85 Degrees-Worth its Salt

°

Tai Pei treats!
Tai Pei treats!

My friend Zu was hosting book club when she turned me on to a Taiwanese bakery called 85 ° in Irvine that serves sea salt coffee. I had only gotten through one chapter of her pick when she suddenly moved the date up on us. She’s charmingly A.D.D. like that. So, when she raved about the coffee, I knew I had to try it, if only to make up for the neglected tome. I should mention that Zu, with her Rio bikini bod, is dead-on in matters of the palate.

The next morning, I waded into a tong-wielding maelstrom of giddy customers plucking legions of sweet and savory morsels from their cases onto trays like king crabs at a feeding frenzy.

Cases of lavender and cream-colored orbs like the eggs of Jurrassic-age beasts were fluffy as cotton candy and filled with delicate taro cream.Bullet-shaped demi-baguettes colored black as night with squid ink reeked of parmesan and garlic. Vellum-textured tuna croissants burst with sweet, buttery pastry and savory albacore. It could have been a Wayne Thiebaud still life had he done a series on teacakes in Tai Pei.

Think ink: squid ink, that is.

Think ink: squid ink, that is.

Palate-boggling, but never classist, 85 ° serves trashy hot dog pizzas alongside pain au chocolat worthy of Brillat-Savarin. College-age bakery assistants offered flavor and texture descriptions with apparent pleasure. One even denoted best sellers in order by number with a statistician’s panache.

The maniacally popular Taiwanese bakery chain opened it’s sole US location a year ago (Yes! Right here in OC!) and it’s been bedlam ever since.

Sandwiched in the Diamond Center on Jamboree, the casual affordable cafe stands out among nearby Asian bakeries such as Cream Pan and Paris Baguette by being the first to serve sea salt coffee. Yep, that’s the name. Apparently the menu marketing and translation team had a tough time coming up with something more appetizing sounding, say, Salineccino. No? Salty Beans? Sodi-Joe? OK, word lab’s closed. Trust me on this, it doesn’t sound right. But it is right. So right. Like mixing Raisinettes with popcorn in the dark of the theater, but on a more worldly level.

Taro-licious!

Taro-licious!

Sea salt coffee is, quite simply, lightly sweetened premium Arabica coffee iced and topped with  salt-infused micro-foamed cream. That’s it. But the cool duality of  the strong sweet coffee and savory cream Hoovered in separate waves through the straw will have you hooked before you can say, ” Wonder Twin Powers, ACTIVATE!”

I was going to break in my blog by attempting to duplicate a batch of the addictive beverage at my best friend’s house since they have a built-in stainless steel Miele espresso maker bigger and more loaded than a Smart Car, but they rudely went on vacation just as I was about to launch. Instead I used my coffee machine: similar in features to the one on the vanity at your local airport Ramada. It tasted like crap.

If you have a behemoth espresso machine with bells, whistles, vanity plates and a VIN number registered with the DMV that would have been featured on Pimp My Ride if it weren’t for the fact that it was pumping out an ocean of lattes for 100 of your closest friends on the day they were taping, go for an attempt duplication and let me know how it turns out. I’ll stick with the real thing.

My botched batch.

My botched batch.

After the botched ersatz batch, I made an ill-advised 85 °-run at 2:00 p.m. on a Sunday.When I saw the line snaking out the door halfway to Tokyo Table, I wanted to grab a set of bakery tongs and snap vigorously like an angry crustacean to cut to the front. But did I? No, instead I took the above pictures for you in the bread line. Enjoy!

85 ° 2700 Alton Parkway. Ste. 123 Irvine, CA 949.553.8585 http://www.85cafe.us/ Coffee and snacks for two, $10.00.

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11 Responses to “85 Degrees-Worth its Salt”

  1. Priya Garcia Says:

    After tasting this with Kelly once, I too, had to take my hubby there to try it out on a hot sunday afternoon. MISTAKE. The line was wrapped around the store. But, not deterred, I stuck my husband in line and I went in and got us some treats. So worth the wait. It was PERFECT.
    Thanks Kel and Aurora!

  2. Lana Harwood Says:

    Hey, galley girl, your photos are terrific. Your descriptions are fab too; you make everything sound irresistible! Can’t wait to visit 85 degrees for a cup of sea salt coffee and a taro-cream delight or two. Keep these
    postings coming – I like your style.

  3. katex Says:

    mmmmmmm Hoovering is 1000% accurate. love your post!

  4. L Says:

    Let me know when you make you next run to 85 Degrees and I will join you. Garlic infused squid ink baguette, YUM!

  5. kris rian Says:

    wowza!!!

    what a great blog!!! i absolute loveeee the passion and truth that can only come from a person that loves to eat almost as much as i do. how do you keep your figure kelly is a mystery that i would love to package and sell to the masses.? i am a huge fan of your discerning taste for all things related to food. i hope you will continue to share new and wonderful places w/ the rest of us foodies. let me know if i can be of service to any of your tasty outings. 🙂

  6. Cynthia Says:

    Wow, Kelly! Can’t wait to go try this, preferably with another coffee-lover (Zu, are you out there? Remember our plans to have lunch….sounds like a perfect outing!) And, please stop by anytime, Kelly, and experiment with trying to duplicate on my Miele espresso machine – since I haven’t yet tasted the sea-salt foam, I’m clueless as to how to even proceed! Can’t wait to read more.

  7. Penny Says:

    What a wonderful blog, Kelly! I’m so excited that you’ve officially launched…makes losing “Gourmet” magazine far less traumatic!

  8. Heidi Says:

    Hi Kelly! This place sounds AWESOME. I can’t wait to try it!!! Now I’m really, really hungry.

    Heidi

  9. Alfredo Says:

    Just reading your blog’s making me slobber all over, yum… keep’em coming, Kelly!

    from across the street

  10. Mary Kay Says:

    Kelly, my mouth is watering thinking about 85 degrees. What a phenomenal bakery it is. Deb and I found it a few months ago and every time we’re on that side of town we must stop by. And of course you can’t just stop at one pastry. No, no, no–there must be multiple pastries to take home and sample!

  11. eileen Says:

    )Yummmooo, my friend Victoria brought me to 85 degrees,now I crave the salty coffee and the taro rolls. (I will only go around 11 a.m. On weekdays, very crowded otherwise!) I can not wait to read more of your blogs

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