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Saturday, August 19, 2006

mailing it in: pumpkin ravioli?

sorry for the crazy non-formatting blogger lends these mail-in posts.
thanks for you patience.

anyway, one d. miller of philly is the lucky inheritor of the remaining
marcella-style pasta rolling pin or matterello, which long-time readers
may recall occupied so much of my time in june.

while we're on the subject of pasta, i still have a lot of
spinach-walnut pesto made from spinach i got at the csa, so i pulled it
outta the freezer and made up some hand-made egg pasta this afternoon.

i let it rest while i ran down to have my eyebrows done at supermodel
central, with the usual quick stop at economy candy. today they happened
to have cases of one of my favorite chocolates, the el rey apamate 73%
bar, at shockingly amazing prices.

so naturally i picked up one of those. long-time readers know how
important it is to be to live a balanced lifestyle, with great eyebrows
and adequate theobromine. . . .

but seriously, i returned to roll out the pasta and serve a very late
lunch of pesto. as my husband and i were pondering whether i had rolled
it too thin, he mentioned that since summer's almost over, he'd like
some pumpkin ravioli after labor day.

ok! can do! um, do i have a recipe?

after combing through no less than 8 famous and prize-winning cookbooks
of italian cuisine, i suddenly realize that none of them have the recipe
for this classic!

yikes! dear readers: this is the excuse i've been waiting for to buy the
raviolatrice. any tips on what book offers the best pumpkin ravioli

please comment below. . .

posted by fortune | 5:29 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 2 comments | leave a voicemail

Friday, August 18, 2006

turkish diamante

woke up this morning determined to finish up the last bit of andrew b's ecco brazil, the prize-winning diamante cerrado. long-time readers know i usually believe that only wine-y coffees make great turkish, but i am so wrong in this case.

the diamante cerrado is a lovely coffee with a great chocolate aftertaste, and somehow that aftertaste benefits from a careful, solid turkish brewing procedure. so while i loved it as chemex, i was also surprised to see it sparkle outta the ibrik.

plus, more than any other coffee i've ever brewed turkish, it made awesome foam. recommended!

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posted by fortune | 7:37 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

Thursday, August 17, 2006

one world under specialty coffee's passionate sway

"coffee consumption has risen rapidly across the u.k. and u.s. especially in recent years. americans now drink 3.2 cups per day on average, while britain's coffee market last year overtook that for standard tea -- long considered a 'national drink'."

it's true, i'm thrilled -- not because i hate those dead dry leaves (tea drinkers, i kid, i kid!) -- but because the true end of the so-called "coffee crisis" and coffee poverty will not occur just due to a temporary up-market such as we have now, but rather in increasing global consumption long-term and improving quality. we can now, as i have been predicting for years, safely add the u.k. to the list of formerly tea-drinking nations, along with japan.

korea, taiwan, india and china are coming coffee soon, i kid you not: the first 2 in 5 years, the others probably within 15. of course, much of the modern world as we know it today was invented in the old british coffeehouses, so in a certain sense, the british are simply returning to their roots, bored with their darjeeling flirtation.

ok, enough tea-bashing (oh, i'm joking! joking!). the statistic above comes as part of an article noting a small (just 500 people) preliminary study about heart health effects with coffee.

it seems like a negative study, but i have to say that if you take 500 non-exercising, overweight men of a certain age, the risk of heart attack is high, period. still, i think it's safe to say that the much larger, long-term harvard study the article also mentions is much more reliable.

so i'm tempted to ignore this one from costa rica as an outlier until i have more confirmation.

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posted by fortune | 7:29 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 3 comments | leave a voicemail

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

dr. blomoff, please read me more often

"the findings, which appeared in may in the american journal of clinical nutrition, suggest that antioxidants in coffee may dampen inflammation, reducing the risk of disorders related to it, like cardiovascular disease. several compounds in coffee may contribute to its antioxidant capacity, including phenols, volatile aroma compounds and oxazoles that are efficiently absorbed.

in another analysis, published in july in the same journal, researchers found that a typical serving of coffee contains more antioxidants than typical servings of grape juice, blueberries, raspberries and oranges.

