the world would be a better place if everyone drank affogato ::::
When I was in medical school and younger brother Bryan was living in Chicago at the same time (and my sister, husband, and daughter part of that time, too), he started a group with friends called Storytime. I was one of a handful of married and older students in my class so my social calendar didn’t fill up with the typical late nights out at the bars. I boringly rather study, run trails in the suburbs, spend time with family, or drive to see my husband two hours south. Storytime was a high impact, low stress solution to socializing. I could hang with a bunch of bookish types.
It was often held on a weekend where Bryan’s friends could convene have some bits to eat and read stories to each other or tell stories together. The group was always small, a coffeehouse size of no more than five or so. There were just enough of us to be a group without the rowdiness and distractedness of an actual coffeehouse hum. Oftentimes these stories came from strange things that we had read on the Internet: odd Craig’s List offers or angry manifestos about random things that we derided because of the stupidity of the rants. A wayward box of photos and papers found in a dumpster provided months of entertainment. The contents revolved around a girl and her boyfriend, names I still remember but won’t publish here. (A quick and nosy internet search reveals she’s in San Francisco now and working as a sommelier!) I admired the haircut of her apparent sister or cousin. They celebrated graduations and birthdays. Sometimes the stories came from books that we were reading or were inspired by. I heard excerpts from All the Fishes Come Home To Roost by Rachel Manija Brown, Totto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, and various Michael Pollan food pronouncements. And sometimes they were things that we had written ourselves, though I cannot remember if I ever shared any of my angst. Whatever these items were, they brought us together and connected the room, even if we had never met some of the participants. I wrapped myself in those words, huffed the coffee and tea scents, and sometimes still try to remember those days when I thought I was so busy (ha ha).
While Bryan is definitely an expert on coffee and on ice cream, I don’t remember Storytime combining the two. I stumbled on affogato when I was almost 40 — how it took me so long to find it is an absolute mystery. Why don’t all American coffeehouses have this dessert/drink/main food group on their menus? It’s easy: make a cup of espresso. Pour it over ice cream. Eat and drink. Affogato is Italian for “drowned” — you submerge the ice cream in espresso. The submerging becomes a melding into one.
We haven’t done another Storytime recently, though I’ve thought about it often. Any weak attempt when our family is all together for holidays is usually thwarted by young children’s energy and early adult bedtimes after chasing that energy. There are friends in my life now where I think it would be fun to do again, provided the kids are gooped up on caffeine or sugar. As the kids become interested in what grown-ups say, they might sit down and cuddle up next to us with their own stories to tell. The closest we got with a group of friends was when we met after seeing David Wilcox perform at Eddie’s Attic this past weekend on April 28. He is one of the last true acoustic troubadours, with infinite wit and talent. (And his use of partial capos is mind blowing. Dude, seriously. How do you DO that?) We met with friends wielding guitars, violin, a mandolin, and a dobro (I think). That night, we told others’ stories in song, like another cozy coffeehouse chat, and hope to do it again. Here’s to our sweet communion of coffeehouse contentment, embodied in today’s affogato.
One year ago: true north in reconfiguration
Two years ago: pandan macarons with coconut cream filling
Three years ago: coconut peanut sunflower seed chocolate ice cream
Four years ago: black sesame pudding and sweet potato black bean burritos
Five years ago: cong you ban mian (taiwanese noodles with fried scallions) and vietnamese pickled daikon and carrots (do chua)
Six years ago: feta-walnut dip and smoky popcorn (This is seriously the BEST popcorn ever — I say this often. #makeitmakeitmakeit)
Seven years ago: buckwheat salad with mushrooms, fennel, and parsley oil and quick pickled cucumbers
- good quality vanilla ice cream, or whatever flavor you prefer. I use Haagen Daaz's Swiss Almond because I love the nuts and chocolate complimenting the coffee flavors.
- Brew espresso and keep hot. NOTE: Regular coffee doesn't cut it here -- it's too thin. You need the robust bitter strength of the espresso for a good balance with the sweet of the ice cream.
- Scoop ice cream into chosen glasses/cups. Add chopped toasted nuts if desired. Serve ice cream and espresso deconstructed, allowing your guest(s) to pour the hot liquid over the ice cream. Eat immediately. Solve world peace.