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Three to try: Kalavalanche, Vietnamese and bubble

July 18, 2013

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1. Out in historic Galena in the northwest corner of Illinois, Kaladi's Coffee Bar (309 S. Main St.) serves something called a Kalavalanche, which is a mouthful to say but awfully refreshing to drink. As is often the case, there are several flavor variations (mocha, white chocolate, cookies and cream …), but I go with the most basic one, the cappuccino, which is smooth, light, more icy than frothy and boasting an assertive coffee flavor.

Owner Tony Morel said he uses Ghirardelli caramel powder for sweetness (and a drizzle of Ghirardelli caramel sauce on top) plus ice, milk and an espresso house blend that's 80 percent arabica beans and 20 percent robusta.

"Being that our coffee is strong, it's got a little bit of sweetness, but it's not overwhelming sweetness," Morel said. "It should taste like coffee."

2. You get even more punch from the Vietnamese iced coffee (cafe sua da) sold at the North Side corner storefront known simply as Viet Nam (1032 W. Argyle St.). Though not frozen blended drinks, Vietnamese and Thai iced coffees, when done right, can be similarly satisfying, though many Thai iced coffees overdo the sweetened condensed milk.

Viet Nam owner Tuong Nguyen said he makes his coffee the way he learned in his native country: putting a little condensed milk at the bottom of a cup, placing a filter containing three types of coffee above it and pouring in water that must be very hot. Add ice and you've got yourself a very assertive summer drink with complex flavors, with hints of chicory coming through.

3. One subset of frozen coffee drinks contains ice cream, as in frappes, shakes, what have you. These generally fall more into the dessert than beverage category, but whatever you call it, the Bubble Cappuccino at Village Creamery in Niles (8000 Waukegan Road) and Skokie (4558 Oakton St.) hits the spot.

Owned by the Valeroso family (from the Philippines), Village Creamery makes its own ice cream and boasts many unusual flavors, such as durian and purple yam. The Bubble Cappuccino is usually made with cappuccino syrup, milk, vanilla ice cream, ice and tapioca bubbles, but here's a hint: Have them use their potent espresso chip ice cream instead, and you'll truly taste the coffee in your frozen coffee drink.

Mark Caro

What's your favorite frozen coffee drink? Email ctc-dining@tribune.com.