Varietal Serves up Nostalgia with Cereal Milk Infusions

Good Bite

BY ANDREW FABIAN, ANDREW.FABIAN@SRQME.COM SRQ DAILY FRESHLY SQUEEZED CONTENT EVERY MORNING TUESDAY JUN 2, 2020

Breakfast cereals are, for many, one of the elements that define childhood. With hypnotizing marketing and the disingenuous assertion that children’s cereals count as a serving of grains (is sugar cane a grain?), kids everywhere have been compelled for decades to stake a claim on their favorite box. I was a Lucky Charms kid, my older brothers were in the Frosted Flakes and Fruit Loops camps. But, after fillings and root canals and concerns about diabetes, we wise up and leave behind the sublime sweetness of our cereals and the blissful ignorance of our youth. Fortunately, Varietal Coffee Bar, which now operates out of The Overton, has found a place for the cereals of yesteryear and, just maybe, a conduit for the joy of simpler times.

That conduit comes in the form of cereal milk. Yes, cereal milk is exactly what it sounds like—milk infused with the flavor of cereal. The process was popularized by award-winning pastry chef Christina Tosi, founding chef and co-owner of Milk Bar, a chain of bakery shops based largely in New York City. In essence, cereals are soaked in milk then strained, leaving behind a hint of their flavor and color. That milk can then be used in a variety of applications, including ice cream, baked goods and coffee drinks. Varietal’s method uses 1 cup of cereal for every half-gallon of milk and steeps the cereal for 24 hours, both of which go well beyond Milk Bar’s process. The coffee shop also makes sure to use both a dairy and nondairy base for the infusion, and according to owner-operator Evan Cooper, the oat milk infusion takes on more of the cereal’s flavor and color.

For that reason, the iced oat milk latte might offer the best portal to childhood bliss—it’s sweet and rich without the heavy feeling of dairy-based drinks but still retains all its creaminess. Cooper crumbles some of that week’s featured cereal on the latte for some added nostalgia, and the bouquet of crushed cereal helps to single out the cereal’s flavor from the coffee and milk. This week’s featured cereal is Fruity Pebbles.

Varietal, 1420 Boulevard of the Arts, Sarasota, www.varietalcoffee.bar, (941) 500-9175

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