Wednesday, May 31, 2006

the out-of-towners

at some point everyone who lives in nyc must deal with the out-of-towners, those relatives who come for the cheap theater tickets and blockbuster museum exhibits. my out-of-towners are very sweet people and i like to see them because they provide me with an excellent excuse to eat at franny's and then visit the chocolate room.

the pizza at franny's is fantastic, of course, partially because they use long-time bccy pals king arthur flour. the crust is thin, soft, and marked with small charred spots from the well-maintained and properly-fired brick oven.

i like this crust a lot; however my husband i think would prefer if the crust surface were a little crunchier when the teeth first met the top. and i do make my regular sunday at-home pizza that way.

i personally might prefer the all-soft franny's myself, however; it reminds me of what you actually find in naples. on the downside of franny's however is the mozzarella.

it seems odd to me. i'm used to using the best mozzarella i can get my hands on -- look, the traditional neapolitan attitude is that mozzarella older than 6 hours total isn't fit for eating by itself.

by the afternoon, natural hand-made mozzarella does stiffen up a tad. that's just its nature.

and so the proper use for left-over morning mozzarella is on evening pizza. even then, the "old" mozzarella is still a brilliant white, and melts into bright snowy puddles.

at franny's the mozzarella seems a tad yellow-ish to me. that might be from the soot of the wood fire, i admit, but still, i wonder. . .

what's undisputed at franny's however are the salads. the salads are fantastic, with the most wonderful greens.

it's amazing how just the best, freshest greens, tip-top quality olive oil, and careful use of herbs can make a salad shine. i'll also sing praises for the deep-fried artichokes with lemon.

again, simple, simple stuff. but a properly, lightly-fried artichoke is a beautiful thing, my friends, and too few restaurants have the discipline and precision to do deep-frying correctly.

the chocolate room's only about 4 blocks from franny's so it's always best to wander down the hill and breeze over to a table. while many claim that the star of the chocolate room is the retro-style chocolate layer cake, i frankly prefer the super-moist flourless chocolate cake.

and of course, joan's chocolat moderne treats -- devoted readers know i'm a huge fan of the apricot bask. . .

now that memorial day is over and everything's relatively back to normal, i can at least look forward to a return to the regular yoga schedule. alas, this means today i face a class that's essentially yogilates, tho' it doesn't use that name per se.

i've done some pilates mat work, so i guess i "get" that. and i've been doing vinyasa for about 7 years now, so maybe i've learned something about a pose or two -- but i don't understand these popular yogilates classes.

the two systems use completely different and contrary breathing, for just one thing.

i do understand from my own experience how some pilates improves your inversion practice, and is certainly helpful with things like kukutasana (rooster pose). but i don't comprehend these classes where you do an opening flow, some standing poses, lay down for what are basically stomach crunches and oblique exercises, and then end up in shalabasana (locust pose) like nothing happened.

it's like you started doing yoga and then were briefly mugged in the middle, you know?

rockstar pose and yogilates, honestly. i can't wait until my local yoga studio installs portable poles with radiant heating so we can do hot-yoga-strip-ilates to brazilian hip-hop in designer g-strings and heels.

at this rate, why not? that should make the cover of time out, i'm sure. . .

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posted by fortune | 8:45 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 1 comments

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

women love coffee; coffee loves women

"a 15-year study published in the american journal of clinical nutrition shows fewer deaths from heart disease or other noncancerous inflammatory diseases for postmenopausal women who reported drinking at least one to three daily cups of coffee.

women who reported drinking one to three daily cups of coffee at the study's start were 24% less likely to die of heart disease during the study, compared with those who didn't drink coffee.

women who reported drinking one to three daily cups of coffee at the study's start were also 28% less likely to die of other noncancerous inflammatory diseases, compared with those who didn't drink coffee, the study shows. cancer deaths did not show any association with coffee consumption.

those results are adjusted for other factors and 'were not repeated for other beverages, including tea, fruit juice, sugar-sweetened drinks, diet soda, and skim, low-fat, and whole milk,' write A[the study's authors]."

while of course scientists will want to confirm this, the study looks solid -- published in a highly regarded, peer-reviewed journal and containing 27,312 participants. we coffee-lovin' yoginis have to remember that heart disease is the major killer of post-menopausal women; if coffee-drinking can help somewhat, that's great news.

women's heart disease is often ignored and undertreated, or so medical studies have revealed. while a lot of press goes to other worthy women's health issues, like breast cancer, heart disease can't be swept under the rug.

a sensible diet, a regular vigorous yoga practice, and now perhaps moderate coffee consumption, seem to help. but don't load your cups up with heavy cream and sugar!

how might coffee help?

as devoted readers know -- and as long-time bccy pal dr. joe vinson reminds us -- it always seems to come back to those groovy anti-oxidants in coffee. remember, coffee has many natural phytochemicals, such as chlorogenic acid, that appear to have beneficial anti-oxidant properties.

