Saturday, December 25, 2004
happy holidays to you
and here's an interesting piece on christmas traditions from ethiopia -- along of course with the beautiful ethiopian coffee ceremony!
up for a bit with a little snuffle, i took a moment to peruse a couple of barista blogs: you know, espressolab (sorry your espresso machine's in the shop, jimmy!), etc.
there's so much excitement in the barista community right now, i do hope the barista guild can gather around a great leadership structure and get their balloon off the ground.
in fact, i think some of the best coffee discussions aren't on alt.coffee or coffeegeek, but on that barista guild forum. i spend a lot of time lurking over there!
i really hope the scaa consumer members can follow a similar structure and experience the same success the barista guild does! sure they have growing pains -- all new, totally volunteer groups do!
just to follow up on a couple of topics: no, alas, the gotham grill didn't serve their famous and incredible gotham chocolate cake for mr. right's birthday dinner. instead they offered a mixed tray of tartlettes, only one of which featured a chocolate génoise with raspberry-ginger cream filling and a ganache top. i did however groove on the egg-nog panna cotta with brandied cherries anyway. . .
and in response to questions about the new black mat from manduka -- outta the box it's much stickier than the old black transformer mat. all i had to do was give it a quick wash in the bathtub with a sponge and some woolite.
it's not quite as long, wide, or thick; this means it's not as cushy in the jumpbacks. however, working on it made me realize just how worn down my old mat was -- in comparison it was like i was doing yoga on a sheet of glass!
but i do think the new mat improves some my standing poses, particularly warrior two. that's such a simple-seeming pose, but of course like all of yoga, it only gets more difficult to fine-tune it.
to refine the poses: that always gets harder, never easier. . .which naturally is one of the appeals of yoga!
sometimes people will say to you "what a great looking pose!" and you realize that you could have a slightly more even hip-line, or bend your knee just a touch more, or angle your back foot in a tad. . .these little details not only can help keep you from injury in a pose, but also add grace and lightness.
so they are worth cultivating. sadly, i probably won't get to yoga today!
i'll have to make do with some of jessica's batdorf dancing goat espresso. i was drinking this yesterday morning, when i suddenly found myself thinking about mark inman's taylor maid espresso-a-go-go.
i think i need some more of that real soon. . .you know, not only is mark a super coffee roaster, he's a good friend who gives great advice!
Friday, December 24, 2004
mr. right's birthday
i think we all understand the plight of people born around this time -- the dread "combined" presents, never able to have a really rockin' birthday party, etc. -- a situation into which our own mr. right falls.
and with this in mind we here at bccy try to make up for these painful childhood scars by basically celebrating his b'day for these 2 days ourselves.
thus a birthday dinner this evening at the gotham grill, where i hope the special menu will include some kind of super-decadent chocolate dessert.
while others rush off to the matinee or evening performances of the new york city ballet's classic balanchine nutcracker, we're hanging out in a less-crazed mode. which is fine by me, since my taste runs more to the ballets trockadero de monte carlo and shirim's famed klezmer version anyway.
what surprises me more is today's rather intense discussion on alt.coffee about coffee defects and coffee purity. long-time readers know i'm no hospital-clean george-howell type when it comes to coffee.
i will tolerate some earth in a sumatra and some things in a yemen that would make our dear pal oren up-end the coffee sack into the east river.
but i won't stand dirty, inferior, fungus-ridden, defective coffee either. thus when one home-roasting writer notes he's bought some sumatra green, comes home, and finds that the stuff is 50% bug chewed, bug inhabited (that is, the larvae are visible inside the bean!), broken, and deformed blackened beans -- i'm appalled.
if i were him, i'd take the stuff back and demand a refund. yet the advice of the news group is just to pick out the disgusting larvae (i won't link to a picture of these, they are just too awful and you'd freak out), and most of the blacks, but keep the broken.
the thought of the group is that these broken, bug chewed, and defective greens offer "character" to the coffee, keeping it from being "boring." after all, sumatra is a "primitive" coffee, they say.
