Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Embracing Narcissism - An Interview

I read about this interview meme on Marce's wonderful food blog, Pip in The City and, like Marce, I am not the type to shy away from an opportunity to talk about myself. Though I have always thought of myself as shy, it is time for me to come to terms with the fact that having a blog that chronicles my life in food is not exactly something a modest individual would think to do. So here goes (deep breathe): I am embracing the narcissist within. Here are the five question that Marce composed specifically for me:

1. Have you always lived in NYC? What´s your favorite thing about the city? What´s the thing you hate the most about it?

I have lived in NYC all my life, though I have traveled a whole bunch - I lived upstate for an extended summer and hung out in Mexico for six months - I have always come back to the city.
It is as though I am constantly rediscovering the life, energy, and culture that intersect here every day. There is a complexity within this shared experience that cannot be defined and is not entirely good or bad and for some strange reason I find that comforting.

The upside to living here, is that I can have pan au chocolate from Patisserie Claude on West Forth Street for breakfast, Tamales filled with chicken and Mole Poblano for lunch in Sunset Park, Chicken Tikka Masala and naan for dinner in Queens, then Baklava from Damascus Bakery on Atlantic Avenue. Sure I’ll end up with heartburn, but it’s a small price to pay for love…of food. And of course international eating events are not the only thing I like about the diversity of the city; I like that out of most of the people I meet, I am the only one from here. Everyone is from somewhere else, a different state, a different country or continent, it makes interaction so much more interesting and challenging.
The down side of the City is the crowds of people. There are millions of people who live here, then add tourists, commuters, etc. At times it gets to be too much. If you want a strong sense of community you have to work hard to create it and to maintain it.

2. Which is your favorite restaurant and why?

Hands down it is, or rather was, The Grange Hall. Sadly the restaurant closed down in 2004 when they lost they’re least.
Here are some friends and I having a wonderful dinner at The Grange. I have a dozen or so pictures, with many of the same satisfied faces, all of them with us sitting around a table at the Grange.

I have never gotten over the tragedy. I wonder if I can put into words the deep affection I feel for the Grange Hall. The food was just my style, urban peasant with seasonal vegetables, homemade wild boar sausage, fresh raspberry dressing (I would eat this by the bowlful), hearty pancakes, and turkey clubs with thick slice bacon and hand cut home baked bread; it was basically American food at its finest. The art deco bar, cozy booths, and 30’s swing music, coupled with the eclectic and interesting wait staff also helped. Lets just say, brunch in NYC will never be the same.

3. What´s your fondest food-related memory?
I suppose I would have to say cooking with my mother as a child. My mom is master a baker, and when she would make cakes, cookies, and muffins, I was put in charge of the mixer. With her long brown hair tied back loosely in a bun and a splattered white apron she would instruct me, “okay Madeline, bring the round lever to the number 2.” Standing on a chair in order to reach the levers, I would diligently pull the lever and stair down at all the ingredients slowly merge into one confectionery mass. The procces was exciting and it made me feel incredibly important to be involved.

4. How do you think your friends would describe you?

Hum. Wonderfully gluttonous, magnificently obsessed, fantastically fanatical…

5. Besides ice cream, what is one thing you just couldn’t live without?

There are so many things I could say off the top of my head, yogurt, and chocolate are at the top of the list. When I give it some deeper thought however, there is only one thing that I consume day in and day out no matter what. If I were to go a day without it - the thought pains me - it would be an outrage in the highest and would probably entail loads whining, whimpering, and perhaps even a temper tantrum. I’m speaking of coffee of course, I don’t dream of one day owning a yogurt robot now do I?

