Saturday, November 12, 2005
elegant geishas, part v & milk chocolate yrg
today just call me ukers, because i'm all about coffee. of course, i'm still fixated on scott & jessica's batdorf "latitudes" line, particularly the panama geisha and the kello yrg.
i hopped outta bed and rushed into the kitchen to make up the panama geisha, emeralda jaramillo especial, as a single-origin espresso in the triple portafilter. i was of mixed mind about this, as it's such a beautiful estate coffee that to condense it as espresso and lose so many of its fancy notes seemed almost criminal to me.
as a straight espresso, it comes out suprisingly crisp and with an unexpected chocolate note. it also had more crema than i would have guessed, and a lightly syrupy body.
just to double check, i made it as an americano, which i think i liked better. so for those of you who refuse to drink anything but espresso, there is an interesting shot to be had here, if you like a bright shot.
but after some thought, i do think it's not the best showcase for all the complexities this coffee can offer, imvho. then i had to run out and get my eyebrows done at supermodel central.
supermodel central is an amusing place; i've been going there for several years now and each year the girls get younger and younger. i mean, models used to be 17, 18 years old.
i am fairly immune to the eccentricities of the fashion world, living in new york for so long now, but i am beginning to get a tad creeped out by these 14-year-old european girls. true, they may be 14, but they have the bodies of 10 year olds.
i know models are meant to be nothing more than calcium clothes hangers with interesting faces, but the current crop do seem to be dancing on the scary blade of an androgynous pedophilia. i know fashion is all about épater le bourgeoisie, but this isn't edgy-hip, it's just old-man-skeevy.
but the girls themselves seem very sweet when you talk to them. so why do i feel like the fashion executives should be registering themselves in the sex-offenders database when i page around in the lastest rag mags?
i'm told that the reason for this trend is the affluent baby-boomer babes who buy upscale clothes now mostly have daughters this age, and they project themselves thru their children. they use their kids to formulate their current self-image, and so that's what fashion executives mirror back to them.
anyway, today was the first day i ran about town in my fancy new eyeglasses, with delicate, ultra-light black frames, hi-tech lenses, and all the groovy transition features. let me digress one moment further to say that the transition lenses are interesting -- they do quickly turn a medium gray even in this late autumn sunlight, but in an imperceptibly gradual way.
so even when the lenses were fully dark, i didn't have that "i'm looking thru sunglasses" feeling. unique. on the street they don't fully cut out the glare, so you'll want polarized clip-on sunglasses.
once indoors, they also quickly but imperceptibly change back to clear. wearing them i couldn't tell the process was happening at all until i gazed in a mirror.
once back home, i lunched on more tomme des fleurs vertes, that delicious soft white goat cheese with lavendar, tarragon, pink peppercorns, and other herbs spread on my favorite saetre kjerks rye-bran crackers (i like these because they have a texture that reminds me of shortbread). i accompanied this with some paté de campagne and juicy sliced loquats.
(see what you miss when you don't come to my house for lunch, tonx?)
it used to be that nice, ripe loquats were impossible to find in nyc. you could go to dean and deluca, spend your grandma's kidney, and get a hard yellow stone.
but now they are showing up ripe and in good condition in my local market at a decent if high-ish price. i think they come from california.
i learned to eat loquats from the spunky sophie grigson -- when ripe they're bright apricot-orange and still feel firm, but have brown spots, like a bartlett pear. the skin is thick, so peel 'em gently.
halve them and you'll find the interior is mostly occupied by 4 apricot-like seeds. take these out, and you'll be left with a crisp "shell" that's juicy and tastes like cross between sweet apples and apricots.
after lunch is when i pulled out the vac pot again and made up the batdorf yrg, the kello co-op. scott warned me in advance that this was a most unusual yrg.
