Food File

Sat, Jan 23, 2010, 00:00

Banker turned barista:Colin Harmon, a former investment banker turned coffee entrepreneur, is the reigning Irish barista champion. He finished fourth in the world championships in Atlanta last year despite being a relative newcomer to the industry.

“A year to the day after I started my first job as a barista, I was appearing in the finals of the World Barista Championships. The guy that won had about 20 years experience on me, so it was quite a shock to finish where I did,” Harmon says.

Since his world championship appearance, Harmon has been a freelance barista and coffee consultant, working in Italy, Austria, Spain, Norway, Germany and Japan.

He recently opened a modest coffee outlet, Third Floor Espresso, at 54 Middle Abbey Street, Dublin 1 (at the entrance to the Twisted Pepper), where he serves heavenly coffee, made on the espresso machine that was specially built for his world championship bid.

“I can adjust the temperature with a touch of a button to suit certain coffees and it is temperature-stable to ensure efficient brewing. I’ve had my grinders retro-fitted with digital timers and built to suit my needs. Our coffee grinders probably cost more than most cafes’ espresso machines.”

He also uses Japanese drip filters (as pictured above).

Harmon sources his beans from artisan roasters, and grinds fresh for every cup. “Our espresso is a seasonal blend that will change every three months. We’re currently on our winter espresso, “Frosty”, which is made up of a Bolivian Machacamarca, Brazilian Sao Judas and El Salvadorian La Illusion. It’s an incredibly approachable espresso, really sweet and fruity.”

Tomorrow he is hosting a launch party in the Middle Abbey Street shop, starting at noon, where customers can try different speciality coffees and meet some of Europe’s coffee experts including artisan roaster Steve Leighton of Hasbeen Coffee, Norwegian barista champion Oda Misje Haug, and Karl Purdy of Coffee Angel, who won the Irish barista championship in 2006.

Despite his perfectionist tendencies, Harmon’s coffee is cheaper than most – an 8oz cappuccino costs just €2. You can read his thoughts on coffee on his blog, 

The Italian Diet

Dieters who want to eat well while counting the calories will find much to like in The Italian Diet,by I’m A Celebrityjungle king Gino D’Acampo. The recipes are based on lean meats, fish, pulses, good fats, fruit and vegetables, and they come with comprehensive calorie, fat, sugar and salt indicators. There are lots of colourful photographs to brighten a drab winter’s day, and a strong impression that eating a calorie-restricted diet need not be joyless. These stuffed crepes with minced pork and Parmesan, for example, contain just 244 calories per portion. The Italian Dietis published by Kyle Cathie, €16.50.

Relish this one

It’s always good to find a great product in a discount supermarket, and a bonus if it happens to be Irish-made.

Aldi’s Specially Selected Irish Country Relish (€1.99), made in Co Cork, comes in three flavours – tomato, sweet tomato and chargrilled red pepper – and tastes as good if not better than its rivals.

Web watch

Sign up for the online newsletter from Saveur, the US food magazine, and weekly menu suggestions – linking to the publication’s vast recipe archive – will drop into your inbox. A recent Italian-themed menu included recipes for winter squash risotto with radicchio, porchetta, bittersweet chocolate and pear cake, and home-made limoncello.