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Saturday, January 05, 2002

UPS messed me up!

the tamper's delayed . . . . weeping, weeping.

on another front, i ran into a little hardware store on university & 12th in the village, where they had unexpectedly good prices on vev vigano moka pots and decent plain white thick-walled italian style espresso cups. $4 for both 2 oz. cup and saucer. you usually see these in dark brown -- the white's good too and a little harder to find.

check it out if you're in the area: "flat 90" hardware, cattywampus from dean & deluca.

posted by fortune | 8:37 PM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Friday, January 04, 2002

had the great opportunity yesterday to take an in-depth tour of the woolworth building, where i'm working now. . .

we got to see many features of the building not widely known to exist. for example, mr. woolworth, who was quite a character in that old-fashioned turn-of-the-century baronial way, had a marble swimming pool put in one of the four basement floors. rather roman in design, with a mosaic floor. recently, this part of the building was a little health club and the pool area was converted to modern standards; the gym went out of business and it's sad to see the dusty, empty pool, lying bereft.

he also had an apartment on the 40th floor, done in floor-to-ceiling aged mahogany wainscoting. the molding's in an egg-and-dart pattern. the ceilings of these rooms were carved and gilded plaster, clearly along the lines of those in the doges' palace in venice. only one room of this apartment remains as a reminder. the rest of the floor was cut up into tiny offices in the 1950s.

the building also has an observation deck, closed to the public since the second world war. the top of the deck has a light on it, and it was believed that german spies might sneak into the building and use the light to flash morse code signals to german submarines! it never reopened to the public afterwards. the regular elevators end at the 54th floor, and a round glass elevator with an intricate gilt wrought-iron gate took you up the last four stories to the deck. that elevator is mothballed now, sadly.

i conquered my paralyzing fear of heights just long enough to walk out onto the deck. but the wind began to blow and the deck swayed a bit. i immediately grabbed the closest bit of enameled terra-cotta gothic bric-a-brac i could find and held on for dear life. still, the view is amazing: even today you can see to ringwood state park in the ramapo mountains in new jersey and over to the control tower at la guardia airport. a beautiful view of the brooklyn bridge, as well. as for the view of ground zero -- let's talk about that later, ok? it was very moving.

we also got to see the mechanical sections of the building. the elevators are still operated by the original hand-built 1910 motors. each car has its own motor; these motors are each larger than a mini-van! since there are 20 elevators, the woolworth engineers are still maintaining 20 of these monsters, which isn't difficult, since each one still works perfectly. however, there is a machine shop in the building in which they have the ability to make their own parts for them should the need arise.

mr. woolworth loved electricity, and he made sure he had enough by installing his own giant steam turbines in the bottom floor. for many years the building made enough electricity that it sold much of it back to con-edison for a profit. to do this, the turbines were powered by coal-generated steam. the boiler room, about 1/2 the size of a football field, was lined with boilers and connected to a giant coal shaft with a door that swung out onto park place.

excess steam was used to heat the building; in fact, the building is still heated with city steam. the boiler room also features to this day a 8-ft-wide, 48-story chimney, the tallest in the world. many of these engineering wonders were replaced with more modern equipment in the 1950s.

the building facade, entirely terra-cotta, is under constant repair, or pointing. since modern air is hard on the terra-cotta, they nowadays cast replacements in a mix of fiberglass and terra-cotta, then enamel them to match the original pieces. perhaps the most amazing single fact about the building, besides its singular beauty and grace, is the fact that mr. woolworth paid $13 million in cold cash (in 1910 dollars) right on the table when the building contract was signed. one of the employees of the current owners, the witkoff group, estimated that that would be about $1 billion in today's dollars. mr. woolworth hated debt.

posted by fortune | 11:29 AM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Thursday, January 03, 2002

and the daring baker has come through!

plus, she's apparently been reading my diatribes (rant and rant) on food writing, because she provides the most casual, bare recipe. . .while most cookbooks and "serious bakers" would tell you never to mess with the amount of liquid in a recipe, here's where she took the brave step of going her own merry way. and so she created the delicious flourless chocolate pudding cake tasted at paula carino's new year's day event. below, exactly as given to me --

1 pound semisweet chocolate
1 cup butter
1/4 cup kahlua (added a little extra)
1 tsp. vanilla (added 2)

beat (approx 6 minutes):
7 eggs
1 cup sugar

fold in 1/3 of egg mixture; fold in remaining egg mixture
bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes (left it in a little longer)

remember, she used ghirardelli chocolate, lurpak danish butter, and nielsen-massey vanilla. i must try this myself the weekend after next. however, as is my wont, i'd be using valrhona le noir gastronomie and plugra. that's just me.

