Saturday, July 02, 2005
the best chocolate ice cream in new york?
on rare days, mr. right and i will wander down to that tourist restaurant, mesa grill. not only is it nowadays quite expensive and packed with nice people from iowa who apparently have never eaten in a white linen tablecloth restaurant in their lives -- this is true blight caused by applebee's et. al. -- but the menu never, ever seems to change.
we go today, a lovely summer's evening, and find the usual pork, venison, and brussels sprouts, etc. etc. as if it were october.
however they actually do have one or two reliable and delicious dishes (i always have my venison rare, thank you) before moving onto vikki wells desserts.
this is the only part of the menu that hasn't ossified, it seems. the pineapple-tequila sorbet on a coconut sacristan is weather-and theme-appropriate.
however, the standout desserts are the warm dulche de leche dark chocolate cake and the dark chocolate ice cream with chile.
mr. right had the cake; i settled back for the intense ice cream. i really do think these 3 mini-scoops are the best chocolate ice cream in new york.
i'm told it's made with belcolade 60%. if only i could describe how unctous and soul-kissingly chocolate-y this ice cream is.
nothing else i can bring to my mind in nyc has the same overwhelming and intoxicating chocolate taste. i would almost say it's the best ice cream in new york period, except that honor goes to the prune and armangac ice cream served at the old bouley.
don't laugh: that's a classic french combination and it is deeply awesome. . .
finally, wells' chocolate ice cream here has just the right amount of spiciness. some spicy chocolate ice creams have too much chile.
not this one. i swear this ice cream may be the best reason to encounter tourists. . .
Friday, July 01, 2005
the ethiopian internet auction:success!
"coffee offered in the first web auction by [ethiopia] sold for an average US$3.22 per pound, said [willem boot]."
you can find a nice summation of this wildly successful internet coffee auction here or go to the scaa auction website for details.
please note that the "c" market price for september 2005 -- the posted price -- is just US$1.08. and remember that the basic fair-trade price is just US$1.26.
long-time bccy pal oren estimates that this coffee without the auction -- "regular ethiopian prices" as he termed it -- would have been US$1.75-2.00. since this money goes to the farmers and co-ops more directly, they are perhaps realizing 4 times more money than they would through the traditional sales chain, he told me.
oren himself bid in the 4-1/2-hour-long auction. he bought the finchwa co-op's dry process (unwashed, natural) sidamo grade 3, which he will be offering to customers in his stores and by mail order as soon as it arrives from rotterdam.
how did the awesome genevieve felix, the renowned cupper, describe this coffee? sweet, solid stucture, blueberry, raspberry & apricot, some cups lemony plus blueberry.
oren's own cupping notes? "nice fruit, berry (undefined), beautiful clean fruit, lots of fruit, clean, crisp, terrific difinition."
he gives it a solid 93 on the cupping sheet. i'm getting a feeling there might be some fruit in this delicious cup, hmm, gentle readers?
long-time readers know i love strong apricot and blueberry coffees from ethiopia. so i'm looking forward to this limited-edition, rare coffee with great anticipation: there are only 18 bags of it.
this could very well be one of the best coffees of the year!
plus, i know that the farmer was justly rewarded in a fair, open, and transparent way. another interesting bit to this coffee: you may remember oren and genevieve travelled to ethiopia earlier this year.
on that trip they met the manager of this co-op and are now awaiting more info on the exact farm from which these 18 bags were grown. and genevieve also worked with a european group to get a grant for the research station in awada, yrgacheffe.
isn't genevieve just the best? but overall, i think it's clear that this is exactly the way the future of specialty coffee should go.
Thursday, June 30, 2005
regional coffee culture, part xxxxv
"in the past five years norwegians have increased their coffee intake an average of eight liters per year and a new record level of 166 liters (701.6 cups) per person per year was set. . ."
so if this article is correct, norwegians are now drinking about 17.5 pounds of coffee a year, each. it sounds like a lot, but really it's only about 2 cups a day -- moderate level of intake.
however, you can't blame norwegians for enjoying their coffee, even if they do it with typical scandinavian prudence. they do after all enjoy some of the planet's best coffee and many world-class, prize-winning baristi.
like that cutie tim w. (i got a hug from him in april at conference in seattle. . .sigh. . .and another from dreamboat paul bassett. . .ultra-sigh. . i can't wait 'til he posts pix on his website.)
actually if forced to mention it -- and only if forced, really! -- not to insult their obvious talent, intelligence, espresso passion or anything -- thomas g. (on the right) and morten m. (on the far left) are also amazingly good looking. oh, and they make great coffee too!
many times people not into coffee ask me why barista championships are spectator sports -- and to answer that question, um, really, i do have to point out with some delicacy that besides the innate drama and excitement of espresso preparation, my experience has been that the vast majority of serious baristi are rather quite easy on the eyes. . .sammy's sweet too!
and for the total swoon factor, of course there's the great italian duke himself, luigi lupi. . .in canali, of course.
