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Eat & Drink

Food meets science at Sense Appeal

Posted by Robyn Urback / November 22, 2012

sense appealAm I on Spadina or in 10th Grade chemistry class? While most cafes have, say, a plate of muffins by their front counter, Sense Appeal has a giant rotary evaporator spinning rum to maximum concentration. The cafe is working on creating "super-intense flavour droplets of rum," says co-owner Peter Adamo, droplets that will be used to make the cafe's own take on an eggnog latte. Coffee, alcohol and science experiments? I guess this is just like high school after all.

sense appeal toronto soupThe rum-infused eggnog latte is just one of the usual new pursuits by Peter and his team. While the cafe's lunch and drink menus have been around for some time, Peter tells me he's increasingly looking at new and unique ways of getting items to cup or plate. Those ways include pulling soups through espresso machines, pickling vegetables in ways to promote salivation, and running chocolate through a centrifuge for optimal texture. Consider it mad scientist meets espresso bar.

"Honestly, it's all self-taught," Peter says when I ask him about just how he conceives these sorts of ideas. "There are so many variables in food, and it's worth exploring the effects that a few changes can make."

sense appeal soup torontoPeter says he draws inspiration from UK chef Heston Blumenthal, who he says went against the rules and laws of French cuisine with great results. "There's plenty of innovation on the culinary end," Peter says, "but I also wanted to look at innovation in coffee."

And so, Peter experimented with espresso and his rotary evaporator, removing 80 per cent of its water at 45 degrees. "It allows you to remove liquid at a low temperature," he says. "Typically, when you boil something down, you're losing some of that flavour as vapour. This allows you to remove the water and also to maintain the flavour." Espresso aside, the earlier-mentioned rum-infused latte should arrive on Sense Appeal's menu in the coming weeks.

sense appeal science torontoWhat he hasn't yet boiled down (excuse the pun) is how, exactly, to extract soups using an espresso machine. "I wanted to incorporate our baristas in the lunchtime rush," he explains when I ask why he thought of the idea in the first place. "What we have to do is create a sort of soup 'puck' from which we can pull out the oils, in a way that's identical to coffee."

The soups, most likely, will be milk-based, and something in the realm of butternut squash should be the first variety to arrive in the cafe. After a little more tweaking, that is. Also on the roster is something Peter calls the "Triple Addiction," which is made with chocolate that is run through a centrifuge. "Essentially, you're separating the solids from the liquids, and the grittiness is removed, leaving an incredibly soft texture," Peter says. That super-smooth chocolate will be mixed with wine and espresso — indeed, a few of my favourite things. The Triple Addiction is expected in December.

sense appeal cafe torontoIn the meantime, customers and/or science fiends can revel in some of Sense Appeal's already available curious options, including falafel made from chickpeas in a sous-vide chilled slowly on ice, and coffee smoked chicken wings prepared with a salt, sugar, and coffee brine. Figure those out, 10th Graders.

Photos by Morris Lum



Corina / November 22, 2012 at 01:53 pm
Still unable to forget that this place advertised low prices for 2 weeks then doubled them once a regular crowd was established. Great coffee, but there's a lot of great coffee in Toronto.
Moshe Zuchter / November 22, 2012 at 02:24 pm
No one does coffee or food like Sense Appeal.

Their lunch menu now features $5 items, most of which are locally sourced.

Peter's coffee is by far the best in the city, from his sourcing of the beans to the cupping sessions at the cafe, to the precise roasting. Bar none, he gets the most flavour out of his beans.

And the fact that he's pushing the limits of coffee and food, as the article states, is a welcome addition to Toronto's food scene.

Can't wait to try out his new delicious experiments.
J7 / November 22, 2012 at 03:37 pm
Sounds pretty cool. I just tried an amazing pumpkin ale last night, makes me wonder if the guys at Sense Appeal could create a spiced pumpkin latte with local ingredients.
pamela / November 22, 2012 at 04:06 pm
way to go, peter!!!
Jer / November 22, 2012 at 04:15 pm
Is it just me or I don't see the typical address/map/etc on the right hand side column..
Tim replying to a comment from Jer / November 22, 2012 at 08:26 pm
This is just an article about their food experiments, not a profile or review of the cafe itself. For that (and a map) you'll want to check out this link:
conchelessons / November 22, 2012 at 09:36 pm
soup puck will own us all. too bad about the coffee...
Jer replying to a comment from Tim / November 23, 2012 at 12:58 pm
Just seems off that the article doesn't even mention the general area (besides mentioning Spadina)...

I would like to know where the place is without having to click another link to look up a profile.
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