Saturday, November 23, 2002
chicago pizza time
i hope you all remembered to check out the coffee kids documentary last night. really inspiring. in case you missed it, you might be able to get a copy from coffee kids with a donation or check your public tv listings to see when it will be rebroadcast.
bright but seriously windy day called for a chicago-style stuffed pizza. usually these are filled with spinach, but i always use swiss chard. less bitter.
for a change i also made the crust of cornmeal with semolina flour in place of the usual pizza flour. i wasn't too happy with this -- the dough was too soft, and seemed to cook a little more quickly than the regular dough. the bottom and flutes of the crust were a little overdone, which detracted from the effect. unless you're just a lover of semolina, i'm not sure i recommend this crust combination. avoid from my mistakes, ok?
but we live and learn. dear readers, if you make this wonderful pizza with a large amount of semolina in the dough, watch it carefully and pull it out 5 or so minutes early.
the problem with making pizza is that it really is an all-day activity; not that there's more than oh, 40 minutes work altogether, but you do have to hang around a bit to punch down the dough. unless of course you make it the evening before and let it rise in the fridge overnight.
i neglected to do this, so i lolled about home all day. just as well, since my regular 4pm yoga class has been cancelled. instead i did punk yogi j brown's open class cd. he doesn't seem to be selling these yet, which is a shame, because it presents his excellent and relaxing open program.
it's a mellow practice for those days when you want a full 75 mins. of yoga but don't feel in the mood for shiva rea's big vinyasa cd. . .or in my case, when you're making pizza and 75 mins. is exactly one rising of the dough. . .
Friday, November 22, 2002
dudes! figure it out!
articles by young men such as the following in the student newspaper of the university of california's chico campus always amaze me (& i was actually moved to tell 'em so):
"but if i get past the 'twisting,' into anything more serious. . . . go ahead and alert my loved ones."
has the culture of computer gaming so attenuated the modern male? wake up! yoga is a babe magnet: chicks like guys who do yoga. yoga class will be filled with 99% attractive girls in very little clothing bending every which way. what part of this don't you understand?
even if you as a guy had ego problems about standing on one leg, just the thought of all the partner work so popular in yoga classes now should be enough. that's right you joystick jockeys: you not only get to look at 'em, you're gonna get to touch 'em as well.
and then they will sincerely thank you for it. since when is meeting and talking to girls not a major priority of most guys? or as a recent-college-grad girl in my office noted sadly: "guys these days have only 1 thing on their minds -- pizza."
whenever i meet guys who seem to feel that yoga is for wimps, i just want to send 'em links to all the articles here about the football, golf, tennis, basketball, baseball, and even snooker champions who do yoga. not to mention the rock and movie stars, like current makes-the-young-girls-swoon prize-winner, tobey mcguire of spiderman fame. guys, yoga is where ya wanna be!
Thursday, November 21, 2002
"we want to try to get people to rethink mr. coffee without having to reinvent it," sez the adman.
au contraire! sunbeam certainly needs to re-invent this popular horror from the 70s. it is one of the primary reasons, i believe, that people began to abandon coffee as a home beverage. why?
it brews the coffee at the wrong temperature, that's why, creating a nasty-tasting liquid that then sits on a hot plate and condenses into tar. yuck! i'd switch to tea too rather than drink the twig-and-rotting-bean stuff sold as supermarket brand x boiled down into what most people sadly think coffee is.
no amount of hiring extreme athletes and mtv v-jays to liven up this brand will save it.
dear readers, the best coffee is in fact made at home. you can make better coffee at home than you can buy almost anywhere with even a US$15 coffee grinder, a US$9 thermos, and a US$4 fine mesh strainer! get yourself some truly fresh beans carefully roasted from your local coffeehouse, and you're set.
but i frankly recommend, at a minimum, a burr grinder, and either a french press (aka cafetiere), a chemex, or a vac pot. coffee fit for royalty on your kitchen counter. . .
Wednesday, November 20, 2002
learn more about coffee kids
i'm not shy about my admiration for the great work done by the charity coffee kids. this holiday season, you can learn more about their work by watching (or taping!) a fine documentary about them.
it's airing in the new york tri-state region this friday the 22nd at 10pm on public tv station WNYE as part of the visionaries series. called coffee kids: grounds for hope, this 30-minute profile gives an inspiring glimpse into coffee kids' programs in costa rica, nicaragua, and mexico. these initiatives involve microcredit for women, education for children, and other worthwile activities.
why is this needed? the world-price depression in coffee -- the so-called "coffee crisis" -- continues this year, and probably will extend into next year as well, although people do expect some price rises soon. here's a recent article on msnbc that explains why, although coffee prices have fallen so dramatically, and the lives of coffee workers have descended into suffering, you aren't at least drinking less expensive coffee. no one is profiting from this situation -- well, ok, someone is and you know who they are. . .
