September 16, 2006
A visit to the world's first mozzarella bar
Here's the newspaper story.
- New Cheese Biz: Belly Up to the Mozzarella Bar
In the kitchen at Obikà, a mozzarella bar in the heart of Rome, restaurateur Mattia Pierantoni Cerquozzi is dressing up a hunk of raw mozzarella di bufala. Placing the cheese gently on a bed of baby spinach ringed by cherry tomatoes, he gushes about its pedigree. "See that porcelain hue? And the seam here? That's where it was squeezed off between someone's thumb and forefinger. That's how you know it's real."
At Obikà, mozzarella [above, as served at the bar] is treated with the reverence a sushi chef reserves for yellowfin tuna. "We barely touch it. We don't even cut it," says Mr. Pierantoni Cerquozzi. "And we don't put anything on it, not even salt or olive oil," for fear of overpowering its subtle, some might say bland, flavor.
Food marketers have given the star treatment to everything from coffee to kiwis — sometimes successfully, sometimes not. But a recent focus on mozzarella is succeeding in pushing the cheese up the food chain. It's an unlikely star turn for a food that looks like a large, misshapen hardboiled egg and has a taste so evanescent that it's best consumed within 48 hours.
In the U.S., a trio of famous chefs — Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich and Nancy Silverton, formerly of Campanile and La Brea Bakery — plan to open their own mozzarella bar in Los Angeles this fall. A few high-end specialty food stores in the States now carry authentic mozzarella di bufala (the real thing is made with milk from buffaloes), shipped by air from Italy, for as much as $24 a pound. More local artisans are producing their own versions of fresh mozzarella for restaurants and retailers.
But there may be no better place than Obikà to experience the subtleties of mozzarella.
It has already expanded to Milan and London, and the owners have plans for New York and even Tokyo. Its flagship in Rome has become a prime meeting point for mozzarella lovers and a training ground for novices.
Waitstaff are carefully instructed on the nuances of the different varieties, and the restaurant takes extra care to make sure its different suppliers stick to the letter of the cheese-making tradition.
Food writer Davide Paolini, one of Obikà's creators, compares mozzarella to "a talented actor who has only found bit parts. I wanted to find a way to create a restaurant in which the mozzarella could play the leading role."
Mr. Paolini and Obikà's principal owner, Silvio Ursini, a vice president of the jewelry-and-fashion company Bulgari, settled on a sort of sushi-bar concept. To select the right mix of prosciutto, bresaola and other cured meats to enhance different mozzarellas — each producer boasts its own cheese culture, literally the bacteria that turns the milk into mozzarella — the two men shut themselves in Mr. Ursini's Tuscan countryhouse for a three-day tasting session. "It was like a scene from the movie 'Super Size Me,'" recalls Mr. Paolini.
Obikà's most popular dish is a platter of three mozzarelle from different areas, including one that is smoked on a grill over a hay fire. They should be eaten in the correct order, beginning with the mildest and finishing with the heavier smoked version.
Mr. Pierantoni Cerquozzi says some aficionados prepare their palates by downing a glass of the milky liquid in which the cheese is kept — a practice less-expert diners might find unappetizing, not to mention hygienically dubious. But Mr. Pierantoni Cerquozzi is impressed. "I take my hat off to these people," he says.
The campaign to create an upscale niche for mozzarella goes back a decade. In 1996, mozzarella di bufala producers clustered mostly in the Campania region around Naples won the right from the European Union to place a seal of authenticity on their product. (A slightly less prestigious version made with cow's milk is often called fior di latte.)
True believers insist that "when you cut mozzarella, it should fold under the knife," says Vincenzo Oliviero, the head of the producers' consortium in Campania. "White liquid should ooze forth and should give off an odor of fermenting milk that makes your nose itch. The taste should leave a residue of hazelnut, chocolate, an almost earthy taste as it goes down your throat."
Most importantly, connoisseurs say, it should be eaten at room temperature within 48 hours after it's made. "Logistics is our handicap," concedes Mr. Oliviero. One producer, Torre di Lupara, has developed a way to freeze mozzarella with a liter of the milky water in which it's stored; it's defrosted over eight hours — but since it's frozen, it can't carry the official seal.
Below, a sidebar to the Wall Street Journal article.
- Where To Shop
Here are five good sources for imported or locally made mozzarella.
Conte Di Savoia
Fresh mozzarella made onsite on weekends ($5.69 a pound).
• Los Angeles
Cheesestore of Silverlake
Domestic cow's-milk mozzarella ($4 for eight ounces); mozzarella di bufala flown in from Italy ($11 to $12 for eight ounces).
• New York
Certified mozzarella di bufala ($6.99 for 9 ounces), plus homemade fior di latte ($5.75 a pound). The highest-rated cheese and dairy vendor in the Zagat Survey's 2007 New York City Marketplace guide.
• San Francisco
The Pasta Shop
Oakland and Berkeley; 510-547-4005
Mozzarella di bufala from Italy ($4.99 for five ounces) and a domestic water-buffalo version from California producer Bubalus Bubalis ($7.99 for 10 ounces).
• Washington, D.C. area
Chevy Chase; 301-951-1818
Mozzarella made daily ($6.95 pound).
World's First Remote-Control Auto-Shutoff Massaging Foot Warmer
Of course, implicit in the headline above is a recognition that you don't consider living iterations, à la a cat or dog that snuggles atop your chilly feet and every now and then shifts its position.
But I digress.
From the website:
- Massaging Foot Warmer
Our plush bootie combines massage and heat to soothe aching muscles and increase circulation.
Slip in your tired, sore feet and let the two gentle vibrating motors relax foot tension.
Its soft, comfortable liner is cozy and warm, cushioning your toes, feet and ankles.