'we were surprised to learn that coffee quantitatively is the major contributor of antioxidants in the diet both in norway and in the u.s.a.,' said rune blomhoff, the senior author of both studies and a professor of nutrition at the university of oslo."

of course nothing in this nytimes article is news to long-time bccy readers. anti-oxidant researcher and chemist dr. joe vinson's been a pal of ours for years, and he regularly provides updates on this info, for example, here.

we here at bccy have been glued to this anti-oxidant thing since dr. joe's first hamster study in 1999 (at the time, we had to search like a fiend for coffee news! now it comes to our inbox! sweet!). the thing is that in these studies above, other scientists have been able to confirm and extend dr. joe's findings.

but dr. blomoff, with all due respect, if you'd been reading here, or found dr. joe's hamster-study piece, you'd have known that coffee is the key provider of these groovy anti-oxidants. yay.

on the other hand, as a very close reader of coffee studies -- but i'm not a doctor and i can't play one on the internet -- i personally think the times article appears to recommend too many cups of coffee a day for women. the article seems to suggest that up to 6 cups is ok.

let's assume those are 6-oz. cups, or 36 oz. coffee a day; the article doesn't mention cup size, so i'm worried people are now going to run out and drink 6 ventis (120 oz!) from the mermaid!

i still think, putting a lot of studies together, that men shouldn't drink more than 24 oz. of coffee a day (4 cups), and that most women will want to stick to 12-18 oz. a day (2 or 3 cups). coffee is beneficial -- in moderation.

since we're all about girls here at bccy, let me be frank: if you are on the pill, those hormones generally slow the body's processing of caffeine. so many women tend to get more punch from the same coffee, if you will.

the doctors never tell you about this minor side effect and it's hard to find out about. so if you drink the same amount of coffee you did before you started the pill, you may not realize you are going to enjoy the effects of the caffeine longer.

this makes it easy to "overdrink," so to speak. so if you're on the pill, maybe that 3rd cup should be half-caf. . .depending on how you find your own body chemistry, of course.

also, some preliminary studies suggest that drinking large amounts of caffeine from any source may increase the length of time it takes to get pregnant. thus if you're trying for a baby, you might do some research on your own, talk to your doctor, and keep the coffee to 2 cups a day during that time.

or again, consider a temporary move to half-caf. . .

finally, notice where the healthful compounds lie! in the volatiles!

long-time readers know i often talk about the parts of the coffee bouquet and the delightful flavors it contains. much of these flavors are in the volatiles, which diminish quickly with age.

so here all our coffee tendrils meet up in one single rope: drink fresh-roasted, fresh-ground whole bean coffee. fresh coffee will have more of these volatiles (gases and vapors), and thus probably more anti-oxidants.

you can get fresh coffee from your local nabe independent specialty roaster. just another a reason to enjoy!

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posted by fortune | 5:24 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 2 comments | leave a voicemail

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

nearly fed up!

i think i may have had it -- i might not renew my annual membership at the local yoga studio where i take most of my classes, since most of these classes are just makin' me unhappy. i might be in search of a new local center. . .

or maybe i'm just having a truly bad day! it's possible.

fellow yoga students, how do you decide when it's time to change yoga studios? i'm interested in your input, please.

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posted by fortune | 8:25 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 5 comments | leave a voicemail

Monday, August 14, 2006

coffee writing & microformats, redux

per my response to dougie's great comment on yesterday's post re microformats, i'm just posting my letter to tantek et. al. about this for further comment and discussion:


i'm very interested in hreviews for coffee. the entire specialty coffee industry and many people with coffee blogs like my own ( reviews different coffees. the advantages of hreview i think should be obvious in this case for consumers and roasters alike.

specialty coffee has a fairly uniform set of criteria for reviews. it's common to use the specialty coffee association of america's flavor wheel and to base reviews on the guidelines in ted lingle's cupper's handbook.

also, there are standard cupping sheets for review as well.

how could these standards be integrated into a subcategory of hreview? the basic hreview as i understand it from the creation tool won't work for coffee and we would need a slightly different structure.

in coffee we would need 7 standard fields: 1 for origin, 1 for taste, 1 for roast level, and 4 for the 4 parts of the bouquet, as well as 6 optional fields: an optional field for cupper's points, an optional field for balance, an optional field for estate, an optional field for varietal, an optional field for certifications (like fair trade, organic, etc.) and an optional field for purity.