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
sumatra relief update
"the aceh tsunami relief fund, established by coffee kids in partnership with forestrade inc, has made a complete shift to supporting the reconstruction of local community infrastructure in the coffee-growing gayo highland region in central aceh."
we all remember -- don't we? -- the devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami in sumatra last december. those great people at coffee kids were quick to respond with a program to aid coffee-growing families in the region.
they've been very good about updating us donors and the general public on where that money has been going. and today we learn of the new phase in their efforts.
this is a long-term, massive effort, and the public shouldn't forget. . .
the weather here in nyc continues to be late august. but i can't complain, since i'm living happily on the the last of suzanne's kona, iced, with light cream!
yummers -- further, i can't tell you how wonderful it is to be able to enjoy suzanne's coffee, direct from her, the farmer; and to be able to know her, to develop a relationship with the person who grows your coffee. . .
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
google's new video tool
of course everyone today is talking about google's new video player and search. it does appear to work through most firewalls right now.
when seeking videos on the 4 topics that interest us here at bccy, i have to admit that google turned up a lot of utterly mouth-watering goodies: alton brown's famed coffee episode, julia child on pbs making baguette, etc.
alas, however, while google has indexed these videos, they aren't available for play. waaaaah!
seeking great music to work/chill out by? check out harold budd's highly-acclaimed avalon sutra, particularly the second disc, "as long as i can hold my breath."
this would also make fantastic yoga music, i think. i ran over to the website of the label samadhi sound, only to discover that it's run by david sylvian and contains a link to -- surprise! -- one of bccy's fave magazines, long-time pal eddie stern's namarupa.
regional coffee culture, part xxxxiv
"both social and spiritual, the so-called ethiopian coffee ceremony is structure without rigidity, more community than formality: you sit, you talk, you enjoy a drink -- a natural progression in a country believed to be the birthplace of the world's most popular beverage."
this is just a beautiful article about how ethiopian immigrants to the u.s.a. are preserving their precious coffee and cultural heritage.
alas, nowhere in new york do we appear to have the ability to experience this ceremony in its true and authentic form!
in other news, this article made me giggle -- nestle offering a "luxury" coffee? -- excuse me while i climb back in my chair -- but i was intrigued by that offhand statistic: over the past 7 years instant/soluble coffee consumption has fallen by 14%?
it was music to my ears. . .since we've basically had august all june, i just haven't been doing a lot of baking recently.
however, over the coming 4th of july holiday i do intend to re-attempt the brownie with splenda. my first crack at this was a complete disaster, as gentle readers may recall.
this time i'll be using the new splenda baking mix. let's see how this works out; it would be great to bake delicious, killer brownies with 25% less calories, hmm?
but it is crucial to recall that baked goods made with splenda often cook more quickly -- thus i'll probably need to pull the brownies from the oven 5 mins. sooner. i am a little concerned however that of all the common recipes splenda gives on its site, it doesn't list the common and wildly beloved brownie.
maybe this is an oversight. . .or maybe its the herald of doom??? tune in next week and we'll find out ourselves!
Monday, June 27, 2005
thinking about origin
"'why aren't we doing the roasting and packaging?' asked cyprian ipomai, a regional manager for coffee board of kenya, which oversees the country's coffee production and marketing."
at first this sounds like a great question. however, we do have a valid business reason why origin isn't the best place for roasting and packaging -- good coffee must be presented fresh to the consumer.
roasting, packaging, and transporting from kenya and many other origins -- places not known for great infrastructure or twice daily deliveries from fed ex -- would result in coffee that's even staler than what most consumers are already faced with.
this lowers the quality of the product and reduces consumer acceptance, ultimately harming coffee consumption; so ironically, this tactic would backfire on kenyan farmers. however, it would make a ton mo' money for people on the coffee board, which is notoriously and openly corrupt. . .
"these days, most african coffee farmers teeter on the edge of poverty, even as western coffee processors and specialty outlets like starbucks rake in about 90 percent of the $70 billion-a-year industry, according to some industry analysts."
part of this is true: and not just african coffee farmers suffer. however, the statement is wrong about where the money lands, i do believe.
most retailers make only about US$0.25 on that US$3.75 latte, according to old figures the scaa once published. i personally think after talking quickly to a couple of retailers that a more reasonable figure is nowadays US$0.15 or so.
this is still a large sum compared to the farmer, who receives just US$0.01 of that drink cost, true.
our friends the artisan roasters (brownies) generally seem to book a profit of about US$0.09 outta that latte (this obviously varies by region). so where does all the cash in the coffee industry lodge?
you don't have to hang in the coffee industry for more than a moment before you realize who owns the polo ponies and porsches: the greenies (importers/brokers).
