Saturday, February 02, 2002
another day, another wonderful chocolate cake at the gotham bar & grill. . .
newish pastry chef jeffrey gerace's way with valrhona is magical. the venison, squab, diver scallops, celeriac-pear soup with foie gras. . .all good.
but frankly dear readers: skip it all, sit at the bar and wolf down a slice of gotham chocolate cake with the champagne of your choice. . .
Friday, February 01, 2002
At its simplest, le gouter includes something bready. . . Of course, a bready gouter can also be chocolaty. Aside from chocolate croissants, there are variations that include a hunk of baguette spread with great butter, sprinkled with sea salt (preferably fleur de sel) and a grating of dark chocolate, and then run under the broiler for a few seconds just to melt the chocolate and warm the butter.
yum -- melty chocolate on warm butter. . .have some soon while you read the whole story.
Thursday, January 31, 2002
several people -- including the comment from monday's post -- have been talking about the recent large award a new york woman won from starbucks during an accident that occured when she was shopping for an espresso machine. . . .
SCALD GAL GETS BIG $TARBUCKS sez the new york post in its typical style. (note to self: why is this week turning into a tabloid fest? yesterday newsday; today the post?? from now on, i'm discussing only the news that's fit to print, as they say.) many people are expressing outrage with the US$3.5 million size of the verdict and offering the usual rants about tort reform.
personally, i don't know what to think. i can't really find a reputable news source that presents the facts squarely. most news outlets are just reprinting the same basic ap wire story. the bbc explains that a starbucks employee didn't fit the portafilter on correctly during the sales demonstration. but if he was putting on the portafilter, he was in front of the machine. so how did she get burned on the hand? and if was a case of just hot water pouring over the side of a loose portafilter, how could the machine have "blown apart"? and how badly could she have been burned? the water wouldn't have even been at the boiling point.
other sources add little more: some news group sources (usenet is not generally known as a source for objective journalism) suggest that when she asked for a demonstration of a starbucks barista espresso machine, the machine had been left on in the steam position by another employee in a previous demo. she herself filled the portafilter and attempted to attach the handle to the machine. since the machine in steam mode had been sitting there, building up pressure, when she tried to brew a shot, the pressure literally blew the portafilter handle off the front of the machine, releasing scalding water and burning the woman's hand. she claims she can no longer use it at all due to nerve damage.
however, none of this makes sense to me as an espresso machine owner. don't all high-quality home espresso machines have pressure-release safety mechanisms? and doesn't the starbucks barista? lack of a pressure-relief safety system in the machine design would then be the real problem, right? the news stories don't say.
further, if the handle blew off, wouldn't she have been whacked in the face or chest with the portafilter if she had been standing right there with her hand under the grouphead (the place where the hot water flows out through the coffee)? i would think a chrome-plated heavy brass portafilter/espresso handle flying at you with whatever speed a 9-bar-pressure explosion would generate would be far worse than a couple of ounces of 200 degree water. . .
i don't mean to minimize her plight. i just can't understand what happened from the news reports. . .so i don't know what to think. . .it seems like you'd need a degree in engineering to understand what happened and why. . .
starbucks has not yet posted any comment that i can find on its website, naturally.
Wednesday, January 30, 2002
i don't often read new york newsday -- more of a new york times kinda girl, but this article caught my attention:
columnist sylvia carter writes on her journey to make good espresso. after searching a bit, she returns to the baseline: a simple krups machine and illy coffee.
my heart immediately leapt out to her. haven't we all been there? she comes so close to finding what she wants, and then, lost -- she falls astray and returns to the safety of compromise and regret.
dear readers: use sylvia as your model. don't sadly settle for less. great coffee is easily within your grasp, once you choose a quality pump machine, a good grinder, and a source for fresh coffee. i've made my recommendations for all of these here; but everyone has their own needs. what works for me may not work for you.
that's why in the past i've always provided links to reliable retailers with proven track records for excellent and friendly customer service. call them and discuss your needs in detail. then bargain with them all ferociously -- it's a competitive area right now, you'll be surprised what deals and goodies you can get!
go forth my friends and make not sylvia's mistakes. . .
