Espresso or Americano. I’m not sure which but coffee played an important part in the creation of some of the songs by one of the greatest bands of all times, the Beatles. The Challen upright piano used by the BBC and other broadcasting studios was also used in the late 1960’s by The Fab Four to record Paperback Writer, Tomorrow Never Knows and Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da at Abbey Road. You can only imagine John Lennon leaning against the coffee stained, cigarette burned Challen with George, Ringo in the background and Paul McCartney at the keys playing
If you really like it you can have the rights,
It could make a million for you overnight.
If you must return it, you can send it here
But I need a break and I want to be a paperback writer,
The piano was bought by the studio in 1964 and was used for 20 years by many other bands including Pink Floyd. Said to originally cost less than $400.00, it was retired in 1980. The piano was scheduled to be sold at auction last year for an estimated value of $255,000 by Bonhams in London but the lot had been withdrawn.
Not a bottle of my favorite beer but a tall cold glass of my favorite coffee. I’m not referring to hot coffee iced down or a Starbucks Frappuccino but coffee brewed without heat. Now this may seem counter-intuitive as bringing the beans in contact with boiling water was once thought to be the only method for extracting the true flavors of coffee. But according to the Internet Food Association, cold brewed coffee is much more flavorful than hot brewed with no acid or bitterness and less caffeine. This will make a lot of people happy because for some, caffeine and the tannic tendency of coffee can be a problem. Also, this method of making coffee appeals to the tree-hugger in us because cold brewed coffee requires no heat, no plug and can be brewed in a mason jar.
Cold brewing techniques vary but all begin with a coffee concentrate or extract you can prepare yourself or buy. Or you can use the tried and true Toddy system. Developed in the 1960’s by Todd Simpson, a chemical engineer who first encountered coffee extracts in Latin America, the Toddy system has a devoted following with Toddy cafes throughout the US . This site has a particularly good overview of the system by a loyal fan including his preferred choice of beans and water source!
So the next time you’ve got a hankering for a tall cold one look for the sign at your nearest internet café – Cold Brewed Iced Coffee Served Here.
Working under pressure? Doctor, lawyer, Indian chef, head of tribe at home or office, the pressures of life getting you down? If you think you’ve got pressure take a moment to think about the life of a barista, now that’s a job with a lot of pressure, 8-10 bars to be exact. That’s how much steam pressure is needed to pull the perfect shot of espresso. 9 bars, the typical accepted pressure for brewing espresso translates into 8.8 atmospheres of pressure or 130 pounds per square inch. The barista must control that pressure to extract the rich and subtle flavors from the coffee beans to yield an exceptional cup of coffee. It takes skill, finesse and calibration to make a good espresso. The right grind, filling, tamping and fixing the portafilter in the brew basket, the texture of the milk, the quality of the crema, underextracting, overextracting and all the while the pressure is building.
So let’s all STOP complaining about our lives and RELAX. We can learn a lot from our friendly neighborhood barista. We just need to let off some steam and use that pressure to our advantage and in the end we too may learn how to pull that perfect shot of life.
In February I wrote about wine and coffee. I’m intrigued when you take two seemingly disparate things that when taken alone are good but when combined together become better. Like yin and yang, Sonny and Cher and tea and sympathy. So when I read about a wine that tastes like coffee, I took note and sure enough it was a Jack Johnson better together moment.
Since then I found another wine, a 2008 Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley thought enough of to be given 90 points by the Wine Spectator and considered to be a Smart Buy by the Pinot Report. Produced by California wine maker Jim McMahon of Athair Winery, it has been described as “rich, extracted, full-bodied . . . exhibiting lots of complex plum, dark berry, mineral and cedar notes, with hints of herb in the mix ending with a nutmeg–espresso edge”. Pour me a cup, oops no I mean a glass.
Most coffee aficionados agree that the best coffees in the world are grown mainly on mountainsides between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. Here the climate, altitude and soil combine to create the optimum environment for the beans to grow and thrive. These are coffees of substance and quality with attributes that rival a fine wine. Complex with a superb finish and a sensory memory that lingers, they are the among the most esteemed coffees in the world. It’s no wonder coffees born within this latitude have an attitude, some commanding retail prices well over $100.00 a pound.
Who are these fashionistas of the coffee world? According to Forbes.com they include the citrus honey flavored Hacienda la Esmeralda Geisha from Panama, Fazenda Santa Ines from Brazil and a coffee made from coffee cherries that have been eaten by the common palm civet, a small cat-like carnivore that lives in Southeast Asia. The outer pulp of the fruit is digested and the coffee beans are supposedly excreted unscathed. Said to be sweeter as a result, the beans pass onto the jungle floor where they are hand collected, processed and roasted to make kopi luwak (civet coffee), reputedly the best of all coffees because the palm civets “pluck and eat only the most perfectly ripe cherries”. I think this might just qualify for Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods vending machine.
What town in Italy is known for a bridge, a spring time vegetable and fragrant liquor that is part of its name but is not the reason for it? The answer – Bassano del Grappa, an hour’s drive southeast of Venice. Let me explain.
