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Saturday, October 14, 2006

ohmigod!! the pane ferrarese!

so dear readers, i was planning to bore you all with a couple of hot chocolate recipes today when i'm blindsided by the sweetest, most generous email from my italian kitchen hero, carlo middione. himself.

he actually read my blog yesterday, personally, and sent me his own recipe for the italian starfish bread, which comes from ferrara.

can you imagine anything more open-hearted? i'm overwhelmed. . .thank you, thank you carlo.

of course the recipe's in italian, but hey! no problem! devoted readers may recall that i have in fact studied italian!

and what i can't read or look up in my dictionary (baking being full of technical terms), i can always babelfish. so. . .

this very week, dear readers, probably wednesday, i'm attempting carlo's pane ferrarese. he warns that it takes much practice to shape.

he however kindly gave link to a video showing how the bread is made, which doesn't appear to work on a mac (sigh), but in turn led me to another fantastic italian bread site, il pane fatto in casa. this site just has tons of information on baking italian breads at home, with pages on techniques, and recipes including the classic sicilian mafalda with its twisty shape and what looks to me like a lovely ciabatta.

what interests me about the ciabatta recipe is that it's the first i've seen that calls for diastatic malt.

carlo -- he's incredible! a hero to all home bakers and lovers of the italian lifestyle everywhere!

the amazing thing is that his cookbooks are often available used or remaindered at low prices. so you can benefit from carlo's research, genius and artistry no matter who you are or what your budget; even if you hated the recipes (not possible!) the books usually also offer priceless wine info.

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posted by fortune | 8:03 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 1 comments | leave a voicemail

Friday, October 13, 2006

carlo rex & congrats to nancy la nasa

perusing my web stats, i suddenly came across a bunch of people looking for one of my oldest italian cooking heroes, the famed bay area giant, carlo middione. i've written about him here before.

i guess people are just now discovering his blog, which is fantastic. i love that carlo writes passionately, refuses to suffer fools, and never pulls his matterello.

in fact, he's more likely to chase you with it if you cheat on your devotion to the real spirit of italian cuisine. . .

for example, i love his post on his rare italian star-fish bread. i have a lot of books on italian baking, and i have to say, i don't recall ever having seen a recipe for this.

it's just the kind of thing that shows why carlo remains a towering colossus in food. much more so than many of the more recent (cough cough) clog-footed "celebrity" chefs. . .

in updated yoga news, the most awesome yogini nancy la nasa of cnn and abhaya yoga fame has just been voted best yoga teacher in her florida area! you rock, nancy!

and i love the mother's quotation on her website:

"when the body feels its miseries, its limitations, one must establish this dream in it -- of a strength which would have no limit, a beauty which would have no ugliness, and of marvellous capacities: one dreams of being able to rise into the air, of being wherever it is necessary to be, of setting things right when they go wrong, of healing the sick; indeed, one has all sorts of dreams when one is very young. . .this is what you should love and draw towards you. . ."

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posted by fortune | 8:21 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

andrew b's ecco organic idido misty valley yrg

oh yeah i positively shot outta bed this morning to brew up andrew b's ecco coffee from yesterday, the idido misty valley yrg. this coffee's now 4 days old.

got your scaa flavor wheels handy?

since these beans display not even the tiniest speck of oil, i'm calling full city. i brewed it in the cafetiére at my usual 55g of fresh ground coffee to 1 liter of water.

in the bag, the whole beans smell delicious, as i noted yesterday. freshly ground, the berry flavors change a bit -- think more red berries, something with the kick of raspberry but the sweetness of bing cherry -- and all mixed with a sweet floral scent.

andrew himself, never at a loss for cupping exactitude identified this edge of the "mixed berry basket" as olallieberry; i would have said boysenberry, myself, but sweet!

and it shows up in the cup! the coffee's definitely cookie-toasty, honeyed, vanilla, and with a caramel-syrupy aftertaste.

in short, it's waaay yummy, probably due partially to what andrew describes as the super-careful pick during its prep. it may differ from andrew's normal style of coffee in that it has only a light chocolate feeling, it's not his usual dutch dark cocoa thing.

the misty valley's got a fantastic wine-y taste, and a medium-heavy body in the press pot. i can easily see why everyone has raved about this coffee.

i'm raving about this coffee! it's unusual berry flavor makes it a must for those of us who love love love berried coffees!

