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Saturday, October 23, 2004

a little ot or maybe not

long-time readers know i am getting more and more serious (or, mr. right would say, crazed) about coffee tasting. i don't just mean the scaa flavor wheel, the jean le noir's nez du café, the whole sleeping-with-ted-lingle's (bow to the west!) coffee-cupper's-handbook-under-my-pillow-thing.

i also mean the living on roast chicken and plain steamed asparagus, the dialing back on the perfume, using toothpaste that doesn't contain sodium laurel sulfate, unscented soaps, hair stuff, etc. etc. all these things the pro coffee tasters have been doing for years and years.

also, mr. right is quite sensitive to certain things himself. and thus we come to the unlikely subject of: finger nail polish.

most people know that conventional finger nail polish is just nasty stuff, with formaldehyde, toluene, etc. the fumes are intense, and formaldehyde actually lessens your sense of smell, just as the sodium laurel sulfate alters your sense of taste.

they always bothered mr. right, and basically i couldn't cup coffee any day i needed a manicure. thus, i was extremely interested when i heard about acquarella, a non-smelling, water-based nail polish.

i immediately had to check this out, being both girly and a coffee lover. so i ordered the clear nail polish (they call it the "conditioner") and a bright red, called livid, along with the remover and hand lotion.

i tried out these products today, starting with the clear. the first thing: i whipped open the remover and stuck my nose into it.

guess what? it smelled like rubbing alcohol. that's not so great, but it's not as bad as regular removers.

honestly, i think this remover does in fact contain nothing but water, aloe vera, and rubbing alcohol. go figure.

so i filed, i shaped, i buffed, i washed my hands, i applied the clear. in the bottle the clear looks like goat's milk, but it goes on beautifully transparent and amazingly shiny.

i couldn't smell a thing. i went into mr. right and waved my fingers under his nose. "get out of my face," he said, "i'm trying to read."

he couldn't smell it either. with conventional products, he actually has to leave the room, they bother him so.

i wandered back out into the living room, by which time the polish was already completely dry. darn it! i had meant to test their claim that you could wash the stuff off with plain water in the first 60 seconds.

but alas, it was almost instantly completely dry! that's amazing. no more ridge fillers, primers, base coats, then the color, then the top coat, then the quick dry. . .

what's also fantastic about this clear polish is that something about it makes your finger nails much whiter. i look like i have a french manicure. that's exactly how much it has enhanced the natural white of the nail tip.

this stuff so far seem pretty darn magic. let's see how it wears and if it keeps its shine. if so, i'm a convert. . .

the only drawback so far: when filling my order, there was a slight bobble. they left out the hand lotion. but when i called they nicely took a message, apologized, and said fulfillment would get back to me on monday.

that's fairly decent for online service -- will update as the week goes on. but so far i'm loving this stuff already.

posted by fortune | 1:37 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Friday, October 22, 2004

in this vale of tears

there are few things you can count on as much as jessica's bi-weekly coffee delivery. her batdorf dancing goat makes a wonderful triple ristretto.

thank you, jeze! now let's see: i wonder where i can get my hands on a set of some really lovely 6 oz. round cappuccino cups. . .i need 2, maybe 4.

posted by fortune | 11:08 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

chocolate shootout

fabulous scaa consumer member marshall fuss has apparently been completely corrupted by my acquaintance. this is a very good thing.

thus recently he was found in a gourmet store on his cellphone to me, picking thru various chocolate choices.

in the end, he settled for 2 single-origin chocolates from noted artisan producer bonnat -- the chuao and the trinity -- and a bar of valrhona noir.

the winner: i think his wife preferred the valrhona, as so many chefs do. single-origin chocolates are like single-origin espresso.

they highlight the different facets of the particular bean; but for the fuller flavor and balanced profile most people expect, a blend is often going to be most satisfying!

posted by fortune | 5:57 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Thursday, October 21, 2004

the great cool dream

long-time readers know of my great cool dreams is to get mega-space on the scaa server and assemble all the best coffee blogs there, with a really good search engine.

wouldn't that be fantastic, to have all the coffee talk you wanna read located in one easy-to-find place?

into this great gathering of spontaneous coffee talk from consumers, baristas, roasters, et. al., comes a new and very quirky one, sponsored by a new zealand coffee house, karajoz. (people feel so deeply about this place, they write poetry about it, but not always flattering.)