but the buggy beans have a nasty sour flavor -- not to mention the delicious taste of the worms themselves -- while broken beans are likely to infected with mold and bacteria. . .yummy. that's "character" all right.
to my mind this is like deliberately adding moldy bread to the holiday stuffing. yeah, it won't be boring, but everyone'll be really grossed out. . .
i mean, is this your morning cup or fear factor?
there is, as scaa chief ted lingle's fond of saying, an audience for every coffee. and i repeat, there are some expected quirks in origins like sumatra and yemen that i'll put up with. . .within reason, in "hint" and "pinch" amounts.
a lttle goes a long way here. i guess what i'm finding as i learn more about coffee is that i'm appreciating a cleaner cup more and more, even in origins like the above-mentioned yemen and sumatra.
a clean sumatra is simply a warm, tasty, comforting thing. it'll never be, say, a costa rica or png.
Thursday, December 23, 2004
an april day?
walking thru new york, you'd swear today an "april showers bring may flowers" kinda day, with a warm light rain. i'm not even wearing socks!
i'm taking today to post a quick update about the jan. 12, 2005 planned nyc coffee meetup. yesterday evening i had a fine talk with mary petitt of juan valdez about the proposed meetup and various cool things we could do.
she was filled with great ideas. we did agree that we would strive to have door prizes -- gift certificates, coffee, etc.; i'll see what i can scare up for everyone!
and thanks to the generosity of the roasters guild, i do already have a couple of donations.
but since we are discussing colombia and coffee farmers, let me note this interesting news item:
"peasant farming families in colombia are abandoning their illegal drug crops and staking their bets on fair trade organic coffee. they have already exported some 5,000 60-kilo sacks of coffee beans this year."
long-time readers know that due to the effect of the so-called "coffee crisis" -- which we hope may soon be ending -- some coffee farmers had turned to growing illegal drugs to stay afloat.
but, according to the story, this tide appears to be turning (you may need a subscription; try bugmenot.) so that's good news!
i did also receive a bag of one of the several 100%-colombian bean blends sold at the juan valdez cafes: the "pico" blend. devoted readers know i've been following the history of this project for years now!
several of these blends seem like they could be interesting: this pico and also the "ladera," containing seldom-seen maragogipe beans.
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
6 minutes is a very long time
a lot of people have written me about wolfgang puck's self-heating canned coffee product. i don't know why, since long-time readers absolutely can tell how i will feel about it!
maybe they just like to pull my chain? but alas, i have no slack here that you can jerk. . .when you say "coffee" and "puck," i default to daydreaming of wood-roasted espresso.
first, it can't be a truly fresh high-quality "beverage experience;" he can call it "gourmet," but somehow i doubt he's going to be using specialty coffee. second, the self-heating technology isn't that new, things like this have been available in japanese vending machines for a while.
third, wolfgang still doesn't understand americans. the 6 minute heat-up time is too long; we are instant gratification people!
why go to a supermarket, wait in line to buy a can or 6-pack(!), pop it, then wait some more -- when you can hop into your nabe roaster/retailer or coffeeshop, even a mermaid, and be out the door in less time?
even at the mermaid near ground zero at lunch i never wait 6 whole minutes! that's one reason why they call it espresso -- it's fast, just 30 seconds for a shot!
so i'm agreeing with the fool here.
but while i'm dissing the celebrity chef, let me praise jim p. of 1st line. long-time readers know i admire philanthropy, and i happen to know that jim put his money where his heart is by offering a US$1,000 donation to that great charity coffee kids.
that's a nice chunk of change for a small online retailer. i encourage you, dear readers, to follow suit, even if it's only US$10 or US$25. . .
oh, and of course, good luck to jacques. if he can get a good blend and improve the consistent quality of his stuff, i'm all happy!
finally, my new black yoga mat from manduka has arrived! after years of praticing yoga 5 or 6 days a week, i finally wore down a spot in my black transformer mat from bheka.
you can just step back and see the surface wear from my down dogs. i may donate this mat to yoga people for extra-tall people to use in introductory classes.
the spots probably won't bother them since they have different body proportions and it will help give them a better experience in their first yoga class. honestly i don't know how the 6-foot-plus people can stand to be constantly stepping off a standard yoga mat during practice!
alas, bheka no longer carries these great black mats so i had to order from peter at manduka. peter was great -- answered all my questions, shipped on time.
now all i have to do is wash my new mat a couple of times and start breaking it in. . . a journey in itself.