If you would like to participate here's what to do:

1. Leave a comment saying, “Interview me.” or sent me and email at :gourmetpeasant@gmail.com
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. Please make sure I have your email address.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Sacred Mango Message

Spring is here and I cannot escape the sacred message the earth is broadcasting all around town: Eat Florida Mangoes
Everywhere I go there they are. Mangoes at the grocery store, mangoes piled high at the corner fruit stand, mangoes wildly strewn with over ripe bananas and a very sad looking apple in the subway magazine shop. Sure these are all normal places to run into a mango or twenty (minus the zine shop of course), but there is something about these mangoes that is not quit right. It is something heart-rending, agonizing, and almost tragic. I can feel them watching me anxiously while in the produce section and it’s beginning to freak me out! What do they want from me?

After fleeing the corner deli, they too had unhappy mangoes, I read an entry on Metrocurean entitled Seeking Indian Mangoes and it instantly made sense. Amanda reports that the first shipment of Indian Alphonso Mangoes to the US in twenty years has thrown foodies in a frenzied state. These mangoes are grown naturally on trees that are hundreds of years old, says Madhur Jaffrey author of the New York Times op-ed story on the subject. These treasures are famous for their creamy texture and powerful flavor. Jaffrey describes them as “Indian masterpieces that are burnished like jewels, oozing sweet, complex flavors acquired after two millenniums of painstaking grafting.” Well then, it’s no mystery why these Florida grown mangoes have fallen into a state of severe despondency.

If there is anyone who can understand serious feelings of inadequacy it is me, and so with a deep sense of agrarian duty, I walked out the door and headed straight for the grocery store. My mission: to cheer up the dejected Florida Mangoes by giving them back their pride and self-worth.

I stomped into the crowded store, “Do you have any FLORIDA grown mangoes?” I asked one of the employees. He pointed toward the back of the store, “ I’m not sure if they are from Florida,” he said with an awkward smile. “We’ll just have to see about that,” I said as I marched off. They were indeed Florida grown and so, after I examined them, I choose four and headed home.
The Internet provides endless instruction on how to delicately cut and cube a mango, but I have always preferred the messy and rustic way of devouring this tasty fruit. Starting off with a juicy mango is imperative. I like to approach mango selecting as I would choosing a partner; a complexion free of dark spots and blemishes is always a healthy sign, and a fresh and honey touched smell is clearly preferable to the rancidly over-ripe cologne of the more ‘mature’ contestants. In the end, it is the sense of touch that always helps me single out my main-squeeze. Skin as firm as a tightly stretched canvas yielding tenderly to the succulent flesh beneath, now that’s what seals the deal in my grocery cart.

Once I get the winner home and out of the bag, I remove the garments and it’s time to dig in.
Who needs utensils when you can hold the wet and slippery carcass with both hands and, like a polar bear with a fresh and wiggling catch, tear off chunks of sinewy pulp with your teeth and suck the juice from the flesh? Jaffrey, being slightly more refined than me, suggests tying a napkin around your neck before digging in, but not me. I prefer to go commando - without a napkin that is. It may sound crude and even crass, but I assure you it is quit sensual. If you don’t believe me that’s okay, eat your mango with a fork like a civilized adult if it makes you happy, only don’t forget to listen for the important message the earth might be trying to send you: eatfloridamangoeseatfloridamangoeseatfloridamangoes

For those of you who are a bit strange and don't like mangoes, yet still feel obliged to support these down-trodden Florida Mangoes, I have a solution. I have an ex-boyfriend who did not like mangoes - needless to say things did not work out between us - but despite this prevailing detail, he did always enjoy this recipe. Give it a try and tell me what you think.
Creamy Mango Dressing
1 - Florida Mango diced
The juice of 1 lime
Splash of heavy cream

Dash of Cayenne pepper
1.Place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and pure
until smooth
2. Chill for a least one hour before serving
3. Serve over watercress greens and sprinkle liberally with
strawberries and fresh mozzarella

