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Saturday, September 02, 2006

in which i amaze myself

yes dear readers, i have prepared the hand-made pumpkin ravioli at last. the recipe i used (here) says it serves 6.

ha! 6, if they happen to be sumo wrestlers just rescued from a desert island on which they were forced to fast for 8 days. i mean, the recipe left me with about 110 plump pasta pillows.

my husband and i struggled to down 30 of these puppies between us today. don't get me wrong, the recipe's delicious (if you're fond of sweet -- the filling is practically pumpkin candy).

it's just that how on earth can 2 people deal with so many ravioli? naturally, i froze a huge number of them.

my freezer's now packed with ravioli. i could go into the ravioli business.

as with many kitchen things i do, i find that instructions are commonly inadequate. in cooking there's a tendency to make simple things seem hard, while glossing completely over necessary and difficult details.

this recipe's no different. making the pasta's no problem, even tho' 1-1/2 lbs. is more than i'd ever made before at once. (reference household number above.)

rolling out the pasta isn't hard either, since as devoted readers know, i made a proper large matterello, or pasta rolling pin myself, according to the insructions of marcella hazan. however, the spinatoia, the large pasta board of 30 inches sq., is really a necessity when dealing with this amount.

otherwise your sfoglia (pasta sheet) is a little crazy to deal with. the raviolatrice was a lifesaver -- could you imagine making 110 little humps of filling, washing each of its edges with egg, covering each one with more pasta, sealing it, checking for air bubbles, cutting it out, etc. etc.?

with the raviolatrice, you just brush half the pasta sheet with egg wash, spread the filling out evenly, toss the other half on top, run a hand over to press out the air, and roll away. boom! your ravioli are all shaped, sealed, and nicely demarcated.

then you just take your pastry wheel and cut down the rows to separate the ravioli. whee!

but if i plan to do this again -- must have spinatoia! for those of you who may consider following my example, please note that the first time you make ravioli, allow 4 hours, start to finish.

after that it speeds up, but it probably will always take about 2 hours, even when you get pretty good at it!

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posted by fortune | 9:02 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

is the tipping point in sight?

"competition in caffeinated drinks is about to heat up, with coca-cola co.'s planned launch of premium brewed tea and coffee, a move the company plans to announce formally next week in toronto.

the world's biggest drink company, which gets most of its revenue from carbonated beverages, has had sluggish sales in developed markets as consumers shifted from sugary sodas..."

when at then-scaa-chief ted lingle's request i first started this whole consumer member evangelist and coffee meetup gig, u.s.a. coffee consumption had been down for decades. the specialty coffee folks often blamed this decline on soft drink marketing.

"there's no way we can compete with coke," they'd say sadly. but this article today tells us that we in the specialty coffee family have turned this battle around.

the soft drink company par excellence is now going to be marketing for us, not against us.

after spending some time looking at consumption statistics and demographic trends -- information in the public press and also that from scaa, scae, and aasca -- it was clear to me that actually specialty coffee was gathering force.

ted, who rarely receives due credit for his quiet but profound vision, saw early that a diffuse community on the internet would help hold the key to a specialty groundswell. it would include the standard marketing efforts of big specialty chains like the mermaid, peets, and caribou (it's important to remember that these firms are scaa pro members); as well consumer review and chat sites, and finally blogs.

long-time readers will recall i used to moan about how many blogs had coffee or java in their title, but weren't actually about our beloved fine beverage. of course that's completely changed, as coffee-related blogs, photo blogs, and podcasts have exploded.

a very few of them have been inspired by us here at bccy; many have been started by baristi, homeroasters, roaster/retailers, roastmasters, farmers, etc. etc. some have even been founded by people who dislike me intensely!

others have been founded by "cause coffee" adherents: fair-trade people, rainforest people, etc. who have never even heard of bccy, as well as by newbies who just seemed to have "caught" coffee from the air. these may soon be coming up to the majority. . .which is a sign of our success as well, that the "virus" is afoot and freakin' on its own.

ted's movement is now fully underway -- the entire framework he sought to develop is now falling into place -- and coke is now on our side.

of course coke has been in the coffee business for years in india and japan, selling canned products made from solubles (instant) and the like. the distinction is the "premium" mode: specialty.

as i've said before, everyone who's been offering online coffee content -- all those searching for better coffee, which means specialty coffee -- has played an important part in our effort. you're all members of our family.

one of ted's contentions was that not only would we need grass-roots countermarketing to coke, but we would also need to work on raising quality relentlessly. which is what he's now doing over at cqi.

no one wants to drink bad coffee. indeed, ted always blamed the decline in consumption on the poor quality of the commercial coffee available to most people more than on coke's advertising prowess.

