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Saturday, April 23, 2005

the beauty of espressocraft tamper from kenny nye as promised, here is the photo of the one object that was the undeniable hit of the recent scaa conference in seattle: kenny nye of 9th st. espresso has made the most beautiful tamper ever under the label espresso craft.

the steel, as i've said before, is amazingly beautiful and makes the piece quite heavy. but let's take a moment and talk about the tamping base.

a tamping base is a long-sought after feature, especially if you're using a so-called "naked portafilter" with the spouts chopped off. the top of the base is wonderful rubber-y something, easy to clean.

the base stays in place due to a water-resistant foam-type bottom, so there's zero sliding while you're tamping. all good!

for those of you who are pros, i don't know off-hand if you can pop this base into your dishwasher or how you clean this in accordance with the health department rules. but since kenny's run his own shop for years, he certainly knows that health inspections are a reality.

so i can't imagine this would be a problem. for the home user, the combination tamper-n-base is just a joy to use, no matter whether you're a "handstand tamp" or an "italian tamp" type person.

the tamper is customizable -- kenny offers a variety of handles and tamper bottoms, so you have your choice of bottom diameters, curved or flat, and of course handle length.

it's just a gorgeous must-have item. what are you waiting for?

posted by fortune | 8:28 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Friday, April 22, 2005

moroccan honey & date chicken tagine: with coffee

so i spent this morning drinking a stumptown hairbender cappuccino -- yes, chris' coffee is now 14 days old, on its last freshness legs, but i must say, still gives great crema and tastes lovely altho' some of the more subtle flavors have passed away, but there was no waaay i was going to toss the last of the bag! -- reading the other amazing down under consumer coffee culture magazine, bean scene.

i found myself completely fixated on the delicious looking moroccan recipes. . . i nearly skipped over the great feature on home coffee roasting. . .and the one on long-time bccy pals, rainforest alliance (hiya, sabrina!).

and the extremely unusual but fascinating architectural discussion of melbourne's historic cafes. i mean, it's a fairly in-depth evaluation of the second empire style as a statement of melbourne's social affluence, political developments in the 19th cent. temperance movement, and how the restoration of the grand hotel coffee bar, now known as the windsor, remains a hallmark of the australian preservation movement.

also, the renowned coffee journalist and scae staffer alf kramer has a realistic piece on jamaican blue mountain, followed by a really serious article on sensory evaluation.

no wonder australasia has such a developed coffee culture. it's actually awe-inspiring how this magazine firmly ties wine, coffee and high-end food appreciation together.

but back to chris t. with all due respect, reading his recent blog entries on his reactions as he toured the show floor at the recent scaa conference nearly had me falling outta my chair.

"i realized that stumptown is different than the rest of the industry," he says, as if this idea has dawned on him for the first time. it's like watching andre soltner ponder a mickey d's.

earth to chris! we consumers know stumptown is massively different, that is focused on raising the bar for quality coffee to absolutely unforeseen heights! this is why we are in awe of you!

and finally, charlie of coffeewholesalers: don't give up! i will talk about your coffee tomorrow!

posted by fortune | 7:27 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Thursday, April 21, 2005

wine lists and the coffee market

in response to email inquiries, i will post the wine list from the famed altie dinner at scaa conference. so forthwith, from brasa:

snookum inlet oysters, jalapeno-lime granite 2003 santiago ruiz rias baixas
alaskan halibut cheeks, saffron-vanilla potato puree2003 fries vineyard l'ecole no. 41 semillon
sonoma artisanal foie gras, chocolate brioche, muscat icebonny doon muscat vin de glaciere
roasted beets, mache, spiced walnuts, bleu avergne, basalmic vinegar2003 torii mor pinot noir
capousen farms rack of suckling pig, chorizo, clamsmore of the pinot noir
cheese table2001 trutina dunham red table wine

this tasting menu was made up specifically for us by the chef, tamara murphy. it was quite delicious, altho' i didn't like the pinot noir at all, and felt the muscat lacked enough brightness for the foie gras.

however, the muscat was very interesting, apricot, vanilla, and sweet-smelling flowering hay -- just not right for that foie gras.

now on to a bit of unusual coffee news. lately i've had the chance to chat with famed coffee-market analyst/rock star serge cantacuzene.

i know some long-time bccy readers have a passing interest in the coffee market, so i thought i'd pass along to you my trial access to the reports account he so kindly gave me.

many bccy readers -- i hope especially roasters, greenies, and green buyers -- are quite concerned about the market right now because i know rising coffee prices are a complex situation for them. since serge appears to have been the first to accurately predict the upturn in the market, please feel free to make use of it all!

consultancy specialists
username: fortuneelkins
password: fortune

these reports are serious technical analyses of the market, its movements, and why it's going wherever it's going to go, when it's going to go.

finally, i also received the most deeply amusing email today from abc news:

"Hello everyone:

Just wanted to let you know that our coffee taste test will air this Friday, April 22 on ABC 20/20 at 10PM. It will be part of a 20/20 Food Myth hour.

