Thursday, May 31, 2007

Broken Nails

I'm sad to report here on The Onocoffee Blog that Nail Salon Espresso will not be happening.

While just a day ago I thought we were on the same path as the landlord, today I see that we are not. Last night as I was leaving The Spro, I noticed that a crew was working in the space that was to be Nail Salon Espresso. I had sent off a finalized and ready-to-go lease to the landlord at the end of April before I left for SCAA. Hadn't heard from him since. Even sent off a couple of e-mails to see how things were progressing. Nothing.

You know, I don't mind losing a potential location. I do mind it when the people you're dealing with don't have the courtesy to let you know that there's no longer a deal to be made. It's disappointing (to say the least).

It's also disappointing because Nail Salon Espresso was designed to be something special for East Towson. Not only was it going to be the most forward-thinking espresso bar in Baltimore (even more than The Spro), it was going to roast single-origin coffees on a beatiful copper-jacketed Petroncini The Crumb 3 kilo roaster, and it was going to feature The Sunday Brunch - a four seat only, chef and barista driven multi-course tasting menu on Sundays with a visiting chef each brunch.

Oh well, no sense in crying over spilled espresso. Time to move forward to the next adventure.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

More Anti Action

More happens in my life than I have time to blog about - I promise. Because of this, I tend to fall way behind in the stuff I want to share on the blog. This is one of those times.

The AntiGriddle has been an experience. In one way, it's mind-boggling. Perhaps I just have a small mind but it has been forcing me to stretch my preconceptions about food and preparation. Unlike heat, the freezing action doesn't change the food molecularly, so there's no way to "cook" something like meat. It just freezes. It's incredibly limiting, which means it forces you to think in different directions.

Here are some shots of the AntiGriddle in action on our long road towards understanding it and figuring out what to do with it. The images were shot in late April while the AntiGriddle was taking a temporary residence at Artifact Coffee in Baltimore while we played with ideas for the United States Barista Championship.


Chef Spike Gjerde (a Baltimore culinary celebrity and owner of Artifact) pries off the first test.


Foamed sabayon in aluminum forms starting to form.


Suckers are so cold you need a blowtorch to release them. More cool tools to use.


A First Attempt: The Floating Creme - frozen sabayon floating in a sea of espresso.


More Madness - freezing straight espresso on the left and an apricot foam on the right.


An apricot star with a shot of espresso.


Birthday Cake - layers of espresso, apricot and cream semi-freddo.

Monday, May 21, 2007

24 Miles

Location: McCormick Place, Chicago
Time: 5:30pm, Sunday, May 20, 2007

I'm sitting in the lobby of McCormick place and it's a complete madhouse. The line for the taxi is unbelieveable and the crush of restaurant industry humanity is swirling by with a dizzying rush.

And I'm completely wiped out.

I'm sitting next to the water fountains and next to some boisterous Canadians (from Toronto) who are hooting and hollering about all sorts of topics. They're wiped out too but ready to party. One of them says that he heard that if you walked each aisle you would walk a total of 24 miles.

No wonder I feel wiped out.

My back is aching. My feet are sore. I'm tired. In other words: I'm wasted.

And I still have at least a 30 minute commute back to my hotel.

The National Restaurant Association Show is the largest foodservice trade show in North America and just like a proper American trade show, there are people from all over the world here. It's huge. It's dizzying. It's incredible. And there's a ton of food, drink and alcoholic beverages for you to gorge yourself, if you so desire.

John Klein once told me that the NRA show is a good one to visit every two or three years. I think he's right. God knows you're not out buying a new cooking line every year and since I'm in a specialty niche, it's even moreso. For those of you in the coffee business, the NRA Show is much bigger than SCAA. If SCAA is the largest show you've attended then you're in for a shock at NRA. However, if you've been to the Consumer Electronics Show or the Magic Marketplace fashion trade show, then NRA won't seem that big to you.

After an early morning flight from Baltimore (that was packed to the gills), I walked every aisle. 24 miles in one day while eating samples along the way, chatting with vendors and generally being overwhelmed by the enormity of the attempt. Smarter creatures will dedicate one day to each of the three main halls - allowing themselves time to savor the experience, attend seminars, attend the keynote and, generally, linger around.