Tuesday, November 19, 2002
3 cheers to marie wright
long-time readers may remember that i much admired the marie wright yoga cover-up skirt. finally i bought one last friday on my lunch hour. it's the usual e-commerce thing, i thought: checkout, click, get the confirmation email.
got busy on friday afternoon, didn't look at the confirmation email. on monday, peeked at it, thought, hmm, maybe i ordered the wrong size. maybe i need a medium in black, not a large. better phone. so i call at 9:30am santa barbara time, and i actually spoke to marie herself, who turns out to be one of the sweetest individuals. just a doll.
marie informed me that she couldn't change the size because the item had been shipped friday afternoon, apparently just a couple hours after i clicked submit. can you believe it? none of this amazon "ships within 24 to 48 hours." i think we're talking like a 3-hour turnaround or something (gotta do that timezone math. . .) marie ships usps priority 2-3 day for a shockingly reasonable fee; no outrageous markup.
marie suggested that i try the skirt on when it came, and if it was too large to call her. can you believe she actually offered to ship me the smaller skirt after my call with a return envelope so i could ship the larger skirt back when the smaller arrived? as i am used to the standard die-online-customer-we'll-ignore-you returns policy so many etailers have, i nearly fell out of my chair. doing business with marie is pure delight, honestly.
i started talking to marie, and one of the things i asked her was where her clothes were made. she assured me that they are sewn in california. no sweatshop, completely ethical. unlike some of those fancy designer $$$$$ yoga clothes, you don't have to ask yourself if there's an ahimsa problem in their manufacture.
the lovely hawaiian kapa (barkcloth print fabric) style ginger-flower design comes from hoffman fabrics, also in california. marie was totally honest -- she didn't know the original source of that fabric. so what the heck, i called hoffman and spoke to their rep, frances. she also was quite honest: this textile would just be too expensive if made in the u.s.a., and that the cloth came from offshore, but that for competitive reasons she obviously couldn't tell me who her supplier was. frances however also assured me that this fabric didn't come from an oppressive situation.
ordered friday, received this morning. open the package! o wow o wow. the skirt is much nicer than the pictures on her website indicate. the print is unusually crisp and clear, no overprinting or misregistration at all. the colors are vivid without being loud: pink, crimson, maroon, spring green, hunter green, maize, khaki, white, dove gray, and a really interesting shadowy dark mauve-grape color.
the print is that charming big retro floral -- totally the santa monica ivy -- and makes you look more "blue crush" surf-girl than "auntie's sofa." worried that you can't wear the pattern outside of sunny california? the retro-pacific dream is back, even here in new york.
further, the skirt itself is cut to a flattering a-line that falls mid-calf. it's full. the narrow waistband ties and gathers in the back around a little keyhole, so you present a sleek front and a rather J.Lo back. the finishing on the skirt is excellent -- not a loose thread anywhere. further, you can easily see that marie makes an effort to match up the pattern at the front darts, where it would be noticeable.
i tried on the skirt, and found i actually enjoyed the size, especially in the front. the waistband does dip in the back a bit (comfy!) and then there's that baby-bustle gather to enhance your, um, assets. since the fabric is 100% cotton, it will shrink a bit. i think i'm keeping the larger size. those of you who don't enjoy the little gather so much might consider staying true to size for more overall sleekness.
i called marie to tell her this and she still said, well, look at it for a couple of days -- you can still return it unworn. isn't that amazing? this skirt is better than just a toss-on cover-up; you could even wear it out in warmer weather with a delicate little sweater. . .
marie herself told me that she does both iyengar and bikram yoga personally. i have to say that from my dealings with her, she is living her yoga and doing her business yogic-ly, with honesty, generosity, non-greed, and kindness. add her to your yoga supplier list. you won't regret it.
