An Unexpectedly Revelatory Flavor Pairing Experience – TaköPGH

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Though this is a blog about an experience that I had with my wife at Takö, this is not a blog about my experience at TaköThough the anniversary dinner we had there was truly excellent in all ways – service, atmosphere, food, drinks – I discovered a revelatory pairing of flavors that seems so obvious that it’s almost shocking I’ve never had it before… and it could’ve occurred to me just about anywhere.  It just so happened to occur in the middle of a celebratory evening that was already deliciously enjoyable on its own, taking it from memorable to life-altering.

OK, OK, life-altering is probably a bit on the heavy-handed side, but considering how often I consume both of these particular items, this is a pairing that could be a relatively dramatic enhancement to my future culinary experiences.  I’ve tried it three times since our anniversary dinner last Sunday, and it’s been equally amazing all three times.

As I’ve already said, the discovery of this pairing had less to do with the actual food at Takö, masterfully prepared though it may be, and more to do with the circumstances which brought the pairing to light.  By the time we had arrived for our 7:30PM reservation Sunday evening, it had been a chilly and sleepy weekend, and I was running low on energy; definitely not a good way to start off your sixth anniversary dinner!

As such, in addition to the both-spicy queso and guacamole appetizers and bar drinks that we ordered, I also opted for a steaming mug of black coffee to perk me up a bit.  After a couple of cautious sips, our appetizers arrived and we hungrily dove in.  This is where the magic started.

Similar to how following a breath mint, chewing gum, or other food-based menthol oil with cold water adds an icy jolt to an already refreshing experience, drinking bright and bitter black coffee after eating spicy foods electrifies the taste buds and dramatically boosts the overall experience.  It’s so painfully obvious to me now, after the fact, but until last Sunday it had never occurred to me that the stark heat of coffee would enhance the oils that create spicy sensations in food.  The coffee not only washes the spicy oils around your entire mouth, spreading and deepening the warming experience, but the flavor of roasted coffee works remarkably well with many different peppery hot foods.

This doesn’t just apply to evening meals; in fact, it’s a natural situation that will often come up at breakfast:  serving up eggs with several hearty dashes of hot sauce and a piping mug of coffee.  It does not have to be a particular type of spicy food – jalapeños, crushed red peppers, hot sauces, or even Buffalo Wings… It works in every scenario in which I’ve tried it.  I’ve even found it works with a good decaf, so if you don’t normally like to drink coffee in the evening, you can still try it.

As stated above, Takö is a truly remarkable restaurant, and probably deserving of a blog all to itself.  What thrust the evening from a thoroughly enjoyable celebration to a course-changing culinary experience was definitely the discovery of this flavor pairing – one I will most assuredly continue experimenting with and expanding upon.  I hope that you will enjoy it as much as I do – if you aren’t enjoying it already!

EDITOR’S NOTE – you might be asking how I’ve never experienced this if I have hot sauce on my eggs with coffee in the morning.  You’re on the right track.  I’ve done that more than enough times; the difference is that, until recently, it’s never been black coffee:  It’s always had cream & sugar.  The fats in cream or half and half definitely mutes the spicy oils in hot sauce or other hot foods – it almost certainly has to be black coffee for the pairing to work most effectively.  If you’ve had a different experience, or tried different pairings along these lines – please comment and let us know!


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