the standard fields should have 2 parts: one part should be a dropdown offering the taste terms from the wheel, but also allow the user to enter a free choice of terms. the other part, which should be optional, would allow decimal numbers from 0 to 10 for those wishing to give a numerical rating according to the rules of the scaa cupping worksheet.

the 3 of the 6 optional fields should be free word choice, while the optional cuppers points, purity, and balance fields should accept decimal numbers from 0 to 10. the purity field numbers would be negative numbers, since lack of purity subtracts from the coffee.

the roast level field should accept free word choice or the option of entering agtron numbers, again, decimal format.

then a comments field, as in the creation tool example, and all the usual fields for reviewer, date, etc.

how would this be possible? i'm not a programmer, but this strikes me as really really useful. what should i do to start a
conversation on this?

any coffee lovers out there?

happy coffee,

fortune elkins"

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posted by fortune | 8:03 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

Sunday, August 13, 2006

coffee writing & microformats

there's a great article today in the nytimes business section about how the practice of rating wines on a 100-point scale has both spurred and hindered wine appreciation in the u.s.a. long-time readers know that i have consistently advocated that we coffee lovers develop our appreciation movement along the lines of that used by californian vintners, but learning from their many mistakes.

and as those who read my frequent coffee descriptions can attest, the numerical description system is one of their mistakes i completely avoid. one of the biggest problems in the numbers game -- used by some coffee website, i know -- is that the systems of the various wine publications don't seem to mesh.

that is, i'm not sure what they're based on, or if all the wine mags use the same standard tools. we in the specialty coffee family have an advantage here: the scaa flavor wheel developed by now-cqi-head ted lingle, the nez du cafe developed by jean le noir, the famous scaa sensory eval test, the scaa and cup of excellence cupping forms, and close contact among professional cuppers in international events as well strong bonds with certified exchange cuppers.

long-time readers know that as one of the first bloggers and coffee consumers to pursue rigorous coffee descriptors, i have always relied on these tools. i cup with specialty and exchange professionals as often as possible to keep on following the learning curve.

now that quite a few bloggers are talking seriously about coffee -- people in all parts of the specialty family, like dogmilque, dougie, tonx, as well as the new bloggers who come online everyday -- i think it's important we begin to loosely calibrate our efforts against these specialty standards.

let's take the wonderful recent example this week of andrew b's ecco la virginia. andrew sent this out to several of us, and we all talked about it, basically using some variation of the scaa standards, some of us more closely than others.

but no matter; the point is we were all on the same page somewhere, be it first or middle paragraphs. this is a fantastic development for coffee consumers seeking buying knowledge and for specialty roasters themselves.

but for the average coffee lover looking for buying, tasting, and brewing advice, running around to all these blogs -- even if aggregated in rss -- is a bit of a hassle since we don't have a standard specialty online description format that would make comparing and reading coffee descriptions easier.

that's why i've been interested for a while now in the idea of the hreview microformat. i think we should work with the specialty roasters to develop a version of this for coffee.

i've even gone so far as to talk to ted lingle about this now that he's over at cqi. and of course, to the extent that it may have numbers, it should explicity follow those of the scaa cupping form, not some random point scale.

tho' of course i would argue downplaying any numerical component in the final result -- since you can high-number coffees that are somewhat boring, while slightly lower-number coffees can be delicious gems in fireworks.

cupping numbers are important and useful, but must absolutely be kept in their proper perspective, and always surpassed by good tasting procedures and backed by the scaa standards above.

i don't mean to be coffee fascist or destroy creativity. i just am interested, now that we seem to be moving towards a critical mass of contributors in the still-new coffee blogging field, in seeing if we can help consumers and roasters out by considering a loose, common-sense backbone that is somewhat consistent and easily discoverable.

thus the microformat, which may soon be incorporated in consumer tools to aid discovery and use of different kinds of reviews. the format may or may not catch on.

but i'm interested in just tossing this idea out there so that coffee bloggers can think about it. that way if browsers and rss readers and who-knows-what tools that will soon be devised should come to adopt the microformats, we can be ready.

a loose, common-sense common format for coffee descriptions on the 'net will allow coffee appreciation to spread even more quickly than it is now. i don't think i have all the answers.

obviously the community needs to weigh in. i hope other coffee bloggers will look into this and consider posting on it over time, pro and con.

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posted by fortune | 10:21 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 5 comments | leave a voicemail

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