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posted by fortune | 7:50 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

Thursday, October 12, 2006

heaven arrives on wings of coffee & conversation

woo-hoo! what arrives today but andrew b's ecco idido "misty valley" dry-process yrg, an ethiopian coffee from the gedeo zone. this coffee's widely said to cup above a 90 (for example, here), so you know i've been dying to find it -- long-time readers know i am a complete convert to these natural yrgs.

like the finch wa, the kello, the hama. . .ah! beautiful, beautiful coffees all. this coffee's roast-dated the 9th.

because i'm a hopeless yrg junkie, powerless before andrew's coffees, i immediately tore open the bag and stuck my nose deep inside. these beans smell like a blueberry shortbread cookie -- intense blue, baked honey/vanilla, and a light toasty aroma just like what fills your kitchen from a plate of fresh-baked cookies.

can you imagine what marvels will be released when this coffee's actually ground and brewed? be still my beating heart.

must calm down. . .which takes us to my recent yoga correspondence with eddie stern.

devoted readers may recall that i've recommended eddie's article on krishnamacharya in the most recent namarupa.

so after i read it a couple of times, i wrote eddie and we had a little discussion about it. in his article, eddie discusses how krishnamacharya's personal devotive practice changed the way he saw his students.

the upshot of eddie's point is simply that because this master yoga teacher believed that each of his students were embodiments of the lila, he looked at each one individually and taught each whatever would allow them to manifest more fully as themselves -- as he understood them from his devotion to lakshmi.

unspoken in eddie's piece i think is the idea that the vinyasa we do in our yoga is like the lila itself. we start in a certain place, at a certain time, with an almost ritual idea, and then we lift our own curtain to perform our individual "play."

eddie and i also talked about what he means when he calls out for external authorities on yoga. he sees a constant reference to yoga traditions and texts as a helpful influence to erect a bright dividing line between an authentic practice and, well, the unnameable lovecraftian horror that is disco yoga.

for eddie, reference to traditional practices is a helpful reminder that commercialism and capitalism have no place in a good practice. your yoga should help you reclaim your authentic self, not be another marketing consumer distraction that destroys it.

it's an interesting and provocative idea. . .

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posted by fortune | 8:58 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

turkish delight

so now i've been brewing and drinking peter g's intriguing and unusual kenya aa gaaki in various ways. this morning i tried it as turkish.

it's fantastic! frankly, i love it as turkish.

its exotic, wild flavor and great winey-ness make it wonderful for the ibrik.

brew it with care and definitely never boil. if you take care regulating your heat, you'll find (using your instant-read thermometer, natch!) that the brew will start to foam at 205 degrees f., the upper limit for good coffee making.

so watch it with an eagle eye!

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posted by fortune | 8:47 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

completely ot: mac fluidline

devoted readers may recall that i recently pegged a macbook pro 17" as well as an awesome dior red lipstick as fall accessory musts. well lemme extend that (hah!) with a recommendation for m.a.c.'s fluidline gel eyeliner.

many products say smudge-proof, but few deliver. not only did this baby go on smooth and easy with a tiny brush, it stayed on from 8am thru a gentle yoga class! and came off with a quick wipe, no tugging or scrubbing.

waaay kewl, for those seeking this fall's gentle version of the sophia loren eye. for the curious, i chose the eyeliner in lithograph, with eyeshadow in silver ring.

don't forget: in this category, less is more!

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posted by fortune | 8:52 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 5 comments | leave a voicemail

Monday, October 09, 2006

just beautiful, redux

this morning i returned to jessica's batdorf colombian c.o.e., the el lechal. it's 6 days old, but still tastes great in the cafetiére, which highlights its body and its wood-spicy qualities.

just a great morning coffee, a beautiful wake-up call to a lovely autumn day. what makes me really happy is that i've taken a couple of days off next week, days on which oren's going to be kind enough to cup with me!

oren's a fastidious clean cupper, so it'll be fantastic to learn more from him. i can't wait.

on the chocolate front, the hachez 1.3 oz mini-bars called "longs" have finally arrived at my house: i ordered them in both the plain 77% dark arriba and the orange 77%. unfortunately i couldn't get my hands on any in my beloved 88% in this form; i just don't think it's available in this line yet.

i've tucked a couple in my macbookpro's timbuktu 2 laptop bag for those special typing occasions that require extra chocolate for thought! highly recommended!

and i also corresponded with the wine guy from yesterday. here i was all psyched that finally a wine snob was going to be open to coffee; we coffee people know all about wine, but the wine people don't see it as a 2-way street, sadly.

only to find that alas this guy had no idea what cupping was and was completely unaware that coffee had any formal sensory evaluation process or taxonomy. bummer! and boy was he defensive about it, too.

i dunno why; no one is born knowing about coffee in their genes (don schoenholt excepted). i mean the first time ted lingle said to me, you can learn to really appreciate coffee, you can learn to discuss it in this eloquent and beautiful form, i thought was going die of joy.

but that's just me. . .and obviously you, dear readers, or else you wouldn't be here with me everyday!

so how did the propose to write about coffee then if he knew nothing about it? backward reels the spoon. . . what a letdown.

but maybe he'll find the courage to educate himself and become a specialty coffee lover yet! cross our latte art and hope to the steam wand!

