Saturday, June 25, 2005
devoted readers may recall that during last weekend's trip to the chocolate room, a dessert bar here in so-chic bklyn, mr. right was sweet enough to pick me up one of joan's chocolat moderne apricot-basil caramel dark chocolate bistro bars.
and let me report that it is waaaay delicious. if i were to nitpick, however, i would note that the bottom layer of the bar -- and maybe the shell that holds the filling overall -- is a little too thick for the amount of apricot-basil caramel filling. but the chocolate is so fresh and intense i forgive her!
ok, i more than forgive joan -- everyone knows i'm a big joan fan. i highly recommend this bar, as well as her signature grapefruit bon-bon.
i know, i know: grapefruit sounds off-putting, but trust me! it's amazing.
i also made up a bodum vac pot of the boyd's coffee from yesterday. since it's a blend of centrals, i expected something bright and a little light in the body.
but what i got was a west-coast style dark roast with a medium body (even outta the vac pot, which is a tad unusual for a central, in my experience) and very little snap. in fact, it could have almost been a sulawesi. . .
i think it might be nice iced with cream and sugar. despite the ambiguous best-by date, it seems to be relatively fresh.
if you like this rather dark roast style, you might enjoy the rojas blend.
Friday, June 24, 2005
blogger responds to new type bug
Thanks for your patience. A bug is being addressed by the development team to resolve the issue you're having. Please be assured that the bug will be fixed soon. I apologize for any inconvenience it may have caused.
i'm very grateful to hear from blogger tech support with a mere 30 minutes of my email to them. and they admit it is a bug.
then they actually apologize. imagine microsoft doing that? uh-uh.
i can't think of a single major paid product with such excellent tech support.
and yet blogger remains free! i'm glad to see that google, the owners of blogger, are keeping their promise: do no evil.
yay! blogger and google 4 evuh. please stand by, dear readers, i have confidence this will be fixed by tomorrow. . .
why is this blog's type suddenly fooed?
because the sweet people at blogger have changed the system somehow today so that all posts have an extra <div style="clear:both;"></div> after the headlines.
this isn't in my code; blogger is adding it in of its own automagic will, and it is effing up my stylesheets something royal. i'm sure this is accidental on blogger's part.
and i have contacted tech support about it. still, until blogger gets its act together, please forgive the horrible appearance of my type.
it bothers me. you have no idea how much it bothers me. i will update you post-haste if blogger contacts me with a fix. . .
fake aromas and real coffee
" 'the aroma of freshly brewed coffee is distinctive and appealing to many people. . .with this in mind, we created the café pebble to demonstrate how smell can be used effectively to enhance the shopping experience while stimulating desire for food products.' "
long-time readers may recall that i've discussed artificial coffee flavors before: specifically how the big four use 'em to enhance that ground brown vegetable matter they sell in the supermarket cans. at that time, i received a lot of email saying basically, pshaw.
but, alas, sara lee, nestle, kraft, p&g, + tchibo are as evil as we think. . .no doubt we'll find this charming little device in use soon enough.
but while the commercial sectors duplicity is well-documented, let me take a moment to thank boyds for some real coffee. here i'm holding in my hands a nice bag of their organic, shade-grown, rainforest alliance certified rojas blend of central american coffees.
when i press my nose to the valve and squeeze the bag, the most wonderful scent drifts out -- i swear it smells just like german chocolate cake. . .a mixture of dark cocoa, and a fruited, coconut nuttiness. . . yummy.
however, i must say to my dear friends at boyds -- precisely because they are scaa pro members and i love them -- that this sticker on the bottom saying "best brewed by. . ." and showing a date in august, 2005 isn't working for me. please, just give me an actual roast date.
then let me decide if it's fresh enough to drink. if roasters can't get consumers coffee within 2 weeks, maybe they need to consider improving their distribution systems. . .?
i don't mean to harsh on boyds, because they are really sweet people who make good coffee. but we come back to the eternal question: is it really specialty coffee if it isn't fresh?