Monday, May 21, 2007

Exercise, a Palatable Experience

Somehow, most of the events in my life end up being about food. If I visit an old friend, I want to cook them dinner, or they want to take me to a restaurant. If I am invited to the ballet, I immediately wonder where to have diner beforehand. When I go on a trip I always consider taking provisions, and birthday parties and holidays of any kind are inevitably centered around noshing. There is one activity however that I have always figured would have absolutely nothing to do with food and that’s exercise.
Because it stands to reason that during exercise there is little chance of having a culinary encounter - an therefore no chance of coming across material for the blog - I did not think to bring my camera along for Margeaux and my exercise session in the park yesterday. I could not have been more off the mark; as it turns out, along with every other thing in my life, even exercise can be about food.
After a heavy session of step jogging, squats, kicks, and crunches Margeaux and I exited the park straight into the middle of the the Fort Greene Farmer's Market. Having no where else to be, we decided to browse a bit and what do you suppose we stumbled upon but some farm-fresh and glowingly pink rhubarb.
"Three dollars a pound," a handsome fella told us with a smile. Margeaux turned to me, "what does rhubarb taste like?" she asked as though I were the authority on all thing food. "I'm not sure," I told her "I have only ever had it in Pie with Strawberry." The dashing young farmer snapped off two pieces from a stalk and gave it to us to try, not without warning, "its very bitter." We both took a bite and chewed cautiously. It had the stringy consistency of celery, but the puckery flavor lemon. I don't know if it was rosy cheeks of that young farmer boy, or the zesty flavor of the rhubarb, but Margeaux ordered a pound (which is acctualy quit a lot) , what she was do with it, I had no idea.

With our sweaty t-shirts and a satchel of rhubarb we decided that coffee was the next step, but instead got side tracked by a wine tasting at Thirst Wine Merchants that showcased three distinct Rosés. Margeaux liked the Domaine de la Courtade L'Alycastre, a light peach flecked rosé made from the Grenache and Mourvèdre grapes. Personally I preferred The Domaine deFontsainte Corbieres, a rosé bursting with the scent of ripe strawberries delicately brushed with fresh mint and almond.
With a slight buzz, and loaded down with three bottles, we headed to Smooch on Carlton for a much needed coffee. While waiting for our cappuccinos the owner (don't remember his name) curiously checked out our wine and rhubarb stash. "Coffee, wine, rhubarb, What more does a woman need?" he said with a frisky grin. " Chocolate," I replied pointedly. He, with out a moments hesitation, as though he had been diligently anticipating my response, ran out the front door and reappeared within moments holding in his hand a bar of Lavender flavored Degoba Chocolate.
I have no idea where he got the chocolate bar, but I must say, it was the perfect way to end a Saturday day workout. Now I ask you, what more does a girl need?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Grounds for Divorce

In 1475, Turkish Law made it legal for a woman to divorce her husband if he did not provide her with her daily quota of coffee.

I stumbled upon this as well as other interesting coffee facts while making an emergency coffee purchase this morning.
As you can see, the only coffee I had left in my freezer when I awoke was a very old bag of decaf. 'Why oh why have you forsaken me Coffee Robot?' I shouted out with as much theatrical fervor as I could muster before having had my morning dose. Frankly, it was my fault that I was out of coffee; if I were a Turkish husband in the 15th century, I would probably be facing divorce papers. Lucky for me an abundance of coffee was only a few clicks away. 15th Century Turkish husbands were not so lucky as to have access to Empire Coffee via the Internet. On their website they offer an array of services from the purchasing of their wonderfully roasted coffee beans and blends, coffee machines, and loose tease, instruction on how to buy and brew your coffee as well as the Cool and Savvy History of Coffee. Their bean selection is well rounded and the coffee descriptions crack me up. Here are a few of my picks:

Empire House Espresso Blend-
The blend for which they claim to be famous is part Mexican Italian Roast - described as "reckless but still legal in most states" - and part Brazilian French Roast.

Kona French Roast -
Described as the "Dorothy Lamour of coffee." I wasn't quite sure what they meant by this, and so I figured I would order the coffee, and rent a Dorothy Lamour film in order to find out.

Ethiopian Harrar American Roast-

"Luscious, syrupy, with Cabernet sort of notes." Something I would simply have to try.

Malawai Mapanga American Roast -

Reported to have a "come hither taste." Wouldn't this one be the Dorothy Lamour of coffee?

