Saturday, October 19, 2002
zoka = bad, dolfin + banyuls = good
it's true my friends, sad but true -- mr. right abhors the prize-winning espresso paladino from zoka. it has been strictly banished from my house. he thinks it tastes like pinon ashes soaked in stale water. . .
on more upbeat news, i bought myself a dolfin 70% dark chocolate bar as a consolation. perhaps best known for their innovatively flavored bars and distinctive tobacco-pouch resealable wrapper, dolfin is fine eating chocolate. and since i do tend to prefer the elegantly simple thing-in-itself, i enjoy the plain dark chocolate the best. what can i say? i think ice cream should come only in vanilla!
i'm also pleased as punch to have in my possession the wine universally acknowledged to pair best with chocolate, the dessert wine from roussillon, banyuls. i'm looking at a bottle of 2000 les clos de paulilles rimage, a hand-made wine proudly crafted by the daure family.
so farewell zoka, hello languedoc!
Friday, October 18, 2002
why the hudson valley?
i don't think anyone who lives in new york or practices yoga is unaware of the fact that the cute little towns up in the hudson valley are yoga and meditation retreat central. it's practically a mini-california up there. (note: this is a good thing!)
today the new york times explores why this is so: exactly why is the area around woodstock such a yoga hotbed? the times gives several high-falutin' answers mostly based on aged hippies musing about the spiritual energy of the hills, but seems -- actually isn't this so typical of the times? -- to avoid the obvious common-sense ones:
promixity to new york city; a base of mouldering old resorts great for turning into yoga studios and retreat centers; low property prices making weekend houses affordable for the upper middle class; the lingering influence of swami satchidananda's and ravi shankar's appearance at woodstock; the general liberal bent of the old chautauqua culture that still pervades parts of the atmosphere upstate; the total lack of anything else to do in the woods except drink.
not to deny that these are cute little towns. . .
Thursday, October 17, 2002
brownie near perfection achieved. . .
as promised, the recipe for the near-perfect brownie. all it lacks is a great shiny, crackly sugar crust top. this recipe develops a slight crust, but not pronounced. and i do stress develops.
while it's possible to slice these 1 hour after baking, if you do, you'll get a cake-y type brownie with a gooey, molten center. at 4 hours, the brownies have a little chew. pop in the fridge after 1 hour cooling, and slice the next morning to see the wonder of fudgy chocolate-y goodness they will become. so fight your family and friends off if at all possible and let them rest overnight for best results. these are easy, easy, easy 20-mins.-to-make, 30-mins-to-bake wonders. mr. right wasn't too impressed with them at the 1-hr. mark but judged them amazing and excellent the next day.
preheat oven to 325 degrees and lightly oil an 8x8 pan:
3/4 cup cocoa ( i used King Arthur's Double Dutch Dark for its deep, rich color)
1-1/2 cups regular granulated sugar
1/2 cup powdered or confectioner's sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour (again, i used King Arthur's organic)
1/2 cup to 1 cup chopped nuts, toasted (optional -- i used almonds from sahadi's, but pecans, walnuts, pistachios, heck whatever!)
1 cup to 1-1/4 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips (i used callebaut callets)
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs (i used pete & gerry's organic)
1/2 cup oil (i used salute sante grapeseed)
2 teaspoons almond extract ( i used watkins but you might try boyajian)
1 teaspoon Nielsen-Massey vanilla
1 tablespoon water
combine dry ingredients in your stand mixer, attached the beater and flour shield, and mix lightly at speed 2 for 1 or 2 minutes, until dry ingredients are evenly combined. add oil, flavorings, water, eggs with mixer running. mix at speed 3 or 4 for 2 mins. or until all ingredients are well-incorporated. you should get a wonderful tar-black sludge.
resist the urge to lick the beater and stick your face into the mixing bowl. spread the brownie mixture evenly into the pan, and pop into the oven to bake for 30 to 35 mins. you may want to rotate the pan if your oven has hot spots. bake just until the brownies have cooked on top and the center springs back gently when lightly touched. don't overbake! it's easy to do! and don't rely on the "toothpick in the center coming out clean" test here -- all the chocolate chips in the batter will make this test useless.