called the great new zealand argument, it's going to reprint important historical and political speeches, because that's the function of a coffeehouse, to serve as a place to exchange ideas.

posted by fortune | 11:07 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

the faema legend has landed

that's right fellow brooklings, not 3 blocks from my house long-time bccy pal and scaa roasters guild pro member steve schulman of dallis coffee has placed an e61 faema legend at the new cafe chez henry on the corner of henry and cranberry. long-time readers know i have a deep soul-affinity for this machine. . .

don't believe the article. the espresso isn't dreck, as much as it surprises me to say this!

the manager saeif is grinding steve's "new york espresso" blend fresh for every shot; he's keeping the portafilters in the grouphead; he backflushes the machine.

he tossed 2 shots until he could give me a beautiful 25-second doppio ristretto pour in a warm cup. this is the real deal.

what saeif needs is a decaf-only grinder and a barista who can pour latte art. with those he will instantly vault to be one of the top 5 coffeeshops in new york city.

he's only been open 2 days, but why wait? brooklyn coffee lovers, mob this place now.

saeif is also serving press pots of different coffees, with an egg timer so you can play with the plunger yourself. the cafe is decorated in a charming warm french shade, with antique french posters.

he's serving fruit tarts, crisp croissants, and sandwiches on foccaccia. this could be a very proper hangout if he tweaks the lighting a bit. . .

posted by fortune | 5:02 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

guatemalan coffee workers seek refugee status

"hundreds of guatemalan coffee workers who have lost their jobs due to falling prices have asked mexico to admit them into the country as permanent refugees, an organization representing the laborers confirmed wednesday.

the petition was submitted to the mexican embassy in guatemala city 'because here they can't find work or legal support for their human rights,' said ursula roldan, spokeswoman for the organization plataforma agraria, which comprises dozens of organizations representing poor coffee farmers in southwestern guatemala."

the link (thank you oren!) for this appears to be aol only; so click here only if you have an aol account.

another effect of the world-price depression known as the "coffee crisis." the best thing consumers can do: have a cup of specialty coffee!

posted by fortune | 1:16 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

feature update

steady readers may recall that i'm very unhappy with the search performance (non-performance?) of my current atomz search. and i need to do something about it.

when i know more, you'll get full details. . .thank you for your patience. it will very soon be rewarded!

"the whole process is so time-consuming, it would be really hard for home bakers to duplicate it."

hah! my sourdough natural-leaven bread takes 8 days! don't diss us home bakers.

otherwise, for those of us who are artisan bakers: a nice article on the continuing demand for real bread.

posted by fortune | 10:08 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

specialty coffee at your local gas station?

long-time readers will recall scaa pro member and bccy pal spencer turer's grand plan to bring high-quality specialty coffee to all hess locations. now it seems exxon's getting into the quality coffee act.

renowned coffee author mark pendergast would just say this part of general move to improve coffee at "convenience" type locations.

in another interesting bit of news, the mermaid is going to buy indian coffee from tata for the first time. the truly devoted reader will recall that i participated in a tasting of indian coffees a while ago.

it's interesting to me that indian coffees still seem little known among the general coffee-loving public. certainly they grow some lovely arabica there, of which the most recognized may be indian pearl mountain.

dr. illy has been interested in indian coffees for a while -- even holding cuppings and prizes recently. and of course dr. john of josuma blends his cult espresso malabar gold from only indian coffees, arabica and robusta alike. . .

posted by fortune | 8:57 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Monday, October 18, 2004

brace yourselves, or regional coffee culture, part xxv

"japan, once a tea drinking nation, is now the third largest importer of coffee, after the united states and germany," according to the international coffee organization.

once a tea drinking nation. think about that: 13 centuries of tradition swept away in 20 years by the passionate deluge of exquisite coffee.

more importantly what this article shows is that after oh, nearly 5 long years of squeaking about the importance of coffee quality to the average coffee lover, it's finally beginning to take effect. . .

specialty coffee leads the way out the coffee crisis! our model is working!

how clearly i recall standing in the boston sunshine with then-scaa prez steve colten of atlantic (a.k.a. the groucho marx of coffee). and what did he say in a rare moment of seriousness, the like of which i have never since seen?

he quoted himself: "quality begets price begets quality." it was just hours after renowned scaa consumer member, the great marshall fuss [with myself on right] famously took on the commercial coffee lobbyist, mr. "quality? what is quality?" robert nelson.

