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Saturday, January 07, 2006

a 3 min. reason to watch living coffee

devoted readers may recall that i had announced my intention to create one of barista champ paul bassett's signature dessert espresso drinks, the one based on tiramisu from his living coffee dvd.

and this i did today. it is fantastic, delicious, amazing. i think from my quick work with food labels, that as i made it, it has only 150 calories, or about 9-10 carbs for you low-carb people.

i used just whatever i had around the house: this meant instead of amaretti, i used 1/2 a stella d'oro almond toast from a package an otherwise well-meaning soul had given me.

i find most stella d'oro things inedible, but this worked out ok, actually. you could use ladyfingers, savoidi, old madeleines, 'nilla wafers, biscotti, whatever!

likewise, paul used marsala, but i was out of it today, so i just chucked in some kahlua. again, you could use whatever you like, even just rum extract flavoring, for those of you avoiding alcohol.

as for the espresso, i used andrew b's ecco northern italian espresso reserve:

1/2 stella d'oro almond toast
1 or 2 teaspoons kahlua
2 oz. freshly made espresso (a doppio)
1 or 2 tablespoons mascarpone
1 splash half-n-half
1 splash real vanilla
sugar to taste or splash splenda (optional)
a little grated chocolate or dutch cocoa
a pinch of ground cinnamon (optional)

mix the splash of half-n-half and the vanilla into the mascarpone until smooth. break the cookie up into a 3 oz. demitasse.

the cookie should fill the cup half-way or maybe 2/3s.

pour the kahlua over the cookie to start the softening process. brew the espresso right into the demitasse.

by now the demitasse will probably be 2/3 to 3/4s full. if you want, add your sugar or splenda to the demitasse; don't stir yet.

thickly spread the mascarpone mixture over the top of the demitasse and sprinkle with the cocoa, grated chocolate, and pinch of cinnamon.

place the demitasse on its saucer, and serve at once with a demitasse spoon.

you can eat this in layers, or mix it all up and spoon it greedily into your mouth. yummy!

and it really does take 3 minutes -- or possibly -- less to make.

posted by fortune | 2:12 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Friday, January 06, 2006

raw cacao and that illusory c

"march coffee climbed as high as $1.2025 a pound on the new york board of trade, touching its highest intraday level since june 23. the ["c"] contract finished the session at $1.1955 a pound, up 2.1 cents, or 1.8%."

getting out of the so-called "coffee crisis" is proving tough going, hmm? this price movement has basically to do with various one-time world events, and the strategies of brazil; alas, it doesn't seem to forecast any real market upturn that would improve the lives of farmers. . .

a fellow yoga student here in bklyn who know i'm interested in chocolate presented me yesterday with a strange-to-me object: a raw cacao, um, cookie. everyone knows my philosophy of food: if you're over 16, what you eat is nobody's business but your own, so i'm not here to preach at anybody.

i eat what i like because i like it, and if you wanna eat raw, or eat low-carb, it's your yoga, sweetpea. it's not my place to say a word.

anyway, not wishing to be rude to this nice yogini who i see all the time, i accepted her object and scrutinized it. it looked to me like a flat round granola bar with rough black specks.

ok, so i took a bite -- it had the texture of a granola bar, and was slightly sticky like one too. but my heavens was it overwhelmingly, unbearably sweet!

i examined the ingredients: almonds, cashews, walnuts, coconut, vanilla, broken raw cocao nibs, and agave nectar. aha! agave nectar!

1 tablespoon of agave nectar has 16g of carbohydrate and 60 calories. compare that to white sugar, which has 48 calories and 12.5g of carbohydrate per tablespoon.

and on the taste front, that stuff is waaay sweeter than white sugar -- those raw foodists are flying like hummingbirds on agave nectar! that's where all their boundless energy comes from, i guess.

of course the "cookies" didn't actually have any chocolate taste. and eating them was, well, i can't help but say it, like eating a fancy granola nut bar.

posted by fortune | 8:02 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 3 comments

Thursday, January 05, 2006

andrew's hama co-op yrg

various events have conspired to prevent me from writing as much as i'd like about andrew b's ecco hama co-op yrg from the famed ethiopian internet auction. what's important to note is that in this auction, the hama was the second most highly rated in both the washed and unwashed (natural, or dry-process) categories.

another point of interest about this certified fair-trade and organic bean is that it was grown at 2100 m/nearly 6,900 feet! that's high-altitude coffee!

