Monday, August 28, 2006

Cold brewed coffee

For over a thousand years, coffee has been the beverage of choice to countless millions for getting a start on the day. Brazilians love their coffee so much that the term for breakfast there is café da manhã, literally translated as coffee of the morning. The method of brewing coffee has changed only slightly in the past millennium and remains much the same across cultures: steep the beans in hot water to extract their caffeine and flavor.

That changed in 1964 when a graduate student by the name of Todd Simpson developed a method of cold brewing coffee. He went on to develop the Toddy Coffee Maker which at its core is a gravity-fed brewing system. The resultant coffee is much more potent than a normal brew and has nearly 70% less acidity.

My inspiration for trying this method of brewing was my co-worker and friend Lizz. She swears by her Toddy but I wasn't prepared to drop $40 on it and besides, as Alton Brown is fond of saying, there should be only one device in your kitchen that has a single use and that's the fire extinguisher. Determined to find an alternate means of brewing this wonderful concoction, I came up with the method described below. You will need some tools first.
  1. French press with at least an 8-cup capacity.
  2. A strong or medium whole-bean coffee. I used a Columbian blend from Starbucks.
  3. A coffee grinder.
  4. Coffee filters.
  5. Frother (optional)
  6. Purified water (optional)
Fill the grinder with a cup of beans and set it to espresso fine. Pour the resultant powder into the French press and fill it with cold or room-temperature water, preferably purified. Cover the top with Saran wrap and put it in the fridge for 10-12 hours. For the first few hours I used my hand-held frother to keep the grounds from getting too coagulated. When ready, take the French press out of the fridge, and affix at least 2 coffee filters to the reusable metal filter. Slowly push down on the plunger. Due to the amount of grounds, it will probably take up to a minute to push it down completely. Slow is key here.

The resultant coffee will have a higher caffeine content and so it is recommended that you mix at least 1 part coffee with 3 parts cream such as milk or my personal favorite, soy. With just a dash of your favorite flavored syrup you will have a concoction that is on par with what your barista can make. Also, you can store this coffee for much longer so long as you keep it in the fridge. I used a glass container to avoid it picking up any plastic taste.

In my opinion the results have been stellar. My two to three cup per day habit is now just one. And to say nothing of the flavor which is just amazing. I'm looking forward to experimenting not only with its preparation but with its use as well. Coffee martinis anyone?

Monday, August 21, 2006

What a week!

Steve!Last week started out innocently enough but by the time all was said and done, I didn't get home before 10pm one single night. On Monday, my buddy Steve from Melbourne flew up on business. Though he was a good hour away in Chantilly, I was more than happy to drive out and meet him. It was my first time since moving to Arlington being out that far and quite honestly, it was a bit strange being out in the 'burbs again. Nevertheless, we met up for beer, football and trivia at a local sports bar and had a great time catching up.

Cousin BruceTuesday night I went out with my cousin Bruce. With his Australian accent and effervescent personality, he's always the life of the party at family get-togethers so I knew we'd have a blast. Our first stop was Oyamel, this great Mexican fusion place nearby my apartment where we had margaritas. Next up was McCormick & Schmick's, an awesome seafood restaurant down the block. After downing a bottle of Chardonnay, slurping raw oysters from their shell and basically stuffing our gullets, we meandered back to my place and crashed for the night.

The appetizer at Dupont GrilleNow I headed into Wednesday fully expecting to get home by a normal time but instead found myself out with co-workers at Brickskellers until much later sharing the day's events over good beer. I might also add that nearly every lunch this week was spent out at a various restaurant enjoying what's known as Restaurant Week. For only $20.06 ($30.06 for dinner) you got a world-class 3-course meal with all the fixings.

