Saturday, February 18, 2006
otta feel like a heel
it's really quite horrible of me, i know, to rave about a coffee you, dear readers, just can't get, because dougie and lindsay at gmcr sold out of it all in a day and a half. that's gotta be a record.
but what can i say? that's how good it is.
of course i'm referring to yesterday's rwandan. run for your scaa flavor wheel now.
i think dougie's packaging describes this 4-day-old coffee quite accurately. an excellent job on that!
naturally, i brewed this up in the french press as promised. i would call the roast a light city or american+.
the beans have expanded, all right, but there's still a lot of snappy-tasting brightness. when you open the bag, you are overwhelmed with a great smell of india tree dark musovado sugar.
the fresh dry grounds have more of this dark sugar as well as a slightly spicy floral feeling. when the hot water hits the coffee and you stir down the bloom, that's when the dried cherry scent arises.
i couldn't capture that in the cup tho'; i need to experiment to find the right grind, i suspect, before that happens. the main aromas of this beverage i think are molasses with a slight dark dutch cocoa aftertaste.
and the body is heavy, thick, perhaps even slightly gelatinous. this is all very very good.
as don schoenholt of gillies onced remarked, good coffee isn't brown. bad coffee is brown.
thus the classic perjorative for bad coffee: brown water.
good coffee is some interesting shade of red, which is why coffee companies tend to use red in their packaging. with this in mind, you'll understand what i mean when i tell you dougie's rwandan is an intriguing dark oxblood color, like an antique new mexican floor.
once again, i'm deeply sorry you can't experience this rare coffee yourselves, and i hope the tragedy of this fact impels you to consider signing up to catch a pound of their next reserve coffee, an ethiopian, in march. good luck!
the wind was so completely nasty and cold that while running my errands today i had to take refuge in economy candy where the smell alone forced me to pick up quite a few bars of café tasse 77%. hey, it was on sale!
as i headed home i passed the brave souls from wiklow orchard upstate, who were still peddling their local heirloom apples despite the siberian weather. this gave me an idea!
i bought 8 apples -- winesap, rome, an old golden-delicious-type thing -- and let the wind shove me down to the local nabe vino parlor, run by big jeff. big jeff is an uber-wine geek, but nice about it.
hey big jeff, i said, i have here some local upstate apples and i'm going make 'em up into the best compote ever. what wine should i cook 'em in? i want a local one to match the fruit.
big jeff never hesitates, but he rarely gets up either. he beckoned to one of his minions, and pointed a bottle out to him.
to me he said, you see, this weimer from the finger lakes? it's a semi-dry riesling that contains cinnamon and vanilla esters, which come from the nitrogen in the soil.
further, he explained, the kind of yeast the winemaker uses highlights a hint of crisp apple in the wine itself, thus reinforcing your dish and making it taste more intensely apple-y. this is just how big jeff talks -- you are going to have to learn about wine when you buy from him!
cool, jeff, i said, and brought the bottle home. and he was right -- it may be the best apple compote ever.
i absolutely cannot tell you how delicious the sauce tastes: the wine and apples mingle, the apple pectin thickens it naturally, and the cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaves, allspice, nutmeg and extra vanilla i dropped in just made it heavenly. . . .
Friday, February 17, 2006
amazing coffee events
"Well, now you've done it, Fortune. Your food blogging slam led me to Food & Wine, which led me to THIS at Deep End Dining!
Interestingly, the Van Nuys German Deli is in Michael Teahan 's neighborhood, where Ken Fox and I have promised to bring lunch on Monday. I'm wondering if Michael, Angelo and Ken would be up for German Blood Tongue sandwiches?"
i thought i was gonna fall outta my chair when i got this email. not just because it's funny.
in short, several long-time bccy pals -- scaa pro and consumer members -- are having lunch next week to talk about espresso machines. yeah, you're thinking: who cares?
because before the invention of the scaa consumer member program, who would have thought that an important distributor and source of commercial espresso machines would ever dialogue with consumer espresso lovers? who ever thought "the italians" -- so famously remote -- would talk directly to home baristi about machines and machine design?
