared wistfully at the packaging for months, until they started selling a miniature version. At 1/10th the size of the original, it was a treat that fit within my limited student grocery budget.

The second time I encountered Pralus chocolates was a year later when I visited Paris for, among other things, the Salon du Chocolat. There, Pralus had transformed their small booth into a functioning bakery, cranking out loaves upon loaves of Praluline, a brioche studded with pink pralined almonds.

Pralus Booth, making BriochesNow, Pralus products are much more easily obtained. There’s even a Trader Joe’s copycat. Here in Ann Arbor, Zingerman’s Next Door has a great selection, and they’ll let you try anything before you buy, which may or may not be a good thing- a free sample convinced me to buy the Barre Infernale Lait, a hefty brick of hazelnut cream enrobed in their exceptional 45% milk chocolate (here’s a nice review from Chocablog). At around $20, it is the single most expensive confection i’ve ever purchased.

The latest treat i’ve sampled is the above-pictured Boite de Mexicaines, which I received for Valentines Day. It’s an elegant box of roasted Valencia almonds coated in 75% chocolate and dusted with cocoa (there’s also a milk chocolate-hazelnut variety). If you enjoy chocolate coated nuts, they are a luxury that will outshine any waxy, lecithin-laced versions you’ve had in the past.