Having to drink stale decaf - pre-ground no less- for breakfast was an upsetting experience. However, I must say, being a 21st Century peasant I am awfully fortunate. Just think, I could be living during the The vizier Mahomet Kolpili's reign during which coffee was outlawed and offenders were sewn up in leather sacks and thrown into the river to drown.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Premium Chocolate my 4SS!

Looks like somebody's trying to cash in on the gourmet chocolate market.
I know these products have been around for a year or so, but up till now I have done a fairly good job of neglecting to acknowledge them. Well not anymore; everywhere I turn there is another low grade chocolate product claiming to be 'premium,' 'healthy,' and even 'gourmet.' Many of the small (real)gourmet and organic chocolate companies are being gobbled up by the larger. In the last two years Hershey Co. has purchased Sharffen Berger Chocolates, Dagoba Organic Chocolate, and Joseph Schmidt confections and in '05 Cadbury Schweppes company acquired its organic rival Green & Blacks.

Is this chocolate evolution or transgression? It is hard to say weather the expanding market is a blessing or a curse.

Here is some interesting reading on the subject:
Interview with Frederick Schilling of Dagoba
Dagoba Partners with Hershey
Healthy Hersheys

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Navigating Tepid Reviews on Citysearch

Two posts ago I urged all those who take pleasure in lengthy dining to head over to Brooklyn. I listed a few restaurants and feel that it is only fare that I follow up with a bit more detail. Because Aliseo Osteria del Borgo was the most recently visited I will start there.

A week ago I had the pleasure of taking a dear friend of mine, Kara, out for a wonderful meal to celebrate her birthday. If there is anyone that I know that deserves to be taken out to a wonderful meal it's Kara. She is an interesting dining partner having a reciprocal, non-pretentious love of food and wine, and more importantly, she is also one of my biggest heroes. You see, Kara is a special education teacher in the NYC public school system and has been courageously wrestling her way through her first year as a fellow. What that means is, with limited training, she has been thrown into the deep end of the pool and, though sometimes I’m sure she does not realize it, she has been doing a hell of a job negotiating the waters.

I chose Aliseo Osteria del Borgo because I had enjoyed a wonderful meal their back in January and found the compact dining room cozy and inviting, and the service thoughtful and unassuming. Imagine my surprise when I found mixed reviews for the restaurant on Citysearch. I don’t tend to go by reviews, especially when my own experience is contradictory, but I did start to wonder, was my incredible meal simply a figment of my imagination?

Kara and I decided to meet at the restaurant, “Just in case I’m early, what name is the reservation under?” Kara asked me conscientiously. It being 8:30pm on a Saturday night it was a reasonable question for her to ask, but I had done the foolish thing in figuring it would not be a problem.

When we arrived there was of course a wait for a table, but we were offered two seats at the bar, which we gratefully accepted. The bar seemed more like a prep area than an actual bar and Kara and I sat watching a spirited man, the owner Albano, slice prescuitto, cheese, and salami for some wonderful looking cheese and meat plates. After a few moments he turned his attention to the two of us giving us two glasses of wine and a plate of olives, cheese and salami. “I hope you like white” he said with a thick accent. “I trust you,” I replied. He turned to face Kara, “It is a silly woman who trusts a man she does not know,” he declared with a hearty giggle. My instincts were spot on however; the wine had a almost smokey bouquet, and the flavor, reminiscent of lychee fruit and pine nuts, stood amicably beside the pungent and almost melting flesh of the oil and dill soaked Gyeta Olives.

By the time we had finished our glasses of wine the table was ready and we waved goodbye to our new and trustworthy friend . At the table we ordered a bottle of the Montepucciano and perused the menu. There were so many things I wanted to try. I remember the cheese plate was a notable item from my last meal, and there was a superb rustically cut pasta dish served with thinly sliced zucchini, rosemary, and pine nuts that I have never been able to forget. But, I also wanted to try something new.