Remote lets you choose massage, heat — or both.
Cord is extra-long so you can sit back and control massage from a relaxed position.
Auto-shutoff after a 30-minute massage.
Included AC adapter is UL-approved.
IMPORTANT: Any individual who is pregnant, has a pacemaker, suffers from diabetes, phlebitis and/or thrombosis, or is at an increased risk of developing blood clots due to recent surgery should consult with a physician before using a massaging device designed for home use.
That was easy, huh?
Aren't you glad you have me?
After a painstaking pixel-by-pixel analysis of the photo at the top of this post — using some of the most advanced proprietary imaging software on the planet (In-Q-Tel: address all inquiries to our marketing department. Wait a minute... do we even have one? Note to file: email Shawn Lea and have her setup a Potemkin equivalent. But I digress) — it would appear that the device consists of a single external shell with two compartments for the feet: one for the left and one for the right.
That makes sense.
But nota bene, booboo: if you suddenly attempt to rise from your blissful massage so as to head to the kitchen for a brewski or whatever, momentarily forgetting that your footwear is not forward (or backward, for that matter) motion-compatible,
you will fall flat on your face, possibly fracturing your skull if you have a wood, cement, stone or tile floor and necessitating a trip to the hospital for an emergency craniotomy by one of Dr. Firlik's peers.
This is not a good thing, as Martha might say.
Contempt for the customer is not a brand building strategy
Back when we were the equivalent of foie gras geese and had TV commercials stuffed down our optic nerves because we had no recourse, we didn't think anything of it.
That's the way it was.
But give people a taste of freedom — starting with a remote control to mute commercials and change channels without any opportunity cost — and all of a sudden seeing the same commercials repeatedly during one half-hour show seems not only tedious but really annoying.
Then comes the internet, where the user has total control of what she or he chooses to experience, and all of a sudden we're not going to take it anymore.
Now, advertisers better convince us to watch or we're outa here.
Surfboard Beach Towel
First came the rug, now comes its outdoor iteration.
From the website:
- Surfboard Beach Towel
Plush Surfboard Beach Towel features a floral jacquard print that is oh so summery — and extra large.
Lie down and your feet won't even touch the sand!
Catch a wave... or just a nap!
84"L x 32"W.
Jeremy Mercer's Top 10 bookstores in the world
Mercer is a writer for The Guardian who chose his 10 favorite bookshops.
He wrote, "Bookstores are sanctuaries. Places to lose yourself, escape the harsh demands of daily life, find new ways to dream and new sources of inspiration. I love all booksellers; anybody who helps spread the word is doing noble work. But my favourite bookstores are the small eccentric independents run by passionate and usually slightly mad book lovers. These are some of the best."
Here they are, in the order he listed them:
1) Atlantis Books (pictured up top) — Oia, Santorini Island, Greece
2) Shakespeare and Co. — 37 rue de la Bucherie, Paris, France
3) bookartbookshop — 17 Pitfield St., London, UK
4) Clovis Press (now closed) — 229 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, New York
5) Calder Bookshop — 51 The Cut, London, UK
6) La Bouquinèrie — 88 La Canebiere, Marseille, France
7) City Lights — 261 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco, California
8) This Ain't The Rosedale Library — 483 Church Street, Toronto, Canada
9) Abbey Books — 29 rue de la Parcheminerie, Paris, France
10) Compendium Books (now closed) — 234 Camden High Street, London, UK
I came upon this list in a story about Atlantis Books, by Joanna Kakissis, that appeared in the August 20 New York Times Travel section.
Wireless Refrigerator/Freezer Thermometer
Admit it: sometimes you simply can't sleep at night, tossing and turning as you wonder whether or not your refrigerator and freezer are at the proper temperatures.
Now you can rest easy.
From the website:
Wireless Fridge/Freezer Thermometer Set
Are your fridge and freezer at safe temperatures? Now you’ll get 2 warnings if they’re not!
If it’s too warm in your fridge or freezer, you’re decreasing the shelf life of the foods inside, and that wastes money.
If they’re set too cold, you could be wasting energy dollars.
But you’ll never really know the interior temperatures for sure unless you use our Wireless Thermometer Set with alarm!
Each of the two remote temperature sensors [below]
clips onto a shelf or sticks to the interior wall (suction cups included), and constantly sends a wireless signal to the receiver [top] that will then sound an alarm and flash a visual warning when your pre-set minimum or maximum temperatures (between –22 degrees F and +104 degrees F) have been exceeded.
Use in a fridge/freezer combo, or use one in a secondary freezer out in your garage.
Readout in Fahrenheit or Celsius.
6”x 2-1⁄2”x 1”-tall receiver needs two AAA batteries (not included), and sticks to any metallic surface, sits on a countertop, or hangs from a nail within 100 feet.
1-3⁄8” x 3⁄4” x 4-1⁄4” tall sensors each need two AA batteries (not included).
Definitely a conversation starter in the bedroom should you place the monitor on your nightstand in lieu of a clock.
A featured selection of the Ned Vizzini Be More Chill Fan Club.
$39.99 (for the thermometer setup, not the book, booboo).
Apple shows how to make a kinder, gentler '404 Page Not Found'
I happened on it just now.
Portable Saw — Episode 2: NATO-Approved Commando Saw
David Weston noted in his comment on Episode 1, "Here's a saw that's smaller, cheaper and more versatile."
From the website:
- Commando Saw — 30"
This NATO-approved tool will cut wood, plastic, bone, rubber or soft metal.
Plated swivel ends prevent twisting.
30" blade is stainless steel.
Unique 8-strand design.
I believe Bond — James Bond — was on the receiving end of one of these in at least one movie.
As with the folding saw featured in Episode 1, not recommended for carry-on bags.