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posted by fortune | 6:45 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

Sunday, October 08, 2006

the sunday roast

"as i was standing in line at starbucks, waiting for my order, i was struck by the new advertising campaign the coffee purveyors had going. particularly, how much it paralleled the wine world's terminology and philosophy."

sigh. on the one hand, i'm glad these wine people are finally catching onto coffee; on the other, i remain surprised that they know so little of the history of coffee and its sensory evaluation.

after all jean lenoir offers both the nez du vin and the nez du cafe. ted lingle has been formalizing the scaa flavor wheel for about three decades now, building on bickford's 19th cent. invention of cupping. i remain surprised at the surprise of wine people who don't seem to know that professional cuppers have existed at the exchange since the early 20th cent.

and of course the visionary dr. illy and his pals at asic have been researching coffee's compounds like mad.

and this brings us to today's flavor moment, rooted in peter g's counterculture kenya aa gaaki from friday. at issue specifically is the unusual coffee aroma, beef.

long-time readers are certainly by now used to seeing both the scaa flavor wheel and the taint wheel referenced here. the above nez du cafe's also well-known.

another concept i've discussed a lot is the distinction between "romantic" and "clean" cupping. with all this in mind, let's talk about peter's coffee.

peter's kenya aa gaaki's roasted to a what i'd call a city+ or full-city-; not a speck, not a pinprick of oil, nothing nada zilch on the oil. by now it's 4 days old.

i brewed this bean in the cafetiére at my usual 55g fresh ground coffee per liter of water.

the coffee's a classic quality kenya with a piquant taste, that is, a liveliness hovering on the border of sweet and winey. as peter notes, there's a fruitiness detectable in the fragrance of the dry grounds, mixed in among the flowers -- think of a bowl of jasmine petals and blackberries!

when the water hits the dry grounds -- that's when this coffee gets interesting. that my friends, is when the cooked beef emerges.

in the lez nez du cafe kit, cooked beef's a recognized descriptor; it's example 31 in the set. there, lenoir tells it's caused by sulphur compounds that develop naturally in the coffee, and that you should expect to find it in "the best kenyans."

lenoir ascribes it to 2-methyl-3-furanethiol, on which flament comments here, noting its "strong meat-like flavor."

please remember, dear readers, that coffee naturally contains some 1100 flavor compounds! don't be surprised at its wonders!

to my scent memory, lenoir's example in vial 31 smells just like a knorr beef bouillon cube. let me state immediately that i detest these things, frankly.

to my mind, they are all bad, and i can't say that i personally like this aroma in my coffee. but, there's no denying that it's there, unh-unh.

here's where the romantic cupper and the clean cupper have a coffee lover's discussion. some exotic aromas and flavors have come to characterize certain coffee origins: the earth in the sumatra, the clay in the yemen.

the romantic cupper writes prose poems to these traits because they are traditionally associated with the history of these coffees and their romantic preparations. "of course the yemen tastes like clay," the romantic cupper sings, "the humble yemeni farmers have been growing coffee for 600 years.

they lovingly spread this coffee out to dry on the clay roofs of their traditional dwellings, where they carefully rake and turn each bean with tender devotion before enclosing them in home-made rough bags sewn by their wives, delicately packing them in twiggy hand-woven village baskets, loading them on their placid family donkeys, and making the pilgrimage down the dry, cracking mountains over the faintest dirt trails to the colorful and exotic oriental bazaar."

the clean cupper however's not so charmed: a pinch of clay might be acceptable, a mere passing whiff, as a memory of yemen, but when the coffee smells like a potter's shed in the cup, they're screaming "defect!" and don't want anything to do with bean.

again, you see this in sumatra, where the romantic's "hint of forest floor" may be the clean cupper's "groundy."

and here we have the same thing with peter's kenya. you are either going to be enchanted with this aroma of cooked beef as "traditionally kenyan," or you are going to start back from the brewing vessel and exclaim "is this coffee hidy!"

i myself am somewhere in the middle. i think hidy's more an unpleasant leathery quality, whereas peter's coffee frankly smells like the sunday roast in the oven.

so i'm torn as to whether this is heavy enough to be considered a taint; i think i might in this instance call it merely a wild, exotic flavor.

when i brewed this coffee yesterday, i didn't get any of the beef in the cup with the method i was using. so i don't think it's excessive -- but it might be a tad unusual for some people. it depends how adventurous your mindset is, how willing you are to open yourself to coffee's infinite flavor possibilities.

naturally my opinion is: go for it! you only live once. . .you may decided you don't like it, but at least you've had the experience!

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posted by fortune | 9:04 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

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