For appetizers Kara and I skipped the cheese plate (we could always have it for dessert later) and split the Insalada Tricolori and a Parsnip Flan served with a Basil and Mint Sauce and Presuitto.

The salad was served with olive oil and aged balsamic that was almost sticky and sweet like honey.
The flan was light in texture yet retained the earthy flavor of the parsnip. The Basil mint sauce added just the right amount of lift and the Presuitto, which I did not have to share with Kara because she is a vegetarian, added just the right amount of brine to the otherwise subtle dish.
We lingered over the appetizers for a while, sipping our wine and catching up, and when we finished the appetizers we were allowed some recovery time to regain our appetites.
For an entree Kara decided on the Rustically cut pasta, or rather maltagliati, ‘Badly cut,’ as my friends at Chowhound have informed me.
I decided on the linguine with smoked fish, freckled with rosemary and white beans.
Both entrees were good, but I have to say the 'badly' cut pasta dish stole my heart. Here is Kara the school teacher posing crazy-like with her food.
After we were finished with our food, we polished off the bottle of wine then took a look at the dessert menu. At this point of the meal I am always extra thankful to be dining with Kara. Where many dinner partners would shy away from dessert, Kara would never dream of it. For me, not having dessert after an elaborate meal is like skipping the last chapter of an engaging book. Our closing chapter was a grandiose one consisting of a Chocolate Tart and Gorgonzola and Walnuts drizzled with Honey. At the waitress’ suggestion, we had two glasses of the Muscato d’Asti, a lightly sparkling version of Muscat made from the Moscato Bianco grape.

The extremely rich Chocolate Tart was served inside a peasant like crust that sat atop a river of orange zested sauce. Though it was extremely rich, I was happy to find that neither the sauce nor the chocolate was overly sweet.
The Gorgonzola and Honey was a savory and sweet dream and, because the Muscato was the perfect match for both of these lavish desserts, we ordered another round.

One more glass of Montepucciano later, we asked for the bill and checked the time. It was 1am! Neither of us could believe it; we had been eating for four and a half hours. With a pleasant buzz accompanied by two full bellies, we thanked the staff and stumbled out into the gentle spring breeze. Having been received kindly, fed well, and not in the least bit rushed all night, I decided to do myself a favor and for now on to ignore the reviews on Citysearch.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Flowers in Willow

I am up visiting my mother yet again, and of coarse we are at it again with the ice cream. The flavors we will be attempting are Ginger infused Chai, and Fresh Apricot. Mind you that there was already a freezer full of ice cream when I arrived, Fresh Mint Chip, and Cherry Frozen Yogurt to name a few. I snapped some of these pictures during my afternoon run. I have to do some exercise in order to keep up with the challenges of Gourmet Math.

I like how the vine is straggling the street sign.
This is my favorite part of my run. The tall and gracefully arching trees that line the road coupled with the bubbling creek to the left always brighten my mood.

Stepping Off The Assembly Line

If you have ever eaten out in Manhattan at 8:30pm on a Saturday night, then you know what it is like to eat dinner on an assembly line. How does it work? The instant you are seated, you are approached for a drink order, one of the only perks of assembly line dinning as fare as I’m concerned. Once your drinks arrive, the waiter takes your appetizer and entrée orders and within moments you are chomping on bread and your appetizer arrive. This is where the dinning experience turns into a strategic chess match between you the dinner and the wait staff. As you slowly pick at your appetizer, the buss person, who appears desperately to want your plate, continuously approaches you. If you tell them you are still eating and continue talking with your companion you are almost immediately approached by another waiter, ‘finished with that?” they ask helpfully. Finally, after a few more encounters, you place your fork and knife on the plate in an act of surrender and it is whisked away and instantly replaced with your entrée. Having been badgered into gulping down your appetizer, you are now not hungry enough to tear through your entrée. As you leisurely nibble at your food, you become aware that someone is watching your every move. Well, it isn’t a stalker watching you, it’s the host who apparently had plans for your very table fifteen minutes ago.

