Saturday, September 04, 2004
intelligent life still exists . . .with scones
after a mind-numbing week here in nyc, i was somewhat stunned to discover that intelligent life still exists. apparently, it's just gone to canada.
one of the many trinkets mr. right brought back from vancouver was a hard copy of the globe and mail, which i had seen only on the 'net. now, this is the canadian version of, oh, usa today.
it's not supposed to be fantastic paper, but i perused it over my morning usual batdorf dancing goat cappuccino as a matter of interest. boy howdy! was i suprised!
it was all about the united states -- you had to get pretty far inside the darn thing before you were aware it had any canadian content. and that content did turn out to be mostly hockey, altho' with some reference to the conrad black embezzlement scandal.
but once you got to that content, it was really really good. i mean, better than the new york times. i'm not kidding.
for example, the editorial page contained a column discussing political coverage in the u.s.a. in terms of freud, adler, and chomsky. i don't happen to agree with chomsky and in fact think he's become an extremist nutcase.
but the analysis was much more intellectual, well-written, and thoughtful than anything short of the new york review of books. which is also in the ozone, actually, albeit a well-spoken ozone!
this op-ed piece not only mentioned these names, but spoke as if it actually expected its readers to know what these ideas were without explanation. i've never seen anything like that in the ny times.
the movie coverage was fabulous and without any faux pretentiousness. the quality of the writing -- i mean just the vocabulary level, even of the fluff-pieces like the one about the cirque du soleil -- was higher than the supposedly deep saturday nytimes metro/arts section.
so i wonder: what does a good canadian newspaper look like? imagine that. . .
but enough boring politics; let's talk about something important: the coffee. i now have the full report on mr. right's visit to 2 caffé artigiano locations.
he actually called sammy piccolo's wife to find out in which location sammy would be to ensure he got a coffee from the barista champion himself.
can you believe that? sammy, his wife, and his brother vince were absolutely sweet to a total stranger, a new york guy in town to film -- but they treated him as if he was a regular and valued customer.
mr. right was kind enough to say my microfoam on sweet little silvia was better. however, sammy's latte art is of course, unbeatable.
while i think artigiano is all about the coffee, i also got good reports on the food. the scones were judged to be incredible; one of mr. right's colleagues called them the best she'd ever had.
the panini are likewise said to be really good, but the croissants were thought to be just fair. people often describe vancouver as the child of seattle and san francisco, and i think hanging about with an espresso from sammy in that atmosphere would be frankly gear.
so this morning i made mr. right his usual dancing goat latte on silvia, all the while thinking about the machine of the moment -- the quickmill. . .
Friday, September 03, 2004
since most people -- new yorkers, conventioneers, and protestors alike -- have all fled the city, i have to say i enjoy sticking around.
it's times like this that new york is the most lovely, and truly available to be the background for your own private dream theater.
alas, this means that most yoga teachers have also vamoosed, leaving many classes cancelled. but not all!
thus i'll be hightailing it over to the quirky and ultra-charming laughing lotus studio this evening for flower hour/happy hour!
Thursday, September 02, 2004
levitation + anarchy = steak tartare
yes dear readers, yesterday another evening of yoga substitutes faced me. thus i reached into my handy yoga coupon pile and dragged out a free pass to levitate on 8th ave.
levitate is a most stylin' studio: great lobby, nice elevator, beautiful foyer with floaty sienna curtains, chocolate brown seagrass throws down the hall, granite countertops in the bathroom, elegant upholstery. . . .and the worst yoga floor ever.
the main practice room is spare and minimalist, in soft green. one wall boasts huge windows lined with sparkling votive candles.
the floor! however dear shiva the floor! is shellacked linoleum tile over concrete. not a safe floor for working on, not a floor i wanna fall on.
don't get me wrong: it's not ugly. it's probably the most lovely cats-eye and jasper glittering linoleum ever. but!
also -- and this is death for me -- the place was completely air-conditioned. it was freezing. i felt like i was in the uptown fairway's walk-in meat cooler.
in case anyone needs proof of the karmic concept, the teacher turned out to be erika hildebrandt. that's right, the sister of the yoga teacher who most gets on my nerves.
unlike her brother, however, erika is a lovely, soft person who speaks in a near whisper. she taught an elegant, floating breath-centered vinyasa.
i loved it. she's by far a better teacher than you-know-who.
anyway, walking back up the ave. towards the c train, i was surprised on the wrong side of 50th by a horde of people running pell-mell, the mounted police right behind them.
