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Saturday, August 14, 2004

the return of blanche

every day in new york remains an adventure in beauty. devoted readers will recall that my beloved 5-yr.-old kitchenaid stand mixer, blanche, tossed her gear teeth and required repair.

the only authorized repair center for kitchenaid is far, far away in the mysterious bensonhurst. this means taking both the n and the d train to 86th st. & bay 17th ave. which i did.

the n is a normal train, but the d is not. bklyn is a giant place: if manhattan is a judith leiber clutch purse, then bklyn is a kenneth cole weekend roller tote.

the d goes places nobody knows.

at pacific st., the d was just closing its doors as i stepped from the n. two tiny ancient vietnamese ladies rushed by me despite their burden of bok choy and pea shoots to pound on the slamming doors. that then mysteriously opened.

one of those little new york miracles that give hope! the d has it all: it's part subway, ground train, and el.

the ground view is very 70s: dirty train yard, crumbling concrete trestles, trash fires. the el reveals some truly inferior specimans of graffiti art: inept tags, clumsy lettering, poor sense of scale and design.

hopped off at 18th ave. and wandered down 86th, past the historic new utrecht public library. imagine! a public library in new york city that still has funds to stay open.

i can't remember the last time i saw an open branch library, personally. the neighborhood was classic, with tiny hair salons, gelaterias, take-out delis, bad fake italian furniture stores.

despite this aura, most of the people i saw on the street were actually asian. i found the repair center, a tiny cramped cardboard box on the corner.

i waited 10 mins. for someone to appear. and then another 30 mins. while they found my mixer, which cost me $125. i was so happy to see dear blanche again i nearly wept.

then it began it rain.

thank you, hurricane charley! obviously, carrying this 30-lb. mixer base back thru the rain up the stairs to the train line was a no go; call for a car service.

while i wait for the car, the people of bensonhurst arrive, little old ladies needing pressure cooker gaskets, new carafes for their coffee pots, an extension cord for the iron. does anyone still iron? i asked myself.

as a kuhn-rikon lover, i was pleased to trade stories about pressure cooking with them. they seemed to use theirs to make borlotti bean soup with radicchio (pasta e fagioli alla contadina).

the car comes and the driver, in a queens accent so perfect and pure i thought it might have been an act, began decrying the decayed morals of our society with specific reference to the recent scandal in new jersey.

having lived in nyc for so long now, i find myself acquiring a certain sense of humor.

"frankly," i said, "with the choice between the stepford wife and the gay poet, i'd have called an escort service, 'cuz both of 'em look like real woofers to me. plus the 'ho already has a job, you don't have to give 'im two or three."

the driver agreed this was a reasonable course. in the same vein, i announced a new political philosophy, one formed without even the benefit of coffee.

"from now on," i said, "gay or straight, i'm voting for the one with the best-looking mistress." that's the problem, the driver exclaimed -- "not mistress! master!"

and with that, my doorman reached to help me outta the car. i stood for a moment under the awning, watching the lovely rain glaze the delicate carved work that decorates bklyn's historic facades as the graceful trees waved their leaves in the cool breeze.

blanche does work, but makes a funny rattling noise. probably osteoarthritis.

posted by fortune | 10:36 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Friday, August 13, 2004

farewell, julia!

in these days when every clog-footed cooking-school graduate rushes for the big time with a set of cookware endorsements, we mourn the loss of julia child, who refused to sell her soul or the soul of her cooking.

in the great bardo when you meet the ego-demons tempting you to re-birth, just brandish your omelet whisk and go forth to nirvana boldly, julia! as the living kitchen bodhisattva you did in fact liberate us all from the family circle of "u.s. favorites," meaning jello salad.

i'm surprised as the low-carb/glycemic-load thing keeps going on, but it seems to help a lot of people we know. thus i was interested to read about a new form of low-carb chocolate.

usually these candies are sweetened with maltitol, which really ruins the texture of the chocolate, gives it a gummy mouth-feel, and causes some people tummy trouble. this new tagatose sweetner is supposed to offer an improvement for the texture issue, according to the article. . .

however i'm afraid the tummy trouble will still be a problem! i'll be sticking to my el rey 70%, thank you very much.

posted by fortune | 10:39 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Thursday, August 12, 2004

wouldn't it just be uncomfortable?

naturally, how you feel about this coffee advertisement in the netherlands depends on your political position on certain issues. long-time readers know my feelings, without a doubt.

that aside, i just think sniffing frozen cappuccino up your nose would really be an unpleasant sensation. worse than when too-cold ice cream hits your palate and gives you a headache!

of course, in the commercial, they are miming the action. if this were to air in the u.s.a. teenage boys would be instantly doing it. . .and suing.

i get the joke they are trying to make about coffee being a drug, and the product being so good as to be addictive, and forbidden things automatically being "cool." but i think it is an inappropriate marketing method, no matter what the current rate of illegal drug use in holland.

while dutch society seems very permissive to americans, i can say in my limited experience with dutch acquaintances that the netherlands seems to enjoy stronger families than we perhaps do here, if the divorce rate is any accurate indicator -- only 30% there, as opposed to about 43% here.

and i think that may be one reason, despite the tolerance of illegal drugs there, we in the u.s.a. have a worse drug problem. but hey, i'm no expert!

