Running a café, when I’m not rushing on my feet or wrestling coffee - I people watch. Mostly, I watch people watching phones. It’s rare a customer comes in and doesn’t keep their phone on their table within reach, take a call, or type away. Phones rule our lives. They’re tethered to us, and we fret when we leave home without them.
Not long ago, a prominent local farmer told me that Byron Bay hipsters were behind our local farmers market and that this monthly event was disrupting the work of real farmers like him. If I hadn’t had my KeepCup lid on I’d have spilt almond milk double-half-caf-half-decaf cappuccino on my cardigan when I heard that one! So what is a hipster and are they really infiltrating Wangaratta?
I'm pretty happy that one of my articles has been published in The Age - Epicure in the Milk Crate section. Here it is in full for those who didn't get to read it. Let me know what you think about the concept of edible Sports Gardening in the comments below.
I have a barrow to push – and I hope that after reading this, you might too.
As a cafe owner, I know too well that we need more chefs and hospitality professionals in our country. One way we can encourage and inspire each other plus the next generation of food professionals, is by considering gardening a sport!
Plastic is slowly coming off the menu thanks to some logic, ingenuity, and conversations with our suppliers, many of whom have responded with sustainable solutions. As you’ll read in this latest blog - now it’s your turn, and I’m challenging you to do three things:
Bring your reusable cup next time you’re in to buy a takeaway coffee.
Next time you buy a muffin or salad in a takeaway container, be sure to put the waste into the correct recycling bin.
Next time you pass the Council offices, pop in and ask them where the green waste bins are along Wangaratta’s streets (or email them). Much of our effort is lost if our compostable packaging ends up in the general waste bin.
As always, I’d love your feedback about this blog and your ideas about how we can all be more environmentally friendly!
Climate change, religion, cycling, politics, marriage equality, taxes, wage rates, recycling, local food, coffee temperature, refugees and asylum seekers, homelessness and pokies - those are some of the conversations that go on between customers and I. Talking is a big part of any job in hospitality.
You're welcome to just focus on your food and coffee next time you're in, or if you're keen you're most welcome to join me for a cafe conversation. And heck, if our conversation leads to a better outcome for the world and for our community, then that’s ace.
Hands up if you’re still buying your coffee in a takeaway cup? It’s been a year since the ABC’s War on Waste documentary took a close look at the impact of disposable coffee cups on the environment, and suffice to say that not much has much actually changed: most people are still buying their coffee in takeaway cups.
Yep, our takeaway cups are recyclable and compostable, but how many actually make it into the recycle bin? Where the heck are the public green waste bins? I don’t see them in the street. Is there one in your office? When you get home does your empty hit your recycle bin? Learn how you can win by switching to a reusable cup.
The good news is that as well as being better for the planet, using a reusable cup is also better for your bank balance. This is because most cafés, including Derailleur, offer a discount when you present your own cup.
Cafe Derailleur purchases local- where we can. Local production is where it will be at and we’ll all need to upskill for that future. I started ensuring I purchased local a couple of years after Derailleur opened. It was not my goal to purchase local when we started. We only planned on being a small neighbourhood espresso bar with some light snacks. Demand grew and so did our staff, our kitchen and our skills. Surely I can purchase local too. Where to start?
The world of coffee is full of passionante people that connect in many ways. Anna saw my post Turning to the Dark Side while creating some simple rules for travellers to Italy so they can understand and enjoy Italy's coffee and Cafe culture. Read her Guest Blog and let me know what you think. Enjoy!
Café Derailleur’s Tomato competition has started! Here’s a bit about it, you know, how to enter where to go for judging, that sort of stuff.
So what do we want to achieve from the tomato competition? We’d love to see more people growing their own food and we’d be really excited if our kids got involved in food production and cooking at home.
Let us know if you have any barriers to growing a few tomatoes in your back yard. Do you need someone to do some digging for you? Are you renting and felt the landlord won’t let you dig up a small part of the back yard? Always get Fruit Fly and need some strategies to deal with them? Going away and need your plants watered?