Thursday, June 23, 2005
fun with yoga mats
"my preconceived idea of yoga had always been a skinny-little person with their knee wrapped around their head as they did a handstand. i couldn't have been more wrong."
darn! just when i thought i had got handstand licked, i find out i still have to work on getting that knee around my ear. . .but seriously, i find this small personal testimonial inspiring.
you can indeed lose weight and improve your blood pressure over time through a consistent, regular, challenging vinyasa yoga practice.
and since the above personal testimonial is from a girl, just to drive home my usual rant that yoga works for guys too, read this article for a male perspective. real men do yoga, you know.
recently i've come across a couple of fun variations on the standard yoga mat: the scooby doo mat, the chocolate mat, and the plank mat.
the scooby do mat is marketed for children, but it's the full 68-in. long puppy, so it would work for many adult women. personally, i think scooby's a don't, but hey! to each your own!
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
the beginning of good news?
"african coffee farmers are benefiting from a rise in global prices, but higher income will only start translating into increased output and better quality after the next season, coffee officials said on wednesday."
perhaps this will finally be the beginning of the end of the coffee crisis.
but just getting farmers more money next year won't be enough -- the entire basis of the current coffee market(s) remains unsustainable, unsound, and unfree. anyone who argues that the current coffee markets are free and fair has never been to origin to watch the so-called "coyotes" and local strongmen force farmers to "sell" their coffee to them at absurdly low prices.
and they have never spoken to an artisan specialty roaster about how the specialty spot market is an un-level playing field that likewise rips them off.
and anyone who argues that both of these practices are rare or unusual has been in the coffee business for about 5 minutes -- or is probably part of the corrupt system themselves!
since all of this come down to us, coffee-drinking consumers, it means we too are unknowingly ripped off; with low-quality coffee, coffee that doesn't return to the farmers what we think we are paying them, etc. etc.
but enough of my usual rant. . .let us now discuss safety with the cafetiére (that's a french press to you!). yuppers, when you plunge the pot, it's crucial to press slowly and firmly, to keep both hands on the pot, and if you meet resistance, to pull the plunger back up.
then you can try stirring or pushing down again -- slowly. resistance like this is usually caused because the grind is too fine!
and the problem this resistance can cause is backsplash, as you press down too quickly or with too much force and drive the 195-degree liquid back up through the sides of the press filter. this can lead to one severely burned wrist!
another important way to prevent backsplash is to turn the pouring slot in the lid around away from the pour spout. this is the one that got me!
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
scaa homecoming & why we love tonx
"coffee is not merely an ingredient in the recipe for some product but rather a diverse and challenging personality, bringing with it the character of its mountain, its climate, and a long chain of handling."
yuppers, we love tonx we do!
also, fantastic altie and scaa pro member marshall fuss has sent along the final schedule for the homecoming, july 23, in long beach, calif.:
- Tim Castle (Writer, coffee broker, former President of SCAA) - "Le Nez du Café Lab." This sensory training kit was developed by a French company to teach the recognition of specific aromas in coffees and other foods.
- Richard Hourizadeh (President of Astra Mfg.) - "Designing an Espresso Machine." Astra is one of the few companies that designs and builds espresso machines in the United States. Richard will describe Astra's approach to espresso machine design.
- Ted Lingle (Executive Director of SCAA) - "Everything You Wanted to Know About the SCAA Flavor Wheel." Ted will explain how to use this key tool of the coffee cupper and how it was developed.
- Thompson Owen (Owner, Sweet Maria's) - The leading seller of green beans to home roasters will discuss some of the current issues in selecting and finding the best beans in the current market.
- Heather Perry (Barista trainer and 2003 U.S. and 2005 West Coast Barista Champion). In a return visit, Heather will demonstrate latte art techniques and other secrets of the professional barista.
- Jim Schulman (Writer and coffee-phile) - An "amateur" in the original and best meaning of the word, Jim has become a visible presence in the coffee world. Jim will explain some of the technical issues in making great espresso at home.
more info on the scaa website. . .
and finally, for those considering joining the nyc coffee meetup at the july 10 tour of the fancy food show, please be aware that the show has "secretly" extended the US$35 registration all the way to july 8. of course their website doesn't tell you that until you're into the registration process, but hey! there it is!
