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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

It's a Good Thing...

As I've said before, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday...a day of thanks is a good thing.

And speaking of good things...Martha Stewart has unveiled her new "mini" magazine for the IPAD.  It's glorious!  Full of beautiful photos and interactive pages, including a panoramic view of her farm in Bedford.  This will be one of my favorite things to look forward to each month.  Go to the ITUNES app store and look for the MS Living icon to download for $3.99.

Oprah has her own mini mag app as well, nice, but not enough content and no interaction.  I suspect, however, that this will change shortly.  Also $3.99.

I am wishing you all A VERY HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

But, I just want a cup of coffee...

I've been trying to remember where this all started - turning everything food related into a reinvented science project...artisan breads, organic milks, private label wines, hand conched chocolates, salt from every sea on the planet, and now, specialty coffee, again.

Food deconstruction is huge in restaurant cooking right now, and certainly, Alton Brown's "Good Eats" and "America's Test Kitchen" have paved the way for home cooks to join in the fun.  But there's something about all this that has finally gotten to me. It happened when I tried to order a cup of coffee.

Coffee was a huge part of the food renaissance/revolution a few years back - Tully's, Peet's, Starbucks, etc...we all traded in our Folger's for a double-half-caf-extra-foamy-latte a while back.  I remember the coffee scenes in Steve Martin's "LA Story" and in "You've Got Mail", making fun of our beverage fetishes.

I just didn't expect it to be happening again, so soon, coffee taken to ANOTHER level, after all, where is the limit or IS there a limit or SHOULD there be a limit?.  How much reinvention of one's favorite beverage can one take in a single lifetime?

This is all about Blue Bottle Coffee...BBC started quietly a couple of years ago, being sold at a few Farmer's Markets.  Not all FM, just a few of them scattered about San Francisco and the East Bay.  Then BBC opened a cafe in SF, and then another and another - but just a few.  When they opened at the SF Ferry Building Market, I finally saw them.  Dozens of 20 something's standing patiently in a line, pecking away at their phones, while they wait for DRIP coffee, yes, I mean good old fashioned coffee filters drip, drip, dripping coffee into a cup...and it takes what seems like FOREVER to get your coffee.

So, BBC roasts their own beans and creates their own blends.  One of their claims to fame is that no bean is sold more than 48 hours after roasting.  After all, who wants 3 day old coffee beans.  Bags are sold in 1/2 pound portions, beans only...and each bean has its very own grind and use instructions.  Apparently, your house will explode if you dare put a bean meant for a french press in your Mr. Coffee. Each bean or blend has been given names that only the people at BBC understand.  The rest of us just go along...

I was given the task of bringing specific beans with me to friends in Marin.  Marin County is one of the wealthiest places on earth, but they are light years behind us poor folks in the East Bay when it comes to food.   BBC does not have a store there - yet.  So, at around 2 pm on Wednesday, I ventured to the heart of BBC, their roaster/cafe headquarters in Oakland.  Only 5 people in line in front of me, okay.  Finally my turn, "I need 2 pounds of 17 Foot Ceiling and 2 pounds Giant Steps, and I'd like to try a cup of Giant Steps".  The coffee doctor behind the counter blinked at me and quietly whispered, "ah, we don't have any more of either of those beans today and we don't make Giant Steps here."  I was taken so by surprise at this news... "well, when will you have these beans?"  "We have them almost every morning, but you have to buy them by 9am - 10 at the latest." I leaned in closer to whisper, "but I have to work in the morning - don't tell anyone - they'll know I am not an animator at Pixar, or a software developer at Apple, and I so love to pretend I belong here."

So sorry, but I'm in a coffee shop and there's no coffee.    Why don't they make Giant Steps?  Because GS needs to made in French Press and alas, they only make drip, drip, drip coffee in Oakland and you can only have what they happen to be dripping that day.  But I didn't get that info until my second visit the next day, when I rescheduled a client so I could be at BBC by 9am. I got the Giant Steps beans, but alas, no 17 Food Ceiling - I had to settle for Hayes Valley Espresso beans instead.  And I felt brave enough to order a decaf latte for myself.

I took a sip, hmmm... this latte is... almost cold.  I took another sip, yep, definitely on the tepid side.  I left the cafe, and then I turned around and went back in to face the coffee doctor.  "Uhmmm.... this latte is rather, ah, lukewarm..."

"Yes, we believe that the beans respond best to milk that is not more than 140 degrees."

"Well, I respond best to hot coffee, so what do we do here?"

He made me another latte, and it was borderline hot, but I decided not to push this any further.    

And, so, you are wondering - how good is this stuff?  Well, damn good actually.  Smooth, not bitter, no coffee aftertaste, I could even drink it without sugar.  I can hardly wait to go back and do it all over again...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Red or white...

How many wine glasses does one person need?  Recently, I organized a client's kitchen, and in the process, we removed dozens and dozens of wine glasses from the cabinets.  My client was amazed to see how many wine glasses he had accumulated over a few years.  They were tucked into every corner of every cabinet, mostly coated with dust.

How does this happen?  A couple of parties and before you know it, you are the owner of dozens of wine glasses.  And especially in California, you're suppose to have glasses for every kind of wine you might serve...white, red, rose, dessert, sparkling, port, etc.

So, how do you decide how many is too many?  How much space for storing glasses do you have?  How often are you going to use all the glasses?  Can you use a "generic" glass and serve whatever wine in them?  Can you borrow glasses from a friend if you needed to?  All these are questions you have to answer when you are deciding how much glassware you want to own.  

Personally, I have 4 red, 4 white and 4 champagne glasses.  That covers the maximum number of sit down guests I can fit into my condo.  If I have more people, I borrow glassware from a neighbor.  

When we put my client's kitchen back together, this is how many glasses he decided to keep.

Here's a great article about choosing wine glasses from The Wine Doctor:

"I suspect most wine drinkers could quite adequately get by with just two or three different types of wine glasses. I would suggest as starting point the three types of wine glasses mentioned above - a standard glass for whites, something a little larger, perhaps, for reds, and of course a flute or similar style for Champagne or sparkling wine." 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The organizing gene...

At some point, when I work with a client, they ask me why some people are so organized and they are not. I've been looking for some scientific data on this, but so far I have not found anything profound.

I only know that, in my case, it comes quite naturally to me. For whatever reason, I have been both organized and neat, for as long as I can remember. I also know that my younger sister, with whom I shared a room, was not. Interestingly enough, she has grown into a much more organized and neat person.

I also know that my organizing skills have improved remarkably over the years. Of course, as a professional organizer I get lots of practice. I find solutions much faster and can handle a wide range of problem areas. But there are tons of things in life that I can't do. So, I simply think of my organizing skills as part of my DNA.

Yes, you can learn the principles and techniques of organization.  As your personal organizer, the tricky part is imparting this information so that it weaves its way into your own natural behavior patterns.  I am not interested in turning you into me.  I am much more interested in improving your life in such a way that it becomes quite natural for you to apply those techniques in your everyday work and living environment.

There's a great debate about whether being neat and being organized are the same, or whether one can be organized without being neat or vice versa.  Personally, I think these are elements that cross over.  The degree to which one must be neat to be organized is an issue.  I have met plenty of people whose desire to be perfect has left them plenty neat, but not very organized.

Photo from The Container Store
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