We use a heap of tomatoes at Café Derailleur. Which is great because we source all our tomatoes from Peter and Annie Ross in Yarrawonga. Yes they are hydroponic and yes that’s a compromise but life’s full of those right now. We use Peter and Annie’s tomatoes to make our own chutney and we have a cracker smoked tomato dish with smashed avocado (from Greta!).
If you would like to put in a school entry then please download this flyer to spread the word.
Instagram your tomatoes
Follow Cafe Derailleur on Instagram and tag us with #wangarattatomatocomp
If you have a strange looking tomato you can enter it a in the Wierdest Tomato competition (Instagram entry only). Instagram a photo of your wierdest tomato using the hashtags
#cafederailleur #wangarattatomatocomp #mynortheaster #wierdesttomato)
Here @chef_and_Dad tomatoes growing in his backyard. (Thanks Tim for the Pic!)
Just to keep you all on your toes, why not see what you can do with all those excess tomatoes you are growing. Early next year we’ll announce a date for a preserving competition. Of course there’ll be a red tomato relish category along with a green tomato relish. We will also sneak in a fruit chutney category too. Now you best get planting and cooking!
Chutney or relish?
Apparently confusion reigns across the ether. Here’s a link to add to the confusion about chutneys or relish.
A bit of background on the tomato competition…
Well it’s been a big year with many issues being raised, particularly those that concern food and our environment. Three Food Lab sessions investigated how we should tackle building a secure local food system in North East Victoria and how to improve our communities health, followed by an amazing public lecture by Prof Tim Reeves on “The ‘Grand Challenges’ for Agriculture and Future Food and Nutritional Security. Our Local Wangaratta farmers market is growing and recently celebrated their third year of operation. Stephanie Alexanders kitchen gardens are at most primary schools but we have a growing obesity problem in our society and food literacy is becoming a major issue. Needless to say that finding local skilled chefs is proving near impossible and will make or break many food businesses.
So how do we contribute to the change that we want to see in our world? Tackle all these issues of course. One bit at a time. And do so within our sphere of influence. For me its food. Or as my wife says… “Eric are you going to save the world through food again?” Well yep as that’s the way I look at the world. I know from running Café Derailleur for seven years that energy costs are going up, labour costs are increasing, our food costs are increasing and supply is a challenge as it continues to come in from around Australia (Yes we do work to purchase locally where possible). Building my knowledge of how to use local seasonal food is a priority as is encouraging my chefs to do so to. Our customers benefit with fresh, seasonal produce and we expect there to be a flow on to improve the skills and knowledge of our young people coming into my industry.
Why won't you serve me an extra extra hot hot chocolate? (What temperature is that anyway?) Yep we were asked to do this last year and it's been simmering away in the back of my mind ever since. You know me so you know that I gave a thoughfull and considered response. Here is the background to that response and the research the forms the basis of the way we operate.
By the way, normally we texture milk to 65 degrees and pour it into a warmed cup or glass. We will serve a hot coffee, just ask us. We’ll make it hot by heating the cup with hot water and texturing the milk to 70 degrees. The drink usually arrives at your table at 60 degrees for a cup of cappuccino or flat white or just above 55 degrees for a latte. Your hot chocolate can take a little more heat as the chocolate in the milk allows the milk to be textured longer without the milk cooking or the emulsion breaking down as quickly. This is industry standard. Baristas I've contacted said that they do this too. They also said that if a customer is demanding, they’ll cook the milk until it's boiling and burnt-so careful what you wish for! Oh and by the way our interpretation of “luke warm” would be just above body temperature which when I last checked was 36.5-37.5 degrees. Lastly if we have made a mistake and your coffee is too hot or too cold, let us know and we'll make it again.
