Saturday, May 12, 2007

Coffee Reviews Part 3 - Disappointment

In my quest for the great cup of coffee I discovered the concept of cold brewing. If you're not familiar - you drip cold water through grinds to create a coffee concentrate, which will keep indefinitely. The supposed advantage being that the result has considerably less acidity than traditionally brewed coffee. When you're ready to drink, you add hot water to taste. You could rig up your own, but never the DIYer, I purchased the Toddy Coffee System.

It was kind of a pain just to get to the point where I was ready to brew - you do a pound at a time. So first, I went out and bought a pound of beans, as I normally would. I soon realized I should have gotten those beans ground at the store as trying to grind a whole pound in a small home grinder is quite a chore. So, I delayed and waited to go buy some ground beans. When I finally brought home so ground coffee, I realized I hadn't gotten the right grind - this requires a very course grind. So once I finally got the right beans with the right grind I had to find a time when I could start brewing and be available twelve hours later - the recommended brewing period.

The result was definitely a non-acidic coffee with a very unique taste. Just not a taste I care for in the least. I played around a bit with the amount of hot water I added, and brewed a second batch to just to make sure I hadn't done something wrong the first time - nope, it tasted the same.

I do plan on making at least one more batch for iced coffee, which I drink quite a bit of during the summer (and tend to add cream or milk to, which I don't to add to hot coffee). But if that doesn't do anything for me, I'll have a Toddy Coffee system available for sale.

Coffee Reviews Part 2 - Coffee I Hate

I have friends who have long been unofficial promoters for the Coffee & Tea Exchange. I've been in a handful of times and it's kind of a unique and interesting place. They have these large open bins of beans, and you decide which you want and then an employee scoops it and bags it for you (and grinds it if you need that done). They have weekly specials and a couple of weeks ago B told me about a big sale right when I was running out of beans, so I checked it out. It only took me a few seconds to decide on "Steve's Espresso", which was on sale for a good price (and I tend to brew espresso roasts as regular coffee - I haven't been brewing my own espresso drinks lately, though that will soon change as the office has ordered a very low end espresso machine, at my request).

So I don't know who Steve is, but apparently he likes his espresso light and crappy. If I had bothered to look at the beans before I bought, I could have saved myself the trouble. They were extremely light brown - some almost green. No oil at all. A look at their website reveals that they do consider this to be a lighter espresso roast, but they also say it make great drip coffee. Not true. They have a columbian espresso they claim is the "darkest cup of joe you'll ever have". I may have to see if that's true.

Coffee Reviews Part 1 - Coffee I Love

In all the years I've been a coffee freak I've never really settled on one bean that I would choose as my all time favorite - until now...and I'm very surprised that it's coming from a grocery store. It's Allegro Extra Dark French Roast from Whole Foods. I think Allegro is an independent roaster that Whole Foods has adopted to be their main roaster. These beans are amazing - dark and bold, but not at all bitter. Perfect really.

I haven't tried any other beans from Allegro, but probably should see how their other roasts are.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Our Soundtrack Project

My friend LM sent me a great zine called Our Soundtrack Project which I finally read cover to cover tonight. It's a series of essays people have written about their memories and experiences of various songs. LM has two essays in it which bookend the zine.

As a music fan, I found the zine to be extremely engaging and a great idea. Much of the writing was solid and poignant, or just downright hilarious (a serious of essays by one author about various songs listened to while trying to score weed). I hesitate to say this as I may one day try and get published in this zine, but I found the editor's 2 included pieces to be the only ones that were particularly trite. I appreciate the range of music covered too...from Christina Aguilera (thankfully short) to the Smoking Popes, to a few bands I've never heard of.

So give it a look or throw it a submission -

They Say the Dardnest Things

Jennifer to Linnea who was in the bathroom - "Does your tummy hurt"?

Linnea: "No, just my feelings"

Filling in the Blanks Part I - Patty Griffin @ Schubas, 1/28/07

So one of the original intentions of this blog was to track concerts I go to and music I listen to. The first half of the year is almost over and I have failed miserably. I really do want a record of the shows I've seen, so I'm going to attempt to backtrack a bit.

If you're not one who goes to concerts or follows music, here's a nugget of info you might not know - before embarking on a major tour, most artists do some warm up dates - shows at smaller venues intended to give the band a chance to gel and work out the kinks in the new songs. This was the gist of this Patty Griffin show.

I first discovered Patty when she was doing a sparsely attended in-store at Borders on Michigan Avenue behind her debut "Living With Ghosts". I showed up on the strength of a recommendation in the Reader, but having not previously heard her music. I was instantly hooked. She played Schubas a number of times over the next few years, but I always had some other pressing commitment, and I didn't get a chance to see her again until she was playing larger venues (The Park West in Chicago) on the 1000 Kisses tour. So, an opportunity to finally see her at my favorite Chicago venue, even though she's outgrown it, was an awesome prospect.

So, 4+ months later, what do I remember about this show? First, Ryan Bingham opened. Never heard of him, really liked him, though I don't have a very clear memory of what he was all about. Loud, hard, country-folk-rock if I remember correctly. Almost bought a CD, but didn't.

Patty was great. The setlist was almost all songs from the then unreleased Children Running Through (still probably my least favorite Patty album, though I haven't given it a whole lot of time). She did a few older ones (and one really old one, 'Regarding Mary', I believe, that I recognized from an old bootleg I have). She played some piano. Had a great band with her. She was relaxed and funny. It was a great show...well worth it. It would have been nice to hear some more familiar tunes, but we went into it understanding that the point of the show was to work out the new stuff, so there really wasn't any disappointment. She came back in March and played the Vic for what I assume was probably a more balanced show, but we opted to sit that one out.

Some other notes - ended up standing next to a girl I knew from North Park. Always thought she was an English major as she was in so many of my classes, but turns out she wasn't. Her companion for the evening, who I didn't know, turned out to be the former roommate of a good friend of mine.
Standing in line for the bar, veritable Chicago radio personality Lin Brehmer was standing right next to me not doing anything, but I passed on the opportunity to chat him up. Though there was a time I listened to him nearly everyday, I couldn't come up with anything worth saying to him.