the hama co-op is a member of the famed yrg farmer's union, the ycfcu, as is batdorf's "latitudes" yrg from the kello co-op and oren's yrg/sidamo from the finchwa co-op.

again i made this coffee this morning in my little 2-cup (10 oz/296 ml water) bodum french press; and so used 0.6 oz/17 g coffee by weight. as i've said before, just opening the bag allows you to smell the blueberry. . .

andrew's roast on this coffee is northern italian style: in this case i didn't today see any oil on these beans, not even a pinprick, which i'm calling full city. at this age, it's a lightly wine-y tasting coffee.

yuppers, i'm talking about the scaa flavor wheel!

the fresh grounds smell floral and strongly blueberry. this is a very yummy combination if you ask me; i've always found it irresistable, in fact.

when you first break the crust on this coffee to stir in, even in press brewing, there's a little ferment, which i think comes from the dry processing. but this quickly dissipates and turns a little citrus!

when you slurp the coffee, or just drink it, the aroma is fantastic caramel. the aftertaste is long and chocolate-y, no doubt.

again, you'd be forgiven for thinking this baby was a delicious harrar. what i noted about this coffee was its nice balance as well.

it's a really engaging and beautiful coffee. highly recommended.

posted by fortune | 8:48 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

somewhat positive women's health news on coffee

"women with brca1 gene mutations, which confer a high risk of developing breast cancer, might decrease their risk by drinking a lot of coffee, according to a multicenter team of investigators."

this article lays out the somewhat terse facts; most new sources ran some version of it, without explaining what it means to my satisfaction. and i wouldn't be surprised if many women felt the same way.

of course it's not news that some women inherit or acquire in their lifetime a gene mutation that heightens their risk for breast cancer. this mutation is a defect in 1 of 2 genes or both: the brca1 and brca2.

normally, these two genes create natural body chemicals that repair the body's other genes and work to prevent cancer from arising. but in women with the gene mutation, these two genes don't make the repairing chemicals properly.

how many women have these gene problems? doctors don't know for sure, but the mayo clinic estimates between 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers are caused by them.

of course, like many things, modern medicine seems overall to believe that breast cancer commonly comes from an unfortunate confluence of circumstance -- you may need several factors, such as the gene mutation, some kind of environmental trigger, poor diet, etc.

so the study above, which seems to show that drinking coffee reduces the risk of breast cancer in women with these gene mutations, actually is more limited news than it may at first appear. because we have to remember that a relatively small number of cancers -- 5-10% -- are caused by these mutations.

what is of greater interest about the study is that the natural compounds in coffee beyond caffeine and the polyphenols are being demonstrated to have some health impact. long-time readers know that roasted coffee has between 800 and 1100 identified natural compounds.

now we know that some have useful and possibly protective effects for some people. clearly scientists need to intensify their coffee research and look at coffee in more depth to discover what other helpful phtyochemicals may exist in our favorite bean.

posted by fortune | 8:00 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

no news to us here

"after 12 weeks, the patients in the yoga group were better able to do daily activities involving the back than were the patients in the exercise or education groups. after 26 weeks, the patients in the yoga group had better back-related function and less pain. . . .fewer people in the yoga group used pain relievers."

this peer-reviewed controlled study proves only what we yoga students have known for a long time. the truly devoted reader will recall that i started yoga myself almost 8 years ago for lower-back trouble at a doctor's advice.

still it's interesting to see a half-way decent scientific study of yoga's effects. and for once the study mentions the kind of yoga used in the trial -- in this case, viniyoga.

i myself do a viniyoga-type class twice a week as well as more vigorous classes 3 or 4 times a week. i actually find the "gentle" yoga has improved my "fancy" poses and made some of the more pretzel-y ones more accessible, faster.

viniyoga in general focuses on the basic actions of yoga. for example, the viniyoga class i commonly attend features single leg-lifts, pigeon pose, the hip stretch known as lizard pose, and chatarunga/plank.

these basic actions are those required for the "fancy" pose ashtavakrasana, folded-in-8-places.

in ashtavakrasana you first pick up your leg and hold it across your body (pigeon pose, but sitting up); then you gently place it over your shoulder (lizard pose, but sitting up); next you place your hands on the floor beside your hips and pick up one leg off the floor (single leg lift, but sitting up); then you swing that off-the-floor leg over to the side (in the same basic position of the back leg in pigeon pose, but sitting up); next you straighten the leg-over-the-shoulder our to the side (leg lift again, but in a sideways direction); and finally you balance your torso forward with bent arms (chatarunga, but with the legs to the side).

