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Saturday, January 14, 2006

various tales of customer service

this is a kitchen version of calvino's if on a winter's night a traveler. . .

  • after much woe in which mr. right stayed home from work a couple of times before the promised g.e. dishwasher repair guy actually arrived, the guy actually arrived. and once here, he determined the problem was in how the thing had been hooked up to the plumbing, making it more likely to cause a clog.
    after hearing our stories of suffering, he called g.e. to ensure that we weren't charged for the visit. now all we need is to get a plumber to give us a wider pipe, move the connector, and snake the puppy free.
    all may be well, if it ends well.
  • as the 30-year-old g.e. fridge slowly died, leaking water, refusing to cool, we panicked and rushed to check out another one. due to the built-ins in our bklyn apartment, we had to go with another g.e.
    we purchased this at the low-end bargain store p.c. richard. they promised to deliver in 3 days, take away our poor dead fridge, and install the new one.
    p.c. richards has a cool phone system whereby they track the delivery guys in near real time. thus you can call up and see within 2 hours when they will be arriving.
    our time said they would arrive before 12:15pm. at 10:30am, the guys themselves called and said they would arrive in about an hour.
    75 mins. later, they arrived, measured everything, took off our doors, installed said fridge.
    new fridge turns out, due to a metal part at the bottom, to be 29 in. deep, not the stated 28. this means it doesn't fit.
    mr. right calls p.c. richard, who accepts the error, reduces the price and apologizes. mr. right then demolishes the wall(!) behind the fridge-space to remove a bit of the ornate floor molding.
    voila: flying plaster and an hour later, fridge fits. hooray, p.c. richard!
  • jessica's batdorf dancing goat arrived yesterday by mail, just as it has without fail for more than 2 years now.
  • sassafrass enterprises is best known for the must-have baking item, the ceramic bread cloche. after many years, the bottom pan of my cloche cracks in half.
    i call sassafrass, who cheerfully sells me a new one for just US$18. the sweet customer service rep says that if u.p.s. breaks it in shipping, they will replace it for free.

and now, a readers' poll: my boss is irish and loves soda bread. i wanted to make him a gift -- we've worked together for years and are quite friendly -- to celebrate the end of a project.

the problem is that soda bread rarely lasts a day; it's famous for almost instant staling. if i could make it one day, freeze it well, and then give it to him frozen -- that would be great.

yeast bread freezes quite well, as we all know. but i have little soda bread experience.

please, dear readers, those of you who treasure your grandma's soda bread recipe like your own heart, do tell me your own history with freezing soa bread.

posted by fortune | 2:44 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Friday, January 13, 2006

brava, yogini!

"yes, it's true that both yoga and hinduism come from india, and both come from a very ancient set of teachings known as the vedas. but saying that yoga is therefore hindu is like saying opera is catholic.

opera comes from italy, and italy is a catholic country, but you don't have to be catholic to sing or enjoy opera."

brava, diana woodall! i don't know who you are (maybe here?) but i adore your style.

posted by fortune | 1:27 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

the big four changes

long-time readers know that i often discuss -- ok, rail -- against the large multi-national coffee roasters who supply the stuff seen in the supermarket cans and jars. they are known as the "big four": sara lee, kraft, p&g, and nestle.

these people are the ones largely responsible for the low-quality, commercial coffee much of the planet drinks. as tchibo has become more prominent in the peddling of lower-quality beans, i've also been known to use the term "big four + tchibo."

but recently, the big four has changed. sara lee has sold well-known, vintage supermarket coffee brands like chock full o'nuts, hills bros., and chase & sanborn to the italian firm segafredo. segafredo has created a new division for these products, called massimo zanetti.

segafredo is basically the folgers of italy; it's pretty much one of the largest, most popular and most marketed brands. as anyone who's been to italy can tell you, it's your average mass-market middling-quality coffee.

however, they will also tell you that most segafredo beans do seem on the whole to be a slightly better quality than what sara lee was peddling. so in one sense, this could be a small step up for these brands, and for the broad swath of american consumers who still drinks these coffees.

it's possible that segafredo could improve the quality of their supermarket cans, that they could inject a more italianate concern for coffee overall into this new division. i'm not holding my breath, but it could happen.

i suppose.

another interesting point to note about segafredo is their relationship with la san marco espresso machinery, which fairly recently became part of the segafredo group. being italian, of course, segafredo is largely about espresso.

thus their purchase of brands normally associated with drip is intriguing. do they intend to introduce espresso to these vintage lines?