Thank you very much for your interest and participation, especially those able to stay for the interview. If you'd like, I will keep posted on future audience participation stories. Hope you enjoy the story.

All the best,

Frank Mastropolo"

oh, i'm sure i'll enjoy the story, alright! i'll probably be kicking back with my copy of the incredible aussie consumer coffee publication, crema.

once again, i plaintively ask: why don't we in the northern hemisphere have such a magazine?

posted by fortune | 8:34 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

team usa, world bread champions!

yuppers, as mary beth indicated to me in her email, team usa did in fact do it again: win the world bread championship! we kicked the french to the curb and for the second time in 6 years baked the world's best bread.

all of us home bakers and real bread fans can only be pleased. there is no doubt that this will re-ignite the artisan bread baking scene across the u.s.a.

more better bread more places! yay.

also, i must note -- in the interests of the public good -- that the evil done by aussie barista judge, c-member, and home roaster paul haddon continues. naturally, now that i have packages of dark chocolate tim-tams, i brought them to my office, where i have unintentionally managed to addict the corporate counsel and the executive secretary.

we are all running around the hallways looking at our rapidly diminishing supply and pondering who we are prepared to kill for more. "this is your brain on tim-tams."

it appears that they aren't sold anywhere on the east coast and must be mail-ordered from far away. the chocolate, to be sure, is not high quality.

thus the reason these cookies are so addictive may forever remain a mystery. perhaps it's because they contain that mysterious "down under" ingredient, golden syrup, which is probably the origin of their ineffable caramel flavor.

or maybe it's just that a mere 2 skinny cookies is a shocking 760 calories with nearly 10g of fat! really, fate is doing me a great service by making these things nearly impossible to get.

wait! i'm supposed to be thanking door prize sponsors from last weekend's scaa conference, and others who made the great time possible. so thank you:

  • the scaa board
  • theresa macguire
  • all the speakers: paul songer, bill fishbein, karen gordon, rick peyser, the great people from bunn, willem boot, tadesse maskela, ken davids, andrew barnett, barry jarret, mary petitt, sunalini menon, doug cadmus, also all the people on the tour like bob and cea of smithfarms and terry davis of ambex, tim fleming of caffe d'arte, etc.
  • john hornall of hines coffee for having us to his awesome party
  • the barista guild of america, for inviting us to all their parties
  • the roasters guild, for tolerating us as some of us crashed their party
  • our former chairperson, kimberly easson, for bringing us this far
  • our new chairperson, whoever that person may be, and if you know who you are, please tell me pronto!
  • door prize sponsors fieldheads coffee, coffeewholesalers, and gillies coffee
  • biscotti suppliers matthew algie, espresso warehouse and biscotti #4

if i've inadvertently left anyone off this list, i apologize and blame it entirely on tim-tam withdrawal.

let me also take this opportunity to note that i am in fact travelling across the pond for two weeks to work in london on a project, starting next week. i will be able to blog from there with some regularity. . .

so be prepared to hear about coffee, yoga, etc. etc. in london, as i have time to explore 'em!

(nota bene: thank you to all the nice people sending me emails to say that time has the wrong blonde on its cover.

i doubt that i merit such distinction. . . but maybe time will wake up and smell the specialty coffee soon!)

posted by fortune | 7:16 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

the unstoppable

congrats to troels overdal poulsen, the danish barista who captured the world barista championship! once again, the scandinavians dominate the event, with 3 of the top 6 places going to them.

and australasia also shows well, as always, with carl sara (i've written about carl before) of new zealand coming in 4th. then we have to discuss the special case of canadian sammy piccolo of caffe artigiano.

altho' machine problems forced him into a nerve-wracking do-over, he excelled and gave a brilliant second performance. i suggest that in the future the w.b.c. just have the usual final 6 places, and the special category of "platinum portafiler" for sammy, which they should just give him every year for life.

however i'm encouraged that the u.s.a. champion phuong tran (thanks for the heads up, mary beth!) did take 7th place, a move up for the u.s.a. from last year.

the barista competition is like, well, hockey and soccer. it's just one of those situations where the u.s.a. is an underdog.

over time we can work to victory, by creating a more supportive training, working, and consumer coffee culture nationally to boost our baristi to the top. no doubt phuong is a real american champ -- her "crimson sage" specialty drink with its blend of elegant asian (immigrant) and american western (sage) flavors speaks to our contemporary identity.