"why the adversarial thing?" colten asked. "our way is the better way and time will demonstrate that."

"time!" i said, thinking of the reports of drug growth, illegal immigration, the homeless coffee workers of nicaragua and their starving children under the plastic garbage bags spread to be their roofs. "who has time?"

maybe he was right after all. . .

posted by fortune | 11:21 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

it's hard, hard work

"but leaving the gym sore, frustrated and jaded, my experience made me much more in tune with my hostile 'inner spirit.' "

girlfriend, lemme tell ya why you're not gettin' many dates! but seriously, i love these kinds of yoga (anti-yoga?) articles, where an arrogant person gets their butt kicked by a tough yoga class and goes crying on home.

why? because yoga worked for them. here's what i mean:

why did she think yoga wouldn't make her sore? newsflash: yoga isn't just lying on the floor murmuring in sanskrit.

i guarantee that if you go into yoga class with an "attitude," you will be frustrated. . .because very few people can do it all in their first class.

this is such a good thing, because it violently demonstrates to you that your 'tude, which you think is protecting you in daily life, is actually a massive hindrance. it's a fake shell that silently irks other people and blocks your way.

yoga literally body slams you with an emotional self-confrontation not everyone is prepared to handle. and this is just one reason yoga is different than spinning.

on the other hand, with all due respect, it does sound as if she got stuck in a really bad, new-agey class (bugmenot, if asked for a password) -- at a gym of all places.

most gym yoga is just terrible stuff: many of the teachers just aren't properly qualified. they hire too many former aerobics instructors who've taken some kind of quickie-weekend course. . .

more generally, it's a shame really: so many otherwise talented yoga teachers think these dopey new-age chats they give help create a yogic atmosphere. when many times, the exact opposite is true.

i personally loathe it when lectured on vegetarianism, etc. by a 27-year-old former ballet dancer or aspiring actress. i know they mean well, but many newcomers to yoga are just turned off by it.

not long ago i actually attended an otherwise beautiful class whose theme was "politics." the teacher -- a charming lass, but unfortunately of the above former-ballet-dancer stripe -- implored us to vote, and then played a tape during shoulderstand on yup, the importance of being vegetarian.

one member of the class finally just called out "vote nader!" this was too much for me.

those who've patiently suffered taking classes with me know I'm not afraid to speak out when provoked. and this was no exception!

"don't get me started, please!" i said. the yoga class was ruined, and i recognize that a couple of people haven't been back to yoga people since.

why polarize your class by doing this stuff? patanjali makes clear that yoga is experiential, which is one reason the yoga sutras are the way they are.

yoga teachers should understand that over time yoga really is effective in many ways; there's no need to harangue innocent students! they'll all get there, at their own pace, in their own time. . .

but in more exciting yoga news, one of my all-time favorite teachers, erich schiffmann, has re-organized his library of recorded classes and tapes. these are excellent, excellent classes for all levels.

highly recommended, esp. the inversions, which i am putting on my own holiday list.

posted by fortune | 8:39 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Sunday, October 17, 2004

belles lettres

marquisethose of you who may have studied french will recall the marquise de sévigné, a noble lady whose warm and charming letters to her daughter are not only classics of french prose style, but wittily reveal so much about life in her time.

long-time readers will note that i've been chasing this chocolate for years now. in fact, i'd completely forgotten about it; i'd long ago given up, abadoned hope.

it's not exactly a rare chocolate; it's just that circumstances had also worked to my disadvantage. a website wouldn't have it in stock when i was ordering; my colleagues coming back from paris would forget to pick me up a bar, etc.

so today -- a chilly, windy day, a snappy breeze off the harbor in the afternoon -- i go to yoga, as usual. the pizza dough is resting in the fridge, as usual.

i discover i'm out of fresh basil and so i dash up to the garden of eden. as i cruise by the usual chocolate bar suspects that hang about the counter, a bright blue box catches my eye. . .

and of course, it's the divine marquise, 70% noir. and how does it taste?

it reminds me very much of old favorite bernard castelain, but not as dry. with a beautiful aroma, the marquise has at first a powdery, intense chocolate taste, and then a fruity almost coconut feeling (i wonder if this comes from the lecithin?).

you can't help but alternately chew it and then let it just melt away. . .nice finish, good sheen, strong snap. i like it! at last!

clearly my chocolate karma's on the up-and-up. . .

posted by fortune | 7:02 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

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