Tuesday, January 29, 2002
what unseasonable weather we're having here! nearly 65 degrees in january. . .
this lovely day meant mr. right took a nice walk down to dumbo, that rapidly developing section of old spice warehouses down by fulton landing. and there he just happened to drop by jacques torres. with the exception of the knipschildt truffle, no one in the united states has chocolates to touch jacques'. (and it's only the truffles; the other knipschildt chocolates can be disappointing.)
mr. right is so thoughtful -- he brought back 1/4 lb. thank you, mr. right!
if you haven't tried jacques' fresh candies, you must do so immediately. life's too short to suffer any longer!
also today i took a private yoga lesson. the teacher and i discussed why yoga was so beneficial as an exercise. she explained to me that unlike many other forms of activity, yoga is both isometric and isotonic.
the isometric poses -- standing poses are some of the obvious ones -- build strength by using the body's own resistance. since yoga doesn't cause the muscle fibers to shorten in these poses, you develop muscle tone and strength while creating beautiful silhouettes with the body. this makes your limbs appear lengthened and more graceful over time as well.
the isotonic poses -- the flowing, repetitive movements of the sun salutations, for example -- not only offer aerobic endurance as you repeat them, but help build strength by using the muscles without much resistance.
i don't know very much about anatomy or physiology, but i found this short explanation very helpful in further understanding why yoga has done so much more for me than other types of exercise.
i know many readers come to this page interested in coffee and chocolate, without much concern for yoga. but i encourage you to put aside your preconceptions and try yoga three times. not only will you see the stress reducing benefits the very first day, but you will also see how effective yoga is as pure exercise!
Monday, January 28, 2002
some coffee humor & some coffee honor. . .
cowboy poet baxter black discusses toxic coffee (requires real audio). . .
. . .while proctor & gamble (owners of the folger's and millstone supermarket coffee brands) opens its huge purse for the struggling coffee worker.
now those of you who have been muttering under your breath that i am against american business can stop! however, i will be relentless in noting that both folger's and millstone offer low- to non- quality coffee in their products. most americans drink whatever's in the pot; they really haven't the time to think about about what they're drinking as they take anything someone hands them through a take-out window while they're rushing to pick the kids up from scouts or soccer. or they pour anything off the office warmer into styrofoam as they run down the hall to catch a meeting. . .
yet to understand this situation takes but a moment. and the tiniest amount of effort.
you know, i've been there, i really have. for many years, i didn't understand why i didn't like coffee. it wasn't until i was in college that i experienced fresh, properly roasted, high-quality, well-brewed coffee. many americans still haven't had this opportunity. people have to take coffee back to their homes, back to their hearts; the happy feeling a good cup can bring isn't just a marketing ploy seen on the soft-focus tv ads. it's something you can give yourself, your family and the coffee worker!
now, back to that humor; more humor is what we need in the sad world of ours! and if afterwards, you're interested in ordering a pound of whole-bean costa rican coffee for yourself. . .well, be my guest. . .
Sunday, January 27, 2002
ok, got up this morning, turned on silvia, pulled out the lux, confronted a 1/2 lb. of espresso vivace roasted on the 21st, which neighbor alan r gave me yesterday.
took me three tries to dial it in; that is, find the proper grind that will result in 1-1/2 to 2 oz coffee in 25-30 seconds. usually grind at 2 clicks past 3 on the grind dial (my grinder goes to 11! honestly!); had to grind at two clicks past 4.
then the miracle: nothing but crema in the shot glass. 3/4 oz of crema in 30 seconds. this is known as the guinness effect! just as when pouring stout, it means all head as you pour, with the beer and the head -- the coffee and the crema -- mixing and then separating in slow blubbly climb when the pour stops. big steam pouring out the edges of the portafilter -- much roiling in the shot glass. 5-10 seconds after pulling the shot i was left with just a tad less than 1/2 in. crema. nice dark pompeii red crema.
all good. but some mystery: there was a little tiny layer of sludge in the bottom of the glass. am i still grinding too fine for schomer's coffee?
i've never had sludge before. . .as for the bread; it turned out. i woke up this morning and baked it up. big crackly creaky crust and dense tender crumb. yum.