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Saturday, August 24, 2002


victory espresso

and here's another place for the brooklyn espresso tour. with a caveat. . .

an LM linea 2 group by our friends at esi, what seems to me to be a mazzer rio grinder, and batdorf & bronson dancing goats blend beans. the place itself is a funky, tiny old diner retrofitted to a makeshift espresso bar on a quiet corner at state and hoyt, off atlantic avenue. seating is on the street.

i asked the barista for a double espresso, which cost all of $1.90. sadly, they don't have demitasse cups; 8 oz paper is all ya get. (believe me, i mentioned this!). the barista tore open a fresh bag of beans, popped 'em in the grinder and ground to order. i peered around the high counter and saw his crooked-finger sweep. he didn't use a tamper but passed the handle past the grinder, so i assume it got a light tamp from an attached "tamper foot" on the grinder.

i heard the steam wand and thought what? since there were only 2 other customers, i thought he was playing with the machine temp. then he held this huge cup under the handle for a gazillion years -- at least 35 seconds.

i looked at the cup and saw thick heavy slightly reddish, but a little light crema. and about 6 oz. liquid. yes, i asked for a double espresso but got an americano! i tried to talk to the barista about the beans, but when i did he fled and fetched the manager. she had good english; that's when i realized his english was dicey at best.

i was worried about the drink. but everything else seemed ok. and i can report that it was a good americano. no sugar required and not bitter. but not naturally sweet, either. i enjoyed it and was pleasantly surprised.

i definitely think the victory is worth a stop on the brooklyn espresso tour. just make sure you are actually communicating with the barista! it's open from 7:30am to 7:30pm. it also has light panini and ices.


posted by fortune elkins | 8:51 PM | top | link to this |


Friday, August 23, 2002


espresso background

while these two articles are not very recent, they are perhaps the best overall introduction to espresso i've seen. they were both written by the famed dr. j. john of josuma coffee, most known for his cult espresso blend malabar gold. (i've written about it here.)

for those of you who are regular coffee drinkers, but haven't yet really been moved to experiment with espresso, i urge you to try this essence of coffee. both of these pieces are from fresh cup magazine: start with this one, and then check out the second.

only then will you be prepared to go search your nabe for good espresso. it's hard, because as you will soon see after learning what espresso really is -- and isn't -- there are in fact very few places that prepare the coffee correctly. but the thrill when you finally discover a good place for a great cappucino or straight shot!

i have to warn you however that once you find really good coffee, you will not be content until you can make it for yourself at home. you'll soon be looking for an espresso machine to call your own. just a heads up. . .

on an amusing note: i have said several times that since madonna has switched from yoga to jujitsu, we would soon see the popular yoga fad end. but i may have underestimated the youth of america: shrewd britney, ever ready to recycle success, is apparently trying to rejuvenate her recently tarnished image by embracing yoga. well, it doesn't matter that her motives are bad. because yoga will work for her. it might almost be interesting to see where she ends up in 3 years if she develops a serious yoga practice. . .

posted by fortune elkins | 6:24 PM | top | link to this |


Thursday, August 22, 2002


just when you think you're all alone in the world. . .

you read an article about fellow chocolate fanatics, people like our comrade-in-baking, spencer nelson.

and who wouldn't want to make their own dulche de leche? couldn't you use it instead of cream in your ganache? the second you ask yourself that question, you know you belong right here. so pull up a whisk, spencer. we grok.

and that goes double for those of us who immediately knew what the famous chocolate phantasmagoria was. . . readers, haven't you made one yourself? i last made one oh, in the mid-90s(?), when marcel's first show was still on tv, with callebaut. i should take another look at my beat-up old copy of death by chocolate. . .

i've eaten at his trellis; but not all of his recipes float my boat. like the peanut-grape-corn flake cake. . .

posted by fortune elkins | 6:37 PM | top | link to this |


Wednesday, August 21, 2002


coffee, chocolate may be potent cancer fighters

i've been saying for a while now that to be healthy you should eat your 1.4 oz. of bittersweet dark chocolate a day. and that there are advantages to a cup of coffee or two in the morning.