So is it just me or are more people asking for extra extra hot coffees? OK it could be the weather cooling down? Or maybe some other factors like being accustomed to boiling water from a kettle to make tea bag tea or Blend 43 coffee, or maybe we are used to the super hot coffee or hot chocolates that are dispensed into plastic cups from a one press vending machine or from fast food restaurants? Or have our palatesbeen so abused with hot beverages that over time it has become desensitised to heat-just like the hands of a chef who has been working the pans all their life. Maybe distance from Melbournes CBD makes people expect a hotter coffee? Please let me know why you think people are asking for hotter coffees.
So why do you want a hot coffee? Do you want it to last longer? Do you want to be able to drink it longer down the Hume Hwy? Is it because you would like to sit outside and still have a hot coffee on a freezing winter's morning? Or like the customer today that wanted a hot coffee to warm his insides! (I know, he should dress warmer:) Or it could be that as we age our threshold for pain increases and we become desensitised to heat? Many people experience changes in the touch-related sensations as they age.
So anecdotally I’d say more older people order extra hot coffees. There are benefits to aging as we are able to tolerate the stronger flavours and appreciated the nuances of a long black or espresso coffee or a full bodied shiraz or cabernet. The bonus is long black coffees are delivered to the table at about 70-75 degrees. It takes about 5-6 minutes to drop to a temperature of 65 degrees. Problem solved.
Now let's get a couple of milk facts out of the way… Why is coffee served at 65 degrees? Milk gets sweeter the warmer it gets, well up until 65 degrees. (That’s the Lactose solids dissolving in the milk). We like a sweeter tasting milk drink as it balances nicely with the acidity in coffee and with acidity comes flavour and a clean palate at the end of your coffee. We also like the fat in milk as this not only helps balance acidity but fat carries flavour, assists with mouth feel and texture and helps with the absorption of some nutrients. Fat also reduces the need to add sugar to your coffee. Textured milk is relatively stable at 65 degrees. The textured milk is really a fat emulsion, just like a hollandaise. As the foam gets hotter, the bubbles become unstable, the liquid drains more readily causing the bubbles to join together and collapse creating a textual and visual let down.
At around 72-74 degrees milk begins to sour and has a cooked taste, apparently this reaction is called a maillard reaction. It's a great reaction when you are baking bread or croissants but not in a coffee, or tea for that matter. And at 80 degrees milk scalds, and begins to caramelise between 80-100 degrees. Full caramelization needs time, about 30 minutes at 100 degrees (This would happen if the barista didn't rinse the milk jug each time they textured milk). You’d end up with something like Dulce de Luce if you did it slowly at the lower temperature or burnt caramel at a higher temperature.
So a quick summary why your barista won't heat your milk beyond 70 degrees
- It sours and tastes burnt above 70 degrees
- Will separate quickly in the jug so will not look aesthetically pleasing (remember nice or hot not nice and hot?)
- Separated foam does not combine with coffee crema making the foam taste like a babycino(or fluffy if you’re from New Zealand)
- Baristas take pride in the products they produce.
- They are following instructions and procedures in their organisation.i.e. the boss said so
- It's a slippery slope and the habit of texturing milk too hot could flow on to other customers. Or as is the case of chefs, regularly burning your hand on the pans will slowly desensitize your hands to heat.
- They know that waiters carrying a boiling cup of coffee through a busy cafe are a risk to themselves and their little customers
- They increase the risk of scalding themselves. (hot milk at 60 degrees takes 1 second to scold you whereas hot milk at 50 degrees takes 10 seconds)
Here's a scenario that is all wrong…
Customer orders an extra hot latte… Barista pulls a ripper coffee shot then starts to texture the milk and as they get past 70 degrees a sound like a jet taking off reverberates around the cafe as the foam loses liquid - not a reassuring sound for others waiting in the queue! Oh and then the coffee needs to look nice (we can do nice or hot but not nice and hot). In order to pour the milk into the cup, baristas usually do this by lifting the cup to get the angle right, then we'll lift the cup onto a saucer. Even me with chefs hands have come close to dropping a cup that is too hot. How do I expect my staff to get around this? Use a tea towel or oven mitt like you are pulling something hot out of the oven? Again, not reassuring.