ah. the dread anarchists. once they reached the intersection, they fanned out, blocking traffic, and quickly stripped.
then in the most unbelievable act, they lay their naked bodies down in the new york street. think about that: a new york street.
i wouldn't touch the surface of 8th ave. with my bare hand, much more less. . .well, you know.
anyway, i must say that it was above all a stunning proof of how completely unattractive most people are without clothes, even if their average age is, oh, about 20.
i did note one young man, briefly in an nyu t-shirt, who had a charming prince albert. which he should have kept in the can.
not that i have anything against piercings: everyone knows i have diamonds embedded in my body my own bad self.
but mostly i was fuming -- not 50 ft. from the subway station! there i was, trapped on the far side of yet another die-in and god knows when i could get to a train.
the police began to make arrests. in despair, i turned around, walked back down the block and wandered into a bistro called pigalle.
thus i consoled myself with grilled asparagus and steak tartare. worse things have happened to me, don'cha know!
Wednesday, September 01, 2004
espresso occidental & elevation yoga
on now to the second espresso sent to me by mark inman of taylor maid, his "espresso occidental."
as with the espresso a-go-go, alas i didn't have time this morning to do a proper cupping. i tasted it as a brewed espresso in the same way as his a-go-go.
however, unlike the a-go-go, i had to dial it in a bit on the mazzer mini grinder before i found a nice setting that gave me a 27-second pour with good crema. of course, the humidity is a little different today, so that is probably expected.
(we all remember that ground coffee is surprisingly hydroscopic, right? it is very sensitive to high humidity and will absorb moisture from the air in just a moment or two!)
once again, dear readers, check out your scaa flavor wheel and go for your lingle cupping handbook. . .
the all-arabica espresso occidental's a dark-roast coffee, the same roast color as the a-go-go. it offers a creamy body and low brightness, as we would expect of espresso.
the occidental however is a markedly different coffee than the a-go-go in flavor and bouquet.
the fragrance of the dry grounds seemed floral to me, more wintergreen or possibly basil. i detected a distinct nutty -- let me say walnut -- quality, and a pungent spiciness, reminiscent of chewing on a stalk of thyme.
the occidental presents a sweet, mellow taste. think more mild than delicate.
made into an italian-proportion cappuccino, the occidental seemed to cut through the milk more clearly than the a-go-go did. i did add sugar to this blend.
my personal bias is always for the chocolate-y tasting espresso blends. so when i conclude that i prefer the a-go-go to the occidental, don't think it's because the occidental isn't a fine coffee.
it's just that the a-go-go caters to my personal prejudices more. this is why when i describe these coffees, i am always careful to use the great linglese, and never to give numbers.
number scores in coffee reviews often make it seem as if one coffee is better than another based on the number; but one coffee may have a higher score, for example, because it gets more points for brightness, or a thicker body.
however, some coffees -- like espresso -- aren't supposed to be bright, and depending on the blend may have a creamy or syrupy body as opposed to a buttery one. this would all be in normal variation for the components of the blend, and wouldn't detract from the actual quality of the java.
in a numbered situation, i might rate the a-go-go higher for a slightly thicker body and its great dark dutch-cocoa bittersweet-powdery quality. but again, that's my personal taste in espresso, which not everyone shares.
there are many people who might prefer to the nutty, spicy quality of the occidental to my low-toned chocolate addiction. . .the only way to find out is to try it for yourself!
now on the second front: yesterday one of my favorite yoga teachers was on vacation and i received a free class coupon to a new yoga center. alright!
thus i ditched my regular class with its substitute teacher and ran off to try kiki yardeni's vinyasa class at the new elevation yoga.
elevation is in an old battered building with a scary stairway. but once you're in the studio, it's lovely. pete, the burly owner who at first seems more like a wrestling type than a yoga guy, did a really nice job with it.
i know this is going to sound strange, but as a yoga student you soon become a connoisseur of floors. i mean, your face is all over the floor in a yoga class and you're walking around barefoot, right?
many yoga studios in new york are in charming older buildings, with wacky wide-wale old wood floors. i have gotten splinters at one famous studio!
but elevation has the most beautiful new silky-smooth sprung bamboo floor you could dream of. it felt great to walk across the stuff. yeah: it seems weird to say.
but this incredible floor made my jump-back and hops seem lighter. the soft vanilla-beige room is nice and large, with a mirror along one long wall.
it also has the most effective industrial ceiling fans of any yoga studio i've seen in new york. the track lighting makes the place seem like an art gallery.
the studio is just really physically pleasant and relaxing to be in. i generally dislike practicing with mirrors, but the lighting is so flattering i felt like a yoga journal cover.
kiki yardeni is an om-certified teacher, who offers a classic om-style class. her own yoga teacher is the famed jennifer brilliant, who i highly admire.
here's where it gets really fantastic: due to the convention madness this week, most new yorkers have left town. so when it came time for class to start, i was the only student.
most centers would have cancelled the class. but pete and kiki were awesome: i got what amounted to a private lesson! free!
elevation yoga: brave the stairway and check it out. . . all good.
