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Saturday, March 02, 2002

score! score! score!

went all the effing way to difara's for one of domenic demarco's amazing artichoke pizzas. i mean, we hopped the r to the q out to avenue j and then on the way back had to drop the q, switch to the r, only to discover that the r was running express all the way to canal st. in manhattan. then we had to go back to atlantic ave. and change to the 2 to clark st. finally. . . !

however, while at difara's mr. right did have the nerve to ask what flour domenic was using. "italian 00," he replied. (this shows you that he is committed to an authentic neapolitan pie, although domenic isn't officially certified.) of course i was astonished. how did he get real italian 00 ultra-soft wheat flour from abruzzo? ah, the joys of wholesale restaurant supply!

the best we home bakers can usually get is the king arthur "approximation" -- at $3.50 a pound. but thanks to domenic's old world courtesy, i left difara's with 3 kilos of real delverde italian 00.

how much did he want? only $1.50 a kilo bag! "come back anytime you want some more," he said. maybe that trek isn't so bad after all. . . .pizza makers, you have found your pole star!

posted by fortune | 7:09 PM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Friday, March 01, 2002

and another big thanks to d. cadmus for the pointer on something we all should know about. . .

that's right, the wonderful chocolate exhibit at the field museum in chicago. it's a nice-sized site, a great-looking exhibit, and i personally just love the interactive flash 5 movie that lets you harvest, split, ferment, bag, grind, blend, crumble, conch, and pour chocolate. the download time is about 4-5 minutes on a 56k modem, but i found it fun anyway.

go for it here. yeah, it's in the just for kids section, but who cares? the more we all learn about chocolate, the more we can contribute to forming a little chocolate society of our own. . .

posted by fortune | 10:18 AM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Thursday, February 28, 2002

the much-beloved designer discount clothing store century 21 officially re-opened today, just about 5-1/2 months after shards of the world trade center crashed through its windows.

i arrived at about 12:35pm. all three main doors where open, and it was crowded going in, but possible to move after you had entered the store. this lasted for about 10 mins. by 12:45pm, it was tough going anywhere at all. you literally could not move, it was so full of women. the line to the dressing room snaked around the corner and up and down two aisles. not that it mattered; you couldn't take a step forward or back. women were tearing off their tops to try on missoni sweaters, marked down to $125 from $600.

all the usual designers were there, in the usual spots. at the moment human gridlock set in, i was actually in the third-floor dressing room line, holding a blumarine silk top ($60 from $300), a missoni sweater, and a marc jacobs denim skirt ($50 from $250).

surprisingly, no one was upset. all the women were flushed with happiness. those next to the century 21 staff were actually giving them hugs and thanking them! the mood was festive, like a giant pajama party with total strangers -- everyone was united by their love of european designer clothes at dizzingly low prices.

after about 20 mins. of literally being unable to move more than 6 inches in any direction, the crowd cleared a bit, and the line inched forward. but alas! my lunch hour was fast ending!

i was forced to abandon the clothes, go down to the second floor, and move towards the escalator, past the todd's suede driving loafers ($109, down from $325). then gridlock struck again. i stood on the 4th or 5th stair of the stopped escalator for another 10 minutes. finally, the staff on the first floor worked out a traffic system, and i got down to the church street exit in just another 10 minutes.

as we stood hip to hip on the silent escalator stairs, suspended between floors, everyone started talking to everyone else. about what they had bought. how they had managed to check out, i don't know, because the checkout lines had to be 30 people deep each, even with 8 registers open on each floor.

new york -- it's coming back alive. in retrospect, somehow it seems as if the 20th century didn't really end until that tragic day. then time held itself in some crazy half-dream abeyance until this today at 1:15pm. there, on the escalators, century 21 truly began. again.

posted by fortune | 11:24 AM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Wednesday, February 27, 2002

couple of weeks ago, a commenter asked what i considered chocolate art to be. . .

well, it's not up to me. there actually is a national pastry championship, where the very best pastry chefs and chocolatiers form teams to compete. they not only make some basic petits fours and ice creams, but must also make a two tall display pieces, one of spun sugar, and another of pure chocolate.