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
friends, family, ardent groupies. . .
since this email came to me with the explicit instruction to forward to all "friends and family," i'm passing it onto you all, dear readers. while we may not be that close to dr. illy, we coffee lovers are to a fault ardent admirers.
how could we not be? after all it was dr. illy who said:
"we are going into the future and it is the consumer who is in charge of the future. if what we do is not in line with what he requires, it is not right.
"for many years now, research has been focussed on resistance and yield. the priority for quality is lost. my message is to make quality the number one priority again."
read it all yourself. not to mention he quotes petrarch beautifully.
with that in mind, you can all finish up any last minute shopping you may have at illy online only with the 25% off discount code 200425DT.
enter this into the promotion code box at checkout. it will work through december 31, supposedly.
Monday, December 20, 2004
who'd a thunk it: men like chocolate too?
"mr. valette - who is also a director of scharffen berger - underscores that the heightened interest in chocolate has clearly put it in the same category as fine wine or fancy coffee."
well mr. v, your observation is only about 5 years behind the trend here, of which if i may modestly say so, we here at bccy were early adopters, along with our pal clay at chocophile.
but for those who argue that i'm just too girly and neglect male interests, i'm linking to this piece in yesterday's ny times (use bugmenot), whereby the now-painted lady notes that men tend to be "hyperinterested" in how things are made.
gosh, ny times editors, guys are usually more process-oriented than women? do i have a book for you! i figure you're finally on to the bridge trick. . .
the coffee-and-wine bar isn't a new idea, as long-time bccy pal mike ferguson of the scaa notes. indeed, the 18th cent. coffeehouses usually offered wine and sometimes beer too along with the coffee.
considering the many different clientele that move through a coffeehouse during the day, however, it probably isn't right for most locations. many retailers i know rely on after-school teens to pick up lattes, and mid-morning moms on the way to and from play dates to fill out the day between the morning, lunch, and after-work rushes.
both of these groups would most likely be lost when the wine bar is installed. . .but upscale singles might come in more after work if the music is changed along with the wine offerings. i'm continually surprised at how important music is in retailing of all kinds.
and finally, a huge bccy thank-you to jessica at batdorf. she sent the usual box of delicious dancing goat a tad early this week.
how did she know we used up the last of mr. right's favorite espresso this morning? i swear she has e.s.p.
Sunday, December 19, 2004
frozen boule, or i hope this works
it's amazing isn't it how unresponsive blogger continues to be even after they've upgraded the infrastructure? so i have no idea if i will be able to post to bccy today, or if this mail-in post will reach the blog at all.
apparently only those of us with "large blogs" suffer this -- but i have news for my dear friends at blogger. . .websites of all kinds only get larger; they never, ever get smaller.
think about what that really means, ok? even considering that people say most blogs are abandoned after just a few months. . . .you're still maintaining the orphans, and maintenance also only grows over time.
but on to the important things in life, which today is -- i often forget how well bread freezes! mr. right unwrapped the last boule made from hamelman's baguette recipe; it was delicious.
just toss your frozen bread into a 350 degree f oven for 10-15 mins. and it's as good as new if you've wrapped it well and not kept it too long.
today and yesterday have just been crazy days in new york -- last night and apparently this morning the subways were all messed up, which is happening more and more. last night the yoga teacher was stuck at city hall and couldn't get over to bklyn on the lex train.
he had to call and cancel class -- everyone took it much better than i, who wondered why he didn't just take the beautiful if windy walk across the bridge like everyone else, hop a taxi, or switch trains. . .but the problems appear to continue this morning.
i got to christine chin no problem today on the f train, while others at the spa continued to complain about various lines. it all worked out for me; i got back in time to put the perfectly risen pizza dough in the fridge to chill until this evening!