Saturday, April 03, 2004
americanos on a gray day
we are definitely in that "april showers brings may flowers" portion of the calendar program here in bklyn.
thus on yet another gray day, i'm nursing along delicious americanos from counterculture's espresso toscano.
and into this goes those multi-nut mini-biscotti from yesterday. . . meanwhile i'm listening to night silence desert; for some reason track 5, called baroun or "rain," seems appropriate today!
"the pearl drops of your love are concealed within my weeping heart," mohammed shajarian passionately cries. this is a poem by contemporary author ali mo'allem, who seems widely recorded, but of whom info in english is hard to find. . .
but of course my fellow coffee lovers are not surprised, since anyone the least familiar with the history of our favorite and most romantic beverage understands that coffee and sufism (what us open-minded headstand pals would recognize as an intense bhakti yoga) have a long mutual and frankincense-scented history!
and in this moment, naturally the beloved googlebot sends us info on yet another study examining the beneficial anti-oxidants coffee offers us.
here at bccy we often wonder what the googlebot looks like. i personally imagine it as rather r2d2-ish: cute, friendly, and really smart. if linus van pelt were an android. . .
but back to the study. it's great to see these supplemental findings that move the discourse forward. but of course the basic news isn't surprising to long-time bccy readers, as we are all fans of the square-dancing coffee chemist himself, the amazing dr. joe vinson!
Friday, April 02, 2004
a charitable moment
i'm sitting here sampling biscotti for the upcoming zen coffee meditation at the scaa conference in atlanta april 23-26 when what comes across my desk but a really cool idea: a recipe collection to benefit the hungry.
mmm, these hazelnut, almond, walnut and pignoli mini-biscotti seem like winners! will you all mind if there aren't any chocolate biscotti at the conference's consumer events?
but as for the recipe collection. . .as second harvest's stephany wrote me:
"recipe sharing and collection are an important part of this year's national hunger awareness day theme of one big table, not only because they are one way to build awareness in a community that already appreciates cooking and good food, but because submitted recipes will be considered for inclusion in a forthcoming cookbook by molly o'neill, former new york times food writer, to benefit the charity america's second harvest.
america's second harvest will collect recipes in two ways: through an online recipe submission form that will be posted live on april 15, 2004, and through benefit potluck dinners that people host at their homes to raise funds. we have provided kitschy-looking potluck kits for your perusal, and as a way to inspire community gathering around regional and neighborhood cooking practices. a recipe card is part of our potluck kit, and enables the potluck host(s) and each guest to provide the recipe for the dish they've brought to share, or of another preferred dish.
submitted recipes, gathered through our site and print potluck recipe cards, will then be considered for inclusion in molly o'neill's cookbook, to benefit america's second harvest."
i know many bccy readers run their own food blogs or regularly read other people's food blogs. so you all should go to town: host a potluck dinner and offer up your favorite recipes.
Thursday, April 01, 2004
so i had the great privilege last night of attending clay gordon's dinner highlighting artisan chocolatiers. i ordered the duck, thank you very much, with cherry-chocolate sauce. no, it wasn't sweet.
this sold-out and highly successful event also featured don schoenholt's gillies coffee. he created a special blend for the dinner, nicknamed chocolate finish.
it seemed very popular. at least the lovely and charming woman from chocolatier loved it.
but i know you wanna hear about the chocolate artists, right? my long-time chocolate hero and world pastry champion-type patrick coston was there; as was richard m.; joan; john; and fritz.
alas not all the chocolate-makers participating could be present. lemme just give ya the list here:
- fran's chocolate -- smoked gray sea-salt caramel in milk chocolate shell. to my mind, this piece, while interesting, wasn't anywhere in the same league as the rest of the pieces. forgive me.
- andrew schotts/garrison -- mango/passion paté de fruit palet. very interesting piece but too sweet.
- fritz -- a lovely dark chocolate molded playing card dusted with edible copper and a white cardamom soft white chocolate cream center. a beautiful beautiful piece.
- patrick -- dark chocolate and milk hand-brushed marbled square with crunchy hazelnut praline and hazelnut ganache. the best piece of the dinner. the show-stealer. the real deal.
- joan -- dark chocolate grapefruit and caramel palet with a gilded top. don't be surprised. the unusual grapefruit flavor in this piece worked really, really well. one of the top pieces there.
- richard m. -- a beautiful rough, hand-formed truffe nature port-infused 72% ganache truffle rolled in ground roasted crystallized cinnamon almonds. another top piece. perhaps the purest expression of classic french style there. simple. exquisite.
- kee ling tong -- dark chocolate bon-bon filled with crème brulée. imagine a chocolate-covered flan.
- john -- white chocolate, champagne, black pepper, fresh goat cheese truffle with roasted herbs, enrobed in dark chocolate. the most adventurous piece there, a play from jean-paul hévin's notebook.