At this point in the meal you have a decision to make, you can go against the grain as many Saturday night diners determined to have an unhurried meal do and state your intentions. “I’m actually going to take my time with the entrée” you tell the horrified waiter who, hopefully, will carry your message back to the anxious host, ‘table nine isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.’ At this point the host will relinquish the table and make other plans for their unseated and also anxious party of two. Your other choice would be to yield to the busy pace of the restaurant and be ushered hastily through the rest of your meal until finally your dessert and coffee are delivered simultaneously with the bill and you are just about pushed out the door.
Adam Roberts of The Amateur Gourmet writes of a similar experience he had at Babbo in his A Blind Date at Babbo entry, "Almost instantly our plates were whisked away and our entrees arrived. It was 6:15. We'd only been sitting for 45 minutes. We were extraordinarily rushed.” This may seem harsh, and even rude, but clearly it is standard Saturday night service.

Now, by no means am I attempting to criticize Manhattan restaurants for their aggressive tactics; being in the restaurant industry myself I find it hard to point the finger. The waiters, bus-people, and hosts are not all conspiring to ruin your meal, it is only that they are required to accommodate everyone else in the city who is also trying to have an unhurried dining experience between the hours of 8pm and 10pm. Managing the floor on a fully booked night and seating reservations can be a delicate dance. Restaurant hosts are set up from the start to fulfill the almost impossible task of making certain what is infinitely unpredictable. For many busy New Yorkers what I have here described constitutes good service, and a meal in which you are allowed to catch your breathe between courses and are permitted to linger over your meal would be considered inattentive. It is for this reason that I suggest a third solution to Saturday night dining dash, have dinner in Brooklyn. If you are the type of diner that does not want to rush through your meal, go out to dinner in Brooklyn. There are an endless number of wonderful restaurants to choose from, and the pace is just about guaranteed to be more relaxed and enjoyable. Here are just a few places to think about:

  • Aliseo Osteria del Borgo, the quaint Italian restaurant on Vanderbilt Avenue is one of my most recent finds. It has received mixed reviews from City Searchers, but I can not find a single flaw in the two five hour, four course meals I have enjoyed there in the last six months.
  • Lou Lou, on Dekalb ave in Brooklyn is one of my longtime favorites. The classic French fair includes Steak Frites, Creamy Bouillabaisse, Mussels, a Coriander and Coffee rubbed Rib Eye, and an array of wonderful seafood dishes. The service is extremely friendly, unpretentious, and relaxed.
  • Chez Oscar, one of the older restaurants in the Forte Greene area, is more commonly complimented on its funky and inviting vibe than its cuisine. The outside tables are a wonderful spot to spend a few hours, a few courses, and a bottle of wine.
  • Po, I hear that the well-known Manhattan restaurant now has a twin sister on Smith Street. I have not been to the Brooklyn addition myself, yet.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

That predictable am I?

I was a picky eater growing up but for my adult life I like to think of myself an adventurous eater. But lately I feel like all I do is eat the same thing day in and day out. Take for instance this salad that I am having today for lunch.
Its not all that different from this one I had the other day, is it?
or what about this one,
or this one,
or this one,or this one,
or this one,
Get the point already? All the elements are there: dark greens, some sort of fruit, nuts of some kind, cheese of some kind, and some other interchangeable element such as beets, fennel, chicken, or eggs. Have I fallen hopelessly into a culinary rut? Is my edible life comprised exclusively of yogurt, soup, salad, ice cream/ yogurt, salad, cup cake/yogurt, salad, salad, ice cream/ ice cream, salad, soup, yogurt, and the occasional turkey sandwich?

