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Saturday, February 11, 2006

various musings

this is perhaps the only time i will agree with the whining nora ephron. when i was at said hairdressers -- always a comic experience, as my hair is so long i have to stand up on the chair so shifa can blow dry it -- i was paging thru the current new yorker when i spied ephron's strange cookbook confessions in the personal history section.

there she makes a sensible statement, that you need to lose all your food neuroses. that you need to stop overthinking your dishes, and stop ruining your life and those of your guests with overwrought concotions.

but naturally, being nora ephron, she then has to renege on this wisdom and demonstrate that she not only remains completely neurotic about food, but has a series of truly creepy and pathetic crushes on famous cookbook authors, men and women alike.

um, nora: it's embarrassing, not amusing. i was mortified for you.

(that you have imaginary conversations with your latest culinary love-projection while whipping up overthought, overwrought concoctions suggests to me you may need anti-anxiety and anti-delusional medication. just trying to be helpful!)

plus, ephron has to toss in the obligatory reference to her bitter divorce from carl bernstein. for how many decades are you going to dine out on this, nora?

how wronged, wronged, wronged you were by him, you poor pitiful hollywood millionaireness you. ah, but what else do i expect from reading the new yorker?

woog, i say, woog.

per my previous recent post on the whole diet thing, as well as m.b.'s rather sensible comment, all i can say is that foodies weird me out. when are they going to develop a healthy psychological state that doesn't involve food as a misplaced, over-invested space of sexual desire, personal control, moral purity, celebrity worship, and craven social status?

yes, i do intend to write about terry p's ruby blue espresso from the other day. i'm still working on dialing in the best grind for it, so stay tuned.

and naturally i must point all of you, dear readers, to this nice article on agro-tourism in colombia's coffee country. long-time bccy pal and scaa board member mary pettit of juan valdez must be quite pleased.

and it is here where the coffee co-incidence thing happens again: because in the new yorker issue mentioned above, there's also a juan valdez cartoon! in which conchita (lola, to those of you who don't know her) catches juan walking out of a mermaid and bitterly remarks, "et tu, juan? et tu?"

posted by fortune | 6:16 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 2 comments

politics is boring

but coffee is interesting. long-time readers will recognize this as one of my personal mottos.

yet today, enough was enough. on my way back from the hairdressers, just as the present blizzard was beginning, i stopped at the store to buy lurpak.

it's delicious, in case you've never tried it. more later.

posted by fortune | 4:00 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 2 comments

Friday, February 10, 2006

you can eat bread at last

dear readers, as someone who -- you know -- eats bread and chocolate, you have to forgive me for not being really up on the latest diet trends. sorry.

i mean, my web traffic probably suffered a tad during the recent atkins phase, since that diet forbade bread, coffee, and chocolate, period.

when the atkins trend was replaced by the raw food movement, i again suffered a bit, since bread, coffee, and chocolate are all cooked. but now the new diet, which has recently been explained to me, is a french regime by a guy named montignac.

this apparently has been chic since j. steingarten talked about it in vogue or something a while ago, but appears to be gaining steam, esp. since said montignac has just written a forthcoming new book. as it has been explained to me, this diet is based on the glycemic index concept.

what it means in practical terms is that the conscious dieter can now eat dark chocolate without lecithin, drink half-caf, and also eat -- surprise! -- naturally leavened pain de campagne or pain au levain, provided it is made with 100% organic whole-wheat flour and/or other whole grains.

apparently such bread has a low or moderate gylcemic rating, especially if sliced thin and toasted. i won't pretend to understand why.

this new diet, combined with the news that pure ultra-low-fat isn't so effective, may actually bring pleasure back to eating again. i am told this montignac guy agrees with me that olive oil and goose fat are the way to go.

i'm not an expert in blood chemistry and i can't play one on the internet, but it seems to me as if social trends are finally coming 'round my way! frankly, in these matters i've always adhered to montaigne and julia child.

montaigne said that wine is good for you; julia child said have a little of everything (emphasis on "little") but don't have seconds, and do adopt the habit of walking whenever you can.

except of course, i've added yoga to the walking.

posted by fortune | 8:44 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 4 comments

Thursday, February 09, 2006

breaking coffee news

paul bassett cafe, ginza, tokyo
yes! thanks to barista goddess sherri johns, we here at bccy are privileged to publish what may be the first photos of the world barista champ himself paul bassett's cafe opening in the ginza 2 weeks ago. well, maybe they aren't the absolute first, but they're the only ones i've seen yet!