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posted by fortune | 8:21 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments

Monday, May 29, 2006

more yoga with which i struggle

this being a holiday weekend, my local yoga studio is offering only a truncated schedule and with mostly subsitute teachers. yesterday i went to try a new teacher, who was certified out of the sonic studio.

as you can tell from sonic's website, it's trying too hard to be hip, which means, well, it's not. . .

i had already heard about the sonic penchant for making up "asanas," such as the dreaded "rockstar" pose, and the cutesy renaming of common poses and mudras -- i nearly fell outta my virabhadrasana (warrior one pose) when the teacher referred to uttarabodhi mudra (sometimes called "jupiter mudra" for those who are into jyotisha) as "charlie's angels mudra."

and when the teacher urged us to send loving thoughts towards our favorite movie star, think about what qualities that star had, and then realize we too were movie stars, i thought, to retreat from sanskrit to pure noo yawk-ese, "i wuz gonna plotz!"

the class itself was mixture of straight-ahead vinyasa, with a little shiva rea thrown in -- the "dancing warrior" sequence is familiar to everyone who's done her cd -- some kundalini bits as evidenced by brief bursts of fast repetitive movement, a parsvottonasanaa (pyramid pose) vinyasa right out of gary kraftsow, all tossed together in a rather confused sequence (as might be expected by this dog's breakfast of stylistic combinations i'm describing), and overly loud disco music.

thanks to gloria gaynor, i did survive.

long-time readers know that i often say how ashtanga makes me grumpy, but boy howdy sonic yoga nearly turned me into a ravening lha-mo. it's enough to make me run to eddie stern's and never leave.

is yoga now some kind of free-form dance-movement? i shouldn't just slag sonic; i was likewise alarumed when another very popular teacher at my local studio (the one who refuses to do sun salutations) also introduced a pose he invented.

he called it "krishna pose," and it consists of a rather square-dance-like curtsy, whereby you cross one foot behind the other, bend at the knees slightly and hold your hands out to the side of your face as if playing a flute! said teacher confessed he didn't really know how to hold a flute and had no idea how they were played, but "we could get the idea, you know."

i did it twice before i realized it was a classic aerobics "grapevine" with wacky arms.

i feel lost in a world of gym yoga taught by bored aerobics hunks who need to pick up an extra paycheck on days when there aren't any auditions for reality tv. there has to be a middle ground between ultra-yoga purism and this, a place where a diversity of serious yoga can play itself out. . .

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posted by fortune | 10:16 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 4 comments

Sunday, May 28, 2006

important points on yellow mole

following up from yesterday:

  • no matter what rick bayless says, yellow mole will destroy your house. you'd use less dishes, pots & pans making an escoffier banquet for a sun king;
  • what rick bayless doesn't tell you is that yellow mole is worth it only if you also make the corn meal dumplings, the chochoyotes. they are delicious;
  • yellow mole still isn't worth it;
  • when are standing in your hallway, retreating towards some sense of safety from the ever-growing pile of malanga peelings that crawl from kitchen, remember that you are doing all this work for something that doesn't even contain chocolate;
  • double the chicken. the bayless recipe is unbearably light on the chicken;
  • cooked malanga has a wonderful, silken texture much nicer than potatoes;
  • bayless is also way wrong about the chayote. definitely peel the chayote
  • by god i hoped you doubled the recipe or else the amount of effort yellow mole takes will kill you. that means, quadruple the chicken;
  • yellow mole is wonderful but there is a reason the great hospitality spirit invented mexican restaurants.

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posted by fortune | 7:33 PM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 2 comments

Saturday, May 27, 2006

the batdorf pico del tucan, redux

My BCCY Podcast as if yesterday wasn't enough -- which it wasn't, because this is fine coffee -- i brewed scott's batdorf bolivian c.o.e. pico del tucan in the cafetiére this afternoon. this is the way to go with scott's coffee.

pressing this bean increases the body, moving it from mere(!) plush to ultra-deluxe plush, near velvety. taking the plunge lessens the brightness a tad, which is rather the trade-off here, unfortunately.

i drank this cup black, without cream or sugar, even tho' as a good noo-yawker i do like my so-called "regular." it just doesn't need any additions; it's perfection.

i however needed a cup of coffee after a wacky shopping expedition. living along the water in style-y "moonstruck" bklyn as i do, italian groceries are a no-brainer; jewish and eastern european specialities, ditto; arab and middle-eastern specialities just a hop, skip and handstand away.

but i decided to make a mexican yellow mole from oaxaca, based on a recipe by rick bayless. this, i believed, entailed a trip to a nearby latin nabe at the end of carroll gardens.

so. after much travail, i find masa harina, yuca, sundries, and come all the way back. ok, now to fetch the chicken.

so i walk 1-1/2 blocks away to my local supermarket to get chicken and cilantro. as i wander past the aisles (i'm solely a perimeter shopper usually), i see a new sign hanging over one of the aisles: "latin specialty foods."

ok, i bite. what used to be a perfunctory display of a few dusty goya cans is now a giant aisle of everything i sought: fresh yuca, fresh malanga, fresh ñame, great plantains, fresh tomatillos, piles of jicama, fresh chayote, fresh calabaza, 3 kinds of masa harina, everything but fresh epazote and hoja santos.

the joke was on me. but at the same time i had to ask myself, when did my double-i nabe become a latin hang?

no problem! me all happy, because nothing was more than US$0.69 a pound!

it's gonna be a mexican summer, that's for sure. . .break out the altura. . .and you bet i make my own tortillas, fresh.

