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November 3, 2005

Manna From Heaven — 'Spring blossoms are everywhere'

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So begins the latest update from Rachel Grisewood (above), founder of Manna From Heaven, a very popular Australian organic bakery considered Sydney's original Slowfood emporium.

The mild shock of visual dissonance, as I watch the leaves turning their sumptuous fall colors out the window here at bookofjoe World Headquarters, passed like one of those chilly frissons you get every now and then for no apparent reason.

Once I realized that Rachel is down under and that her Marrickville (an inner–west suburb of Sydney), NSW Australia bakery is therefore climatically the opposite of mine, it was all good.

I came across Manna From Heaven in The Blue Pollen Issue of Fourth Door Review (below),

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a quirky small publication out of the U.K.

On page 75 of the latest issue — the seventh in Fourth Door Review's history — is a detailed recipe for one of Manna From Heaven's specialties.

Alas, the recipe — for Honey and Olive Oil Cake With Macerated Strawberries and Cream — is far too involved for microwave moi.

But wait — there's hope: Manna From Heaven's website states, "Manna is on track to sell biscuits into the USA, Japan and the UK."

In the meantime, all Australian joeheads are urged to stop by — it's located at 78 Livingstone Road, Marrickville NSW 2204 (tel. 61 2 9572 7177) and say hi.

Tell Rachel that Joe sent you.

As if.

November 3, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

TrayGo Travel Tray

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Interesting.

From the website:

    A deep cup (or crayon, depending on the age of the user) holder fits between the legs of the child while sitting, and the tray straddles the child's lap.

    An outside lip prevents spills and recessed areas hold a meal in place on the go.

    Can also be used while standing by holding the cup holder underneath.

But as any fool can plainly see by looking at the photo below,

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it's not just kids who find the TrayGo adds substantial capability to everyday life.

The one–piece molded plastic device has slots on both sides "that allow you to conveniently hold a plastic fork or spoon."

So what're you waiting for?

$14.95 here.

November 3, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Best Mail–Order Coffeecake

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Coffeecake is sort of like Amanda Peet, liked by almost everyone.

Jeez, wait a minute — if Ms. Peet reads this she might take it the wrong way, as if I literally were comparing her to a coffeecake.

Yo, Amanda, not to worry — not the case.

But I digress.

Unlike Ms. Peet, always adorable and funny, coffeecake isn't always a pretty sight — or taste.

The Washington Post Food section yesterday published the results of a taste–off of six mail–order coffeecakes.

The unequivocal winner?

Cinnamon Streusel Coffeecake (above) from Bakers Catalogue.

I just ordered mine; you can too, for $24.95 here.

Here's a link to the Post story.

Can't be bothered?

I understand: someone as busy and important as yourself simply doesn't have the time to go surfing around the internet.

Here's your story, then.

    Coffeecakes That Come to Your Door

    Coffeecake — it's the perfect breakfast splurge, light dessert or nighttime indulgence, or afternoon treat for unexpected guests.

    But it's hard to find a good one.

    Many of the neighborhood bakeries that used to be reliable sources are gone, and supermarket coffeecakes might not appeal to you.

    If you don't want to make one yourself, mail-order coffeecakes, available from catalogues and online, are an attractive alternative.

    A good coffeecake should be moist and have an appealing aroma and taste.

    Ideally, it should have a little crunch on top and a texture that's somewhere between cake and bread.

    It also doesn't hurt if the cake looks appealing.

    Recently, we invited Stratford University pastry chef James Sinopoli, pastry chef Valerie Hill and Quartermaine Coffee Roasters President Roger Scheumann to taste and compare six catalogue coffeecakes (also available online).

    They met at the Majestic Cafe in Old Town Alexandria, where Hill prepares the desserts. We asked Scheumann to suggest appropriate coffee matches as well.

    Each of the cakes provides 10 to 12 servings, except the one from Zingerman's, which serves four to six.

    Prices do not include shipping and handling.

    The clear winner:

    CINNAMON STREUSEL COFFEECAKE, the Baker's Catalogue (King Arthur Flour), $24.95; call 800-827-6836.

    This cake was shipped without fancy wrappings — just professional baker's paper. At first the judges were put off by its plain appearance, but upon closer inspection, they liked its traditional look and the quality of its streusel topping. They liked the aroma, too, praising the spiciness that came from the nutmeg and brown sugar in the topping. "I can tell they used good ingredients, not imitation anything," Hill said. Scheumann praised "its nice well-balanced flavor." Sinopoli liked its moisture content, spices and "caramelly swirls." He also noted that its nuts weren't burned — a problem with some coffeecakes.

    The judges' ratings on a 1 to 10 scale: Hill and Scheumann gave it a clear 9; Sinopoli, an 8 (because of the paper wrapping) or 9.

    Coffee match: A nice medium-bodied variety with a refined flavor, such as an Ethiopian coffee. The coffeecake is so good you don't need a dark roast to cut through it.

    The runners-up:

    SWISS COLONY STREUSEL SWIRL COFFEE CAKE, $19.95; 800-544-9036.

    This cake had an ugly-duckling quality. "It looks like it's bounced around a lot, or something smashed into it on top," Hill said. But the judges all liked its spicy, clear aroma. Once they tasted it, they admired its dense, buttery quality — until an aftertaste set in.

    Rating: Hill and Sinopoli, 6; Scheumann, 5.

    Coffee match: A dark coffee, such as a Central American blend, not a mild one with some acidity.


    ZINGERMAN'S NOSHER SOUR CREAM COFFEECAKE, $27 ; 888-636-8162.