"wild," he said, "wild and like a harrar." what the heck does that mean? i thought. 60 g. to the liter and 4 santos minutes later, i found out.
yuppers, reach for your scaa flavor wheels, gentle readers. . .
remember, scott took these now 5-day-old beans to a standard+/light city roast. they possessed a medium tiger-eye color, it seemed, just beautiful.
the dry grounds are intensely floral. when the coffee bloomed, i stuck my nose into the vapors and saw what scott meant by wild -- there was a light, strange sweetish quality mixed with what seemed like oh, clove stem, some kind of sweet woody-seedy spice.
at the first sip, the brewed coffee seemed like a yrg of the tea-like variety, with that earl-grey thing going on. but the aftertaste was chocolate-y -- like a harrar!
and the body, instead of being yrg-delicate, was heavier, again like a harrar. when it cooled, the wine-y taste came to the fore and more of that wacky wild sensation.
in short, the kello yrg is a unique coffee, really different. i love it!
with light cream and little splenda, the wildness gets lost, but the coffee becomes even more harrar-ish, with a long, long milk-chocolate flavor that lingers in your mouth for what seems like days. . .yummy!
Friday, November 11, 2005
elegant geishas, part iv
this morning i leapt outta bed to make up yesterday's fantastic gift from jessica & scott -- the batdorf "latitudes" prize-winning panama geisha, the esmeralda jaramillo especial.
as always, i ground it fresh in my saeco 2002, measured out 60 g. (about 2.1 oz) coffee, and vac'd up a full 1-liter (about 34 fl. oz.) pot in my trusty stovetop bodum santos, with a total brewing time of 4 mins. got your scaa flavor wheel handy?
as noted, scott crafted this to a standard/light city roast: lovely large beans without a speck of oil. the packaging of this coffee is lovely, presented in a handsome copper-foil bag, which carried a roast date of nov. 7.
opening the bag was a revelation in itself. frankly i've never smelled such delicious fresh whole beans outside of the gillies' vanilla-red currant norwegian wood.
the unusually narrow and long beans themselves immediately perfume the air with an amazingly strong vanilla-allspice aroma. frankly mouthwatering.
what a rich bouquet this coffee offers at 4 days old! the fresh dry grounds were quite a surprise -- was that a berry i was smelling?
when the water in bodum hit the top globe, the coffee bloomed furiously, and there it was again, a clear but light strawberry scent. but i didn't find this in the cup this morning.
instead, the first sip offers a hint of toasted coconut and more vanilla. wonderful. jim schulman found candied hazelnuts and apricot -- at least we agree on the nut and fruit!
the initial allspice feeling is echoed by a spicy, almost nutmeg-y aftertaste. yummy.
as promised, this is a sweet-tasting coffee, whose nippy/crisp brightness comes out from behind the fan, so to speak, as the brew cools. scott described the body as silky, and i completely agree.
this is just a beautiful, beautiful coffee. i liked it black, altho' i think a pinch of brown sugar enhances the coconut, while a little light cream boosts the vanilla but mutes the nippiness.
in short, it's a coffee that can be appreciated both black and with cream and sugar in the morning. the geisha fully lives up to its hype, imvho -- and long-time readers may recall that i don't even particularly like snappy central american coffees!
but i love this geisha. if you can't see buying it for yourself (your loss, if i may be so blunt), then i can highly recommend it as an excellent gift for your thanksgiving hostess!
Thursday, November 10, 2005
elegant geishas, part iii
long-time readers may recall c-member and long-time bccy pal jim schulman's ode to the panama geisha. and i myself wrote about this elegant coffee in june.
what came completely unannounced in the mail today but a beautiful wooden box from batdorf filled with their new medium-roast "latitudes" super-premium beans? thanks forever, jessica and roastmaster scott!
the geisha grows in boquete at 1450-1700 meters on the hacienda la esmeralda estate, which sits on the slopes of the baru volcano. it's been cultivated with care for the last 3 generations by the peterson family.
yes, this is the jaramillo especial coffee that won the panama cupping competition for the last 2 years in a row! the geisha variety isn't one of these heavy-producing but taste-impaired hybrids.
rather, it's a rare coffee that is often considered too-low-yielding to be commercially useful. but the secret is that the geisha produces some of the sweetest, highest-quality coffee in the world when properly cultivated.