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posted by fortune | 1:49 PM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 2 comments

Friday, May 26, 2006

the batdorf pico del tucan

as promised, i brewed up yesterday's batdorf bolivia c.o.e., the pico del tucan in the chemex. i made it just as i had made peter g's counterculture version the other day.

so. the first thing i noticed was that scott from batdorf had roasted his take on this prize-winning coffee more lightly than peter g. did, what i might call standard+. this roast level, plus the week age difference, makes it hard to compare these coffees head-to-head.

so i won't. let me consider scott's coffee on its own merits, altho' i think some things about how scott and peter handled the coffee could be contrasted. for example, when i first opened peter's bag, the scent was beautifully nutty; whereas scott's bag had a stronger straight vanilla smell.

i also thought scott had a more chocolate-y aftertaste, while peter's coffee had more vanilla-syrupy aftertaste. in terms of the flavor wheel, i'd say scott's coffee is more bakers chocolate, while peter's is more what the wheel calls swiss, which to me is how vanilla custard, like flan, tastes.

in short, this comes about technically because peter roasted his on his smaller machine to a ground agtron of 63; scott has a bigger machine and obviously went lighter. (please scott call me with your agtron number, ok?)

so both of these coffees are vanilla coffees -- it's just how and where the vanilla enters into the picture you know? and both of these variations make sense in terms of the roast level, i think.

these are also both very floral coffees: peter's fresh dry grounds reminded of a bouquet, of wandering by the flower store (he calls it "wildflowers"); scott's is very similar. i think that's just the nature of the pico del tucan itself.

and both coffees are caramelly -- i think they both have a honey-type smell when the water hits them and they bloom.

the two also share a great body. it's a medium-bodied coffee, but just feels great when you smooth the coffee across the roof of your mouth.

scott uses the word plush, which i think works for both coffees. as for the taste, scott's is slightly brighter, more lively, altho' the pico del tucan itself is a bright coffee.

since scott's roast looks slighter lighter in color, i would expect it to be a tad brighter. i love both of these coffees, and if you're considering which to order, i'd say: first choose the roaster that's nearest you for freshness and second go for roast color.

but the roast color difference, while noticeable, isn't extreme. if you like slightly darker coffees and live nearer peter in the carolinas, go for peter.

if you like a slightly lighter roast, and so a somewhat brighter coffee, go for scott. scott roasted this batch, jessica tells me, in olympia, on the west coast in their big probat, altho' batdorf does also have some roasting in atlanta.

myself, i'm happy to have been able to have tried both. so in the end, it's not about peter vs. scott at all.

rather it's all about the farmer, anacleto uluri, and the nuances he grew hidden in this lovely bean, the nature of his origin. peter and scott, each talented roasters, sampled this coffee and then applied their own artistry to it.

both are interpreters of what the farmer gave them. in this way, drinking these two versions of the coffee is like listening to different recordings of a piece of classical music; think of it as a tone-poem in flowers, honey, and vanilla.

this conductor led his symphony to emphasize the finish of the coffee; the other, to emphasize the lilt and movement in the coffee.

some classical music listeners will buy both versions. others will carefully choose the one that suits their own temperment.

which type are you?

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posted by fortune | 7:28 PM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments

Thursday, May 25, 2006

batdorf surprise!

and what appeared in the mail this morning but scott merle & jessica marshall's batdorf bolivia c.o.e., their lot of the pico del tucan!

we've seen peter g's counterculture take on this prize-winning coffee; now it will be very interesting to compare scott's!

roast-dated the 23rd, these beans have an appointment for tomorrow, in the chemex. . .as always with these special batdorf beans, jessica wraps them nicely in a lovely copper-foil bag and a cute taffeta drawstring pouch with a bronze sheen.

great for gift-giving. or for keeping your own charming little sundries!

thank you, jessica.

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posted by fortune | 8:52 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments

so cal espresso report

the news from long-time bccy pal, scaa pro member, and espressohound about l.a., marshall fuss:

"We finally made it to Martin Diedrich's new shop this weekend in Newport Beach, CA. He named it Kean Coffee for his son. Martin is doing all the roasting himself on the shop floor on a smallish Diedrich (what else?) roaster. We had a long talk about starting over in mid-life (Martin left his namesake company to start this venture).

Naturally, I bought a bag of his espresso blend and took it home. I tinkered with the grind and temp for my first three shots and then experienced one my most complex and satisfying espressos ever. I detected citrus, chocolate and spices (I think Jim Schulman would have a field day with flavor descriptors).

Anyway, if you're interested in buying a bag, I'd be interested in your reactions. No, he's not a client, and I don't expect him to be. He roasts every day and dates each bag.

