Saturday, April 10, 2004
the tap tap tapping of little hooves
after 1 genuine spring-like day, i returned home from work yesterday to discover a pound of fresh dancing goats on the counter.
i went to sleep blissfully dreaming of rainbow dances and happy coffee. it's been awhile since i've had some of this blend around, and i was surprised to discover how much i'd really missed it.
not only is it probably the most generally popular of all the espresso blends i usually serve, it makes a great americano with a touch of splenda and light cream.
like the gillies deluxe dark 2, dancing goats is just an emotional favorite.
another interesting tidbit came my way yesterday as well: news of the incredible hipitude in toronto. normally, i wouldn't think new yorkers would travel to toronto for cool.
but apparently a couple have taken to occasionally -- or at least once -- running up there to hang with the jivamukti-style yoga with live dj music at sage yoga studio.
(note to my dwelling-on-a-small-island-off-the-coast-of-the-united-states self: how do you get to toronto? where actually is toronto?
somewhere north of 116th st., right? this means a train must somehow be involved. . . )
but seriously, these dj nights are apparently one of the biggest happening scenes in the yoga world right now. canadian yogis, check it out.
Friday, April 09, 2004
yoga teacher "upside down" carl horowitz is giving a multi-dimensional workshop at the breathing project sat., apr. 17th. focusing on asana, pranayama, sound (nada), and meditation as a "seamless process," this afternoon event just seems quite cool.
that aside, it's entirely time to prepare for the major chocolate holiday, easter! several people have written me to ask what last-minute chocolate gifts they can make.
i highly recommend a classic french silk chocolate cake, a batch of truffles, or for those still in thinking in passover mode, the adventurous flourless chocolate cake. . .
Thursday, April 08, 2004
as usual, you couldn't make this stuff up
"babies born to women who ate chocolate daily smiled and laughed more," reports a study from finland. so, moms-to-be, or those who'd like to be, eat your chocolate.
you're only doing the future child a favor, since a happy and positive attitude gets a person far in life nowadays. over 300 women took part in this study!
and we here at bccy must completely disagree with the minnesota daily on what makes a great coffee shop. the author's list doesn't mention coffee quality, coffee freshness, or proper drink preparation. she mistakenly believes that a fantastic coffee place can float on atmosphere alone.
she's been watching too many episodes of "friends," i'm afraid. while atmosphere is important in the success of a shop -- there is a kind of fun coffee bar that does feel like an extension of one of your best pal's living rooms -- the bottom line has to be quality coffee beverage service.
otherwise the shop's in serious danger -- from the mermaid. any experienced coffeeshop owner or roaster/retailer can tell you how the mermaid has squashed untold numbers of local independent shops that had plenty of great atmosphere and cheaper but bad java by simply guaranteeing a reliable and relatively high standard of (guess what?) coffee.
no one goes to starbucks for the murals. . .no one.
Wednesday, April 07, 2004
people you need to know about
it's a people day here at bccy. some will be known to long-time readers; another will be new.
well-known bccy yoga faves j. brown, "the punk yogi" and alma "mad dog" largey are both teaching now at the new hell's kitchen studio, levitate. i know a lot of readers want to take classes with them; now you have more options!
i haven't yet been to the studio myself; i plan on trying it out this weekend.
from oz coffee guy and renowned alt.coffee pro alan frew, there's news of the barista championship in china. just think about that for a moment: china.
let me once again pretentiously quote myself: one world under specialty coffee's passionate sway.
tea: what's that? even the chinese are huge into espresso now!
but the person to know about here is passionate coffee lover and championship judge terry to, whose site features pix of the competition. the winner will go to the worlds.
everyone knows the only thing i love more than coffee are people who love coffee. so let me introduce you to terry, a coffee lover we all need to know more about.
for example, in his tiny, tiny hong kong apartment he somehow has found room for a small commercial coffee roaster and a commercial espresso machine! that's a bccy kinda guy.
he's apparently well-known in china and down under. i think it's about time he makes his north american debut. . .
Tuesday, April 06, 2004
out of espresso!
it's true. i realized it this morning: i have no espresso of any kind in my house. must remember to find fresh whole-bean espresso by friday afternoon. . .
in other news, bccy pal, freelance writer, yoga teacher, and all-around-beautiful-girl julia campbell is teaching a special workshop starting april 17 at yoga people in bklyn.
it focuses on a yoga practice aimed at conquering the stress-related and emotional eating patterns so many people suffer from. if you are troubled by this common situation, check these classes out!
and here's an article about long-time bccy hero, the wacky and wonderful max orsini of caffé orsini. i just love max; he's such a character. it's a shame the economy did his old roasterie in.
thus i wish the new caffé botanica tons of success. the idea of adding chinese medicine and other herbs to coffee sounds odd i know; but when max started this gig he told me it was after watching his alternative-type customers in eugene, ore. adding all their extracts to their coffee after ordering. . . .