"karanja [the farmer] bristles at the fact that most americans every year spend more money on their daily cups of coffee than he makes in a year. he longs for the day when he himself can negotiate a fair price for his beans with buyers in new york and california. at the moment, kenyan coffee growers are prohibited by kenyan law from selling their coffee individually."
bingo. and i'm here to say that all of us coffee-lovin' consumers agree with karanja -- he should be able to sell freely in an open way on a fair, transparent, level, electronic market. most brownies would jump with joy at the chance to do business with him that way.
but notice what prevents that: kenyan law. the same law that is made and overseen by above corrupt national coffee board!
but we have to be realistic as well. the greenies make a lot of money because they accept a lot of risk. and in market economies, risk is rewarded.
let's face it: it's hard to get coffee from the higher slopes of the misty mountains where roads are nonexistent, past the government officials and soldiers who want their cut right there, to get it loaded on a ship in a timely manner (more bribes), and then get it delivered to new york and parceled out across the country in time for the contract.
this requires resources that the farmer and the roaster can't pony up. it's not unheard of -- but i still wouldn't call it common either -- for greenies to build a gravel road to a coffee-growing community just to be able to get the coffee out, you know?
this means that in some areas the greenies have basically been providing the services normally expected of a local government. so there's no doubt the greenies provide an important role.
also, since most coffee is still shipped by container -- that's 37,500 pounds -- it would be very hard for a group of small farmers and roasters in an electronic auction to manage the shipping in a time- and cost-efficient manner. how are many small buyers going to put disparate lots together in a sensible way?
the coffee famers certainly can't do it, meaning the greenie does and will in the future. this is why some people, like jim kosalos, say the final barrier to a real coffee market reform is the container shipping system. . .but this doesn't mean i think the greenies are off the hook, either.
these are the on-the-ground facts that i think articles, like the piece i'm quoting today, need to deal with more, imvho. a total "blame the west" isn't completely appropriate. . .altho' there's no doubt that everyone needs to see where they could do more to improve this situation!
everyone in the specialty coffee family, to my mind, needs to work together to understand how we can manage this situation to the benefit of all, as one former scaa prez so famously states. (for us coffee lovers, this often means we just have to learn what the current situation is -- not that it's easy to educate yourself in the complexities of coffee, i admit.)
um, and that includes the coffee boards and coffee-producing countries, who need to face and deal with their own internal corruption straight on. otherwise why would kenyan coffee famers be begging human rights officials for protection from their own government's agents?
in short we need a new coffee conference, a new and permanent discussion group of farmers, greenies, brownies, retailers, market-makers, gov't officials, and consumers. a group completely devoted to market reform.
does anyone have any ideas how we can start it? smaller groups of various players seem to have formed, but it needs to gel, you know. . .
Sunday, June 26, 2005
long-time readers know that i have several cafetiéres (that's a french press to you), ranging from a 2 cupper to a 10 cupper. but the one i use most is the 8 cup bodum bistro mr. right gave me as one of his first gifts. and i've used it regularly for nearly 7 years now!
but alas, glass is fragile, and i finally managed to whack it at a bad angle against the porcelain coating of our antique cast-iron kitchen sink. big hole!
mr. right gets summer fridays off -- a common perk in the creative industries of new york, where it's widely accepted that everyone's bailing to the horrid hamptons those days anyway -- and so he hopped down to john's 2 for the pot, the famed bklyn tea & coffee equipment purveyor, to pick up a replacement carafe.
and he did sweetly bring the replacement back and put it in for me. good as new!
breaking it was rather a drama since it was full; it was enough to make me consider a bodum electric santos, but! but! i really don't like to make coffee in plastic. not to mention that the colored ones prevent you from seeing the real color of the coffee.
i'm just a big glass/porcelain girl myself. . .
it's also worth noting how the whole bklyn scene is going beyond. the recent traveller just devoted page after page after glossy page to my bklyn nabe (which it called "the toniest[!]"), my street, all my usual restaurants, the little funky clothing stores i hang about, everything.
i expect the tour buses at any minute, filled with stroller-pushing moms and cranky map-reading dads. the prospect is terrifying.
but if it's true, and i now live in the ultimate epicenter of style and hepitude, why o why can't i still get a really great cup of coffee anywhere outside my own living room?