The website is, but for some reason it's down this evening, except for the home page. He changes his coffee selections as the new crops come in (he was very excited about the new shipment of La Lucie from Zimbabwe), and may be updating the order page.

But the site normally has a full shopping menu. There is only one espresso blend. You can also call at 949.642.KEAN (5326). I don't normally do this sort of thing, but I was blown away by this coffee, and I respect your opinion."

long-time readers know i'm a huge marty d. fan, so i was riveted by marshall's report. must mail-order this coffee soon!

if any of you, gentle coffee lovers, have tried marty's new coffees or been to his place, do comment below! i wanna know!

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posted by fortune | 8:35 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 1 comments

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

coffee meetup = huge & sara's yrg, redux

woke up this morning and realized i still have 75 people coming to the nyc coffee meetup tonite at the nybot grading room, where long-time bccy pal jim p. of 1st-line will give an espresso machine demo. wow!

he's bringing a semi-auto, a super-auto, and a killer grinder. . .

while thinking about all the craziness -- will everyone actually show up? how will get the boxes upstairs in light of the union elevator rules? etc. -- i saw that i still had a scoopful or two left of scaa pro member sara's everyday yrg.

naturally i reached for my copper ibrik. winey coffees like the yrg make fantastic turkish, so that's what i brewed today.

as turkish, sara's yrg had no bitterness or astringency -- and i added only 1 teaspoonful of simple sugar-free syrup to the pot. so i'm calling that all good.

on the yoga front, if you still don't have the namarupa varanasi walk-thru cd, you are definitely missing out. the reviews of this have been nothing but raves.

i've been on the cheb i sabah mailing list for a while now, so believe me when i tell you the music's good.

and while we're on this subject, i still get a lot of sweet email where people ask me for my favorite yoga book. you know, after all this time, i still recommend erich schiffmann's moving into stillness.

it's a rare book that covers poses and yoga 'tude both. it's quite readable and you have the sense that erich is speaking to you personally from his heart, but without being maudlin, self-conscious or fake.

his presentation of yoga philosophy (his thinking may not be strictly advaita vedanta, but it's non-dual and way radical in the nicest possible way! wink big nose) has to be the most down-to-earth, makes-sense-to-a-six-year-old ever.

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posted by fortune | 7:00 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

peter g's counterculture pico del tucan, redux

it's interesting how coffee prompts a person to evolve and grow, isn't it? how long ago was it that i -- a hardcore java/sumatra fiend -- had difficulty with winey africans and bright new world coffees?

and yet now i love them as much as my old, old aged sumatra, which for years i gleefully splashed around in. how could i have let my inexperience with good winey prevent me from bathing in my now-beloved blueberry ethiopians?

and this too is how i feel about the recent andean coffees i've been privileged to try. what took me so long?

in reality, it was the c.o.e. and the foresight of some of america's best roasters -- that's what i needed. i needed to see these coffees not as the boring, even dreadful stuff commonly peddled.

i needed exposure to the full quality potential hidden in these origins! and i suspect many other coffee lovers are in the same position.

as i made peter's counterculture pico del tucan from yesterday this morning in the cafetiére, i wondered if i could have even imagined how much i would enjoy a fine andean coffee in those old aged sumatra days.

i wonder. . .

at any rate, after pressing it this morning, i do believe that the cafetiére is the way to go for this coffee. why?

simple: this coffee has great body in the press. very appealing!

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posted by fortune | 8:18 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments

Monday, May 22, 2006

peter g's counterculture pico del tucan

oh, dear readers, i bet you believed that i had forgotten about peter g's new c.o.e. bolivian, the pico del tucan. never!

this now 5-day-old coffee hit the chemex this morning. i made it in a less-than-oren proportion: 1.75 oz. fresh ground coffee to 28 oz. water.

got your scaa flavor wheel handy? no?

why don't you have it as a mousepad, hmm?

but seriously, i think this coffee's a city roast, since i don't detect a single speck of oil anywhere. just sticking my nose into the bag gave me a nice whiff of nuttiness, a soft-ish sweetish nut, maybe pecan or brazil nut?

the fresh dry ground seemed floral, which was great. and as the vapors drifted up from the bubbling, blooming grounds -- even at a few days old the bloom was considerable here -- i smelled great malty aromas. more nuttiness, caramel, and nice vanilla.

i agree with peter is in his discussion of this coffee that these bolivian coffees all seem to share a nice vanilla feeling. the taste was bright, more nippy than piquant.

i loved the body of this coffee outta the chemex; it was heavier than i might have expected. overall a clean and nicely balanced cup.

congrats to you peter for this nice coffee, and we should all recognize the accomplishment of the farmer, anacleto uluri.

alas, the c.o.e. apparently isn't going to back to bolivia, due to stupid political nonsense. so i encourage all you coffee lovers to scour your favorite independent roasters for these nice bolivia c.o.e. beans while they last.

who knows when we will see their like again?