Monday, June 20, 2005
before i forget
for the three coffee lovers out there who hadn't yet heard, sammy piccolo of vancouver's caffè artigiano does it again -- he took the canadian barista championship last week!
and to show the lock that artigiano has on barista skill in canada, zlatan lakic also took 3rd.
i'm pretty confident that this will be the year sammy takes world's.
seems like karmic poetry to me
considering its glorious history, i'm not sure it would be all bad if the current lloyd's tower reverted to a coffeehouse. there may be more efficient ways to operate nowadays, even if you want to preserve the face-to-face business model.
in fact to have the lloyd's of london wacky po-mo industrial building house a coffeeshop would be really poetic, don't you think? they should put one in now -- but of course, it shouldn't be a mermaid!
i think anita and a.j. of monmouth could do a great job roasting coffee on-site, and edward bramah ("keeen-ya," ed, keen-ya! from now on, i promise!) could move some of his spare antique coffee brewers to a beautiful, properly set-up museum there.
"buildings are not idiosyncratic private institutions: they give public performances both to the user and the passerby," says the architect of the lloyd's building -- and in lloyd's case, its historic public performance was a coffeehouse where traders gathered to do business and exchange the latest market news.
in fact at one time all londoners, from street sweepers to lords, gathered in their coffeehouses to read newspapers, gossip about their contents, and have a cup of coffee. p. ackroyd in -- you guessed it -- his fantastic and enamored biography of london notes that the poorest citizens of london would even pool their meager resources to put together the farthings and pence it took to buy newspapers and coffee, which they shared among them.
in this spirit, i think it would be mind-blowing if lloyd's reclaimed its soul as a coffeehouse and reading center, albeit with a modern edge. . .to make it truly public and for security, it could be a separate street-level, open-glass space with extended business hours to bring more life to the historic london street. . .
Sunday, June 19, 2005
franny's and bklyn is da bomb or whatever
it's amusing how the ny times remains years behind events -- such as the paper's decision today to devote the city (if you need to, use bugmenot!) section to the on-going bklyn hipitude, which started oh, about 10 years ago and is currently at full peak, if not past its peak.
bklyn is the hip borough; i know it's a hard fact of life for those older manhattanites (we're discussing mental age here) who still go to see woody allen's new movie every year.
sorry man. can't help ya. hip-hop has also happened. . .
myself i've long reveled in bkyn scene, as did yesterday by running over to franny's for a pizza and a beautiful salad of organic bib lettuce hearts, fresh herbs, and organic edible lavendar in moscato viniagrette. now i do like franny's crust, which is made with good old king arthur flour.
once again my problem is the sauce. i know franny's makes many different pies (tsk, tsk: purists such as those should know that pizza comes in just 2 kinds -- margherita and marinara, altho' i will reluctantly tolerate a sprinkle of fresh sausage or a quattro stagione -- the di fara's fresh baby artichoke white pie requires its own discussion) and so needs a bland sauce to work with all those ingredients.
i also wasn't thrilled with the fat, awkward, sliced-on-the-diagonal flops of fennel sausage on mr. right's pie. and once again, the pie was too wet.
did i mention that the salad was superb? after that we wandered over to the chocolate room for a slice of the chocolate layer cake and a glass of banyuls. alas, the banyuls was served too warm.
and the chocolate layer cake wasn't quite the retro, magnolia dream mr. right had hoped for. nor was it the modern slice of intense decadence i would have liked.
again, however, i offer the owners encouragement: improvement is possible and worthwhile!
mr. right freely confessed that my pizza is better -- but then, i've spent years customizing it to his personal tastes. i myself remain unhappy with the crust, and continue to tinker for perfection.
however, i may have to admit that the problem will always ultimately be the home oven. . . i certainly do make a livelier, herbier sauce than any of the famed public pizzas in new york.
long-time readers know that i do think both john's and grimaldi's have declined. i know others don't agree, however.
while i liked the fanny's pizza, i may still think grimaldi's has the edge on the sauce, altho' franny's crust is now better. . .
the crust was near spot-on to the genuine neapolitan article. the new adrienne's that's opened near my job is still young, but the shake-down grace period i give all fresh places is nearly over. . .
i'm not a square-pie girl, but i'll try to keep an open mind. i'll be trying it soon.