This is the part of my entry where I am supposed to make some kind of empty promise to change my ways, to introduce new and daring items into my daily grind. The question is, do I want to make this promise? Almost all of us eat the same foods day-to-day. We do it because its comforting, its easy, its cheap, and most of all because its predictable. Who wants to come home from a long day at work to attempt a new and venturesome dish in the kitchen, only to fail and go to bed hungry? I have my phases in the kitchen where i am on a desperate search for something new and exciting, and they are always fruitful, eventually. They are also nerve wrecking, chaotic, and unpredictable.
I guess i just don't want to be adventurous every day. I love trying new things, but I'm also not ashamed to say that I like to know what to expect. So bring on the yogurt, salad, soup, and lets not forget the ice cream shall we.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Hey Good Lookin'

After two failed attempts, at last Red Velvet and I had our long awaited encounter. When I arrived to claim her, Cheryl herself seemed to be expecting me, " there is one over there with your name on it" she told me. I carefully chose her from the bunch and then another that apparently had my roommate's name on it.
The waitress carefully placed them in the bag side by side, and I carried them off to an uncertain fate. Our time together was fleeting, a few bites, a nibble, and a lick then she was gone, leaving behind nothing but a sweet sweet memory.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

'The Art of Coffee' and The Perfect Shot

Nobody appreciates an artfully brewed cup of Joe as much as me. My morning coffee is not only a ritual but has become an art, beginning with bean selection, the coarseness of the grind, the method of brewing, right down to the temperature of the mug. Whether it’s my morning cup, or an afternoon jolt I don’t just want to guzzle my coffee, I want to relax and take pleasure in the experience. Unfortunately, though there seems to be at least one ‘gourmet’ coffee shop for every city block, it remains close to impossible to get a cup of coffee worth savoring. I can’t tell you the number of times I have spent three dollars on a cappuccino that turns out watery, bitter, or just tastes burnt (just thinking about it makes me angry.)

A longtime coffee bar skeptic, I can’t say I was overly excited when I saw the phrase ‘the art of coffee’ proudly written across window of Joe’s 13th street. My interest was sparked however, and I ran in for a quick cup. This is how my love/hate relationship began with Joe’s coffee. Nobody can argue, the coffee at Joe’s is amazing. Cappuccino, espresso, red-eye, or a good old regular brew, at Joe’s it is always strong, fresh, and the flavor complex.

So where does the hate factor in? At Joe’s there is no such thing as running in for a ‘quick cup.’ Each cup is a work of art and in order to create little masterpieces it appears that there is no doubling up on orders and there is no multitasking. They make their espresso drinks one shot at a time and because of this there is almost always a line up. Doing things thoughtfully and unhurriedly is a concept that goes against the grain in NY, and I must say that even I myself have found myself vulturously staring over the counter at the barista, asking myself, does putting so much attention into each cup truly make a better tasting drink? (Baristas everywhere I do apologize). And, the busy bartender in me has more than once occupied myself with visions of getting behind the counter and slamming out coffees drinks at record pace (again, baristas, I apologize).

I both love and hate Joe’s because it has caused me to recognize the conflicting elements of my personality, the side that wants to sit back and enjoy the experience, and the other that wants instant gratification. No matter how hard I try and suppress my hurried and hasty half it is an integral part of me and it is not going anywhere.

Fortunately for those of us grappling with our impatient side and with our more conscious, appreciative, and patient sides, Joe’s is offering a series of classes that just might enlighten us estupidos to how much goes into creating the perfect coffee experience.
Photos from The Fundamentals of Espresso Class

Amanda explains how to pull the perfect shot as Erin demonstrates the three essential steps, dosing, distributing, and tamping
Here is me dosing the portafilter with freshly ground espresso from the burr grinder Translation : filling the thingamajig with fresh coffee grounds from the kick ass grinder
Amanda explains that water is lazy and will choose the path of least resistance. If we want our espresso to taste good, we want the water to push threw all the grounds evenly. In order for this to happen we must distribute the grinds
After distribution the next step is tamping
translation: packing the grinds into the thingamajig
From here its a tamp a tap a tamp and your ready to go
Isn't she beautiful?
The grave yard of practice shots, all of them consumed by their creators

The class was very informative and I certainly walked away with a better sense of all the tiny details involved in dishing out good espresso. Thanks guys! Can't wait to learn some latte art in the upcoming milk class.

April showers really DO bring May flowers