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posted by fortune | 7:48 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments

Sunday, May 21, 2006

congrats to our baristi pals & hello fairway!

first let's begin by congratulating our long-time baristi friends on doing well at the world championship: yay to our dreamy candadian pal, sammy p. of artigiano, and of course the american, matt riddle of intelligentsia.

alas -- but rather expectedly, we must admit -- first place went to a scandinavian, klaus. let's face it, the scandinavians don't just dominate the championship, they own this competition.

this is one reason why when people ask me where the best coffee is, i usually have to say, well, objectively, denmark, norway, australia. . . and italy. but i'm happy to say that an american finally cracked the top 3.

bovetti in other news, after fortifying myself with my usual morning batdorf dancing goat cappuccino, i braced for the bus trip to the new fairway market (at 52,000 sq. feet, it is larger than an acre!) in bklyn's red hook, a prime location right on the most historic and beautiful portion of the waterfront.

while on sunday the bus -- only 4 blocks from my house -- is supposed to run every 20 mins, let's face it, this is new york. so basically, the bus runs every 45 mins. next time, i'm taking a car.

anyway, the new fairway is in a lovely old 4-story converted spice warehouse. it has everything -- almost. no real italian spinach, no (sob!) russian coffee cake.

but! it does have 350 cheeses, including fiori di latte made on the spot; a small drum roaster for roasting fresh coffee; 200 kinds of olive oil, including my new favorite, the australian; 25-year-old basalmic vinegar for just US$48.00; the famed chocolate babka; the famed noodle kugel; the famed selection from the salad bar (ah! the carrot souffle!); the incredible tomatoes; and a small but acceptable selection of artisan chocolate, including the hard-to-find handmade bovetti from perigord.

the prices are quite wonderful -- for example, valrhona bars, which are often US$4 or even 4.50 other places, are just US$3.49, close to the economy candy price. best of all, they deliver to my house!

so i returned from my giddy trip by car, freighted with babka, kugel, basil, tomatoes, bovetti. long-time readers know that my first house in nyc was on the upper west side right by the first fairway, where i lived for a while before coming to boo-di-fal bklyn.

thus i have been waiting 7 long years for fairway to finally get itself open in bklyn. and here it is.

hooray! i celebrated by brewing up some of sara's everyday sumatra as an americano -- creosol, spicy, turpeny -- and tearing into the chocolate babka. ah, heaven.

but! i am calling the fairway management next week and begging for the russian coffee cake. that stuff is addictive and finds a niche deep in every soul. . .

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posted by fortune | 12:52 PM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments

Saturday, May 20, 2006

wacky bread stuff not only i would know

speaking of the ny times, i just hate their travel section. to my mind, too many of their travel writers are dolts who pretend to be sophisticated.

let's take today's italian example:

"Dreams are usually illogical, and so is one of the first impressive sites up the Serchio River - the Ponte del Diavolo, the Devil's Bridge, in the town of Borgo a Mozzano. The bridge dates to the 14th century and looks like it was built by two groups of people who never spoke to each other. It's too narrow for a car and too steep for a scooter or bike. It's formed by three typical-looking arches and then a fourth, larger, loopier one that rises well above the riverbank."

loopy? you idiot!

thus i screamed to myself -- how do you think people, esp. those who live in narrow river valleys cut through steep mountains, accomplished their most basic heavy-duty economic tasks in the middle ages? with steam power or diesel engines?

to my bread-baking eyes the purpose of the bridge was 100% obvious. as i'm sure it is to you, my gentle baking readers.

and as it would have been to any, oh, person who lived in europe before about 1800. look, what was the mainstay of most peasant diets until the mid-19th century?

yes dear readers, we are talking about bread -- and about the waterwheels that powered the grain mills that ground wheat into flour. that's what the bridge is for, that's what the one higher arch is for -- to house the giant wheel itself -- and that explains the narrowness of the bridge walkway!

when your state-of-the-art transport is a donkey-train to carry the sacks of grain up over the wheel to the millhouse, you don't need a wide path, do you? and the steepness of the path arching up to accomodate the height of the wheel wouldn't have been a problem for donkeys, hmm?

large waterwheels like this were common all over europe, and scholars who specialize in the history of milling -- i'm not making this up, they exist -- document that in the middle ages tuscany alone had 350 such wheels. milling was probably the dominant industry at that time.

it was such an important thing for centuries that even london bridge, which had housed waterwheels for centuries, had giant new-fangled waterwheels installed underneath it in 1582 in an effort to feed the people, increase production, and provide a supply of piped water for the city.

so while the author of the above travel piece prides himself that he's the only american there, he alas doesn't manage to be the only educated, historically aware american any place . . .how can you understand the beauty and poetry of these antique towns when you don't even begin to be aware of why they are the way they are?

how the people lived, or how their needs shaped that? for the ny times author, italy's just a theme-park of wacky stuff for his casual snarkiness, sadly.

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posted by fortune | 3:27 PM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 5 comments

completely ot: shout out to mei-mei b.

peeling open the early delivery of the ny times' special magazine on architecture, i saw my old, old pal mei-mei berssenbrugge's new house featured. this section won't be on the times' website 'til later this evening, i believe, that's their usual way.

i met mei-mei at the jack kerouac school of disembodied poetics -- that's a long story, dear readers, but yes, i am a product of that fine institution, by which i mean, lunatic asylum.