Tuesday, August 31, 2004
barista champ news
currently mr. right is filming in vancouver. this means he -- the diet coke drinker! -- is the one in caffé artigiano today enjoying the second best cup of coffee in the world.
because as long-time readers know, artigiano's co-owner, sammy piccolo, took second place at the recent world barista championship. (i know, i know: "first on technicals, actually.")
thus always the irony of life. sammy uses long-time bccy pal doug zell's intelligentsia "black cat" espresso blend, so we know the coffee's fabulous. . .
but already those baristi have the fire in their belly for next year. the previous new zealand champ, carl sara, has once again taken his national title, and has sworn to go all the way next year at the world.
several people emailed me yesterday's study showing that eating 100g. of dark chocolate reduces your chance of blood clots, thus likewise reducing the chance of strokes and such.
dark chocolate makes your blood flow more freely for up to 3 hours after you eat it, the study says. this research was released at the recent meeting of the european society of cardiologists.
100g. is about 3.5oz., or the size of your average premium chocolate bar. to get the full effect, and the least sugar, you'll want to make sure you're eating 70% or perhaps even 85% -- if you can take it that dark -- bars.
that's a lot of calories to add to your diet, so let me also responsibly remind you to skip other desserts, cut the snacking, drink less alcohol, and of course, add another day of vigorous yoga practice to your routine!
while other people are having mere crème brulée, you'll have to pull out your el rey gran saman or apamate. the sacrifices we must make for health!
Monday, August 30, 2004
as devoted readers know, i practiced my wheedling abilities and wa-llah! the rare nepal coffee from gillies arrived. i had thought it would be similar to an indian pearl mountain.
in some ways it superficially is, and in other ways, i was so wrong. as i usually advise, drag out your cupping handbook and scaa flavor wheel, because we're doing the full linglese.
the washed arabica nepal i cupped is a light medium-roast coffee, no oil at all; what some might call a high city roast, but not quite full city.
this round, mild coffee has a light-medium body and a scarce brightness, more than an espresso blend, but not much. i think the variety of this lot is caturra.
the fragrance of the dry grounds struck me a decidedly floral, what some might call tea rose or wintergreen. when slurped, i was struck by 2 unusual flavors: a sweet nuttiness, like roasted cashews and a cereal maltiness that i related to kasha.
this last i had never experienced in any coffee before. i talked to don schoenholt about this.
he didn't feel kasha was a good descriptor; he preferred cabbge-y, as in that taste you get when you chew grated sweet cabbage for a long time. further, instead of cashew, he preferred brazil nut.
but we agree there's a distinctive nuttiness that's not the usual almond, walnut, hazelnut, etc. you generally experience in many more common coffees.
i dislike cabbage, so that didn't work for me, personally. we're still talking this particular note through. . . .
i first tried this coffee in the vac pot, and that was an error. it completely lost its body. no good.
the nepal is better in a cafetiére (a.k.a. french press). with a tablespoon of light cream and a pinch of brown sugar, it gains a more vanilla syrup-like aftertaste.
a distinctive and original coffee; extremely interesting. check it out if you're interested in rare origins!
Sunday, August 29, 2004
still the last to know
of course today i received much email about the ny times new style magazine, "t," whereby it was proclaimed that the coffee of the moment was philadelphia's la colombe "nizza" blend.
puh-leez. long-time readers know nizza hit new york years ago; it's hardly a new or trendy blend. will the times ever catch up to reality?
my review of it when it first came to town can be found here and here. i tried to like it, even going so far as to actually journey to the home coffeehouse when forced by family situations to travel to phiily.
but i can't like it; i can't say the coffee's consistent. no. i have to say it -- it's an over-roasted pile of carbon bitterness.
sorry, monsieur iberti. even tho' you're an scaa pro member, i gotta beg ya: throttle back on the roaster and try again. . .and improve the standard of consistent beverage service and preparation at your coffeehouses!
maybe you should consider joining the roasters guild?