scott roasted this to a ground agtron of 68. (that's a standard/light city roast to you!)
also in the box was a bag of the coffee that won this year's famed ethiopian internet auction, a natural ethiopian yrg from the kello co-op of the yrgacheffe union. long-time readers know that yrg is one of my favorite coffees, so i'm looking forward to sampling this one with great excitement.
this is another extremely rare coffee, with a production of only 19 bags. period. scott roasted this to a ground agtron of 65.
both of these are incredibly special coffees, the equivalent of the finest vintages of wine, but much cheaper! i can't wait to rush home, grind 'em fresh, and brew them up in the vac pot.
you'll hear the first report tomorrow, i promise. in the meantime, know that these are both reputed to be absolutely amazing coffees.
if i were you, i wouldn't wait. . .the new latitudes line includes a third coffee, if you're not a fan of either panama or yrg.
scott and jessica are also offering a wet-process, sun-dried el salvador, the siberia pacamara, which at a ground agtron of 63.4 (that's a full-city roast to you!), has a huge buzz about its sweet, brown-sugar, raisin quality (this is scott's personal favorite of the 3). . .it's a cup of excellence prize-winner from chalchuapa, ahuachapan, grown at 1450 m. on a family farm that's existed since the 1870s.
now let's have a quick chat about the price: yes, the geisha is US$38, which is about what you might pay for a truly fine super tuscan. and that bottle of super tuscan will give you about 4-6 glasses of fine wine, which comes to oh, say about US$6.30 a glass.
but those 12 oz. of panama beans will make about 30 6 oz. cups of coffee, meaning you'll pay just about US$1.25 per cup, or just slightly more than the cost of a can of soda from a deli in nyc. in short, it's a steal.
more importantly, it means that the farmers who lovingly grow these amazing coffees will finally get the real market value for their beans as a gourmet, specialty product. the end of the so-called "coffee crisis" is in our cups!
let me quickly note, however, that the other coffees are much less: the yrg and el salvador are just US$18. which makes them super, super steals for such quality.
anyway, scott admits that these coffees were a pleasure and a challenge to roast; he recommends due to the unique nature of these beans that you be sure to measure them by weight, not volume. this is because the pacamaras especially are such large beans after roasting.
you remember the magic lingle coffee constant, right? multiply the amount of water you're using to brew by 0.057; the result is the weight of the beans you should use for non-espresso brewing. (it's about a 17:1 ratio.)
that should get you in the ballpark and you can adjust to your own taste from there. finally, scott highly recommends trying that el salvador or geisha as a single-origin espresso.
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
ecco espresso in the cafetiére & aerial
even when andrew b's ecco espresso is a bit too old for a really great shot, it is fantastic in the cafetiére. and in that press pot it still displayed a massive bloom.
based in his usual gorgeous super-premium brazils, it's just a fine cup of coffee, even at 16 days old. yummy.
please notice that despite email requests, i'm ignorning the evil nestle's "coffee beer." they're desperate to find any way to trick innocent human beings into drinking that junk they peddle.
in completely off-topic news, i will say that yesterday i acquired kate bush's new "aerial." i think the reviews here and here capture it accurately overall.
when i lived in d.c. my then-publisher -- here's a challenge: i'll personally send a pound of gillies to the first 2 people who can tell me what the isbn was -- was a huge kate bush fan and he had acquired somehow a really bad bootleg video of one of her famed performances.
i recall grainy images of an anoretic waif with huge hair in what looked like black leather writhing prone on a set floor in purple light screaming in a gilbert-and-sullivan falsetto about her period. no wonder she gave up touring.
this caused a bit of a disconnect with me -- i was thrown back to an evil memory of a writing workshop at the jack kerouac school when alan ginsberg totally took apart another skirt next to me in that nasty way he had when she had dared to mention that topic -- but i did learn to appreciate a lot of things about kate bush's music. even tho' many of her lyrics and production hystrionics made my skin crawl.