(point of fact, i was the first ted berrigan scholar, but let's not get into that. . .)

i have very fond memories of mei-mei from when i was young and literally hungry. she once "employed" me as a typist -- even tho' i can't type to this day -- as an excuse to pay me 30 bucks so i could buy groceries.

i will always remember her jewel-box house in fanta se on the corner of the acequia madre, how a coal-tar red amaryllis greeted visitors from a chinese bowl.

mei-mei, as i recall, always filled that house with flowers. a long time later i saw mei-mei, richard tuttle, and daughter martha again, and we had dinner in a private house in el rito that served as the local diner -- green chile stew with posole.

at that time a famous exhibition of suprematist art was showing, and tuttle went on an amazing riff on why he didn't like malevich much. and i do believe that was one of the most interesting experiences of my youth.

i visited mei-mei a few times when she was living in galisteo, too. good luck to you mei-mei; i think of you always with fondness.

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posted by fortune | 10:20 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 1 comments

the best chocolate dessert in new york

My BBCY Podcast trust me, i mean what i say! you can subscribe to my podcast, which i do hope will improve quickly over time, at itunes with url

or of course you can just listen here. . .

also, i'd like to remind you all of the upcoming nyc coffee meetup at the nybot grading room this coming wed.

really i would -- except i think i already have 70 people, which means as it is the event will be standing-room-only and also b.y.o.e. (bring your own espresso), i'm afraid. needless to say, however, if you don't mind conditions similar to, oh, the lex during rush hour, then come on down to hear jim p. of 1st line chat about home espresso machines.

he will be giving a demonstration. i will be raffling off a set of segafredo demitasse for you cup collectors. . .thinking that you've gotta be there?

i knew it! hopefully we won't be a victim of our own success much longer and i'll manage to find a place with water, electricity, and brewing in manhattan capable of holding between 50-100 people on a regular basis.

see ya there. thanks for your support!

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posted by fortune | 7:08 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments

Friday, May 19, 2006

the batdorf sun-dried la minita

let me start by saying -- it's fabulous. a more romantic la minita.

ok, now what do i mean by that term, romantic, in this context? give me a moment to explain. . .

long-time readers will recall that following ken davids, i do see a certain spectrum in the specialty coffee industry -- romantic cuppers to clean cuppers.

for example, james freeman goes so far as to describe his unique yemen as "uncomfortably similar to being picked up by the lapels, shaken, then tossed into a grimy manhattan snow bank." the clean cuppers wouldn't like this coffee, precisely due to its extremely earthy, sandalwood-y character.

james himself is admitting it's a wild, near-dirty cup; he goes so far as to call it "grimy!" that yemen's flirting with the edge, there.

james might be an example of an ultra-romantic -- what's unique and interesting about a coffee, as long as it's still within the expected profile, even if pushed an extreme -- is all good. another example of this might be barry jarrett's famous sentiment that the worms in the sumatra do make it taste better!

at the other extreme is super-clean george howell, who finds fruity flavors in coffee an unhappy event. he would probably not be thrilled with say, the finch wa.

i've discussed this at length before (see the last of the 6 comments on this post here). la minita is an easy way to find out where a person lands in the range.

everyone agrees that la minita is fine coffee. but is it exciting, soul-stirring coffee, worth a prose poem?

some of the ultra-romantic cuppers might find the squeaky perfectionism of la minita dull after a few cups, while the ultra-clean cuppers might view it as the pinnacle to which most coffee should aspire.

scott's batdorf sun-dried la minita has more fruit and more body, i find, than regular la minita. that's why i say, it's a more romantic la minita in the cup -- it's a tad more unleashed.

that elegant businesswoman in the chanel suit is taking off her glasses and casting a sultry, sideways glance at you. . .

the so-called regular la minita has a famous taste everyone knows: mild, lightly bright (i'd call it "sunny"), with a light-medium body, and aromas of green apple, roasted almond, and vanilla.

sun-drying la minita gives the fruit flavor and body more time to develop as the coffee workers rake it around the patio with a zen-garden precision.

i've always appreciated the symmetry, refinement, and delicacy of la minita. but brewing scott's 3-day-old, city roast, sun-dried la minita in the chemex made me love it even more.

highly recommended! can't wait to try this in the vac pot to see if i can get more of that green apple outta the fragrance and into the cup.

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posted by fortune | 8:48 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments

Thursday, May 18, 2006

back to bolivia

am i under seige by ups today or what? but seriously, scaa board member peter g. of counterculture did surprise me this morning with some of his bolivia c.o.e. carrasco, from anacleto uluri's pico del tucan (toucan's beak) estate.

if "estate" is the right word to use for a farm of 11.5 hectacres/about 28 acres. how big is that, we city-dwellers may ask?