i know this sounds like a lot to credit to one person; but ted labored at this for 20-odd years, as starbucks and others grew, as all these other trends took root. even those in peripheral contact with ted and scaa have taken that energy and run with it.

so now we have this loosely-knit specialty coffee family, a global movement in which entire nations (the formerly tea-drinking u.k. being that latest example) and the planet's largest corporations (coke!) participate.

we have to remember that u.s.a. coffee consumption is also moving up finally, an increase that will soon gather even more speed considering current demographics. coffee consumption is also gathering numbers in some coffee-producing countries.

devoted readers already know about the situation in korea, taiwan. . .

of course savvy readers are going to say, "hey there probably ain't enough real specialty coffee being grown now to satisfy the demand of coke!" and that could well be true.

if coke is really dedicated to premium quality, it could spark more high-quality coffee agriculture; that is, current farmers will improve their practices. we have to see whether coke will be true to its market, or whether it will immediately try to cut corners and lower its product quality.

if coke keeps quality high, it could succeed. if it doesn't, it will fail.

as ted lingle noted long ago, and repeated many times since, consumers can't be fooled for long. they will reject a low-quality product.

but again, this isn't a story really about coke. they're just following what they define as a market trend.

how did this market trend develop? how did it move? and this is where we 'net coffee lovers and pros come into our perhaps small, but real and influential, own.

thanks to you all. let's keep up the good work by renewing our commitment and passion for specialty coffee!

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posted by fortune | 9:54 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

Friday, September 01, 2006

peter g's new counterculture colombia c.o.e. la estrella

by now, dear readers, you know how i am when faced with a c.o.e. coffee: i leap outta bed and rush into the kitchen to brew it up in the chemex. and thus it was with peter's coffee from yesterday.

peter roast-dated this colombian huila aug. 29th, making it 4 days old. the beans didn't show a speck of oil that i could see, so i'm calling it city+.

got your scaa flavor wheel handy? why the heck not?

lemme begin by noting that this is from the 2006 first harvest competition, along with andrew b's ecco la virginia. peter paid the farmer, manuel leon, more than US$4 a pound green for this coffee's high quality and shade-grown status -- far more than a fair-trade price.

i brewed it in the chemex, tasted it, and then decided i didn't quite have the grind right -- the coffee wasn't quite as fine in the cup as it smelled, so i can i think grind it up a notch coarser in the saeco 2002 than my "usual" setting for the chemex.

but right off the bat i can tell you this coffee's fragrance is floral, floral, floral. the beautiful perfume of night-blooming jasmine; there's a reason it's called "queen of the night."

as the water hit the fresh-ground coffee, the grounds erupted as the gas escaped -- that's just how fresh this coffee is -- and brought with it an appetizing aroma of warm toast. (no butter, sorry!)

the first sip showered the nose with blonde honey, and i just closed my eyes and stayed with that note. as dougie noted, these colombian c.o.e.'s are changing our perception of what colombian coffee can be.

this coffee dried-down in my mouth like a perfume, leaving a slight dry feeling at the back sides of my tongue, with a perception of vanilla in the aftertaste. on the taste side, of course it's a classically crisp brew.

the body in the chemex was good, but as i said, i think a slight tweak to the grind will make it even better.

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

Thursday, August 31, 2006

surprise from peter g at counterculture!

ooh ooh ooh: peter g. of counterculture sent his new colombia c.o.e. winner, la estrella, from huila, grown by farmer manuel leon. all the coffees we've seen from the colombia c.o.e. have been crisp, floral, and flirting with different forms of balance.

of course i still feel like scott & jessica's batdorf los lirios is the nureyev of colombian specialty coffees, but i'm always on the look-out for exceptional colombians.

and this has all the hallmarks that it might be one. . .thanks peter!

this'll meet the chemex tomorrow.

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posted by fortune | 8:17 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

back to the yoga clothes question

"if you're going to invest, spend more on bottoms than tops. pants and shorts take more of a beating. plus, you'll want a thicker fabric to cover your derriere when you're bending over."

i found this article on yoga wear pretty funny. it's not that you want thicker fabric, it's that you might not want the super-low cut yoga pants.

unless you really think you'll impress me with your cosabella thong. (this being new york and we here at bccy being famously open-minded, we will move beyond the much-bandied-about sightings of gentleman yoga students in thongs and continue on.)

the core situation is that ladies' yoga pants are really not adequate to the task at hand. i've been practicing since 1998 or so now, and i must say even the best-made yoga clothes are not long for this world if certain postures are in your standard class cycle.

i have lost a pair myself practicing the prep for both hanumansasana and ashtavakrasana. that terrible ripping sound in the inseam when you've just shied your leg over your shoulder is probably the most horrible part of yoga. . . besides actually breaking your nose (falling out of bakasana) or tearing a knee (padmasana abuse).

if i had tons o' money, after my coffee shop was up and running, i'd definitely start a yoga clothing company to redesign the ladies yoga pant in numerous ways. oh yeah.