when people in my supposedly "advanced classes" ask me how to learn this pose -- it's a "goal pose" for a lot of people -- i always surprise them by suggesting they start taking the viniyoga class. they usually protest that they don't need "gentle yoga."

with which i immediately agree. with all due respect, if that's your attitude, then learning astavakrasana won't do you any good anyway. . .

posted by fortune | 7:56 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 7 comments

Monday, January 02, 2006

rainy winter day

so i spent this afternoon sipping americanos made from andrew b's ecco prize-winning super-premium brazil, the fazenda esperanca. yummy.

and i whiled away the time watching a few episodes of paul bassett's tv show, living coffee, on dvd. while some envious detractors (in oz they have a saying about this -- tall poppy syndrome -- but paul doesn't deserve it, imvho, since in my experience he's not arrogant about where his hard work has taken him) tried to assure me that there wasn't anything to this show, i actually liked it quite a bit, for 3 reasons.

one, i love those wacky signature beverages -- the mixtures of liqueur, cookies, espresso, chocolate, etc. -- that baristi invent but which are rarely if ever served in the cafes where they work, and which paul demonstrates with fairly clear instructions in the episodes. two, in the 3 episodes i watched, i knew soooo many of the people in them!

that was surprising -- it was like old friends' week there. "hey," i said to myself, "that's oregon barista goddess sherri johns!" and "look, it's sammy of caffe artigiano!"

and three, of course, having come from sydney still quite recently, i was pleased to see so many cafe locations that i recognized from my travels there. this dvd is in the pal format, which meant alas i couldn't watch it on my tv's dvd player -- but the trusty old g4 mac played it back great.

i'm looking forward to a couple of more icky weather days to finish the series out. and i just might make that specialty beverage based in tiramisu with the amaretti cookies. . . that looked decadent!

posted by fortune | 3:40 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Sunday, January 01, 2006

new year's day

"without wishing in the slightest degree to disparage the skill and labour of breadmakers by trade, truth compels us to assert our conviction of the superior wholesomeness of bread made in our own homes."

-- eliza acton, modern cookery, 1885, quoted by elizabeth david in 1977

this quote was brought to mind today by reading
today's nytimes article
reporting that at a recent food conference celebrity chef mario batali declared the new fashionable foods to be those considered authentic: handmade bread, handmade cheese, and handmade salumi. naturally long-time readers will note that bccy has long been devoted to 2 of these 3, and that with my kitchenaid stand mixer, i could buy the food grinder/sausage attachment and literally go whole hog.

just another example, dear readers, of how as each year passes, the rest of the world is catchin' up to us. . . .

mr. right and i celebrated new year's day by having pizza out at that nyc icon, john's. why out?

simply because for some reason during my time away, the dishwasher died. le dishwasher est mort; vive un dishwasher nouveau!

i will make pizza by hand; mozzarella by hand; various chocolate things by hand; pasta by hand, etc. . . but i draw the line at washing dishes by hand. and mr. right didn't want to do it either. . .so. . .there!

as you can see, it's been an unconventional sunday around here. this also interfered with my intent to properly taste andrew's prize-winning yrg from yesterday.

sorry -- i did however instead make his reserve espresso, which is probably the thickest, most syrupy espresso ever. a gorgeous body there, with a lovely sweet taste, and naturally highly recommended!

inspired by memories of a single-origin harrar shot paul bassett pulled for me in sydney, i ended up making an americano of andrew's ecco hama yrg, which was quite good -- caramelly and chocolately. but the blue doesn't survive in the americano as strongly as i'd like.

speaking of sydney, i was naturally awed by the gorgeous new years fireworks cnn showed. it's a pity i couldn't stay for new years, since sydney is now thought to have the best new year's street party on the planet. sigh.

but i was concerned to hear about today's wildfires north of sydney -- however unlike those in the u.s.a. currently, which are rapidly moving from house to house -- i doubt sydney will be in broad danger, due to the simple fact that most sydney houses are brick with tile or metal roofs. thus the spectacle we see in oklahoma city of wildfires jumping from one closely built wooden roof to another can't really happen in sydney's broad suburbs. . .

posted by fortune | 6:26 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 2 comments

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