this new 2-disc set removes many of her more melodramatic quirks, making it easier to appreciate what a truly lovely voice she has and the uniqueness of her song structures. every time i hear her work i do think that if she were only less self-indulgent her huge talent would make her a dominating global artist.
fortunately the first disc is quiet, and by kate bush's standards, restrained. however, some of her lyrics are still too self-conscious and precious -- at least there's less of that than before.
the music contains many references to those she's worked with in the past, like peter gabriel, plus a little light leftfield influence. and one or two of the songs have beatle-esque touches.
the second disc is a concept album, but the concept isn't overly twee, thank god, tho' some too-cute stuff still lurks about. while all this sounds like heavy criticism, i actually like this album quite a bit.
which surprised me. . . btw, before this, i'd say my favorite of her albums tended to be the dreaming and the sensual world, if that gives you reference point as to where i'm coming from.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
haven't they ever heard of decaf?
"but the eighth-grader at lake gibson middle school has no trouble acquiring a cup of caffeine-laden coffee."
this is just another one of those bizarre anti-coffee articles that show up from time to time; it really makes me laugh. "acquire a cup of caffeine-laden coffee" -- as if it were a schedule 1 substance being pushed on the street corner by a shady individual in gang colors?
the article actually mentions coffee in the same sentence as cigarettes and alchol. puh-leez.
i note that the piece highlights a teen who drinks decaf green tea. it's not until waaay down in the story that the author mentions in passing that well-known substance, decaf coffee.
and while the article notes properly that the mermaid's hot milkshakes with whipped cream and flavored syrups are quite caloric, you notice it doesn't say the same for soda, which it appears to laud solely for having less caffeine than coffee. the piece doesn't seem to mention diet soda once.
the writer appears to forget the tremendous calorie impact in non-diet soft drinks, even tho' a huge number of american children are obese (um, take another look at the teens in the photo accompanying the article), and 2 million american children are pushing the edge of diabetes.
look, all people should drink coffee in moderation -- 2 or 3 5-6 oz. cups per day. devoted readers know that I strongly counsel against the mermaid's super-sized drinks, which are frankly obscene.
no one at any age should have 2 venti anythings a day, to my mind. those who find themselves sensitive to coffee's caffeine can enjoy one of the several kinds of decaf.
decaf drinkers are about 10-15% of coffee drinkers in the u.s.a. presently, and i think there's room for that market to grow as decaf processing continues to improve.
long-time readers may recall that i agree with many in the greenie community that an important key to continuing gains in coffee consumption will in fact be better-tasting decafs so that coffee can expand beyond that early-morning window.
(most coffee in the u.s.a. is savored before 11 am; this is the origin of scaa chief ted lingle's famous dictum "coffee is the engine that pulls breakfast.")
as for my own breakfast this morning, i did indeed make andrew b's ecco la nueva from yesterday in the vac pot. alas -- still no pear.
i must get ahold of some of this stuff at a younger date! but its nice citrus quality seemed more prominent in the bodum santos -- and this morning i saw for the first time a few specks of oil on some of the beans. . .
Monday, November 07, 2005
the wnyc interview: before i forget
for those wishing to download and listen to last friday's live radio interview with lenny lopate on wnyc: you absolutely have to listen to it; long-time bccy pals don schoenholt of gillies and coffee author mark pendergast are hilarious.
even tho' i've been a friend of don's for years now, he still came up with tidbits of coffee history that were new to me.
it's one of the best 45 minutes a coffee lover could spend: the wnyc lopate coffee interview with schoenholt and pendergast (streaming mpg3).
listening to it made me so happy: long-time readers know that here i've often discussed don's sumatra lintong "kuda mas" -- or "golden pony" -- triple pick, japanese prep coffee (for example, here) as well as his estate guatemala huehuetenango shb, which, as the interview mentions, is what they're drinking during the conversation. . .
i wonder if don will make that up as his "lopate blend" and offer it online? for the most part i think the interview is pretty solid: i have but one minor niggle -- when don says "coffee has more anti-oxidants than anything" he of course is referring to the famed study by another long-time bccy pal dr. joe vinson finding that coffee is the largest source of anti-oxidants in the north american diet.
ecco's la nueva
now what was i saying? oh yes, andrew b. of ecco caffe was sweet to send me his 2005 nicaragua cup of excellence prize-winning beans from the la nueva estate.
due to my recent surgery, these had sat around for a bit, and so i was worried that i wouldn't be able to do them justice. that aside, when i made them this morning in the cafetiére (that's a french press to you!) they showed plenty of bloom and still had a fair bouquet.