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posted by fortune | 7:53 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

crisp & caramelly

woke up this morning and leapt outta bed to brew up yesterday's ecco bolivian c.o.e. in the cafetiére. and considering what a cold rainy day -- october's starting early -- it turned out to be, it's a good thing too.

andrew's coffee now finds itself at 5 days old. the beans show not a speck of oil that i could see, so i'm calling the roast level city+ or full city-.

it's just as i described it last time, i think: a crisp taste, a floral/sweetly spicy fragrance, with a malty aroma, a honeyed nose, and a great vanilla/syrupy aftertaste.

dogmilque remarks that it's "much fuller" in the press
, and i think i now agree, altho' last time i enthused about it in the chemex and as a single-origin espresso shot. we're talking body-wise here.

after plunging, i drank it black, no cream, no sweetner. didn't need any -- that's how fine it is, that even a noo yawka will effortlessly abandon her "reg-yaw-la." yummy and highly recommended.

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posted by fortune | 8:49 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

Monday, August 28, 2006

and the mail just kept coming

as if today wasn't exciting enough(!), the final arrival was a surprise from andrew b. of ecco: his bolivia c.o.e. #1, the calama marka. with a roast date of the 24th, it's gonna be great, fresh coffee.

long-time bccy readers remember this as juan de dios blanco's coffee. of course, that's such a tragic story.

we all still wish his family well. . .thank you andrew!

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posted by fortune | 9:17 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 1 comments | leave a voicemail

one rolling pin out, another rolling pin in

oh yeah: thanks to pat from ct. and the wonder that is ebay, my 21-inch beechwood raviolatrice arrived today. buying this puppy new woulda set me back US$20, but i grabbed pat's for just US$11, including shipping.

a good wash is all it seems to need. i hope d miller from philly enjoys the marcella-grade matterello. best of luck to him!

and will someone cut him a deal on a good quality espresso grinder? he needs one, bad.

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posted by fortune | 8:23 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

chattin' with zoka

and i had the nicest conversation with tracy allen of long-time bccy pals and scaa pro members zoka. for the 3 of you reading this who may not know, he's just the nicest guy!

he's in kansas city, so naturally we talked about bbq. yummy!

and the conversation switched -- wooo wooo -- to espresso machines, specficially, the new nuova simonelli oscar. i hope we here at bccy will have the privilege of working more closely with zoka soon.

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posted by fortune | 8:32 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

Sunday, August 27, 2006

why i love doing yoga at home

not only because in august -- as i've ranted before -- are the subsitute yoga teachers mostly bad, but also as people go on vacation, many yoga centers tend to cut down on classes period to try to save money. so most of your favorite classes are cancelled, and those that aren't are staffed by teachers who just make ya weep.

thus i enjoyed doing yoga at home today. self-practice is a good thing anyway, and it can be very pleasant to just plop down your mat in your dining room, listening to something very soothing as you float your way through a nice flow.

plus since today's been raining off and on, it's nice not to have trudge thru the wet, jockey for elbow room in the studio, and then simmer in frustration as some barely qualified cutie messes up her left and right as she fidgets her way thru "teaching" a hesitant round of sun salutations. (you can see that friday class i took left scars!)

that one can practice yoga relaxedly at home while the pizza dough is rising serves a double benefit to my mind. . .after my own self-practice i can just wander into the kitchen and brew up a little cup of turkish to sip while i finish the paper.

why do i even belong to a yoga studio again? oh yeah. . .

today's ny times contains a fashion section not much smaller than a september vogue, one in which chandler burr discusses a couple of new fragrances. the guerlain rose barbare seems definitely like a scent for me!

however this autumn i'm already committed to wearing luten's sa majeste la rose, and long-time readers know that every winter i revert to that classic l'heure bleue. (l'heure is a good wavelength tester for me, i find -- if i meet a person who remarks negatively on it, i know right away to flee, that i don't know wanna deal with 'em. if you don't get l'heure, you're not going get me either.)

thus i'm afraid i'll have to wait to check out the rose barbare, alas. anyway, i'm glad to see the ny times recognize perfume with a regular column.

when it will do so for coffee? inquiring minds want to know!

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posted by fortune | 1:48 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 6 comments | leave a voicemail

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