paul bassett with sherri johnsthis second pic is of course of the goddess herself with paul. coffee being a small world, naturally we all know each other.

and i have to say paul and sherri are just two of the most adorable people ever. remember that small world thing, above?

long-time readers will note that sherri is an old, old friend of another bccy super-pal, andrew b. of ecco. sherri's still doing her barista and cafe training thing with her whole cup consulting.

she has several regular clients in japan, and just happened to be there for paul's opening. i love coffee -- it abounds in these happy co-incidences!

posted by fortune | 2:01 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

fresh fresh fresh

terry p's doma ethiopian organic harrar is so fresh i shoulda slapped it. seriously.

i tried this morning to brew up this 3-day-old coffee in my 2-cup cafetiére. and i used my usual amount of coffee, ground just seconds before in my saeco 2002.

i had poured in about 3 oz. of the water, when the coffee bloomed instantly over the top of the press. massive overflow.

freshly roasted coffee gives off carbon dioxide. the precursors to this gas are natural in the bean, and roasting creates it in the interior of the coffee, if i may oversimplify.

so when you grind the coffee, it starts to burst out. when you add water, the carbon dioxide rushing out of the coffee is what causes the bloom, or foam, you see in your french press.

the gas gradually seeps out of the roasted coffee over time anyway -- the more carbon dioxide you see is an indication of how freshly the coffee was roasted. so stale or old coffee will have very little, if any, bloom in a press.

in this case with terry's coffee, the co2 was so strongly present in the fresh coffee, the gas just bloomed the water and much of the ground coffee right over the press' side. and of course, it prevented the coffee from brewing properly -- with all the gas gushing out, the water couldn't get in.

the majority of those grounds that didn't go over the side were suspended in the bloom, not really making contact with the water.

so i looked at the mess on my counter-top with mixed feelings. thank goodness i didn't try to make it in my vac pot!

tomorrow, i'll trying making up a half-pot in one of my largest presses, to give me a measure of safety! thanks, terry, for a high-quality and ultra-fresh product!

i appreciate it! while this tale may sound like an amusing mishap, to a coffee lover, it's the right sign.

posted by fortune | 8:13 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

regional coffee culture, olympics edition, part ii

"while turin's olympic visitors will be more concerned with skating and skiing, they would do well to detour to a cafe and try a bicerin."

and today the ny times discovers this classic italian drink. of course, long-time bccy readers are familiar with it, since i've written about it before.

for example, here. and note, this was years and years ago.

despite the times claims that the recipe is "closely guarded," in fact recipes for the drink have been commonly available in english since at least 1997.

scroll down to bicerin here to see one that allows you to make it more than one shot at a time. but from these proportions, it's really easy to understand the recipe on a per-serving basis.

getting good italian chocolate, thank god, isn't is hard as it used to be -- in fact, the toughest part of the deal will be attempting to find an north american equivalent for fresh italian heavy cream. which is crucial, since it is nearly half the drink.

because lawd knows most of the stuff called "heavy cream" in the grocery stores nowadays is barely a dairy product by the time they're through with it, much less real milk -- i'm still up in the air about raw milk for anything but cheesemaking -- but even some of the "organic" ones are ultra-pasteurized and thickened with carrageanan.

but speaking of that "journal of cluelessness," wow! the ny times has finally discovered single-origin chocolate. amazing.

they're only about 6 years behind on this trend, i think. a group of my 'net pals have a term for that feeling of mute awe you get when confronted by overwhelming idiocy -- they call it the "dumbchills."

it's a sensation that comes over me regularly when reading the times, i must say. but on the single-origin front, long-time readers know i have quite a penchant for venezuelan and ecudorean beans, personally.

anyway, we should thank our lucky stars that the times is slowly catching up with the real world. can you imagine what would happen if the times staff actually dealt with current reality in all its forms?

(and thanks for the heads up on these articles, don! i never can resist an opportunity to mock the times' stupid food section!

maybe one day they'll get your story correct too! we can only hope!)

ok, enough fun taunting the times. let's talk about people who get it, which means terry p. at doma. devoted readers will recall that i'm a huge fan of his famed ruby blue espresso.

terry tells me he's tweaked the blend a bit, so i'm very interested in seeing what this now 2-day old coffee has to offer. tomorrow! tomorrow!

i love you, tomorrow! terry also sent some of his organic harrar, as well, so me all happy. . .

posted by fortune | 11:09 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

regional coffee culture, olympics edition

". . .perhaps the most indelible image of torino is that of a jewel box-like cafe with a rococo or art nouveau décor tucked under a baroque arcade. . .other european capitals - notably vienna, paris and trieste - have developed sophisticated cultures around their cafes, but none seems quite as elaborate or as vital to the social fabric as torino's."