but on to something of more interest: the new gillies "old glory." i made it this morning in the cafetiére (a.k.a. french press) in the usual way -- 55 grams coffee to 1 liter water.

although the maroon can says it contains gillies' popular "legendary blend," the fair-trade/shade-grown version i tried seemed significantly brighter than the version i was used to. so fans of crisp coffees who enjoy their songbirds can feel happy with this blend!

if you're a canned coffee drinker, or are shopping for one, ask for it at your local market. if it isn't there yet, inquire of the manager "why not?"

posted by fortune | 10:06 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

catching up to old glory

after my recent rants on the horrors of supermarket canned coffee, mr. right, who loves the visual, sends a link to the package museum. isn't the old a&p can cute?

yes it is; and at that time, the coffee was better, too! speaking of better canned coffee, i was delighted to receive don schoenholt's gillies new "old glory" in civil-war-era-themed 13-oz. cans.

this new item is the famous "legendary blend" in 3 varieties -- one decaf, one fair-trade/shade-grown, and one regular. i can't wait to pop open the recyclable steel can and sample!

apparently this item is already flying off the shelves from fairway and some whole foods. ask for it there.

i think it's a great thing for specialty coffee-lovers trying to evangelize to their coffee-drinking friends who possess an emotional attachment to canned coffee! consider giving it as a gift and see if you make headway. . .

but in important chocolate news, coming up oct. 6-13, leonidas is having a sale at locations in nyc and chicago. a big bccy thanks to clay gordon for the heads-up.

and another bccy thank you to awesome altie roger barrett for alerting me to this article on yoga therapy and how it helps in multiple sclerosis. (you know, bugmenot.)

posted by fortune | 7:45 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

a US$22.5 billion-a-year

wow! yoga as a business, i knew. yoga as a huge industry rivaling professional sports, i didn't.

"macy cited a 2002 article in yj that reported individual yoga participants spend an estimated US$1,500 yearly on classes, exercise clothing, mats, attending conferences, buying books, and other yoga-related expenses."

but this little article just lays it out and does the math!

so i did some of my own math -- hmm. i have a yearly membership to yoga people. (despite the fact that the place drives me crazy sometimes!)

that's $$$$. and my weekly private lesson, another $$$$.

i buy all my little yoga outfits at steep discount at century 21, but that's still probably $$$ annually, as alas, lycra does wear out after about 2 or 3 years.

so i personally am spending about $$$$$ on yoga my own bad self. yikes! maybe i should become a teacher and recoup some of that investment after all. . .

nah! no way! on the other hand, it might be interesting to do some of gary kraftsow's teacher training, short of going to kym to see t.k.v. desikachar.

posted by fortune | 10:29 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Monday, August 09, 2004

regional coffee culture, part xxvi

i think! i'm losing count. . .

"coffee drinkers in glasgow are leading a nationwide trend for european-style cafe culture, visiting coffee bars 30% more often than the u.k. average."

this article is just another interesting data point -- west or east, i continue to be amazed at the rapid spread of specialty coffee culture the world round!

but let's talk about stuff going on in the coffee-producing countries, or in coffee-talk "at origin." this little article caused me unease:

"coffee growers in nyeri district who had earlier defied a government order to merge their small cooperative societies have now agreed to comply.

when the order was given last year, the ministry of cooperative development argued that small societies were making losses and were not economically viable.

it was therefore necessary to merge them to form bigger organisations to enjoy the economy of scale, the ministry reasoned."

why does this tidbit worry me? shouldn't i applaud more efficiency at origin considering the scale of the world-price depression known as the coffee crisis?

here's my thinking: oftentimes the farmers who are devoted to growing quality beans suffer because their good coffee is mixed at the co-op mill with lesser coffee. thus the economic advantage they should gain is lost.

and my concern here is that these farmers at the smaller co-ops will suffer this fate. now of course, i don't know these particular groups in kenya; maybe they don't produce quality coffee, altho' in general kenya aa is some of the most prized coffee in the world, and the finest kenya is said to come from nyeri.

but we coffee-lovers should encourage farmers who grow better coffee to process it in conditions where it will be correctly treated, remain separate, and result in specialty beans. this only benefits the farmers, who can sell quality at a higher price, and us consumers, who can be assured of quality.

i think a policy like this would benefit specialty roasters too, who long to be able to tie quality to a definite point at origin -- be that co-op, mill, or even washing station! i hope those roasters who visit here will respond. . .

posted by fortune | 8:45 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Sunday, August 08, 2004

interesting differences

devoted readers recall the recent death of my beloved kitchenaid stand mixer, blanche, who's spending her august at the repair shop.

thus i'm making pizza with my kitchenaid hand mixer, using its little twin dough hooks. these resemble whimsical steel squiggles more than than blanche's sturdy shephardess crook.

but kneading the pizza dough with the squiggles offers some interesting differences that are noticeable in the pizza.

the dough emerges from the squiggles much warmer, which i'm sure improves rise. also, after resting the dough, it rounds more nicely, forming a nicer, plumper ball.

and since there's no central spindle for the dough to climb, you can make a slacker dough, which is easier to roll out, to my mind.

the drawbacks are also evident however: you have to stand there with your arm absorbing the shock from the mixer for 15 mins. this tires my wrist and shoulder quite a bit!

also, the hand mixer motor gets really hot, and you begin to smell it. which is worrisome -- am i burning out this mixer too?

posted by fortune | 11:22 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

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