but teahan is such a distributor. and this little note is to my mind clear proof of the sea-changes that the consumer member program has had in the specialty coffee world.
but i said events. and the second event i'm holding in my hands right now.
it's the debut of the gmcr's new "special reserve" line, a rawanda karaba bourbon. would skeptics ever have thought that a company as large as gmcr would roast date their coffee?
the label also includes tasting notes, a taste and roast profile, info on the farmers and co-op, as well as a nice statement from long-time bccy pal and cupping goddess lindsay bolger. long time readers may recall that one of the highlights of my life was when she lent me her cupping spoon.
absolutely can't wait to brew this tomorrow. . .it's a bright coffee, i think i'll brew it in the cafetiére. i like this label, partially because i helped design it myself.
yes, this line is another example of pro and consumer collaboration in specialty coffee. gmcr reached out to work with quite a few scaa consumers to create a coffee label that would meet our needs by providing the info we wanted to see when deciding on a coffee.
it was a challenge to come up with something that spoke to those with a broad coffee knowledge as well as those who are newer to fine coffee. i think gmcr did a good job listening.
let's hope the line's a success!
Thursday, February 16, 2006
tell me you're just here for the coffee
as long-time readers recall, i began this blog at the urging of a geek pal of mine who noted that i had various writings -- such as lists of artisan chocolatiers -- that the rest of the world would care about. at the time, i told him i really doubted that anyone else wanted to mail-order handmade chocolates from around the planet.
but it turns out he was right in y2k and i was wrong. so here we are.
at the time artisan chocolates were hard to find and hard to find out about. this is no longer the case. same with artisan bread.
thus nowadays i spent a lot of time here reviewing rare coffees that are hard to find out about and determining how best to brew 'em. i don't consider myself a "foodie" blog, and i think the foodie blogs also don't consider me a member of their world.
thus i am behind in the whole "empires of boredom" thing. because frankly, i don't think it speaks to me, since i try to avoid talking about what i had for dinner unless i'm trying to talk generally about a larger food point or coffee personality, and i rarely post pix of my bread, my pizza, my yoga poses, etc. unless directly requested.
because frankly, i hope you're just here for the coffee. ok, mostly for the coffee.
stories about me should only illustrate larger points about our topics, imvho. as i said over at dining, i, like the writer at food & wine, remain unimpressed by 99% of food blogs, and of course, foodies weird me out.
at the same time, i completely stand by my statement that most foodies and foodie bloggers can't cook, don't travel enough to be able to evaluate restaurants and chefs properly, and don't understand how to think about ingredients or recipes.
my recommendation: hop over to the local culinary institute for some cooking classes. and that's the last i have to say on this subject, because so much happens in coffee every single day. . .!
still, a big bccy congrats to long-time pals bruce of sautewednesday and josh at foodsection. they deserve the praise!
as for the nytimes food critic frank bruni and his satirical stalker, why bother?
does anyone expect the "journal of record cluelessness" to say anything useful about food, or even if it did, could say it in a direct, simple, manner? isn't the whole rap about all the ny times' stupid food pages that they're completely self-absorbed with their own supposed importance?
my attitude will alter a bit perhaps when they change that section from "dining & wine" to "dining & beverages" and ask an scaa member to write a weekly coffee column! hah!
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
for the heads up! food & wine did a nice ranking of artisan roasters, and many long-time bccy pals appear!
congrats to 'em all -- people like duane s. at stumptown; doug zell of intelligentsia; peter g. of counterculture; andrew b. himself of ecco; terry p. of doma; and tonx at victrola!
hooray! read the full results here.
rosa regale & the hachez 88
well, that's my valentine's day in a nutshell. went to work, went to my regular viniyoga class, then went home and broke out this italian classic that pairs well with chocolate.
the rosa regale, unlike other "pink" wines, is always well reviewed (for example, here) and highly regarded. made from the brachetto grape, it's a specialty of the italian piedmont.
basically you can think of it as a rosé prosecco. while its strawberry, raspberry, and rose petal aromas sound girly, almost everyone i know loves the stuff once i've turned 'em on to it.