do they intend to offer pod espresso and an home "la san marco" pod system to these old coffees in order to revitalize them? we coffee lovers should check back in with segafredo over time to see what direction they propose!

but from now on when i rant about the big four, you'll know that segafredo's in on it henceforth.

finally, of course, segafredo does have its own set of fairly stylish cafes here in the u.s.a (such as this one in miami). as for many years did chock full o'nuts.

so there's also a retail angle that segafredo could be considering here. . .

posted by fortune | 7:16 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 3 comments

Thursday, January 12, 2006

yoga in the schools now

"at highland high in gilbert {az], students have thronged to a new yoga fitness class that has become an unexpected hit."

this in oh-so-conservative arizona! but considering the terrifying stories the nytimes has been running lately on the nightmare epidemic of diabetes caused by obesity, it's only common sense to get young people into fitness activities they can pursue as a life-style.

and to do so now. note that this innovative and popular yoga program is part of highland high's overall progressive model.

perhaps this is just one reason why was recently named the best public school in the state? in fact, this news story may be pointing to a larger trend: the growing popularity of yoga practice among teens and tweens:

"it started as an experiment to give preteen girls a change to blow off some steam after a long day at school."

so begins the description of a popular yoga class in the boston area for young girls. the real situation will be how to use this growing interest in yoga to help children avoid obesity and its problems rather than just market it as a quick-dying fad. . .

posted by fortune | 7:56 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

amen, vince!

" 'The cup spoke for itself it was so great,' said vince piccolo, president of caffe artigiano. . .'it's such clean tasting, it has lively acidity and a wonderful citrus finish in the palate.

'we're going to give people the option of buying the best coffee in brazil for $US5 a's an option the customer would love," he said. a regular cup costs about $US2 ($A2.67).

asked why he paid such a big premium for the coffee, piccolo said, 'why not reward the farmer for doing exceptional work? coffee is grossly undervalued in the world.' "

you said it and may you keep saying it, vince! the coffee under discussion is the #1 winner of the brazilian cup of excellence auction, which went for an astonishing US$49.75 a pound green.

that might turn into something like US$75 a pound roasted at retail. before you balk at that, remember that a pound of coffee makes about 40 6-oz. cups, for just a cost of just US$1.88 a cup if you brewed it at home.

compare that to the cost of a prize-winning wine per glass! the coffee's a steal in that sense.

the coffee is the fazenda santa inez, grown by farmer francisco isidoro dias pereira. congrats to him!

posted by fortune | 12:55 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

a representative 15 mins.

as i like to say, one world united under specialty coffee's passionate sway! this is indeed a slice of my web stats that feels pretty representative to me:

posted by fortune | 12:37 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

email alert

here's fair warning that i've started using spam arrest. my email provider just isn't any good at this spam filtering stuff, and my inbox is now 95% spam.

i know there's real information in there that's being smothered. so forgive me if i haven't answered you recently; please resend your email and confirm you're a real human being.

i should catch up with you shortly. thanks in advance.

in other news, last night i acquired (sigh) yet another g.e. fridge. this has to do totally with size.

each manufacturer seems to have a default set of sizes all their own. thus my kitchen, built around the old g.e., can only accomodate another g.e.

this is breaking my heart because i had fallen desperately in love with the australian fisher & paykel frigo. they are ultra-hip! and look at that interior space arrangement!

true, the bottom freezer thing does rather give one the feeling of working in the morgue, sliding stuff in and out of the drawers. . . new fridge comes saturday.

imagine -- not having to buy milk every day!

finally, let me note that i'm just now getting around to reading the aussie yoga magazine i bought in sydney. it's not scholarly, intellectual, or literary, like my fave namarupa, no doubt.

but it's filled with solid no-nonsense articles on yoga. none of this yoga journal "yoga diet" and "cool clothing by hollywood yoga mamas" claptrap.

in the aussie magazine, i particularly liked the article by desikachar, as well as the one on creating a personal practice, the other on when teachers should offer pose adjustments and when students should accept them, and a straight-forward discussion of real tantra.

posted by fortune | 11:43 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 2 comments

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

i heart the reliable

a person i met recently in oz is very fond of cars, particularly old jaguars. i remarked how difficult it must be to collect cars you cannot drive (because they don't run)!

whereupon he discussed the frustrations associated with various cars (now please keep in mind this guy has a lovely french wife); at one point he remarked: "italian cars are the worst. they look so beautiful but betray you at the most unfortunate times."

this remark was brought to mind by my recent kitchen difficulties. my g.e. dishwasher is kaput at only 6 or 7 years old.

