Category Archives: Coffee

The (not so) Great Pumpkin

image: janoskis.com/

Now that it is October, I’m ready to address the apparent plot for pumpkin flavor to dominate American palates from August through December.  I mean, seriously, to how many products will fake pumpkin flavor be added?  Click here to see a fairly comprehensive list of products available currently.  Prepare to be impressed – or repulsed.

How do you feel about this?  Are you a pumpkin aficionado?  Is your autumnal existence incomplete without the infusion of the great orange gourd?  Or maybe, like me, you enjoy a taste of something seasonal but don’t really understand the need for “whipped peanut and pumpkin pie spice flavored spread” or “pumpkin spice fettucine?”  How did this happen?

According to an article I read, it seems we have Starbucks to thank for the current obsession with pumpkin everything.  Their pumpkin spiced latte hit the market about 10 years ago and there’s been no stopping the demand for more room in the garden for pumpkins.  Prior to 15 years ago the state of Virginia had no pumpkin farms.  Today, more than 4,000 acres are devoted to pumpkin patches.  Geez, that’s a lot of ground for poor Linus Van Pelt to cover!

image: pbs.org

For the record, I enjoy an occasional pumpkin spiced latte on a crisp fall day.  I love to add a half a cup or so of canned pumpkin, along with nutmeg and cinnamon, to my waffle batter this time of year.  Pumpkin pie?  Yes, please!  I am absolutely down with that.  Recently, though, when a guest at the Wine Bar (who was visiting from Hong Kong) questioned me about the pumpkin flavored beer we were offering on draft, I really didn’t know what to say.  “Um, uh, during ‘autumn’ we Americans like to flavor as many edibles as possible with the flavor of pumpkin?”  Yeah, that.  Sigh.  Good grief.

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Filed under beer, Coffee, Food, Observations

Done with Mother’s Day

Yet another benefit of drinking - flower boxes!

Yet another benefit of drinking – flower boxes!

Screw Hallmark – as far as I’m concerned, May 5th was my ideal Mother’s Day. No matter what happens next Sunday, I will cherish the day I had, from the scandalously late start to the fortified-with-an-afternoon-nap late ending – perfect! Let me be a little more specific…

Saturday night, I shot a SEEN gallery down at Prime 677.  The occasion was a fundraiser for the Huntington’s Disease Society of America and it was a lovely event.  The food was spectacular and the folks at Empire Wines rallied the troops to put on an extraordinary wine tasting.  It’s been noted by some astute Times Union readers that whenever an event involves wine, I’m usually there.  Guilty as charged.

I got home from the party working at about 10:30 only to find my little guy desperately upset that he had been denied a ‘s’more from the neighbor’s party, a situation I was able to correct with a soothing shower and some ice cream.  Tucking him in at such a late hour gave me the first gift of Sunday – he slept until 10:00, which gave me an incredibly quiet morning.  Soft music, strong coffee and the paper comprise my personal morning bliss trifecta.  So far, so good.

After the boys departed at noon for their Dad’s, I got busy in the front yard with mulch and some annuals.  The sun was glorious, birds were chirping and the simple joy of getting a little dirty made my heart sing.  I had a mid afternoon visit from the person I most love spending time with and the day moved along at a pace that was completely enjoyable.  I accomplished some other chores, including eating a fantastic lunch salad, and punctuated the afternoon with an indulgent nap on clean sheets. But, wait – there’s more.

Caesar salad with shaved Romano and grilled asparagus

Caesar salad with shaved Romano and grilled asparagus

As the day cooled down a bit, I tied on my running shoes and hit the streets for a 5-mile lap through the neighborhood.  I had intended to go a bit further, but contented myself with not pushing myself too hard and tried to just enjoy myself.  Done.  A shower, a quick visit with the neighbors for a glass of wine and then home again for finale of the only reality show I would ever want to be on, The Amazing Race, and I was in bed by 10:15, thoroughly relaxed and satisfied with my day.

There weren’t any tulips or handmade crafts, but nonetheless it was a lovely day with a wonderful mix of boys, friends, productivity, relaxation and good food and wine.  Mother’s Day 2013 is a done deal, as far as I am concerned.  Any additional gifts are truly unnecessary, although I do have a fondness for the imperfectly made card along with a hankering for a French lilac bush.  Just saying.

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Filed under Albany, beauty, Boys, Coffee, DelSo, Eating, Events, family, favorites, Flowers, friends, Gardens, ideas, Local, love, running, SEEN, Spring, sunday, Wine

12 Days of Christmas ~ Dining DelSo

DSC_0020On the fourth day of Christmas I checked out a spot in the neighborhood where I find it easy to enjoy visions of sugarplums any time of the year – Emack & Bolio.  Yes, that’s right, it’s not just ice cream here, friends.  There’s a full assortment of luscious candies and chocolates,  smoothies and espresso and coffee drinks.  But, it’s not just about good stuff to eat – there’s live music, comfortable seating both indoors and out, and a captivating selection of toys and fun gift items.  Hello, stocking stuffers, anyone?  If you’re looking for a last minute gift certificate, or a destination to enjoy an indulgent treat during a hectic holiday week, this is your happy place.