all pieces must be completely edible. the teams -- 3 people each -- have just 9 hours to make all this stuff from scratch on the spot in front of the judges. and in an open tent in the summer, where the temperature can vary widely. (imagine your horror if after 8 hours of working on a large chocolate sculpture, the temperature soars to 95 degrees and you get to watch it melt all over the presentation platter. . . )

they are judged not only on the quality and delicious flavorings of the cakes and ice creams, but also on their teamwork, positive attitude, baking techniques, neatness, cleanliness, and many other categories. the two display pieces must be made to an annual theme.

for example, the 2001 theme was hollywood. the large display pieces had to creatively, light-heartedly, and edibly interpret this theme in an artistic manner. these displays are the kind of amusing thing you might see decorating the head table at a white house dinner or on the buffet backstage at the oscars. they are often 3 feet high.

so without further ado, i link you to what the greatest pastry chefs consider chocolate art . . . although not a medal winner, i like the one devoted to charlie chaplin.

the contestants are judged by their peers: jacques torres is a frequent judge at this exciting event.

posted by fortune | 10:11 AM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Tuesday, February 26, 2002

trend alert: chocolate is turning up as a fashionable ingredient in savory dishes . . .

we're used to the moles of mexico, but lately it seems as if chocolate is being used as a finishing ingredient in other cuisines too. particularly in any dish with many spices or highly constrasting flavors, chocolate can serve as a pleasant base that unites them all into a mellow whole.

here in new york we're now seeing chocolate starring in dishes ranging from the completely unexpected -- tuscan at the restaurant beppe -- to the more expected pan-latin at patria. at beppe, you'll see chocolate at dessert, but also in the seasonal meat courses, particularly in a recent dish of pork. the chef notes that this use of chocolate is traditional in livorno. at patria, you can sometimes see savory chocolate in the specials and tasting menus.

look for chocolate to appear under entrees on the menu of your local dining hotspot soon.

posted by fortune | 10:27 AM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Monday, February 25, 2002

i can drink coffee all day long.

a cup just an hour or two before yoga will bother my balance a tad, maybe, but it's never kept me up at night or anything. . .however, not everyone is so lucky, of course. we all know that some people seem very sensitive to caffeine. they have to drink decaf to avoid a headache or the jitters.

still others say that coffee bothers their tummy. mr. right is hit with the double whammy: jitters and tummy problems. even drinking quality decaf makes his stomach ache. so he has to eat something before he takes a latte, and then he really doesn't feel comfortable drinking more than one.

but now his problems could be solved. one johann wulff is marketing what he claims is a good-tasting, high-quality, sustainably-grown stomach-friendly coffee. wulff claims the steam process he's using removes tummy-troubling bitter chlorogenic acids from the coffee beans without adversely affecting flavor. normally, these acids make up to 10 percent of coffee's chemical composition before roasting.

wulff didn't invent the process; it was patented in germany in the 1930s. however, not everyone is convinced that the process will bring relief; some doctors are skeptical that these acids are even the responsible for the problem. in fact, some studies seem to indicate that these chlorogenic acids may be helpful to the body in various ways.

clearly the only way to solve this controversy is to order some for myself and see if it helps mr. right. unfortunately, wulff currently appears to be offering only drip; no espresso. still it could be nice in a vac pot. . .

posted by fortune | 11:21 AM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Sunday, February 24, 2002

is there any one left who still likes martha stewart? or is the mockery of her massive tv insincerity now universal?

well, no matter how you feel about her -- little ms.-take-all-joy-outta-life-with-perfectionism -- i must say that i do applaud her recent column on how to introduce children to the joys of baking bread. anything we can do to get real bread back into people's lives is a . . . good thing.

(i know she probably didn't write it, but lingered over the shoulder of some terrified i-mac monkey making a penny a word. . . oh heck, i don't have to pretend i like her; you guys already know i can't stand those pompous food writers or celebrity chefs. . . )

that aside, bread baking at a simple, country white loaf level is accessible to anyone over 8, and those 5 and up can certainly participate in the mixing and kneading. of course, no child under 12 should be left alone with a hot oven! i encourage all of you to find a local child, unplug them from the xbox, and drag 'em into the kitchen.

even many squirmy boys can be intrigued when you explain to them that you are going to be dealing with yeast, a cool bacteria you can mess around with. get that ant farm mentality going. . .

posted by fortune | 5:06 PM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

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