Monday, April 05, 2004
paging the soul of robert nelson, part ii
"the united states is not against improving [coffee] quality, but they want it to be more flexible and to be enforced on a voluntary basis."
so diplomatically explains i.c.o. chief nestor osorio. long-time bccy readers know that this whole issue of the u.s.a. rejoining the i.c.o. and improving coffee quality has been one of my little pet gigs for quite some time. . .
but let's be honest here. "the united states" doesn't have any position on this at all. the position of this administration is completely derived from the lobbying of the so-called "big four" multi-national coffee roasters: sara lee, kraft, nestle, p&g.
these are responsible for stuffing robusta and low-grade, no-quality trash java, or what should be called only "coffee-by-products," into the mostly undrinkable stuff you see on the supermarket shelves.
long-time readers may recall my famous grade 8 coffee pic. that black nasty stuff on the right is what the big four are shoving off on consumers right now! and it has to stop!
the nicer stuff on the left is the minimum of what the law should allow, not that that's such great quality either, actually. part of re-joining the i.c.o. means adopting new quality standards that would require such really junk joe to be labeled mere "coffee-by-products."
and who does the big four's lobbying? the national coffee association, headed by that dapper silver beelzebub in a handmade suit, robert nelson. i've paged his soul before, but apparently i wasn't able to interrupt his golf game. . .his bespoke loafers hide his hooves too well!
it's robert nelson who has largely gone before congress -- all oil, cash, and smiles -- to say that of course to help alleviate the world-price depression known as the coffee crisis the u.s.a. should re-join the i.c.o.
but naturally we should be able to do it in such a manner as to maximize the profits of the big four, right? which means no serious improvement in quality rules, only "voluntary, flexible" suggested guidelines.
which means the big four intends to sell you, the average coffee lover, more junk for ever higher prices in the future.
since i'm not in the coffee industry, i don't have to make nice to the sellers of this trash coffee like nestor does today.
which is why i urge consumers to continue to monitor the i.c.o. situation, as well as educate themselves about the coffee crisis. joining the scaa's consumer membership program to enjoy all its fun benefits is a logical next step, too. (that's a way to make a difference and have a good time as well!)
and finally, to drink more specialty coffee, the delicious high-quality coffee that you find at the mermaid, independent local coffee shops, and your local neighborhood coffee roaster or retail bean store.
as for the stuff you buy in cans at the supermarket? fuggedaboudit! as we say in bklyn. . .as for you, robert, i'm singing my heart out to your soul once again.
if you want to promote and increase coffee consumption, as i know you do, you won't be able to do it peddling low-quality garbage. and refusing to take a stand that will actually help the struggling coffee farmers and workers is truly a mistake.
i'm begging you, big guy: have a change of heart. support re-joining the i.c.o. in full, including the adoption of the proposed quality rules. oh, and tell your clients if only for p.r. purposes to start giving a hoot about the crisis.
this means more than token usages of sustainable or fair-trade coffee, thank you very much.
Sunday, April 04, 2004
death to pizza dough
long-time bccy readers know that every sunday here is pizza day. i make my dough according to a "baker's percentage," that is with strict %s of flour, water, salt, yeast, etc. i do it all by weight for accuracy and consistency.
except of course when nature conspires otherwise. today began with actual sunshine, a rarity this week.
and it was so warm i opened my kitchen windows that look out over the water to catch a spring breeze. . . only half-way into kneading the dough did the huge rain clouds roll in off new york harbor.
ouch! the humidity level in the air changed dramatically as the downpour suddenly broke. and my dough just drank it all in. in the course of maybe 2 minutes my pizza turned into a sticky mass.
i rushed to slam the window shut, nearly decapitating the cat, who loves to drowse inside the window frame where he can catch a closer view of the pigeons strutting along the fire escape.
but here's the connundrum: if i add more flour, the recipe is off, and the dough might not perform correctly in the roll-out. what to do?
a common trick here is to increase the kneading speed on the kitchen-aide stand mixer a notch or two to boost the gluten creation and absorb the extra water.
this can be a good trick, as it can also make the pizza crust chewier, usually a good thing. however, i use about 50% first clear flour in my recipe for its high ash (mineral) content, which gives the crust extra flavor.
first clear is pretty chewy stuff in its own right. it's the flour usually used to make bagels and jewish rye bread. to bump up the kneading might give me an all-out rubbery crust
my solution: close the window, finish the kneading normally, cover the dough with plastic wrap and just let it sit for 25 mins.
this allows the dough to naturally form more supple gluten links and slowly absorb the water. then the dough can be dusted with extra flour after division and before it's set to rise.
some of this extra-thick flour dusting will be absorbed by the dough during the rise and of course helps keep the dough from sticking to the half-sheet pan.
now it's easy to understand why artisan bread culture flourishs in the bay area, seattle, and france. in those places, the weather and humidity are very stable.
bakers don't usually face drastic changes mid-knead -- the fog after all rolls in and out like clockwork in beautiful san francisco. . .