1 acre is about 43,560 sq. feet; that is, imagine a piece of land about 209 ft by 209 ft.

here in nyc, a "short block" (scroll down) is about 1/20th of a mile or roughly 262 feet. this means toucan's beak would stretch about 22 short blocks, or from near union sq. park on 14th st. to the pierpont morgan library on 36th st.

check my math, ok, dear readers -- this is a lot for me to do on one cappuccino. still, that's a fair distance in my mind's taxi. . .

at any rate, it will be extremely interesting to compare this coffee to peter's caranavi!

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posted by fortune | 8:52 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 2 comments

breaking coffee news: sun-dried la minita

and what comes to me this morning from the wondrous scott & jessica of batdorf? an amazing thing, a rare thing -- sun-dried, patio-dried, la minita.

for those of you who don't understand why this is so amazing, let's step back a moment and talk about the famous la minita. this costa rican tarrazu estate is widely considered one of the stand-out coffees on the planet (ken davids calls it "the splendid").

the farm is a model for the globe, not only for being an early-adopter of environmentally friendly agricultural practices, but also for strict quality standards. and part of these strict standards called for indoor, machine drying of the green coffee to insure consistency and protect against any mold attacking the coffee.

however, the our friends at batdorf somehow persuaded bill mcalpin, the force behind la minita, to deviate from his long-established procedure and completely sun-dry a lot of coffee just for them. what difference would this make?

after the all the little beanies themselves don't recognize any difference between one kind of heat and another, do they?

oh yes they do, says scaa co-founder, global coffee guru, and gillies president, don schoenholt. don points out several factors that make completely sun-dried coffee different -- and better in the cup.

not only does sun-drying take place more slowly, if the patio is carefully tended, it can take place more evenly than in the barrel-type machines commonly used. there's no risk of overheating or overdrying the beans as a machine might.

further, don notes that the sun's heat also has an ultraviolet component that bleaches the beans slightly, and this probably also affects the flavor.

finally, don considers the wind. the natural, pure air of the beautiful tarrazu environment not only gently bathes the coffee, but may impart its own unique characteristics to the beans.

don also stresses the idea of craft and artisanship in coffee processing, just as in roasting and agriculture. it takes supreme skill to properly dry coffee in the sun -- 4 days of obsessive care by skilled coffee workers who love their product.

"sun drying allows the coffee to be the way divine providence intended it," he says. ok don; you would know!

this coffee meets the chemex tomorrow.

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posted by fortune | 8:38 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

the everyday yrg

leapt outta bed today in full anticipation of making sara's everyday yrg -- as roasted by colin -- as a half-pot chemex in the so-called "oren proportion." that is, 2 oz. fresh ground coffee to 26-28 oz water, depending on how much water the coffee grounds absorb (which i find is generally, but not always, an amount about equal to its dry weight).

i usually find that it actually takes 28 oz. water to get to the half-way "dot" on the chemex. if you don't wet the chemex filter before brewing, you may find it takes another oz.

as noted previously, this now 6-day-old yrg is a dark roast; i call it vienna. i don't normally drink yrg this dark, so sara's coffee is rather an adventure for me.

lemme take this opportunity to note that i personally find -- to massively oversimplify -- that yrg generally comes in 2 main types: the washed, winey, lemon-scented caramel yrg with a light-medium body (don schoenholt's gillies yrg, which ken davids once called the best yrg ever, is of this type); and the winey, dry-processed yrgs that are like harrars, such as the kello, hama, and finchwa.

i don't know any of the details of sara's yrg, so lemme just describe it as it came to me this morning in its dark roastiness: the roast had turned the floral fragrance of the dry grounds to a green spice; the aromas were dark molasses and sweet pipe tobacco; the taste slightly phenolic; and the body was light-medium.

if you are an espressohound who normally doesn't like yrg, this is definitely a coffee for you! will try it as a single-origin shot tomorrow. . .

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posted by fortune | 8:11 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

the everyday espresso

woke up this morning and it was frankly autumnal -- gray, chilly, rainy. lower manhattan had vanished in a cloud of oyster-colored fog.

it was beautiful actually. and it inspired me to fire up my italian princess, silvia, to make some of the everyday espresso from yesterday.

got your scaa flavor wheel handy? whaddya mean, you don't have it as a mousepad?

as mentioned yesterday, i'm calling this roast level vienna. i believe the coffee is now 5 days old.

the first thing i'd like to say here is that this espresso is crema central -- it truly does create the espresso porn seen in colin's pic. i pulled the shot as a 30-second triple in a single-spout portafilter, which caused the crema to glob up and actually overflow the sides of spout channel!

putting my demitasse spoon into the cup, the crema and coffee clung tenaciously to the back. i'd call this body buttery, for sure; other people might mistake it for heavy-weight motor oil.

the fragrance of the dry grounds had a heavy roast note, due to the dark color of the coffee, which as long-time readers know is darker that what i usually drink.

the taste of the brew was bitter and pungent (i felt in the center-rear of the tongue), while the aromas in the coffee were decidedly turpeny, warming, and smoky. i think this is great coffee for cappuccino, and i drank it as such without sugar.

the warm and smoke cut nicely through the milk. i also tried a second pull of this as an americano, which didn't work for me.

i think cappuccino is definitely the way to go with sara's coffee! thanks again, sara.

it will be very interesting to see how this coffee develops in a couple of days. . .