in the meantime, if any of you make this, please write and tell me the result! i'm not above posting a digital pic. . .(hint!)

posted by fortune | 12:18 PM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Wednesday, January 02, 2002

spent some time today trying to run down a web presence or mention for the classic french chocolatier, maison boissier on rue victor hugo. no luck. . .

the closest i could come was a mention of them on the venerable english chocolate site charbonnel & walker. they are especially renowned for their cocoa meant for hot chocolate. a colleague just came back from england; why wasn't i smart enough to ask him to bring back a theatre box for me?

note to self: when friends visit foreign places, ask them to mail you hard-to-find chocolates, dummy!

posted by fortune | 11:55 AM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Tuesday, January 01, 2002

and a happy new year to you all too!

dropped by a party at the home of rock star, yoga teacher and long-time reader paula carino. where i ran into a lovely flourless chocolate cake.

normally the homemade flourless chocolate cake is a tad too dry; but the baker had made an inspired mistake in following the recipe and thus the cake was actually rather like pudding in the middle.

she had used ghirardelli chocolate, nielsen-massey vanilla, and lurpak unsalted danish butter. it was a very good thing all around. i hope to have the recipe (mistake 'n all) for you all soon.

until that time, finish up your champagne! once it's flat, the only thing it's good for is sorbet. . .

posted by fortune | 7:41 PM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Monday, December 31, 2001

on the last day of this sad year, let me take a minute to thank all of my readers and correspondents, no mattter whether you're a regular who's been with me from the beginning or have just today made a quick stop by on your way somewhere else. i started this blog in may, knowing only that i didn't want a blog that just chatted about the other blogs i read. i wanted a blog that was more personal, more interesting, more useful, and reflected who i is. from may to today, together we've gone from 500 hits a month to 15,000.

i'll be spending this new year's eve making pizza and chocolate chip cookies. instead of my usual yellow-tomato pizza sauce, i'll be using a more standard red-tomato pizza sauce. here's the way i make it, using canned tomatoes in the winter:

1 can 28 oz. crushed red organic tomatoes
2 cloves crushed garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, in chiffonade
3 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves, chopped
1 cup red wine
1 teaspoon salt (optional, depending on saltiness of pizza topping)

heat olive oil in medium saucepan over medium heat. add garlic and sautee in oil for 1 min. then add tomatoes, wine, bay leaf, salt. reduce heat and let simmer partially covered for 10-15 mins, stirring occasionally. add herbs and simmer for 5 mins. more. that's all there is to it.

once again, my deepest thanks and best wishes to you all. . .and i sincerely pray that 2002 be a happier year for everyone. but we all know that happier years start a morning at a time, preferably with a cup of great cappucino! and yesterday, while making my morning froth, i finally snapped. . .

the silvia comes with a default double-spouted portafilter. usually i plop two shot glasses underneath and let silvia pour. this is great if you're going to pour it all later into a milk drink, but not too long ago, i did have to make a single cup of espresso. then the double spout was a drag -- lost a lot of crema to the shot glasses. i watched sadly as half the crema i had worked so hard to create stayed glued to the sides.

so today i bought a single spout portafilter handle. now i can drop espresso directly into the pre-heated cup and forget the shot glasses for straight espresso. i also took the opportunity to buy a commercial-grade double-espresso coffee basket. this holds a gram or two more of coffee than the standard silvia double. because if you're going to make a double, you should get a big double. more coffee, no crema loss -- excellent!

see you all tomorrow. . .

posted by fortune | 10:32 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Sunday, December 30, 2001

brrr! freezing weather has finally arrived. this calls for hot chocolate, a hot chocolate like no other. such a simple recipe but with an intense, velvety taste. . .

2 cups whole milk
5 oz. valrhona manjari chocolate
1/16 teaspoon salt (optional)
4-6 drops Neilsen-Massey vanilla (optional)
1 oz. vermeer dutch cream or kahlua liqueur (optional)

in a heavy 1qt. saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk to a high simmer. don't actually boil, lest you get that yucky milk protein skin or worse, scorch the milk.

reduce heat to low and add the chocolate. whisk gently until the mixture thickens. this could take some time: 20-30 mins., even longer. don't stop whisking or the chocolate might scorch.

think of this as the zen of hot chocolate. just whisk gently. meditate for as long as it takes. the chocolate must be very thick, thicker than you've ever seen hot chocolate before.

taste. this itself should be 2 servings of perfection. but if you want to push on, take the chocolate off the heat and add the salt and vanilla. see if you like that better.

on truly dark, dreary days, when you can't remember the last time you saw sunlight, that's when you add the liqueur. unless you have enough frequent flyer miles for santa monica; then just drink the liqueur by itself on the way to the airport. . .

posted by fortune | 6:43 PM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

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