Monday, August 13, 2007

The Best Dessert Ever

When the rest of the family was away, Mom used to make treats for just the two of us. Hot fudge was one of my favorites. Hot fudge, same as what you'd put on ice cream, only made from scratch. And without the ice cream. Just a big cup of hot fudge, sometimes with a dollop of peanut butter melting on top.

But the best treat she used to make is still one of the best desserts ever.

Get a box of fresh strawberries. Wash them and let them drip dry. Leave the stems on.

Scoop a dollop of sour cream into a bowl.

Get another bowl, and will it with brown sugar. Fluff the brown sugar with a fork and break up any lumps.

Holding a strawberry by its stem, dip it into the sour cream, then into the brown sugar. Then eat it!

It's one of the most delightful taste sensations you'll ever have, and it's oh so simple.

I worked at one of the most expensive restaurants in Portsmouth, NH. It was called The Blue Strawberry. It's not around anymore, but in its time it was the place to go. You'd expect to spend around $70/person to eat there (unless you ordered drinks). This was in 1980s money, too. Their signature dessert was strawberries, sour cream and brown sugar. Of course they arranged it all preciously on fine china, but otherwise, it was the same dessert my mom and I used to eat. One time a friend went there for dinner and she absolutely raved about the amazing dessert she'd had. She just wouldn't believe me when I told her she could make it herself. "No, they use special brown sugar or something." They didn't. I worked in the kitchen. The got the strawberries from the supermarket, and the brown sugar was the extra cheap bottom shelf big plastic bag o' brown sugar.

Try it for yourself! Use your finest china if you want to impress your date. S/he will think you're a fine gourmet!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Sexy Knock Box?

To spite the name, a knock box is anything but sexy. It's just a box with a padded bar across the middle that you knock your portafilter against to clear the spent coffee grounds out of it. It's just a customized waste receptacle.

Well, the Grindenstein Knock Box got great reviews on CoffeeGeek, and I got tired of fishing my filter basket out of the trash, so I ordered one. $28.95 delivered from Australia! I ordered it because it's small, cheap, has good reviews and isn't hideous. But sexy? Well, no.... but here's a great add from Grindenstein to make me think differently!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

A good excuse!

Yeah, it's been an age. I've been busy. Very busy! But it's a good excuse this time, in case you hadn't heard...

We're opening up our own coffee shop!

After searching for the perfect coffee drinking experience, I finally decided we'd just have to open up our own place to create that experience.

The past few months have been filled with meetings, trips to other cafés, research, research, a little more research... working extra hours as a freelancer at L.L. Bean to fund the project, letting folks at the University know I'm not teaching there anymore... more meetings...

This isn't going to be a typical coffee shop by any means. Of course, we'll have the best coffee & espresso in the Maine (of course that's sort of like being the best dressed person at a nude beach), and a few good things to eat (vegetarian and vegan, of course). But beyond that, well, for starters, it's going to be non-profit, part art gallery and part performing arts venue. The coffee and food, while we're committed to offering the best we can, is really a means to an end. We're out to help develop and grow and sustain the Belfast area's creative community. Some of the most important political and cultural revolutions of the past few centuries have been born in coffee houses, and we want to create just such a revolutionary environment. The setting is very creative too. It's the basement of the Waterfall Arts Center, right here in Belfast.

In many ways, this is a culmination of my life's work. I'm an artist at heart, and the technology has always been just a means to that end. For years I've been teaching others ways of creating art. Now I'm creating a space for artists to flourish. It's a much more direct, active and personal role than I've had before, and I'm thrilled! I'll try to keep you posted!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Things I've Learned...

I'm planning a new feature, but considering that it's been 10 months since I wrote any sort of real entry, who knows when and if I'll actually do it. Writing more entries is one of those new years resolutions I said I wasn't going to make, but I'm pretending like I'm going to write more anyway. Looking at my free time over the next few months I have to say, "Not a chance!" but you never know...

Anyway, my new project for this blog, should I ever get around to it, is to take what I learned from the 100 Cups of Coffee project and apply it life as a whole.

I started 100 Cups of Coffee as a way of coming to terms with my coffee addiction. I'm still an addict, but I feel like I have it under control. I'm sure there are lots of people addicted to other substances who feel the same way. Maybe I'm in denial as much as they are! I'll tell you the difference and let you decide. Before I started the project, coffee was just maintenance. It's what I needed to keep myself going, and I'd drink it from the time I woke up to the time I went to sleep. If I enjoyed it, that was just a incidental. But photographing it and writing about it led me to a deeper appreciation of coffee as a wonderful, magical thing unto itself. It became a pursuit for the best cup of coffee I could find, and the best cup I could make. This led me to learn about brewing methods, what makes for the best coffee beans, and much more. Learning what constitutes the best cup of coffee is like pulling on what you think is a single thread and discovering it's connected to everything else in the world.

On a typical day, I have just one cup of coffee, made with pure water, organic, shade grown Deans Beans, in a Planetary Designs French press, with a splash of organic half & half. I sip and savor it. I wake up an hour earlier than I'd need to if I just poured my coffee into a to go cup and ran out the door, just so I can have time to ease into the day with a cup of great coffee. If I need a little something to keep me going, I'll make myself an espresso, which has more flavor but less caffeine than coffee. If I'm really overworked, I'll make a cup or two in the afternoon in an Aeropress (an entry unto itself on another day).

The important thing here is that by focusing on quality and trying to have the best, most pleasurable experience possible, I consume less and enjoy more what I'm doing. In this case, it's drinking coffee. I think this applies to a whole lot more than coffee, though. So, in future entries I'll be going beyond coffee and looking at the best things in life, which aren't always free but aren't necessarily the most expensive either.

I've got a whole lot to write about! Check back later to find out if I actually do anything with this!