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posted by fortune | 7:33 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments

Monday, May 15, 2006

neon cappuccino

the beautiful and iconic red script neon cappuccino sign from the old ferrara's in nyc's little italy is for sale. dirt cheap for those who love both neon art and coffee. . .

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posted by fortune | 8:59 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments

canadian surprise!

and what came in the mail today but coffee from canada! whoo-hoo!

big bccy thanks to scaa pro member sara of everyday gourmet and bccy pal colin n. of coffee crew. colin roasted this coffee himself for everyday in sara's toper.

devoted readers will recall this coffee is the one featured in my recent espresso porn pic. sara kindly sent some espresso, yrg, peru, and sumatra.

popping open the yrg quickly reveals what i'd call a vienna roast -- the beans are dark and gleam with an overall light sheen of oil. i think this was all roasted on friday, making the coffee 4 days old.

you sure bet: first thing tomorrow sara's yrg is hitting the chemex. . .or maybe i should check out the espresso to see how porn-worthy it will prove in my own silvia.

thanks muchly, sara and colin!

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posted by fortune | 8:56 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments

Sunday, May 14, 2006

the ny times discovers yoga nidra, basically

"increase your pain, the screen commanded, as the first run began. i tried to recall the mental strategies in which i had been prepped for increasing pain: dwell on how hopeless, depressed or lonely you felt when your pain was most severe. . . .then, decrease pain, the screen commanded."

this nytimes article on how a chronic pain sufferer learns new techniques to help her manage just rang 100 bells with me today. the fierce and detailed visualization of opposites -- feeling heavy, then feeling light; feeling pain, then feeling pleasure -- is a common part of the yoga nidra technique.

long-time readers know i'm a big yoga nidra fan. the author of the above article goes off to a research lab and gets herself hooked up to fancy brain scan machine that shows the effects her visualizations have on her brain's pain circuitry.

again, this is no news to us yoga students: swami saraswati showed such brain images in his book on yoga nidra.

the nytimes author finds that in just two sessions with this visualization technique she is already progressing in her skill at controlling her brain. again, those of us yoga students who have practiced the so-called "long" yoga nidra on swami janakananda's cd in the link above have had this experience for ourselves.

in short, i encourage everyone with even a brief interest in the topic to read the times article and then try yoga nidra for yourself, even if you don't otherwise practice yoga. i think you will discover that it's a surprisingly beneficial exercise.

i personally found that the results became quite apparent in just 4 weeks of practicing the long yoga nidra 3 times a week. . .even to do it once or twice a week would be useful.

i really need to get back to three however; that was of the most aid, i thought!

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posted by fortune | 2:00 PM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments

Saturday, May 13, 2006

the inaugu-aural podcast

BCCY Odeo Podcast after much begging and pleading by you, gentle readers, and other well-meaning people, i have in fact made my first diy-style podcast, submitted it to itunes, and popped it in an odeo channel.

i have no idea what will become of it then. . .topics for today: my voyage to economy candy and of course, iced coffee with kevin's gimme el naranjal c.o.e. had to use it up somehow.

wish me luck. it may catch on, or it may sink like a stone! who knows?

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posted by fortune | 12:58 PM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 3 comments

so much to say today

so busy, so busy!

of course i've been remiss in discussing how kevin's wonderful gimme ethiopian fares in the chemex and in the cafetiére. you'd think from reading this that i had completely neglected peter g. (hi to you peter, are you still in nicaragua with oren?) and his counterculture rwanda.

also, the great syrup tasting is underway, as i put da vinci's white chocolate syrup head-to-head with routin's 1883 version of that flavor. not to mention discussing the other routin flavors i've been sampling: hazelnut, sugar-free chocolate, sugar-free vanilla.

when i have coffee parties the most requested drink is surely the white chocolate or vanilla latte. i will make these for guests, altho' i will politely hint that the right coffee needs no flavoring.

but! signature drinks do have a place in the coffee pantheon, as you can see from the originality pro baristis display in competition. of course, caffè del professore in naples -- a traditional temple of espresso -- has possibly the best flavored signature drink on the planet, which relies on hazelnut and chocolate.

so i'm not going to completely condemn the occasional, special use of flavors. they just shouldn't be habitual.

if you want some kind of berry-vanilla coffee concoction, my friend, you know from reading here that you can find a gorgeous, high-quality, single-origin varietal that offers such an experience to you naturally. and in a more intense, delicious and mind-blowing form that most syrups will ever give. . .

but let me catch up on the important business first. of course this morning i began the day with my usual delicious batdorf dancing goat cappucino.

but the last several days i've been tinkering with the best way to brew kevin's ethiopian longberry m.a.o. horse harrar. of course i've been pursuing the best way to get that tobey-maguire blue into the cup.

and after careful consideration and much grinding, i think pressing it makes the most of the blue and maximizes its heavy, velvety body. that vintage-port/spray-dried marsala aftertaste, that's its own thing. . .

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posted by fortune | 8:50 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments