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Saturday, January 19, 2002


tried the tamper & home roast today. . .

the heavy reg barber espresso tamper is a wonderful thing -- whether the deep, even compression it gives to the freshly ground coffee improves the espresso shot or not may be debatable to some. but there's no doubt it makes cleanup easier, and the tightly packed coffee "puck" pops right out of the portafilter after the coffee's made. less banging the sloppy grounds around when you're done; much less mess. mr. right is way into that! i'll have to use it some more to see how much it improves the coffee per se.

took the home roast over to a neighbor's and he made it up in his silvia. surprise -- i find another silvia owner just down the block! so mr. right and i troop over there before the snow began. we had some decaf espresso that an acquaintance in california had roasted up. we also had some armeno decaf espresso to serve as a comparison.

surprise! the home roast wasn't too bad. in fact, it was really decent. better than what you'd get at starbucks. i won't be a home roast convert, but i was a little amazed. my acquaintance had carefully packed his coffee in a one-way valve bag, thus perserving the fragrance and aroma. it smelled delightful and had good crema. i could drink a cup of straight espresso without sugar, so the coffee wasn't burnt in the roasting. an interesting experiment.

finally, the bread. the starter is going along, nicely. it's just about time for the second "refreshment," when you add a little more flour and water to the starter. i'll be making up the dough tomorrow afternoon, retarding it overnight in the fridge, and then baking it on monday morning. hope it turns out crusty and gorgeous. . .

posted by fortune elkins | 6:33 PM | top | link to this |


Friday, January 18, 2002


remember that thing called bread?

i suddenly realized that i haven't made any bread since 9-11. and finally, it's really cold enough to bake. so last night i started a batch of the renowned pain de campagne rustique. however, instead of using whole-wheat and rye, i'm using a mixture of rye and farro (which, let me take pains to remark, is not the same as spelt (triticum spelta), although it is related to it, being triticum dicoccum.) rye ferments well and gives a good flavor to the eventual bread, so i always start the bread with some rye in the mix. the farro holds water somewhat like the rye does, but gives an interesting nuttiness to the resulting starter. i'll tell you how it turns out in 3 days. . .

also, i hope to taste some of that home roast coffee tomorrow. meanwhile, since i'm trying to avoid the high horse, let me just sneak in this link to a series of blog entries about the importance of good coffee planting practices to the songbird population. remember, songbirds winter in the tropics and love to roost near coffee farms. they are facing severe habitat loss as farmers cut down trees that are traditionally interspersed with coffee.

many new yorkers are avid bird-watchers, trekking out to central and prospect park to see the birds early in the summer mornings. but if you don't make careful choices and educate yourself, the coffee you drink before you go out with your binoculars could be killing your hobby -- literally!

posted by fortune elkins | 10:56 AM | top | link to this |


Thursday, January 17, 2002


didn't get a chance to make any of the new homeroast this morning. so the reviews are probably going to have to wait until the weekend. . .

thanks for your patience. actually my life was so crazy yesterday i didn't get a chance to drink a even a sip of coffee. and while my balance in certain yoga poses, such as tree (vrksasana) was perhaps improved, i felt a tad dim-witted by about 4:30pm and had to eat a couple of medjool dates to perk up.

also, a meta-note: the comment feature appears to be fixed. so please resume commenting! click on the link below to add your most welcome comments. and please be aware that i am looking into changing the colors of the site in the next few weeks. be prepared for something pleasant, comfortable, ocean-y. . .and made for modern browsers.

i appreciate my readers who surf in on netscape 4.x. the site will still be readable to you. but for maximum enjoyment of the forthcoming scenery, i politely urge all of you to upgrade to a modern browser so you will be prepared for the big move! there are so many to choose from, and they are almost all free for download; for those, like myself, with slow connections, you can buy ie or netscape on a cd for a very small fee. opera is a little more expensive. . .

posted by fortune elkins | 11:38 AM | top | link to this |


Wednesday, January 16, 2002


let's take a moment to review: last saturday, i wrote a bit about coffee freshness and my eternal search for the freshest coffee possible without actually roasting it myself.

mary beth commented at that time on the coffee roasting operation she often passes, and how burnt the coffee seems. she writes:

Unfortunately, and I'm no expert, but every cup of coffee I've ever had there tastes burnt and over-strong.

ah, so many coffees fall victim to over-roasting! some coffees can take a careful dark roast well and produce a charming cup. but not all coffees take this roast well, and not all roasters can do it well. then there's the issue of proper brewing. you can find yourself with most perfectly roasted high-quality bean, and then destroy it with bad brewing. so i have sympathy for mary beth's plight: to see visions of fresh, delicious coffee before you, but to have it all yanked away. . .

luckily, some have taken pity on my plight. i've been in contact with a couple of brave souls who do take kenneth david's advice and roast at home. each of them sent me 1/2 pound of their best stuff. i can't wait to get home and taste the coffee. the question is: how best to taste?

serious coffee fans would arrange a real 12-step cupping. however, i can't guarantee that each was roasted to the same degree, so a cupping procedure wouldn't be really fair. however, it would help to create a quick impression of the coffees' characteristics and defects.

while these fancy terms have a well-established meaning among trained coffee tasters, how can us normal people get a better idea of how to taste coffee? there is a chart to help. would a huge, honkin' tongue map be of service? for or those with fast connections only: a video? (6.72 mg avi file!)

maybe it's all too elaborate and we should relax with doug cadmus' home tasting procedure. . .

posted by fortune elkins | 10:12 AM | top | link to this |


Tuesday, January 15, 2002


just brimming over with the good news today. another beautiful day, warmer than yesterday, but as shiny and crisp as a new apple. . .

long time readers may remember my lament for the beautiful winter garden, surely one of my favorite spaces in all new york. the great news is that it should be open again by next autumn.

and while we're on a roll, UPS did right by me -- the tamper has arrived. my is it heavy. it definitely does all the work for you. in the end i settled on the stainless-steel, long-handled version; in fact, i might have preferred the shorter one for my little-girl hands. but whatever! will report on it in-depth later this week.

finally, i have to tell you about a chocolate-related product i just can't live without: fresh's fleurs de chocolate, a dark-chocolate & orange shea-butter hand and lip balm. the aroma is strong, ultra-chocolately and very addictive; you'll find yourself licking it off your lips. it's also said to be good for the hair, but if you put this on your dry ends as a hair-dressing, strangers probably will follow you around. i keep a little tin of it at the office; sometimes i open it just to take a deep, deep, deep inhale. . .

posted by fortune elkins | 10:26 AM | top | link to this |


Monday, January 14, 2002


yesterday was the four-month mark for the world trade center tragedy. since i work downtown, walk past the site everyday, have lived with all the crowds and vicissitudes, wrote about it all here, i thought i was really over it. i had accepted it.

then this monday morning. . .a spate of cold weather. a beautiful crystal clear day. i walked into my living room and straight over to the window to gaze at the lovely view of the financial district i enjoy from my brooklyn apartment. for a moment i froze with fear. a large plume of white smoke drifted from the top of one of the modern buildings, 55 water.

then i suddenly realized it was the exhaust of the building's steam heat blowing into the frigid air! i took a breath. maybe i still need just a little more time. . .

posted by fortune elkins | 11:55 AM | top | link to this |


Sunday, January 13, 2002


let's take a moment on this chill windy day to talk about warm chocolate cake. . .

while the so-called chocolate lava cake is by now a common object -- small, light, with its own warm chocolate sauce oozing from its center when you spoon into it -- i still feel it's my duty to test 'em out whenever i see one on a menu. and such is the case at the local tapas bar, tinto. i just dropped in for some tapas after evening yoga. . .the tapas is ok. . .

when there is was, the chocolate lover's cake. slightly smaller than a cupcake, served with a splash of strawberry sauce, and a tiny smidge of ciao bella vanilla ice-cream rolled in crushed, lightly roasted almonds. just as light as a feather, with the warm river of molten chocolate sauce pouring like a torrent out onto the plate. . .it has a rich chocolate taste, but perhaps lacks a perfect unctuousness?. . .i told mr. right, this isn't valrhona!

i asked what chocolate they used to make it. . .diamond semi-sweet was the answer. imagine what wonder they could have made if they stepped up to the big v! what perfume for the senses! still, if you're in the neighborhood, i recommend this cake for a nice, light but still intense chocolate fix.

posted by fortune elkins | 5:51 PM | top | link to this |

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