The Search For The Perfect Espresso Con Panna: Part One

My discovery of the existence of the espresso con panna came about last week, the morning of the  Premier Inn Purple Sauce launch media event . Despite being well versed in the blogging freebies philosophy from an early age, for some reason Michael was coy about taking a bacon sandwich, or drink, so while I had a bacon bap & big cup of tea, he requested to go get a cookie afterwards instead. We had to wait around until 11am for Yo Sushi! to open to get our takeaway to take home anyway, so we went to the Caffe Nero on Anne Street where he got a giant slice of chocolate fudge cake. I was full of bacon and tea, but wanted to get something to drink to occupy me while Michael attacked his cake, so I spied the espresso con panna, and thankfully for the coffee ignorant like me, a description of what it actually was underneath. Two shots of espresso topped with whipped cream. It sounded good, and it tasted good, and it was teeny enough to fit in after by giant cup of tea just half an hour before. Plus it was only £1.90, which seems cheap for a coffee chain where big, sugary coffees are over £3.

And so my experiment unwittingly began. 

Caffe Nero

Caffe Nero

 My next place to try their version of the espresso con panna was local coffee chain Bob & Bert's. Again the drink was printed on the giant wall menu, but the two staff members said literally no-one had ever asked for it before! This led me to Google the drink when I got home, finding out it's actually a very old fashioned coffee option, which was around before other lighter drinks such as cappuccinos and lattes.

At Bob & Bert's there was a small or medium size, which I'm guessing just meant one or two shots. It was served in a cute little glass this time, and was just as good as Caffe Neros. 

Bob & Bert's Espresso con Panna

Bob & Bert's Espresso con Panna

On Saturday, I was rushing around doing messages before my son got back, and stopped into my local Independant chain Coffee Cure, which has several branches in Bangor, including  the restaurant at the heritage centre. I live very close to the original flagship branch on the Rathmore Road, so I popped in to see how their espresso con panna held up. 

This time it wasn't on the menu, so I just asked for two shots of espresso with whipped cream on top. They made the cream up fresh, and it was really thick. I forgot to get a photo, but it was good. 

Coffee Cure, Rathmore Road, Bangor

Coffee Cure, Rathmore Road, Bangor

The final contender in part one of my search for the best espresso con panna is every coffee snob's nemesis, Starbucks. I love Starbucks, and Michael loves Starbucks, although we rarely go as it's just so bloody expensive. Luckily the espresso con panna was not only on the wall menu, but only £1.90 and apparently only 37 calories. I'm not sure I can really judge Starbucks fairly, as I got the drink to take away, and with all the other cafés I sat in. Why this effects the outcome is that by the time I drove round home with the drink, the cream had completely dissolved into the espresso, so it was just like a tiny strong coffee with a splash of milk in it. It definitely wasn't good, but I might give Starbucks another go sitting in with it next time.

Tiny little takeaway cup

Tiny little takeaway cup

So far I think the best version has been the original, Caffe Nero. But I've plenty more places to try, so watch out for part two! 

The Two New Loves of My Life: Bob & Bert

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Bob & Bert's is a Northern Irish artisan coffee chain I first became aware of when we spent our week up in Portstewart last month. Because we know and love Ground Espresso, we were already set for coffee while we were up there, and didn't venture into a Bob & Bert's. Now we are back in Bangor, with our nearest Ground Espresso in Belfast, we decided to give Bob & Bert's new Bangor store a try. It's located above Tempest in Main Street, and you can access it via the escalator in Menary's.

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We weren't expecting to fall in love with the place, but we did. The interior is very quirky, and the cakes are to die for. They do food too, baked potatoes, ciabattas etc. as well as big, American milkshakes and Ben & Jerry's sundaes. 

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We went for coffee, pancakes and rainbow cake. There's also a huge Belfast sink with rows & rows of sparklingly clean glasses for you to have free, fresh tap water. We will definitely be back. Check where your local Bob & Bert's is on their website.

