Sunday, January 27, 2008

Monday Linkitude

Disease risk to mozzarella output! Oh NO! Serious Eats paints an even graver picture. (Don't water buffaloes look like the bad guys from The Fifth Element?)

A touch of Italian modernity to anchor one in place.

Slice, the Pizza blog, has posted a thorough and mostly unobjectionable Taxonomy of Regional Pizza styles.

What Is Italian Roast, and Why is it so Oily?

Ever been transfixed at the market by open containers of gleaming coffee beans? Reflecting light like something measured in carats not ounces, Italian roast coffee shines dark among all the other types of bean. But what is Italian roast? And why does it emit such lustre?

A young Mozzadrella wondered if the Italian roast was named so because of its greasy texture…was “Italian Roast” a plainclothes ethnic slur?

Well, coffee grows closer to the equator than Italy—the name has nothing to do with the source of the beans, but how long they are roasted for (12-13 minutes between 370 and 540 degrees). At times these beans are referred to as “espresso beans,” although really the fine grind of the bean defines “espresso,” not the bean’s color (I am told both light and dark beans do just fine in the large steaming machine).

Italian roast is the penultimate stage in the roasting spectrum, beat to the punch by the French, which, I suppose, invalidates the ethnic slur theory:

(The Italian roast is second from right)

As it turns out, the roasting process itself brings these oils to the surface of the bean. The gloss is sometimes called cafeoil, though my findings to support this are paltry. I’m told that the oils impart much of the coffee’s flavor and “body” (I sort of hate the subjective concept of body to describe a liquid’s heft. It’s confusing and synesthesic, but alas).

However, greasy glossy coffee in your market is bad bad bad (however, I love Sahadi’s so I will continue to grace them with my revenue). When exposed to oxygen, the oil from the coffee bean causes it to self-destruct, so open vats of dazzling coffee translate to wilting flavor in your cup. Buy your coffee vacuum packed, or at a place that roasts on site, for the least amount of damaging grease.

“Cultural change occurs when a new meme is introduced and catches on.”

Mozzarella is more than a state of mind.

She is the leader of the Moofia.

Source of image:
(Apologies to Michael Pollan.)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Why Do Italians Drink Wine In Stumpy Cups??

Few things are more woptastic than Chianti nestled in its wovenbasket shell, served aside squat juice glasses. This “rural” approach to wine consumption circumvents common drinking hazards—glass breakage—while at the same time leaves your hands free to gesture. A superb evolution for certain, but stemless glassware must exist for reasons other than saving the accident-prone from embarrassment. Why do “authentically” branded Italian restaurants forgo traditional stemware in favor of the thickset alternative, the tumbler? And, never having seen proper stemware in my house, why do Italians drink wine in stumpy cups?

The selection appears counterintuitive if you believe what the wine experts tell us: stems exist for the greater wine good. Handling a wine glass by the stem regulates its temperature, heat transferred from your hand will corrupt the taste. Stems prevent unsightly smudges on the glass, allowing a clear view of the wine’s color and opacity. Those with more disposable income contend that the shape of the glass alters the experience—Amy Cortese drinks the boozy Kool-Aid at the Reidel Institute.

Do Italians wittingly betray the wine? Stemless glassware sure does require less storage space, easily fits into the dishwasher, and, of course, breaks less.

Perhaps the result “stems” from the Roman urge to conquer and pillage: Glass artisans traveled with legionnaires to the ends of the Roman empire between the 1st and 4th centuries AD, bringing the trade of the Roman glass tradition with them. These smiths would remain in the Roman states or share their knowledge with the locals who clamored for training, creating a network of provincial glass artisans.

So the rustic glass artisan, out of utility or working with recycled materials, may have stuck with a more basic glass, as the delicate connection between the bowl and the foot of the glass is vulnerable and requires more material. So tumblers won out in the economy game there, as provinces were a far cry from the spiffy Venetian action closer to the center of the Empire.

Source Info: Stern, Marianne E. Roman Glassblowing in a Cultural Context American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 103, No. 3. (Jul., 1999), pp. 441-484.

Photo Credit: “Yarrg” by Ingorrr.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

What's Up, Sis?

Pleasant greetings from the Giant Land Crab.

The invertebrate exhibit at the National Zoo is pretty damn cool.