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Saturday, January 31, 2004

i heart vincenzo sandalj

but first let me note the new hobbies of men: yoga, knitting, and now, fire-freakin'.

for those of you unfamiliar with the radical artisan bread culture, generally the term fire freak is reserved for a person who is a fanatic about their backyard brick oven. and baking bread in it.

long-time readers know that as i live in a little hovel in the sky on a small island off the coast of the united states, i do not have a backyard brick oven. but that doesn't mean i haven't lusted after one for years and years, and that i have ceased worshipping the surya of all fire freaks, alan scott.

i was surprised that fire freakin' has gone so mainstream it's featured this month in the -- brace yourselves -- aarp magazine. but there it is. knitting, yoga, and bread baking.

men get more interesting all the time.

in other news, i was totally blown away to read this month's tea & coffee, where the chief of the specialty coffee association of europe, vincenzo sandalj, wins my heart for ever and ever.

he does this by discussing specialty coffee in europe in terms of the consumer. and his priorities about improving coffee are exactly the ones we on and who are also scaa charter consumer members would use: improving the coffee culture of baristas, retailers, and cafe owners; improving the craft of roasting; educating consumers; improving coffee quality at the level of the farm and the importer/exporter.

i am so overwhelmed i can barely remember how happy i was this morning to sample the batdorf southern-italian-style espresso, the nutty vesuvio.

i normally don't like coffees roasted this dark, but actually this was pretty yummy. mr. right still prefers the sweet and floral dancing goats, however. . .

posted by fortune | 6:29 PM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Friday, January 30, 2004


ananda means bliss in sanskrit. my question remains: so if i take a challenging 1-1/2 hour yoga class and then eat some chocolate, do i get double the blissed-out benefits?

and for those who missed it in yesterday's comments, the link to coffee as a health food.

i can't tell you how pleased i was to finally receive in the mail the winter 2004 edition of namarupa. this issue features articles on music as well as folktales, of which i've always been a huge fan.

really, folk tales are the true universal literature of humankind. the arabs, russians, and chinese have such amazing folktales in particular. if you think the hans christian andersen tales are sad and violent, wait until you read some of the classic chinese. . .it's not all ou-yang hsiu romance, believe you me.

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

Thursday, January 29, 2004

starbucks steers the right course; pluma, not feathers

gotta give a hand to the mermaid here. opening a relationship agronomy office to help struggling farmers improve coffee quality and survive the world-price depression known as the coffee crisis is something we coffee lovers can only applaud.

speaking of coffee, this morning i woke up, looked out my window and sighed at the sight of so much remaining snow. it feels more like buffalo than brooklyn.

but i was much cheered to sip batdorf's yemen mocha. ah! winey, spicy, great body in the cafetiére, a.k.a. press pot. (i think it's a sanani even tho' my label, unlike the one in the picture, doesn't say so. . . )

i didn't get a chance to cup this in the morning -- that work thing really gets in the way of your coffee-tasting somehow -- but i will venture a formal evaluation in linglese this weekend.

also i was thrilled to receive from the ever-wonderful david haddock of counterculture a bag of their mexican pluma. this is the total hat trick: it's shade-grown/bird-friendly, fair-trade, and certified organic all at once.

i suspect the beans come from current scaa prez david griswold's sustainable harvest via its relationship with the hidalgo "la trinidad" coffee farmers cooperative.

posted by fortune | 12:00 PM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

yoga utility & the mexican chocolate macchiato

everyone who's into yoga at some time or another struggles with a simple fact: carrying the mat. there are many ways to do it: simple strap harness-type systems, fancy $$$ designer bags toted by former supermodels, plain rip-stop nylon, thin bags made of bright chinese or batik cloth.

the problem is one of size, weight, shape. it's hard to find a non-bulky, easy-to-carry, and good-looking yoga bag that's large enough for the big mat as well as a change of clothes, even tho' yoga clothes themselves are small and lightweight.

so far there's just not been a stylish, useful, and reasonably priced solution. a new entrant into the mat-bag arena is the intent bag.

this looks more like a guy-bag to me; it's not far removed from locker-room roots. but as more guys are getting into yoga, i guess the little batik-cloth bags aren't going to cut it for them. . .those do look a tad girlie. . .

more on the recent southeastern barista competition front: as i reported yesterday, non-barista darren of counterculture won in a surprise finish. he completed the required drinks handily, with more than a minute left over.

his specialty drink: a mexican chocolate macchiato, made with ibarra chocolate melted with hot water. as described to me, this glazed the bottom of the cup.

then a normal-type doppio macchiato went on top, prettified with latte art. darren garnished the drink with thin strips of home-made candied orange peel.

citrus usually is said to work more against coffee than for it, but apparently he made the peel quite sweet, so it worked out, esp. with the hints of cinnamon and almond found in the ibarra.

there is a locus of meaning in coffee drinks and the material culture of coffee. trust me! if not, see this interesting anthropological study of the coffee cup. . .

posted by fortune | 12:03 PM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

2 people who need to meet

"one whiff of the aromatic grounds awakens your senses; instantly, the scent of pine needles and sweet mountain air comes to the fore. you taste the ebony nectar, lingering on its smoky goodness, and everything -- the piercing morning light, 3-day-old bread, even your grumpy buddies -- takes on a softer edge. it's as if you've traded in your old trinitron for a spanking new hdtv."

peter flax is obviously a bccy kinda guy. that he writes this ode to peets' sumatra is laudable.

i like his positive attitude, and he is just another example of what scientific research appears to show: the aroma of fresh coffee does seem to generally improve human mood.