and there's yet another reputable, peer-reviewed, scientific study to prove this: the caffeine in coffee and theophylline in chocolate have proved to be effective in helping block cell growth and preventing blood clotting. this study, performed by english researchers, appears in the august edition of the journal of biological chemistry. it all has to do with these chemicals, kinases, that i've mentioned before. . .

the doctors hastily add that you shouldn't take this news as a opportunity to over-indulge. oh, we won't, we promise! but we just love these kinds of studies! we will stick to our moderate coffee intake (3 cups a day or less), and can definitely live with our 1.4 oz (about half a bar) of premium chocolate in the evening. . .

posted by fortune elkins | 6:28 PM | top | link to this |


Tuesday, August 20, 2002


another coffee myth down. . .

if i had a dime for every time i've heard another woman tell me that she never drinks coffee because it's "dehydrating," and therefore bad for the complexion, i'd be living in ravello today. . .

but seriously, almost everyone has heard the conventional wisdom that you should drink 8 cups of water a day, and that coffee can't be counted toward that. in fact, it's common to read in women's magazines that you should drink an extra glass of water for each cup of coffee.

today we learn all this is myth. drink your moderate amount of coffee; it's not dehydrating you, and it's not ruining your complexion. this welcome news is a small benefit of a larger finding on water, widely reprinted.

posted by fortune elkins | 6:19 PM | top | link to this |


Monday, August 19, 2002


mole oaxaquena & la reina

naturally as a chocolate fanatic, i love it when you can get some of our favorite ingredient in both the entree and the dessert. which is why i'd like to point you all to a little-known regional mexican restaurant in the east village, la palapa.

the two co-owners actually lived in mexico for quite a spell, and are acquainted with the famed doyenne of mexican cooking, diana kennedy. however, only 1 kennedy recipe appears on the menu, chayotes in crema.

naturally, the wonderful menu features a justly praised mole negro from oaxaca, with lots of chocolate, sesame seeds, many spices, at least 5 kinds of chile. . .it's just delicious. while most mole is served over chicken or turkey, here it ladled lovingly over a medium-rare duck breast. just lovely.

for the dessert, do check out the la reina flourless chocolate cake made of callebaut and ground almonds. served chilled and enrobed with a firm ganache, it's just a delight. you'll also enjoy the side scoop of valrhona chocolate ice cream made for la palapa by ciao bella. this dessert is served on a frozen plate decorated with strands of chocolate zig-zagged across the plate. as the plate slowly warms, these zig-zags break off into the ice cream, giving a great contrast of texture. all excellent.

while the hot crepes with cajeta, home-made with organic goat and cow's milk, don't contain any chocolate at all, it also offers a wonderful contrast with the la reina cake for dessert. so go to la palapa, order the chilled la reina and the hot crepes. split them with your dining partner, alternating bites of the bread pudding-like caramel milk cajeta and walnuts with the intense chocolate of the la reina and its almonds. heavenly. . .

posted by fortune elkins | 6:19 PM | top | link to this |


Sunday, August 18, 2002


is this the best coffee in lower manhattan?

just came from higher grounds, at ave. c and 9th, where i talked to the english barista michelle. she's very nice. their equipment is all rancilio, grinders & machine. they have 2 reg barber tampers. (i have one myself, you might recall.) the espresso blend is from dallis brothers, with a nicaraguan base.

i was the only customer on a summer night. i just walked in, said hi. michelle lept to attention. she ground the shot fresh, tamped hard with the reg, pulled the shot, peered at the crema. "it's not right," she said. she tossed the shot. it was a slow night, and she wasn't happy with the machine temp.

she fiddled a moment, ground again, etc. result: very drinkable shot, without sugar. nice thick, clingy dark red crema. the espresso itself seemed a little thin about halfway through. i said, hmm, the body? she immediately agreed. she noted that the owner of the shop, kenny, had actually gone out to dallis brothers recently to talk to them about this; he felt the blend had been changed, or had become inconsistent. "so he's still working with them on the blend," she apologized. way to go, michelle! highly recommended.

posted by fortune elkins | 7:46 PM | top | link to this |

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