Say we safely landed the scalded milk into the cup and onto the saucer, it's next journey is through the busy Saturday morning cafe crowd by the junior waitress. She does a Maradona move around the kids playing with toys on the floor, opens the front door without being run over by the customers chatting as they race through the door to secure that last table. Out onto the pavement and it's a free for all. Dodge the BMXers and skateboarders jumping the gutter, swerve to miss the person walking and texting, note the dogs tied to the table legs, no don't put the coffee anywhere near that grasping two year old… Phew mission accomplished. She does note that 10 mins later the coffee hasn't been touched as the customers are still deep in conversation.
Yes you the customer are right. Up to a point. Or in this case to a temperature. So you want a hot cup of coffee? l’ll let you in on a secret, baristas don’t ever heat the milk beyond 70 degrees. They’ll do everything they can to not do this.... They’ll heat the cup, and maybe even the handle. That way when you touch the handle you’ll think it’s hot and when you put your lips to the rim and burn them, you’ll think the coffee is hot, and finally when you get to drink the liquid gold, it will still be at 65 degrees as the barista wanted. They are protecting their product, their integrity and their safety, the safety of their colleagues and customers and that of the business they work for.
Now we have been talking about cow's milk only. Soy shouldn't go above 55 degrees and it curdles, more so in more acidic or strong coffees, almond and lactose free milk I’ll get back to you on those. You want to bring your own goats milk in? Sure. Coconut milk? Sure. Cashew milk? Sure
Our focus is on producing and serving quality food and beverages. Along the way customers come and go as our products evolve and we learn more about the needs of our customers. We reckon it is pretty special that the town of Wangaratta is happy to support the diversity that is Cafe Derailleur. Having a robust debate online has made me look into every aspect of “extra extra hot milk”. It has confirmed that we are doing the right thing. We are listening to our customers and focusing on the quality of the product and that speaks for itself, on the reviews, feedback from our customers and in our hearts. Needless to say that thriving in the hospitality game for six years says more than ever that by focusing on the things that matter to us will follow through to the bottom line.
So how do you create a new dish, Eric? It’s a commonly asked question, and although the process varies each time, I’ve seen a few dishes come and go so I’d like to let you in on the journey with our latest Café Derailleur addition- Sweet potato cakeswith peanut satay, chilli, lime, smashed avocado, English spinach and coconut bacon.
When bike riders visit our cafe we welcome them, because we know that cycling’s as healthy for the waistline as it is for our local economy. We also want them to be safe so we point out the best rides, roads and routes and highlight other cycle-friendly eating places. That's what I did with Jim Freeman and his friend when they dropped into Cafe Derailleur for lunch a few Fridays ago.
When was the last time you wrote a business plan and stuck to it? We've almost done it. When we opened Cafe Derailleur in 2010, we set the goal of building the business and exiting within five years - it has now been seven and we've just placed the cafe on the market. Plenty of blood, sweat and tears - and knitting and crochet - has gone into creating Derailleur.
You know I keep a close eye on what is going on in the coffee scene in Melbourne and around the world. Somethings interest me and others (deconstructed coffee for example) don't. I learnt about filter coffee last year when visiting our coffee roaster. Many of our customers over summer have been joining us on our filter coffee journey. Here's how we arrived at or starting point.
It’s occurred to me and to those many customers I've chatted to, that we don't really know those people who’ve put themselves up for election. Understanding the skills and knowledge each candidate offers is a good start. To do this, I’ve prepared a selection criteria. So, I hope candidates knock on my door and visit my cafe soon.
On the eve of Council elections I find myself reflecting on what the future holds for us here in Wangaratta and what the past has taught us. After a three-year sojourn, democracy is being returned to the Rural City of Wangaratta and we’ve a buffet of twenty candidates vying for seven positions. So what should be our selection criteria for the job of a Councillor?