Eggspresso: Jerry Epstein's unruly egggs 

Epstein readily admits he was not the brains behind the original Eggspresso — he tripped across the idea while surfing the Web — but he's been the pioneer and chief executive advocate of the thing since assuming ownership of Grove Avenue Coffee and Tea three years ago. Damn if his customers don't love it.

The recipe is a no-brainer: two eggs, a smidgen of Parmesan cheese, a few shakes of salt and pepper, all chucked haphazardly into a Pyrex measuring glass. It's the preparation that's the trick. Turns out, cooking eggs at the end of a cappuccino frothing wand is nothing to bat an eye at. Matter of fact, you could lose an eye altogether.

"If you're not careful you get eggs on the ceiling," Epstein says, recalling the first time he took a whack at it. "It'll create a bubble in there," he notes, as if coaching a volatile science experiment, "and they'll explode out of the jar."

Epstein says he's always trying to find something new and different to keep his customers intrigued. It's the reason he serves the only Orange Julius in town, and why he keeps Cocoa Puffs on the menu. Still, it's the Eggspresso that has people talking.

Kendra Lewis knows. She works part time at the shop and after three months on the job, has harnessed the power of the wand. "It's actually kind of frightening teaching new employees to do this," she says, pinching Parmesan for a new batch. "Eggs can go flying everywhere."

Indeed, preparing the Eggspresso is an art form. Incorrectly done, the eggs will harden at the bottom, or "Go Vesuvius," soaring all over the cash register. She demonstrates, opening the steam vent and releasing the violent hiss, then slowly rotating the measuring cup at an angle against the burst of steam. Her gaze intense, Lewis finesses the concoction until finally, in one swift magical moment, the eggs bounce to consistency, ready to eat.

Not everyone, however, is so enthralled with the display. "We've actually had people who've decided not to get this once they see how it's cooked," Lewis says. Then again, she's seen people ordering two and three Eggspressos in one sitting.

"The point is to give people a reason to come, something they can't get anywhere else," says Epstein, who arrives at 3:30 every morning to start the baking.

Though this is spoken like a man who intimately knows the biz, he is, in fact, a relative newbie. "The former owners asked what I knew about running a restaurant," he says. "I told them I've sat on the other side of a counter for 57 years." You don't mess with a resume like that. One only hopes that Lewis' Eggspresso-making skills will one day pack the same tenacious punch.

— Dave McCormack

Grove Avenue Coffee and Tea is open daily 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. 288-6211


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