(remember the 3 "sets" correspond to the 3 inner divisions of the aroma side on the scaa flavor wheel: the enzymatic, sugar browning and dry distallation).
unlike the cupping competition judges, i didn't find any particular pear or melon, which is probably due to the coffee's age, or perhaps to the fact that i didn't make it in a vac pot, which would have highlighted these possibilities.
this morning, andrew's fair-trade and organic coffee had a medium-heavy body and a sweet taste. it was roasted to his usual northern-italian color, which i'm calling city + or maybe full-city-slightly-minus, since i didn't see any oil on these beans.
i found the coffee had a spicy-floral fragrance, maybe cardamom, in the dry grounds, and at this age, a slight citrus aroma. the aftertaste was definitely in the dutch cocoa range.
with some light cream and brown sugar, i thought the citrus came out a bit more. the coffee was really yummy for breakfast.
even tho' i enjoyed it today, i wish i had caught it when it was a bit younger to pick up some of that pear quality the professional jury described. maybe a hint of this will remain if i make it tomorrow in the bodum santos.
as always, i love andrew's coffees and i think every real coffee drinker would as well. highly recommended!
Sunday, November 06, 2005
don't forget the chocolate show
i used to love to go every year to the chocolate show here in nyc, until it just got too crazy. lately it's been so crowded you can scarcely approach the tables and due to the timing of the show, not as many real artisan chocolatiers can represent themselves there.
so you get squeezed like a lemon only to see ever more chocolate-covered potato chips. this is one reason why i will be sitting out this upcoming show again.
and of course my recent surgery will be another -- i still get tired a bit easily.
but otherwise i'm carrying on well, making pizza today as always and contemplating my hoard of yummy and surprisingly health-conscious goose fat. i recently pried open the first kilo to make lentils, a charming autumn dish i just like to have around.
today i had some as a side dish for lunch with cold duck breast, for example. i know, i know it's not a trendy foodie parsley foam sous-vide thing, but rather something straight outta elizabeth david, which is a commendation in my book, frankly.
i used organic lentils du puy and i made them in my beloved kuhn-rikon pressure cooker -- because while i do support slow, i also believe in saving energy. in the pressure cooker lentils come out great and only take 7 minutes, instead of 30+.
over time, this kind of thing saves natural gas, so as i like to say, no need to drill in the alaskan wilderness on my account!
the recipe i usually use is a variation of one of david's. in no way could it be construed as "healthy," altho' of course it is.
goose fat makes it all delicious:
3 tablespoons goose fat
1 small red onion, chopped fine
1 yellow pepper, cubed small
2-1/2 cups lentils du puy
5 cups water or stock
2 tablespoons good quality tomato paste
1 cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
flavored or balsamic vinegar or lemon juice
black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
in the pressure cooker, melt the onion in the goose fat just until it softens. add the lentils, water or stock, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaves -- we'll pop the salt in later.
cover the cooker and bring up to pressure. cook for 6-7 minutes. turn off the heat and let the pressure release naturally (about 15 mins.)
open the cooker and turn the heat back on to a mild simmer. add more water or stock if you want.
otherwise just add the yellow pepper, garlic, salt and the tomato paste. stir all well and cook for 2-3 minutes more. taste to see if you want more salt and add as much black pepper as you like.
you can eat this dish as is on the side with meats or thin it out more with stock etc. to make a soup. i like to serve it as is with just a touch of that flavored vinegar or lemon juice to brighten the flavor.
you might find tons of stuff to do with it, actually, once you have it around.