Monday, November 18, 2002
more chocolate show
yes here i am salivating once again in front of my precious kilo of el rey. all hail eric, the el rey rep!
my personal sense of discovery was piqued by bouvier chocolates of rennes, france. while herbal chocolates have been the rage for a couple of years, i found his fennel bon-bon particularly appealing. obviously, a tea-flavored candy is never going to float my boat, but he did a lovely rendition of the idea, nicely packaged too.
i also finally met stephanie zonis, but she was a tad harried handing out crumbs for the amazing fritz knipschildt. i however missed clay gordon of chocophile. tee-hee! i know all these chocolate folks, and none of them seem to know me -- i'm invisible!
i'm a big fan of the weiss chocolate you can pick up at the garden of eden here in brooklyn, but the weiss-payard co-display didn't send me. forget payard. bring me the weiss-michel chaudrun chocolat mendiant 64% fruit and nut bar, thank you very much!
i did get to chat briefly with the hair-on-fire andrew schotts of garrison; he was handing out charming hazelnut praline squares with just the right amount of crunch. . i thought his chocolates had improved this year. . .and also of course, our original brooklyn chocolate hero, jacques torres. he's a sweetie in person, isn't he?
i didn't see patrick coston this year at all, alas. new york celebrity chocolatiere sweet bliss was there, however; and i must confess that i am mystified why someone so talented wastes her art on stuff like a "chocolate peanut butter and jelly sandwich" and chocolate-covered potato chips. she says it's "fun," but i think it's lack of self-esteem, to be blunt. take yourself seriously! address the highest potential your art offers! i guess that stuff sells. . .to someone. . .
now, as to those ruby et violette cookies. i saw them in the flesh at her booth. frankly, they were too dark; i found them unattractive. when i made them, they actually looked a tad better tho' still overly brown, if i do say so myself. . .however, i appreciate that she gives some of her profits to charity.
i was also surprised to discover that i liked the italian hot chocolate offered by caffe musetti. and mr. right seems to have taken a fancy to a danish childhood institution, cocio chocolate milk. i think it's, umm, merely ok, but must be served very very cold, or else you can taste a little something from the fancy european process that keeps milk fresh without refrigeration. i mean, he stuffed his pockets full with cans of it. . .
as we passed the huge feel-good display put on by the nation of ivory coast, i did look around to see if they had anything about the child slaves, but maybe i missed it. . .in fact, they seemed to have no labor info at all. surprising, no? (remember, el rey chocolates are all from venezuela. they are child-slave-free chocolates. just another reason to savor them!)
the people you meet at the show are interesting. i mean, i had a very civilized disagreement with a chain-smoking frenchman named robert over the superiority of valrhona or cluziel. . .and i enjoyed meeting pastry chef christine criscione, a graduate of the fci, who's opened her shop in the newly hip queens. so if you need a cake or something. . .
i could write so much more, but by the end i was drifting about in a daze of gianduja and sandeman port, clutching my precious. . .precious. . .kilo of heaven, battered by the roaring crowd. finally, a nice article from cnn on the chocolate show, highlighting my faves knipschildt (who does have the perfect truffle) and bouvier, who i pray on bended knee opens a new york store tomorrow or the next day. oh, and for fanatics, my report from last year's show, spead out over a couple of days.
Sunday, November 17, 2002
back from the new york chocolate show. can you believe that the line to get in was so long that it snaked around 3 sides of the block on a chilly drizzly day?
so much news! the biggest of which is that the venerable chocolatier boissier, in paris since 1827, is planning to open a new york store. they're aiming for late fall 2003. . .(why don't they have a website?!?) their squat little dark chocolate ganache bon-bon touched with dot of gold leaf is just everything you imagine a french candy to be. the texture was spun silk; the perfume so rich and full with a clear vanilla note. heavenly!
and i managed to clear a deal on a kilo of el rey bucare 58.5% for a mere US$15. i felt like a damn thief practically. long-time readers will recall that right up there with valrhona manjari, the bucare is my favorite eating chocolate. actually, i often prefer the bucare. and now i have an entire kilo -- why didn't i buy 3? why didn't i get a kilo of el rey mijao while i was at it?
i guess i couldn't see myself carrying home 4 kilos of chocolate. i mean, how could i possibly use that much chocolate before it bloomed or something?
and the people from el rey were just so nice. the place was packed worse than a japanse commuter train, total chaos, people grabbing at samples. but the staff from el rey seemed as cool as cucumbers and they were incredibly friendly among such a massive frenzy. hats off to el rey. i have so much more to tell you about the chocolate show. look for it all tomorrow. . .