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Filed under Albany, Christmas, Coffee, Delaware Avenue, DelSo, Eating, Recommendations

Coffee time

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t been sleeping that well recently, which makes my morning cup of Joe that much more necessary.  For the rest of you coffee dependent folks out there, just a reminder that my favorite coffee place, Porto Rico Importers in NYC is having one of their two big annual sales starting October 22nd.  The sale continues until October 31st and provides the perfect opportunity  for stocking up on high quality beans at a ridiculously fair price. I haven’t received my sale promotion postcard in the mail yet, but during Peter’s Birthday Sale prices range from $4.99 to 7.99 a pound for beautiful, intact beans roasted to a gorgeous hue of deliciousness.  My morning blend is generally 3 parts dark roast to 1 part flavored for a subtle taste bud stimulation and my favorite flavored beans (for those of you already considering what to get me for Christmas) are the French-Cinnamon Orange and French-Cinnamon.  And despite critical consideration, I do  prefer to start my mug with a generous glug of half -n- half.  Life is short and I refuse to count calories before 7 a.m.  Don’t you tea drinkers feel left out either – there is a comprehensive tea selection in addition to the plethora of coffee beans available, as well as filters, coffee makers and other gadgets.  Mark your calendars and mail order yourself some morning (perhaps afternoon and evening, too – who am I to judge?) pleasure.

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Brew

So, a couple of weeks ago our coffee maker died.  It was a Cuisinart and it had served us reasonably well for 5 or 6 years.  I say reasonably well, because Tom was less than impressed by the temperature of the coffee produced and I had experienced a few too many times its tendency for the grinds to clog up the works and overflow onto the counter.  Not exactly what I want to deal with before even having a cup of coffee.  I think this may have been the first time we outlived a coffee maker – prior to owning our most recent machine which had an insulated carafe, we’ve always had glass carafes which shatter with minimal effort leaving the interesting dilemma to either buy a new carafe for $15 or simply replace the entire coffee maker for $25.

Anyway – after the coffee maker crapped out, we pulled out our wedding gift French press (thanks again, Rachel!) and you know, that French press makes some damn fine coffee – creamy, rich and delicious.  However, we just don’t find the French press practical for daily use on a long term basis.  Maybe it is the capacity (4 cups) or the lack of a warming capability, but for some reason we never consider the FP to be our permanent coffee making method, so, it was off to Macy’s.  And Target.  And Bed, Bath & Beyond.  I could have purchased the identical coffee maker we were replacing (and maybe I did only to bring it home and refuse to take it out of the box because I really wanted something new and had only succumbed to the pushy, less-than-helpful salesclerk at the “good” Macy’s) but felt like I wanted something more – an improvement, shall we say?  At this point, we left for our Euro-adventures, where, incidentally, we made our morning cups in an endless cycle of fill, heat, empty, repeat using a true old school espresso maker, and the coffee maker hunt was put on hold until our return. 

Our criteria was pretty tight – thermal carafe, stainless, minimum 10 cup capacity, well rated.  After way too much searching, we selected a brand we had never heard of – Zojirushi, since it seemed to meet all of our needs.  Our new coffee maker should be delivered tomorrow and we plan to christen it Saturday morning. I’m optimistic that we will be pleased with its performance, but must admit, I will miss the lovely mug of deliciousness from our reliable, low tech French press.  How do you brew?

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Porto Rico Importing Company

So, where do you get your caffeine fix? Do you brew at home? Perhaps even grind your beans each morning? And, where are you getting your beans? For more than 15 years we’ve been getting our beans, Bleeker Street fresh, from Porto Rico Importing Co.

I originally stumbled (probably literally) upon this place when I lived in Chelsea. Now, this was a long time ago – B.S., as in Before Starbucks, but I guess we were still a little late to the game because in the back of my 1966 edition of the New York Times Cookbook, Porto Rico was listed as a recommended purveyor. They’ve actually been in business for more than 100 years!

I was probably initially enticed by the incredible, rich aroma of roasting beans, but I must say, what has kept us going back is the terrific value Porto Rico offers to coffee (and tea) lovers far and near. You know I am all about the local and independent business, but this is one of those occasions when I can’t afford to not go with mail order, because their coffee really is that good and the price can’t be beat. A couple of weeks ago we received 9 lbs of coffee, as well as a box of unbleached coffee filters, delivered via UPS, for less than $75! Unfortunately, I’ve never had local coffee that compares in quality and value, although I’m certainly open to your suggestions.

A couple of things to know when ordering – there is always a weekly sale but the time to really stock up (if you have freezer room) is during one of their two BIG sales in either April or October. During these sales the volume of their business generally slows down the delivery schedule – it may take a week or more to receive your order. They also sell tea, coffee machines and some funky candy, including espresso bean confections. If you have a chance to visit the store there are some cool French presses, assorted creamers, and teapots also available. If it is your first time to the store and it seems familiar, perhaps you’re recognizing it as one of the locations used to film one of those Healthy New York television commercial a number of years ago. There are four locations in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn, for you hipsters. Check it out – let me know what you think.

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Filed under Coffee, Recommendations