my g.e. fridge, admittedly 26 years old now, has also given up the ghost. instead of, well, refrigerating or even freezing, it now sort of hums quietly to itself in the corner.

i think the compressor's history, since i no longer hear it kick in. of course in the midst of this kitchen chaos, there sits my italian princess, miss silvia.

she arrived 2 weeks after the y2k tax refund and actually not long before i began this blog. and i must say, that despite the reputation of italian machines, my nearly 6-year-old silvia espresso machine has never let me down.

in fact, she's never even needed maintenance. i do descale her about every month or so, and i should replace the grouphead gasket every year.

and every year this is my new year's resolution: replace silvia's gasket. it's not hard to do: empty her of water, turn her on her side, gently drive a screw slightly into the gasket on one side (not very deep!), and pull out a piece of gasket.

repeat until the gasket's all out. this strange method is usually made necessary because the heat of the machine basically welds the gasket to the grouphead. . .

but i never end up replacing this gasket, because she never needs it. silvia never leaks.

she's reliable and i love her. this is why, despite the arrival of the steamy latin carlos expobar, i've never sold her.

i suppose if i were less philosophical, and more greedy, i would say this kitchen appliance let-down is the perfect opportunity to go to home depot or one of the other hyper-stores that have infected new york to pick up a viking stove, a sub-zero pro, and a miele dishwasher.

unfortunately, sub-zeros appear to have poor service records and are too large to fit in my bklyn kitchen. likewise, miele dishwashers, i'm told, tend to leak.

i guess i'll default to the tried-n-true maytag. but about that viking. . .i need a creative way to vent that puppy outta my historic building's facade. . .

posted by fortune | 7:51 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 4 comments

Monday, January 09, 2006

inbox overload

yes, about 150 people have politely emailed me some version of this article this morning. upon which, i really won't comment. . .it may speak for itself!

from how women perceive pain, to some breast cancers, to mild depression and suicide, to migraines (some women find coffee helps reduce theirs; but others do find the opposite), and so forth, the moderate consumption of coffee seems to have a notable, beneficial effect upon female body chemistry.

not to mention the general anti-oxidant, diabetes, and all that news.

let me also take this moment to thank you all for your patience while i manually moderate comments. between the new spate of comment spam and weird people with personal agendas, i intend to continue this step for another few weeks.

don't stop commenting, please! i do review all comments a.s.a.p.

finally, on the yoga front, i'm getting the general impression that after a few months where yoga seemed a tad less ultra-chic, it appears to be picking up steam again. another rock-n-roll star's getting into ashtanga. . .

posted by fortune | 7:16 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 2 comments

Sunday, January 08, 2006

back to pizza

yesterday afternoon i had a few errands in mall-hattan to run -- but it was great to cab about from the garment district to the lower east side to see what's been up since basically between my surgery and my vacation i've been outta touch from the last week of october to now. off the main avenues where the big chain stores have taken over, it was great to see small and funky boutiques springing back up again on the side streets.

lately i've been in search of organic, stone-ground, unbleached white all-purpose flour, which has become surprisingly hard to find. a certain trappist flour of this description used to be everywhere -- now after seeking all over town, even in the annoyingly fake whole foods, i just can't find any. not even online!

but not from the monks. i don't think they make it anymore.

if anyone out there knows where in mall-hattan or bklyn i can find a good performing flour of this type, hey! comment below i beg you. . .

this morning i made up a batch of pizza dough, even tho' the dishwasher is still non-functional. trying to get service from g.e. for the puppy i have now has just been nightmare. you make appointments and the guys just don't show up.

on the second attempt, while mr. right was home waiting for the guy to come, he called the office and left a message saying -- since you don't answer, i'm not coming. well of course mr. right wasn't in his office!

he was at home waiting for the guy! and when you call g.e. to try to get the situation sorted out, you wait on hold 2 hours only to finally get a phone monkey who can't do anything and doesn't know anything and only offers to make you another appointment in 2 weeks.

like how many days off work is one supposed to take? only to have the guy still not appear? it's insane. . .

after all this, we clearly need pizza to restore our sanity. and so i mixed up the dough today. take my advice: avoid g.e. like the plague!

but as soon as i can find that stone-ground white flour, i'll be experimenting with a batch of e. david's old-fashioned muffin bread, a charming recipe she gives from 1845. . . long-time readers know i'm a big david fan, altho' i do readily confess she understood nothing at all about pizza.

it seems she really never liked it much. . .

posted by fortune | 1:15 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 6 comments

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