while not the only wine that's fantastic with chocolate -- banyuls does well too -- it's probably the best italian wine for this purpose.
and naturally, i combined it with a few squares of my beloved hachez 88%. thus mr. right and i toasted the evening away.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
why did the mermaid's drinking-chocolate product chantico fail? there are many suppositions.
long-time readers know my rap on the stuff. it was unbearably sweet and rich.
you couldn't drink more than 3 sips of it, more the less an entire 6oz. serving. not only was the sweetness nearly disgusting, but the rich fat coated your mouth in sticky, unpleasant way, which is why i thought at the time it wasn't made with an actual natural dairy product.
and further, it was expensive. doubtless people felt ripped off throwing out most a pricey drink they couldn't begin to, well, begin, much less finish.
also, it was hot, which limits it appeal. people are used to drinking coffee hot or cold year 'round, but for most americans, hot chocolate equals christmas and that's it.
cold chocolate drinks like nesquik or chocolate milk are still the province of kiddies only.
anyway, today being valentine's day, i think it's interesting for this story to come out: mermaid's chocolate product fails. they are not invincible, thank goodness.
more later. . .
Monday, February 13, 2006
the doma harrar
first, let me say i was wondering how long it would take you all to figure out that yesterday's audio post and the written blog were not the same thing at all. sorry for my sense of humor!
but it seems silly for me to have one be a transcript of the other, altho' i confess that the lack of a good searchable metadata structure is one of the things that keeps me from podcasting.
and the other may be that, as was said of me recently elsewhere, i'm an obsessive perfectionist. about some things. some important things.
coffee. . .
but on to terry p.'s doma organic ethiopian harrar. got your scaa flavor wheel out?
ok! i brewed this up today in my little cafetiére per usual. this is because i wanted to make the most of that fabulous body for which harrars are often renowned.
and of course, i'm looking for that blueberry. now of course, harrars are also notoriously wild.
extreme, variable, inconsistent. i can sample roast some harrar, grind it all, divide it among 4 different bags, close the bags, walk away for 10 mins., come back, smell the bags, and they can all smell different.
the same can be found when cupping them. so let me say that as brewed this morning, terry's harrar was fantastic, but not blue.
the dry fresh grounds smelled sweetly spicy, and the coffee offered those molasses and dark dutch cocoa flavors i noted in his espresso yesterday. plus, the body was killer, with a lightly winey taste.
in short, it was yummy. but i'm still in search of the blue.
it might be the wildness of the coffee, or i might still need to zero in on the grind that will bring it out. and speaking of grinding. . .
my new set of burrs for the saeco 2002 came today; thank you, jim at 1st-line, for your usual quick delivery. now let's see if i can figure out how to install 'em!
i've had that burr grinder -- which i use for everything except espresso -- for going on 7 years now. it's probably waaay past due for this burr change.
finally -- i've got to start this new series, "regional yoga culture." absolutely.
taiwan apparently is now standing on its head en masse.
Sunday, February 12, 2006
in which i respond to a few issues in the snow
when the snow lessened enough that i could see across the street(!), i walked out to pick up a bunch of basil to make fresh pizza sauce. it had pretty much stopped snowing as i walked back, until i came to the corner of my building, whereupon all hell broke loose again and the full blizzard returned in an instant.
honestly, altho' i loathe snow with a passion, i can't complain, since i made chocolate waffles for breakfast, enjoyed the excellent ruby blue espresso from terry p's doma, and lunched on high-quality havarti with spiced pears poached in passito. worse things have happened to me.
i also received my renewal notice from namarupa, which is the most intellectually compelling yoga magazine. you bet i'm renewing.
i only wish i could pay electronically, so as to spare eddie stern et. al. the cost of mailing the renewal notices, and allow that money to go right to production and editorial services!
one line from a past issue haunts me; it's a statement made by an indian saint, a great yogini, sri anandamayee ma. if my memory hasn't failed me, it goes something like this: "i am that, which is hindu, moslem, christian, buddhist, or not, each as you require."
this i think is an important statement for our current time. i also love her statement, "work? for what or who could i possibly work? our sadhana (yoga practice) is play."