in short, i want to say that i'm proud of phuong and it was a privilege to have her represent our country at championship. she has great skills and a pure heart.

i encourage everyone reading this to take a moment to find a way to personally begin to show increased support for our u.s.a. baristi, even if this means just going to get your daily brew from your local independent coffee shop where pro baristi work every day. and we need to encourage more local baristi to improve their skills and join the bga, to start jammin' and competing.

also, because i'm getting email on this, i do want to make clear that i will soon post the pix of my own espressocraft tamper and tamping base. the pix on the espressocraft website just don't do these "can't live without 'em" items justice.

they are completely beautiful, in some of the most sensual forms you've ever seen in espresso equipment. and the material -- just gorgeous polished steel of the best quality -- is rugged, suitable for a busy shop, but at the same time luxurious and indulgent.

it's a just a fabulous design in an amazing metal. it's not an industrial or cold feel, but rather a high-end auto-type feel, like a lamborghini or something.

yeah, it looks like it should be the stick shift on your scissor-doored car. sexy.

plus, since it's heavy -- heavier than my rosewood reg barber -- it tamps great.

even mr. right, who shudders at the thought of yet more espresso equipment, was really impressed by this. the car element means no one of the guy persuasion can walk by it without picking it up!

finally, tomorrow i will write more about the great people i saw at conference and also then officially thank all the sponsors and speakers for our track.

i just need another day to catch up, ok?

posted by fortune | 8:23 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Monday, April 18, 2005

australian crack

the reason i've hit ground this morning back in nyc, shivering, trembling, hollow-eyed, isn't because of too much espresso or the realization i've probably had only 4 hours sleep total over the last three days during scaa conference in seattle. no siree.

it's because the otherwise harmless looking aussie barista judge and c-member paul haddon introduced me to what is clearly australian crack: the dark chocolate tim-tam. what you do with these kit-kat-like bars is nibble off the opposite diagonal corners, stick the exposed honey-combed wafer cookie into your favorite coffee, and suck the coffee up through the thing, which then fills up with this incredible melting mixture of dark chocolate, coffee, caramel cookie, and chocolate frosting filling.

then you pop the whole yummy mass into your mouth. and you're basically just a step away from selling your grandma for more. . .or forgetting you're actually supposed to write about the conference.

you know going into conference that you just aren't going to have time to eat or sleep. period.

the days just melt together, flow, and become confused, like that chocolate tim-tam. . .

but still when it happens to you, you suddenly remember: oh, yeah, this is what it feels like not eating or sleeping, because it seems you are running from supreme yogini dr. jane goodall's mind-blowing keynote over to a fantastic discussion on coffee and philanthropy to quizzing paul songer on the chemistry of robusta after his descriptive cupping presentation, then on to tasting coffees to actually experience the flavor effects of processing with ken davids, gawking at the incredible, must-have new tamper and tamp stand offered by long-time bccy pal kenny nye of 9th st. espresso on the show floor before scaa board member ric rhinehart and roaster chuck jones sweeps you and everyone you know into cabs to go to a party at other long-time bccy pal john hornall's famed hines public market coffee for some effing amazing espresso.

the next thing you realize you are standing in the chilly seattle drizzle surrounded by what seems like the entire australian specialty coffee association -- including former barista champion dreamboat paul bassett -- they really have a superior coffee culture down there, we have to figure out how they do that -- among a gorgeous collection of gleaming antique espresso machines when suddenly out from behind a vintage la marzocco, thru the gloom, appears paul "the pusher" haddon, purveyor of the devilish cookies. . .

and you remember that in there somewhere you also had a long heart-to-roaster talk with possibly the hippest bloggin' fire-playa in seattle, tonx of victrola, a pizza party with the alties, the 5-course altie tasting dinner at brasa with matched wines and foie gras, a discussion of ethopian coffee farming with tadesse meskela of the oromia co-op and willem boot while drinking an unusual and intriguing bing-cherry flavored djimma. . .

and that you actually got to also meet andrew ford of mountain top, an australian coffee grower whose dry-process bean was medium-bright, lovingly blueberry, and had just a hint of walnut-skin bitterness. . .only to turn around and get a quick hug from another former barista champ, tim wendleboe.

then at the official c-member reception, you wildly tossed bags of coffee about the room to be door prizes before collapsing onto a plane. no sleep there: the navy guy on the seat next you snores quite loudly the entire trip back. . .

some photos here! thanks, owen: i never realized how great my pitching form really was. what a not flattering picture. . .

next year, charlotte! right now, sleep!

posted by fortune | 7:46 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

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