"if you want to go and see people who are far too happy with themselves, then you could do worse than to visit your local american-style coffee shop."

peter flax needs to meet juliet wilson. strike that; reverse it, as willy wonka said. this self-proclaimed glass-is-half-empty girl could use a boost. clearly her local cafe isn't serving fresh specialty coffee, or else she wouldn't be so grumpy!

however, as one whose local starbucks is in fact most days overrun with mothers of the type juliet discusses, i do have sympathy for her. as for inspector morse, i love him too -- and not just because of the late john thaw!

but he's grumpy not for the joy of it; he's grumpy because he's an uncontrollable romantic who cannot contain his disappointment with life. that what his classical music jones is all about: he needs it to inspire him, to remind him that the sublime and romantic can be seen in this world.

for both juliet and our friend inspector morse i would recommend a coffee meditation, such as i am helping with at the scaa conference in atlanta this april. morse's habitual pint is what brought him down.

coffee is romantic and beautiful. it also serves to connect us with other people in a genuine manner, which is the only balm for morse's brand of romantic despair.

finally, as for the glass-is-half-empty problem: this is, as a new acquaintance of mine has wisely said, an engineering opportunity. it simply means the glass you have is currently too large.

put it in the dishwasher and use a smaller one from now on!

ah: i should note that last weekend peter and cindy at counterculture held the southeastern regional barista competition. the winner?

a manager from counterculture itself. the surprise: he wasn't even a regular barista! he apparently entered on a lark. some people have hidden talents. . .

posted by fortune | 10:39 AM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Monday, January 26, 2004

new recipe?

today awesome altie and scca charter consumer member jim schulman of chicago sent me one of his favorite recipes, for a chocolate terrine.

it's sounds so incredible i'm just pasting it in here so you dear readers can go to town. if you like it, you can come to the consumer espresso lab at the scaa conference in atlanta this april and tell him. we're doing it together.

what's great is that it's essentially a no-cook recipe. all good! however, i might make this recipe with chocolate in the 60-65% range, personally. and i might not use scharffenberger:

DEATH BY CHOCOLATE - John Bishop, Bishop's, Vancouver, Bishop's Cookbook. [comments in brackets by jim schulman]

10 to 12 servings

700 grams semi-sweet chocolate [i.e. 70% Valrhona, Sharf, or El Rey]
300mL whipping cream
150 grams unsalted butter, melted
6 egg yolks
50mL Cafe Royale Liquor [sweetened espresso & brandy]
75 grams confectioners sugar [1/2 optional, to taste]
500mL raspberries, fresh or frozen

Carefully and slowly melt the chocolate and cream in a bain marie, whisk in butter, keep smooth. Set aside, but don't let it cool. Whip egg yolks, and liquor, and 1/2 the icing sugar to a pale ribbon stage over the bain marie. Whisk the chocolate into the egg cream. [I do the egg cream first].

Line a terrine pan with plastic wrap, pour in mixture, let cool, and refrigerate overnight.

Puree the raspberries, add sugar to taste, [should be tart for contrast].

Plating: Cut the chocolate into 1/2 inch slices with a warm knife. Place a slice on a large plate, center. Put the plate in a high box, and splash the raspberry syrup over plate and terrine in a blood-splatter effect.

posted by fortune | 11:31 AM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Sunday, January 25, 2004

regional coffee culture, part xvi

or maybe i should call this global youth culture, part i.

""tea is boring, and a drink more for the older folks," says a 19-year old law student. . . in sri lanka. that's right, sri lanka, formerly land of tea.

hey, she said it, i didn't! if this hip young legal eagle is like the rest of her global student compatriots, she's drinking at least one vanilla latte a day.

what's happening is that asia is turning to coffee. you can see this not only by googling the news, but also by going to and looking at the members tab to size of the coffee groups in various cities around the world.

many of the larger groups meet in asian cosmopolitan areas: hong kong, singapore. this is a very interesting development and encourages me to consider talking to my coffee friends about aggressively expanding the scaa consumer membership program. . .

as for those truffles: umm, they are all rough, knobby, and lovely looking. i think truffles are most attractive when they look like the real ones. i roll my in cocoa to emulate black truffles, and in powdered sugar to emulate white.

some people like a little crunch, so i also sometimes roll the truffle in superfine cinnamon sugar and then in cocoa. if you like cinnamon but no crunch, mix some in with the cocoa you're dusting the truffles in.

either way, i made up about 55-60 truffles yesterday, and put some away in the freezer, the rest in the fridge.

the problem i had i thought was how to attractively package these to give away as gifts. following the truffle theme, i wanted a brown, rough, country-sort-of-looking brown box, lined with mocha or beige paper. these handmade truffles usually don't fit well in commercial fluted candy-cup papers.

so how to wrap them? real truffles are often sold or displayed on straw. how to mimic that? and still be hygenic of course.

i'd wrap the box with colored and braided twine to keep up the rustic theme. but how to wrap the truffles themselves? hmmm. . .

as i pondered these presentation issues i noticed the truffles were disappearing over the course of the afternoon from their little tupperware in the fridge. aha! the culprit. . .could it be mr. right?

thus while i worried over my supposed gift-giving problem, i failed to notice that i actually had a truffle-supply problem. . .suddenly i realized i had gone from truffle surplus to truffle deficit.

problem solved!

posted by fortune | 11:20 AM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

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