Wednesday, March 31, 2004
yet another interesting development in the coffee crisis
"panama specialty coffee growers tuesday warned that a boom in highland real estate sales to foreign retirees threatens to dent the central american nation's future gourmet coffee exports."
what we're discussing here is the future of one of the most beloved specialty coffee origins, the famed panama boquete. it's generally a soft, round, fruity coffee with a light body and very pleasing brightness.
but with the world-price depression known as the coffee crisis fully into its fourth year, is anyone surprised that farmers facing bankruptcy do the economically rational thing? that is, to sell their beautiful coffee farms to wealthy foreign retirees as vacation homes.
i mean, it's either do that or switch to growing illegal drugs. the boquete landscape is truly lovely and many of the farms feature charming colonial-style ranch buildings. who wouldn't want to live there?
the article explains that boquete coffee production could be reduced by as much as 20% in the near term. it sounds drastic, but actually that could be a good thing: maybe then those remaining farmers who devote themselves to producing quality coffee will get a decent return!
and let me take a moment to congratulate bccy pal kimberly easson of transfair. fair-trade coffee sales are reported to be up in a big big way!
Tuesday, March 30, 2004
fig leaf anyone?
that global coffee giant sara lee -- one of the so-called "big four" multinational coffee roasters responsible for that stuff in the supermarket cans -- has agreed to begin using a little sustainable coffee is a good step.
but as the article makes clear, it's purely a public relations move. still, when i was at the scaa committee meetings last year in atlanta, i did have the privilege to meet one of the utz kapeh people, who i believe is good friends with well-known greenie, surfing champion, and scaa big-wig c. wolthers.
(note to self: notice how many scaa people surf. is surfing the specialty coffee equivalent of golf? are all the serious specialty deals made on the banzai pipeline? must check this out. . .)
what's unclear to me is what "sustainable" actually means to sara lee: it may not mean a living wage for coffee farmers, it probably doesn't mean bird-friendly or pro-songbird, pro-rainforest, and it probably doesn't mean organic.
like "natural," or putting "low-fat" on bottles of high-sugar, sickeningly sweet soft drinks, "sustainable" probably means nothing meaningful for sara lee. true, the coffee is certified by utz kapeh, and they stand for something.
but in what amounts will they be using it? what is their timetable to expand & increase their use of certified sustainable specialty coffee? these are the hard questions. and i'll bet we consumers will never get a good answer to them. . .
we consumers should demand better quality, better tasting coffee, we should demand cross-certified coffee -- coffee that is sustainable, organic, pro-songbird, living-wage coffee all of it -- and we should be willing to pay a fraction more for it.
by fraction, i mean fraction. we're talking maybe a mere US$0.50 out of what is generally a US$10-per-pound specialty coffee.
what's interesting is that the theme of this years scaa's conference is in fact sustainability. it's just under a month away now.
if you haven't registered to come join us for the scaa coffee lovers' consumer-member track -- a full weekend of workshops, events, and fun socializing -- there's still plenty of time. i'll be seeing you all there i hope!
wouldn't it be fantastic to pull espresso together? i'll make a shot for you if you'll make one for me!
Monday, March 29, 2004
regional coffee culture, part xxiii
"finding a decent roasted and ground cappuccino or espresso in thailand used to be a challenge. itís a different story today for coffee lovers, with a variety of delicious coffee blends available at trendy coffee bars that have sprung up in major cities."
once again i pretentiously quote myself: one world under specialty coffee's passionate sway. tea: what's that?
in yoga news today: what's interesting is that i have been reading gary kraftsow's book on this very topic: how yoga can help battle depression.
and also on this note i had the great, great privilege today to hear from erich schiffmann, the american yoga teacher i most respect. every word from him just carries the most lovely aura of calm. . . and his book remains a classic.
i highly recommend this book to everyone. if it's been a couple of years since you last thumbed thru your copy, pop it open and re-read the "listening" section. or just browse it here on erich's site!
Sunday, March 28, 2004
regional coffee culture, part xxii cont'd or divine nimbus
re: yesterday, i get an email with this link to an article about the "coffee guys" that explains more about who they are, and how they form a core social nucleus in their little rural town.
somebody (hint, hint) ought to send these guys some specialty coffee. because let's face it, they are another branch of the scaa consumer member audience.
i dream of a day when i could win the lottery and fly some of these lovely coffee fans to an scaa conference. because coffee is truly central to their life; yet they have still not come to the awareness of what our favorite passionate beverage actually means to them.
i would love to be there for the moment they realize the larger coffee picture. that would be incredible.
the last two days here in new york have been flat-out may, early summer, just amazing weather. i was wandering up university st. in manhattan from my hairdresser yesterday looking at all the life and variety that hits union square on a beautiful saturday afternoon.
some days new york is unbearably attractive; everyone is unspeakably beautiful; and the light permeates all things. yesterday in union square was one of those days.
i wandered into universal news in search of a copy of namarupa to buy as a gift for a fellow yogi, but alas couldn't find one. i never have the coffee there -- it's undrinkable, which is a shame -- but again i just basked in the purest walt whitman moment of delighting in humanity.
and what was humanity doing, everywhere i went? drinking coffee! the students in union square carried their vanilla venti lattes from the mermaid. the artists and bohemians in universal news drank theirs in thick white cups as they held tenaciously onto their retro po-mo table space.
does whitman ever mention coffee? happiness and raspberries, indeed! (an interesting aside: you realize don't you that in that time period and at that location, he very probably could have been drinking don schoenholt's gillies coffee?)
the very electricity he felt around every human being is only intensified by it. . . .(ok i know that's not the link you were expecting! here's the one you thought i meant. . .)