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Espresso topped with fresh cream is my current favourite £1.90

Espresso topped with fresh cream is my current favourite £1.90

Short stack, I couldn't even finish it all! £4.25

Short stack, I couldn't even finish it all! £4.25

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Eco-friendly Light Up Kettle from Stellar

The Stellar SEA31 glass electric kettle can boil up to 1.7 litres, or just one cup, without effecting the heating element. Clever, if you're trying to save the world one tea bag at a time. 

The best part for me however is the novelty that it lights up blue when in action, so I can have a little disco in the kitchen in the morning. 

Sneaky Homemade Starbucks Iced Mocha, Made with the GAT Winner Espresso Pot

I simply can't afford to buy coffee from the big chain cares any more, but that doesn't mean I have to go without iced mochas this summer.

With the GAT Winner Espresso Pots you can make espresso on your stove top as a base for your iced coffee recipe. Once you have your super strong, concentrated espresso, you can add cocoa powder, or as I do a big pump of Sweetbird Mocha Syrup. You can store this mix in the fridge in a mug, then when you want to make your iced coffee just pour out a little bit of your mix, add milk and ice and you have what tastes exactly like the in store blend you pay £3 for.

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Another cool idea is use a little bit of your mocha mix in contracted form, add it to a tin of condensed milk, pour into lolly moulds and freeze. Coffee lolly pops!

The GAT Winner Espresso Pots are available from Top Gourmet.

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The Swan Vintage Teasmade- Mine at Last

The Swan Vintage Teasmade- Mine at Last

It's handy that you all know I'm a weirdo already, because I'm about to confide in you a childhood desire that definitely wasn't normal.

When I was about seven, eight and upwards, I was drawn to the white goods section of the Argos catalogue, to the teasmades. I didn't drink a tremendous amount of tea as a preteen or anything, but I was fascinated by the clock, kettle, often picture frame, mash-up gadget and the idea of having one in my own bedroom came with very grown-up aspirations. My parents, being good, non-boiling-water-giving-to-child parents, never ticked the Swan Teasmade off my Santa list, but it's one product that's always tickled my fancy to this day.

The Swan Vintage Teasmade- Mine at Last

Now Teasmades are seen as vintage, and one of their original manufacturers, Swan, know that there are Nesspressos & fancy podded coffee do-dahs out there, but there are folks like me who still want a part alarm clock, part kettle gadget. So they brought back the Teasmade in 2009 after an absence of a number of years, to great success. There are a number of models available though www.JohnLewis.com and www.Swan-Brand.co.uk fulfilled my lifetime dream of Teasmade ownership and sent me their crisp white model.

It's my very own non-weaponised Transformer- half alarm clock, half tea pot. Brew-a-tron!
And it works a treat. Makes enough tea for two cups & is self cleaning as only water goes inside the machine. I have M.E. and often have to sleep part of the early afternoon to have the energy for my son coming home from school, so now when I do I can set my Teasmade to wake me twenty minutes before the school run with a lovely pot of Suki Tea.


Then and Now. Many more vintage photos on the www.Facebook.com/Teasmade page

The Swan Vintage Teasmade- Mine at Last

Grab Your Own Retro Whistling Kettle from Sabichi

Grab Your Own Retro Whistling Kettle from Sabichi

A kettle so shiny you can see me waving to you in it. The whistling kettle is part of the French Kitchen inspired Sabichi Boucherie collection. They sent me one so I could experience making a good, old cuppa the old fashioned way. At £10 it's a design classic that will fit right in with any Cath Kidston adorned vintage kitchen.

Theres something very comforting about the whistle letting you know it's tea time. It must be nostalgia, as soon as the whistle piped up I was whisked back to supper times in my parents' touring caravan.

www.Sabichi.co.uk

Tea lovers watch out, as I've more tea related posts coming this week.

Excuse my rusty, old cooker!

Grab Your Own Retro Whistling Kettle from Sabichi

Grab Your Own Retro Whistling Kettle from Sabichi