Wednesday, February 20, 2008


I have been using the expression “bee in my bonnet” a lot lately. It is really a description of how I have been finding and pursuing foods. I blame the internet.
Whenever I get a particular ‘trigger’ I have a brief flurry of intense research (actually just a simple google search), obsessively pursue a new or forgotten food until I have scratched the itch. Then I move on to the next thing. I am constantly a dabbler:

Jay Caragay’s blog triggered a quest for cane sugar cola. I am counting down to Passover when I can try the yellow cap (Kosher) coke. His quest to replicate the Charlie Trotter 65C egg he ate rekindled my interest in precise temperature egg-cooking. I just use a big pot of water,a thermometer and the lowest simmer flame to maintain the water at 65C for 30 minutes. Served over fried corned beef hash- excellent!

Danielle Glasky’s blog and pictures of her trip to Japan triggered me to go back and watch Tampopo again, which caused me to go out and find a good bowl of ramen. There are several Japanese places within walking distance from my office, but most of the menus didn’t feature ramen. A quick web search found, which brought me to the food court in Macy’s. Noodles by Takeshi featured a shoyu ramen with a tasty broth, really good noodles, shinachiku root and a nice piece of fatty pork.
See you soon

Doug Zell’s blog triggered a quest for pastrami. Actually that was a trifecta: Doug blogged about Langers in LA, Tonx posted an incredible picture , and the show “Modern Marvels” had some footage of pastrami production for the Carnegie Deli. I didn’t have to research to find where to get a good pastrami sandwich. Steve Dahl(on the radio mornings on 104.3 WJMK) has been the source of many excellent food recommendations over the 25+ years I have been a listener. He rated the pastrami at Eleven City Diner as the best he’s ever had. That place is just a couple blocks from my office so I went there last Friday and had the best pastrami sandwich I’ve ever had. I have been meaning to try making my own since I saw the Good Eats episode about corned beef. I decided my first attempt will start with a packaged corned beef brisket (Sam’s club). I soaked it in 2 changes of cold water to try and draw out some salt, coated with a pepper, coriander and garlic rub and cooked it in a low oven. When the weather gets a bit better I will try with actual smoking, but I just couldn’t bear to do anything outside last night.
semi-homemade pastrami
I warmed some up for lunch today- it was quite good. Most pastrami you can buy at supermarkets is pretty lean, I enjoy having more fat for the flavor!

So at the moment I am pretty satisfied. If anyone wants to try and trigger another craving, I'm open to suggestions!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

This past Saturday (Groundhog Day, 2/2/08) I had the chance to attend an excellent event. Though I never heard an official name it was referred to as the Coffeegeek event at Intelligentsia. Steve gave a great write-up of what happened in his blog. It was really cool to see the roaster demonstration. I had visited a large commercial roasting works a while ago, and there was a stark contrast seeing the hands-on operation of a specialty roaster.

I also enjoyed the moment when Scott (rasqual) realized he was standing on the obviously grossly mis-calibrated bean scale. :)

Listening to Geoff Watts talk is always so cool. His knowledge and passion are inspiring. I have already made the suggestion to the guys, but I will state it again here: A guest podcast of Geoff and Peter G would be really interesting to listen to.

Intelligentsia Coffeegeekfest 2/2/08
The cupping was a really good experience. The logistics of such a thing are pretty intimidating, trying to get a group of mostly newbies to go through the process, break 90 crusts and work on their taste perceptions had to be really tough.
I was having a hard time pulling scent descriptors out of the air, but once it came to slurping I was happy I had some of the same taste ideas as Geoff mentioned (the outstanding sweetness of the Planada, the cherry in the Zirikana), even if I was too chicken to speak up about them.

It made me realize that I have been rather low-brow in my taste experience- when I taste cherry my mind goes to a pop tart or some such processed item. When someone mentioned “stonefruit” I thought it must be a specific fruit I have not experienced, rather than the category of peaches, etc. It is an intimidating thing to cup with experienced tasters, even though they did everything possible to make everyone feel comfortable. At least I looked like I was working hard at it!

Originally uploaded by Intelligentsia Coffee.

(nice double chin mike)

The ‘jam’ portion was excellent. I am forever grateful to Steve for encouraging me to try out the GB5.

Originally uploaded by Intelligentsia Coffee.

(I'm behind Jim Schulman in this picture, doing a really bad job of pulling a shot.)
Also, when Doug Zell was doing some tidying on the machine he grabbed a portafilter. Like any self-respecting pain-in-the-butt guest, I asked if he would pull me a shot. He graciously complied, and though he felt it was a little tight, it was quite good. How many times do you get the opprtunity to get a shot pulled by DZ?!

The comparative brewing was very interesting, having the same coffee brewed 4 different ways. I think I liked the cup from the technivorm the most, but my chemex (real or improvised) works well for my office coffee needs.

The latte art throwdown was fun to watch. I thought the ‘geeks had a respectible showing, Bryan’s was impressive, and Steve had one of the best pours I saw from someone who does not currently work as a barista. Coffeegeeks are too polite for a down and dirty throwdown- we as a community need to work on our smack-talking!