Thursday evening, while working late and looking forward to a relaxing night at home, I received a phone call from my buddy Shayan. A spot had opened up on his reservation at Charlie Palmer and did I want to go? Needless to say I jumped at the opportunity. Only steps from the Capitol building and boasting an elegance that puts some of my past experience at high-end restaurants to shame, this was hands-down my favorite Restaurant Week spot. We even ordered a bottle of a pinot noir from Mark West Winery which went quite well with my Angus sirloin.

Drinks and hookah at GazuzaOn Friday my buddy Mike decided to come into the District to party. We started out at Raku in Dupont Circle, just a few blocks away from my work, where we ordered a seemingly endless number of Asian-inspired tapas before heading off to Lauriol Plaza for pitcher fulls of maragaritas. After an hour or so there we headed back into the circle to meet up with friends at Gazuza for drinks and hookah. I definitely didn't get home that night before 10pm.

This week will be comatose by comparison by that's quite alright with me.

Friday, August 11, 2006

A Friday night tour of DC

For the first time in weeks I didn't have a plan in place for Friday night. This is most likely due to the fact that I have been sequestered in a basement for the past four days working 12 hours at a time. It's been crazy busy but the company catered all our meals and today our efforts paid off. Everybody was pretty tired though afterwards and left for home which left me wondering what to do tonight.

Rather than go through my phone list to see what people were up to, I instead decided to take the night off from partying and do that nighttime walk that I'd promised myself. I was not to be disappointed. I started in Dupont Circle and headed south on 18th until I hit Constitution Avenue, essentially the north side of the National Mall. Along the way I snapped a picture of the Octagon House, one of the stranger architectural icons of DC. I then headed west until I found a path leading into the park and followed that.

Unknowingly, this path led straight to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. It was truly awesome to come around the corner and see that stone structure etched with the names of so many fallen soldiers. From there I headed up to the Lincoln Memorial all the while looking over my shoulder at the beautiful panorama displayed with the Washington Monument juxtapositioned in front of the Capitol building.

The Lincoln Memorial was a very impressive site. Its white exterior, made from Indiana limestone and Colorado Yule marble, shines spectacularly under the blazing lights. Inside, the mood is decidedly somber. There were a large number of tourists there tonight but they spoke mostly in hushed tones, reading the inscriptions on the wall or simply looking at the gargantuan-sized image of Lincoln.

My walk from the far end of the mall to L'Enfant Plaza to catch the Yellow Line was no less impressive. I had the opportunity to stop by the Korean War Memorial which is haunting in its imagery. After making my way to Independence on the south side of the mall, I headed east until I hit 7th street about 12 blocks distant. A short Metro ride later I was back home in Arlington.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Screen on the Green

On Monday evening I went with friends to an event called Screen on the Green. For the past eight years, movies have been shown on a huge screen at the National Mall right in front of the Capitol building. It's an impressive sight but doesn't take away too much from the fun of watching a movie with friends.

This week's showing was Bullitt starring Steve McQueen. To be quite honest it was not that great a movie. It oftentimes delved into details that could have just as easily been glossed over. McQueen's character had a gritty underside to him yet at times appeared flat and uninteresting. But then the real reason people came out to see this was for the awesome car chase scene. Like so many I had only heard about it but was not disappointed when I finally saw it. The throaty roar of the Ford Mustang and the Dodge Charger, both 1968 models, set the scene for the entire nine minutes that it lasted. The streets of San Francisco never looked so fun to drive!

One of the strange things though was the segue between the introductory cartoon and the movie itself. Since the event is partly sponsored by HBO, they have a small promotional spot that appears at that point yet it is an old clip from about 20 years ago. Seeing it though brought back a wealth of memories of watching TV with my parents when I was a kid. I've snagged it from YouTube and present it below for your viewing pleasure. Another thing that is strange is that during the end of the music riff, people get up and start dancing.

So even though the movie wasn't all that great, I still had a good time and met some new folks. Now I just need to go pick myself up one of those nifty camping chairs.

Jocelyn and MikeFrom left: Teresa, Kate and LindsayThe view behind us of the Washington monument