First the vegetable.
In April and May visitors from across Italy come to the Northern Italian river town of Bassano del Grappa to sample the delicate white asparagus. Grown entirely underground, it has been described by Lidia Bastianich as the “epitome of seasonal food”. Delicate and unique, sweet and slightly bitter, it has a cult following that draws food enthusiasts to feste and weekend festivals throughout the season.
Next the bridge.
The historical center of Bassano del Grappa is split in half by the Brenta River. A covered wooden bridge, designed in 1569 by the famous Italian architect Andrea Palladio was rebuilt at the end of WWII by Italy’s special mountain soldiers (degli Alpini) and renamed Ponte degli Alpini, the Bridge of the Alpini, in honor of their fallen comrades. The piviotal role of the bridge in the military history of the region is long standing. Our grandfather crossed this bridge, during WWI as a young interpreter with the Italian Army.
And finally the fragrant liquor.
Although many people think that Bassano del Grappa is named after what is considered to be Italy’s strongest spirit, the town gets its name from nearby Monte Grappa (grappa means crag in ancient pre-Latin). There is a world-famous grapperia in Bassano, Grapperia Nardini. Founded in 1779, it is considered to produce one of the most exquisite grappas in Italy.
Italian internet retailer YOOX Group is the uber overstock of niche fashion brands from Italy and elsewhere. E-commerce meets designer clothing and accessories in a virtual stock house of leading fashion and design brands from all over the world – just clicca qui.
Each month creative director Alberto Biagetti and world renowned designer Alessandro Guerriero translate the spirit of YOOX.COM into a “virtual outfit” for the YOOXCOVER. These imaginative designs “investigate the union between man and technology” in a virtual world where there are no borders between fashion, art, design and architecture. Technology facilitates fashion and the human body becomes an architectural form to house the design. In fact, the name, YOOX, is said to be a combination of the male (Y) and female (X) chromosome letters linked by OO, the symbol of infinity or “the ‘zero’ from the binary code, the fundamental language of the digital age.
In 2008 YOOX celebrated its 8th anniversary with 100 covers that have been the “hallmark” of its home page. Clicca qui to see the art of dressing by YOOX.
Friday’s wedding of the century may turn out to be the end of a century of less than inspiring British fashion. With a short lived blip on the fashion radar during Diana’s reign and the Twiggyesque period of the 60’s, the London fashion scene has again been heating up with the engagement and Royal Wedding of Will and Kate. Kate’s gown alone has caused London’s fashion stock to dramatically rise. The wedding gown designed by Sarah Burton, head designer for Alexander McQueen, was nothing short of inspirational. Drawing on tradition and modernity with an artistic vision for British style and craftsmanship, the gown was a herald of what is to come in the fashion world.
Alexander McQueen has always been threatening the catwalks of Milan and his untimely death last year at the age of 40 was deeply felt by the industry. The brand continues most assuredly to carry the banner for British Isle style under McQueen’s former assistant now creative director, Sarah Burton. Opening tomorrow at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC is what has been described as a “powerful and moving retrospective” of McQueen’s work entitled Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty. It emphasizes the power, glory and majesty of fashion. It will send Italian fashionistas back to the drawing board looking for that Italian sense of sprezzatura to once again make the difficult and flawless task of Italian design appear to be without effort or thought, convincingly exquisite.
In April and May visitors from across Italy come to the Northern Italian river town of Bassano del Grappa to sample the delicate white asparagus of the Veneto.
It is the IT seasonal vegetable of Italy this time of the year. Grown entirely underground, this goddess of the underworld is so precious and legendary that it has been granted PDO status by the Italian government. Described by Lidia Bastianich as the “epitome of seasonal food” it is so unique that when marketed the bundles of asparagus are tied with a willow string, banded and marked with the name and surname of the producer and the locality where it was produced.
Delicate and unique, sweet and slightly bitter, it has a cult following that draws food enthusiasts to feste and weekend festivals throughout the season. Local restaurateurs vie for the most imaginative use of Bassano’s “white gold” with newly created dishes showcased on their spring menus. Typically served ovi e sparasi, with soft-boiled eggs and a dipping sauce of extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper or asparagi alla parmigiana (blanched asparagus topped with melted butter and grated parmigiano) they are best served simply and simply taste deliziosi!
Tagliatelle all’uovo with White Asparagus
8.8 oz of tagliatelle all’uovo pasta
1 small bunch of white asparagus
2 T of unsalted butter
1 finely chopped hard-boiled egg
Coarse ground salt and black pepper
Boil the asparagus (previously washed and cleaned) into a pot full of salted water. Do not overcook. Drain. Cut their ends into many thin pieces, retain the tops to measure approximately 1 cup. Melt butter in a skillet, add the chopped asparagus and their tops. Add salt and pepper. Lightly saute. Cook the pasta retaining some of the boiled water if needed to loosen the sauce. Combine drained pasta with the asparagus sauce. Add finely chopped hard-boiled egg on top. Serve immediately.