some people find that the edges of the brownies begin to harden and burn before the top has firmed up. make sure to use a light-colored metal pan. still have problems? in this case you may find a specialty tool of help: the baking strip.
dampen this little puppy, tie it around the outside of the pan, and it will help keep your edges from over-cooking while the center bakes, as well as making sure the brownies rise evenly and have a level top. or heck, be low-tech and use a wet tea-towel and a safety pin. whatever works! finally, if you find you can't get the brownies out of the pan nicely, line the pan with a piece of aluminum foil next time. let the foil edges overhang a bit for easy lifting.
to make these espresso brownies, you can replace the almond extract and water above with an equal amount of espresso and add 1 tablespoon espresso powder. or use your some of your favorite liqueur instead. you'll be glad you did. . .
Wednesday, October 16, 2002
get yer bikini, yoga mat & coffee mug
buy your plane tickets now! the annual kona coffee festival on the fair isle of hawaii is coming up nov. 1-10.
there will be coffee tours, demos, bean samples, coffee picking, an art auction, recipe contests, and of course a cupping competition to see which authentic kona farm produced the most sparkling brew this year. check out the full schedule for the many events. and while you're there, take one of the many yoga classes that abound on the island.
for those of you who need the bikini, i highly recommend north shore custom bikinis. i own one myself, with white piping and a matching wrap -- a kristin top and a number 3 bottom in the tutti frutti color. trust me, a custom-fit bikini makes all the difference. and the quality and customer service at north shore are great! don't hesitate to great a great bikini online.
can't make it to the festival? get your great kona coffee direct from smith farms or john langenstein's farm. give yourself the caffeine advantage. long-time readers know it's all true!
btw, made the new brownie recipe. this could be the one. all they lack is that shiny crunchy top crust. otherwise, they are spot on. by far the best i've tried yet; you'll hear all about it tomorrow. . .
Tuesday, October 15, 2002
fair trade coffee makes money for all
i was very interested to read about the new coffee shop in rochester, new york, women's coffee connection. this non-profit coffee shop purchases fair-trade coffee from peru, which it sells to generate money to help women drug addicts receive treatment.
i thought this was the killer quote: "we came up with an idea that reunites two old acquaintances in a very different way," said the project's co-director --"the women who are no longer buying drugs and the farmers who arenít growing them anymore."
this is just a powerful, powerful idea, and one of the real promises of fair-trade coffee in our hemisphere. i totally applaud.
Monday, October 14, 2002
beer mogul turns to chocolate
entrepreneur pete slosberg, best known for the popular pete's wicked ale, has now launched a line of premium chocolates, cocoa pete's. his goal is to make premium chocolate more widely available, by focusing on bringing european quality to an affordable american chocolate.
he's offering 4 bon-bon flavors, 2 dark and 2 milk -- a dark chocolate truffle with dried strawberries; another dark with caramel and italian coffee; a milk chocolate one with pistachios and hazelnuts; another milk based on the beloved malted milk ball of yore. he says the milk chocolate is 31% cocoa; i can't tell what the dark chocolate percentage is. nor does he make clear the cocoa's country of origin. . .
slosberg's goal is to sell these in supermarkets all across the u.s.a. he went so far as to attend the culinary institute of america to learn about chocolate before launching the line. currently the products (flash required) are available only in california.
Sunday, October 13, 2002
life happens. no brownies, no zoka today. i might get a chance to do the brownie thing on monday or wednesday. . . the zoka may have to wait. . .
but in other great news, i will say that i'm now published in australia and new zealand! yes, it's true. mark whitwell liked what i wrote about his workshop so much that it is included in his newest book as an afterword, along with a piece by punk yogi, yep, j. brown himself (flash required).
this book doesn't appear to have a u.s.a. release date right now. so if you can't swing down under to buy it, i understand that you will soon be able to purchase it from mark's other website. keep your eyes peeled. . .