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The seasonal drink at Peregrine Espresso sounded too good for Carrie and I to pass up. It was a shot of espresso mixed with pumpkin puree and served with a generous dollop of graham-cracker whipped cream on a Chinese soup spoon. The amuse-cum-espresso came with its own cutesy Halloween handle, the Bela Lugosi, named after the Hungarian Dracula who continues to struggle with typecasting even after death, even at a Capitol Hill coffee shop.
The barista instructed Carrie on the proper way to consume the drink, as if we were at the minibar or something. We were to take a bite of the whipped cream and follow it with a sip of espresso. We did as told.
The whipped cream had a light toasty sweetness, courtesy of those grahams, but its pleasures were quickly erased by the espresso, which blasted my tongue with bitterness, gourd-sweetened bitterness. It was hard to tell if the shot was improperly pulled — the beans ground too finely? the pull too long? — or if the sweetness of both the whipped cream and the puree had emphasized the bitterness, as countering flavors tend to do.
Carrie thought of mixing the whipped cream into the espresso, to see if that helped. It didn’t. It just muddled the flavors. It was only after we had finished the shot that another idea struck me: Maybe we shouldn’t have been so dainty with our bites of whipped cream and instead just mouthed the whole damn dollop (or at least half) before sipping the espresso? Maybe the espresso was purposely pulled too long because of all the added sweetness?
More experimentation is needed.