ah, civilization; ain't it grand? this article reminds us why we here at bccy adore turin.

and not because the solid chocolate candy bar was invented there! think caffarel, of course.

it is also the ancestral home of lavazza.

i was quite surprised to see on cnn this morning that the news anchors were struggling to discuss turin, as if it's a little known place no one's ever heard of or travelled to. um, how about that shroud?

this morning i also brewed up some of the astro cafe my new brazilian friend maria fernanda macuzzo gave me in my little cafetiére. it's dark, thick, burnt caramel, for fans of french roast only, which is i think why ken davids didn't like it.

it's probably intended to be brewed in a moka pot and drunk with lots of sugar, the way the italians and brazilians do. by the time i'd finished the cup, i have to say it had reminded me of the all-arabica blend you can get at naple's bar mexico, which if my memory hasn't failed me, is called san pasquale. . .

posted by fortune | 12:45 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 2 comments

Monday, February 06, 2006

gimme guat and the blue spoon

after my recent visit with kevin and fernanda, obviously i had to have a little gimme coffee. and kevin was sweet enough to send us both home with beans -- fernanda got some kenya, and i took some guatemala.

however, fernanda has yet to purchase a grinder, so today as she was heading uptown to zabar's to check out coffee equipment, she stopped by downtown and we went for a cappuccino at the new-ish blue spoon.

the blue spoon served long-time bccy pal doug zell's intelligentsia black cat espresso. heather at the blue spoon does an ok job with it, but she's heading off shortly to chicago for some in-depth barista training.

so the coffee will improve. i hope she downsizes the drinks!

she'll learn to pour latte art there -- and i recommended sabados' video to her. after our coffee, fernanda went on uptown to pick up her grinder so she can starting enjoying that gimme kenya.

myself i began the morning with that guatemala in the cafetiére. the insouciant gimme bag tasting notes mention this coffee's rose, vanilla and molasses flavors.

it's true the dry grounds do have a nice tea-rose feeling, just like on the scaa flavor wheel. and the molasses and vanilla are certainly dead-on too.

i found the coffee snippy-snappy but not overly bright. a pleasant, silky body made this a pretty morning cup!

posted by fortune | 8:55 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

my latest little time slice

i have no idea why this would interest anyone, but since it does -- my latest little geo-overlay. as i say, all the world loves specialty coffee:

map 2

posted by fortune | 8:48 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 7 comments

Sunday, February 05, 2006

direct from brazil!

i had coffee at gimme in yesterday evening bklyn with kevin cuddeback and one maria fernanda mazucco. fernanda has married a wall st. financier, and now lives here in bklyn.

fernanda is on the board of the brazilian barista championship group, where she came to know long-time bccy barista-type pals, such as cindy chang of counterculture and barista goddess sherri johns, as well as cupping judges like andrew b. of ecco, and naturally former scaa prez and greenie christian wolthers.

besides being a member of the brazilian specialty coffee association, she was also associated with the brazilian cup of excellence group. before leaving brazil, she worked for astro cafe.

as a result, fernanda knows everything about brazilian coffee from the inside. she's been in the states about a month.

she wants to do several interesting things. for example, get small roasters in direct contact with small specialty brazilian producers. she believes independent specialty roasters would like to have direct contact with the growers of specialty coffee, and she'd like to help make that happen somehow sometime soon.

she noted that many coffees do well in the brazil c.o.e., but only the top set really sell well at auction. that leaves quite a few coffees that cup well without buyers despite being c.o.e.

these coffees, still quite lovely specialty coffees, have no way to find their way to specialty consumers, like us here at bccy. they are also great for roasters who would like to enter the c.o.e. space at a price more in tune with their budgets than US$50.  

she would also like to help brazilian baristi and american baristi develop relationships.  

i found fernanda lovely, charming, and completely passionate about specialty coffee. she was thrilled to see the gimme mirage machine and adored the leftist cappuccino with a perfect heart peter poured for her.

she later took a single origin shot of kenya. i have introduced her to nick cho, but i think there are a quite few people who would like to meet fernanda.

she is very close to a coffee agronomist whose job is to locate young farmers with potential and help them grow their quality. she is also close to a person involved in the demeter group and has an interest in biodynamic coffee.

if anyone's interested in being introduced to fernanda, email me. she's serious, and appears to be the real deal.

posted by fortune | 1:26 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

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