    The company's smaller size cake, which arrived in a handsome wooden container, was a little disappointing. "It smells kind of plain," Scheumann said. The judges found its appearance underwhelming, and the nuts on top too large for the smaller scale of the cake. "It needs a little dressing up," said Scheumann.

    "I kind of like it," Hill said. "It's an old-time bakery cake. But there's no flavor that jumps out... It reminds me of a cake doughnut."

    Rating: Hill, 7; Scheumann, 5; Sinopoli, 4.

    Coffee match: A good estate Colombian -- nothing too fancy.


    MY GRANDMA'S OF NEW ENGLAND CINNAMON WALNUT COFFEECAKE WITH STREUSEL (Kosher) $19.95; 800-847-2636.

    The judges liked the appearance — "like a nice homemade cake." The sweet aroma of coconut, pineapple or a citrus surprised them pleasantly, and they liked the cake's lightness. "I like the way that it feels in your mouth," Hill said, "but I'm getting a little bitterness." Sinopoli liked the texture, too, and also pointed to "a little bitterness in the taste," saying that sometimes that happens when nuts are overroasted. Scheumann didn't notice much aftertaste, bitter or not.

    Rating: Hill, 4; Sinopoli and Scheumann, 6.

    Coffee match: A straightforward coffee — Guatemalan or Costa Rican — with a little cream.


    TRADITIONAL CINNAMON WALNUT COFFEECAKE, CoffeeCakes.com, $19.95; 800-830-2696.

    The judges liked the "nice old-fashioned appearance" of this cake. But it had fallen prey to one of the challenges of mail-order purchasing: It looked flat, smashed, as though something had fallen on it. Noting a tropical aroma, like pineapple or coconut, they found that the smell was echoed in the taste, although they described it as "not too bad." Hill liked the "light and moist" texture. Scheumann found it a little dry.

    Rating: All three gave it a 5.

    Coffee match: A smooth, even blend of Central or South American.


    MISS GRACE'S COFFEE CAKE, through Mrs. Beasley's catalogue and site, $29.95, 800-800-2253.

    A very pretty cake, the judges said of this nicely shaped version with swirls of icing. But inside, the cake was judged kind of bland, without much aroma and dry, though sweet. "Sugar is the most forward component," said Sinopoli.

    Rating: All three gave it a 3.

    Coffee match: A full-bodied coffee, such as one from Sumatra, with a really nice flavor and hints of caramel or cocoa. Or a bold coffee such as a French roast because of its smoky, carbony taste. With cream.

November 3, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Yohji Yamamoto Toilet Paper?

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No — but it could be.

"Black is beautiful" isn't just a feel–good slogan from back in the day, it would appear.

$1.25 a roll here.

I guess the whole fashion toilet paper thing was jumpstarted by that apocryphal Louis Vuitton version

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featured here back in August.

November 3, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'Fetish items revolve around the known becoming unexpected and slightly dangerous'

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So said Richard Flood, chief curator of the New Museum of Contemporary Art, in David Colman's "Possessed" column in Sunday's New York Times.

Flood was speaking specifically about his own personal fetish object: a ball of steel wool spun into yarn (above), given to him during the summer by an intern at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, where he was then curator.

Flood keeps it in a Chinese takeout container.

"If I left it out, it would gather all sorts of things and it would be impossible to dust," he said.

This got me to thinking about whether or not I had any fetish objects.

I got up and took a tour of my house and the grounds and couldn't find a one — until I looked in a mirror.

"Unexpected and slightly dangerous"?

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That'll do.

November 3, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

World Time Desk Clock

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I'm tickled beyond belief that I actually have a reason to buy this timepiece beyond the fact that it's waycool.

At any given moment between 20% and 60% of my readers are in places other than the U.S.

It therefore behooves me to have at my eyeballtips the local time where email and comments are emanating, from the four corners of the world.

This clock will give it to me.

It goes on the little table just to the left of this computer for easy reference 24/7/365.

From the website:

    World Time Desk Clock

    Charlotte van der Waals, 2003

    Positioned along the 12 axes of this desktop disk are two major cities, representing the 24 global time zones.

    To find the local hour in another zone simply turn the clock so the city representing that zone is in the 12 o'clock position.

    Ideal for global business executives and travelers, it is made of aluminum with German quartz movement.

    Made in Holland.

    Battery included.

    3.25" diameter.

Was $115, now reduced to $69.95 here.

November 3, 2005 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Vintage Virginia Apples Festival — 'Where are the apples of yesterday?'

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I ask myself that question every day.

If you've also wondered where they went you could do worse than make your way to North Garden, Virginia (outside Charlottesville) this coming Saturday, November 5, for the annual Apple Harvest Festival.

Rural Ridge Orchard, the site of the festival, is owned by Charlotte Shelton and her family.

They grow over 200 varieties of heirloom apples there.

The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and admission is free.

Slow Food Workshops will take place at 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m.

"The Cove Garden Ruritans will also be present to serve Brunswick stew and apple butter," wrote Christi Wampler in yesterday's Charlottesville Daily Progress story.

She continued, "The Ruritans will provide hayrides and displays focusing on history and crafts."

So what do you have to do that's any more appealing than all this great fun in my neck of the woods?

Here are directions.

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If enough joeheads decide to attend and let me know by Friday I might even make a personal appearance and share an apple or two with you.

Never tasted an Albemarle pippin?

Then you haven't lived.

November 3, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mini–Lava Lamp Nightlight

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What took them so long?

From the website:

    Swirling, sparkling, spellbinding, soothing.

    The new millennium version of the lava lamp.

    This accent light has a glowing liquid that whirls into motion when you turn the light on.

    Plugs into wall.

Plastic; 8"H.

$14.95 here.

November 3, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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