Not me. I'm not that smart a creature. I'm here for a day and I've got to marathon it. Lots of cool things to see and taste.

One thing I learned the first year attending restaurant shows was: moderate your eating. There are, literally, hundreds of vendors giving away free samples of food and drink. It's very easy to let your eyes be greedy, gorge on everything in sight and then pass out from gluttony. Take small bites, you're just tasting.

I arrived at the hall hungry. Early flight, no breakfast and it's 10:30am. Gotta eat.

The thing about restaurant shows I never understood is why attendees bother to eat at the convention center food centers. I mean, there are hundreds of vendors giving food away. Grab some fried shrimp here, tilapia there, some sausage over here, a little prime rib a the next booth, a cup of soup, a taste of jambalaya - and you're done. All free and without the outrageous price gouging typical of convention center companies, like Aramark. And the quality of food is at least on par or better than that hot dog for eight bucks.

For me, the highlights of the show were:

- Finally discovering that True Refrigeration makes lowboy worktop refrigerators with illuminated glass doors. Gotta have those for Nail Salon Espresso.

- Checking out the Paco Jet and learning how its' used. While I love my two barrel Coldelite ice cream freezer, the PacoJet's gonna replace it at Nail Salon.

- Seeing Paul Prudhomme signing autographs. Hadn't seen Chef Paul in years and he's looking good.

- Meeting Philip and the crew from PolyScience. Great to finally meet them in person and hear about some new things that may be coming down the pipeline. Found out that they're also readers of this blog. It's an honor and I'm slightly embarassed.

- Wagyu Beef from Japan. It's truly incredible. I must have it. I must open NFA Steaks and offer it on the menu. The marbled fat is indescribable, not to mention the taste and texture.

Some disappointments:

- CookTek wasn't in attendance so I wasn't able to see their lineup of induction ranges. I will have one of those.

- Turns out that Thomas Keller and Grant Achatz hung out at the Polyscience booth for three hours on Saturday. Damn my lameness in coming on Sunday!!!! Oh well, last time I saw Keller was during a tour of his kitchen right before service in January 2005 and he didn't look too happy with this interloper snooping around.

- The utter lack of quality coffee roasters at the show. Sure, you can buy coffee from Sara Lee, but why? Unfortunately, none of our Third Wave crew was there to show the restaurant biz what coffee can be like. Hmmm - sounds like an opportunity for next year.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Lolo Level

I've reached a new milestone.

Within my extended family there is structure. Traditional structure of old world customs and heirarchy. Elders are to be respected. Being an "American," I've always struggled with this - trying to fight against the tide to gain that respect and position before my time.

Over the years, as my cousins and I collectively became older and a younger generation took out places, I moved up in rank and respect. As time passed, I found myself in the odd position of being mano'd to (mano po being the old custom of respect for elders by taking their hand and placing the back of that hand to your forehead). It became unfamiliar to be the "elder" amongst a growing sea of nephews and nieces.

And now, I've reached a level wholly shocking to me.

The Lolo, or grandfather, level.

A few weeks ago, my niece calls me from Illinois to ask if I will be the ninong (godfather) to her newborn daughter. Of course I would and found myself in the Chicagoland area this past weekend for the baptism. My niece is the oldest daughter of my eldest cousin - the one person in our hierarchy who doesn't call anyone "kuya" or "ate" because he's the oldest and doesn't have to. It's the position of ultimate privilege.

Anyway, I'm hanging around the house and realize that people are catering to me. There's no need for me to get up and get a drink, someone will get it for me. Need a little more rice? Not a problem. Don't get up. Of course, I get up and give my seat to one of the aunties because that's how it works. I'm still in the middle of the overall hierarchy and always subordinate to the aunt/uncle level above me.

But as I'm sitting there, secretly enjoying the luxury of respect, it hits me: I'm now on the "Lolo Level."

So, there's my cousin and his daughter, who is my niece, and it's her daughter - his granddaugher and, therefore, placing me on the same grandparent level.

Yes, I know there are some of you who will want to argue with this structure but regardless of what you think, this is how it works in my familys' structure.

And the thought that I'm now at the Lolo Level is just weird to me. I'm not THAT old.

Oh well, at least I'm still dating younger women... dirty old man that I am....hehehe.