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February 11, 2006

Hollieanna Groves Ruby Red Grapefruit — 'Fabulous'

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On January 18 Judith Weinraub wrote in the Washington Post Food section about the results of a taste–off of mail–order citrus conducted by a panel of food experts.

So as not to offend any company that might some day advertise in the paper (my supposition — but I'd put good money on it) the results were listed not in order of quality but, rather, alphabetically.

However, a close reading reveals the winner: the "lovely" Hollieanna Groves Ruby Red Grapefruit (above).

Here's the article.

    Citrus by Mail, Worth the Wait

    Citrus by mail? With all those supermarket bins full of fruit?

    Nobody's suggesting you make a habit of it, but there are lots of reasons to treat yourself to the really good fruit available online or by phone:

    • You can eat fruit at the height of its season. Many online citrus sites not only sell their fruit when it's due to come off the trees, but also help you order it with explanatory charts and lists.

    • You have access to terrific fruit that would probably never make it to your local grocery or chain store -- either because it's top of the line and saved for this market, or because supermarkets don't want to spend the extra time and money required to stock specialty fruits.

    • Fruit bought this way is fresh. "It hasn't been in a warehouse or a cooler in a packinghouse for three weeks," says Allen Cushman, whose family has been marketing Florida citrus since 1945.

    This year's fruit crop was pummeled when four storms barreled through Florida, the world's largest grapefruit producer. On Oct. 24, when much of the fruit on the trees was too heavy to withstand the winds, Hurricane Wilma was devastating. Its path was particularly tough on the grapefruit groves and, according to Florida Citrus Mutual, Florida's largest association of citrus growers, took out 47 percent of the crop.

    The Food section was curious about how this year's specialty crop fared, and ordered examples of citrus not regularly available in local stores. The fruit was ordered just before Christmas, requesting delivery dates in the first week of January. The growers don't guarantee delivery dates, but do try to accommodate their customers.

    Of the seven we requested, two deliveries arrived within 10 days, three came within two weeks, and one, arriving after three weeks, was too late for our tasting. Another company took time off after Christmas and told us they could not deliver in a timely manner.

    We sampled the fruit with two experts.

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    How do you recognize good citrus? It's not as easy as you'd think. Of course the fruit shouldn't look banged-up or bruised, but green or brown blotches on the outside don't reveal much about the inside. Weight is what counts. Citrus should be firm to the touch and heavy for its size. A weighty orange is more likely to be juicy than a light (dry) one. And stiffness can be a sign of frost damage.

    When you cut into citrus, its aroma should always be appealing. A thin skin is a good indicator, too -- fruits with thick skin were usually developed for ease of long-distance transportation. As for the taste, that's somewhat personal. In general, citrus, like wine, is assessed by the intricacy of its flavor and also by the balance of sweet and sour (sugar and acid). Sweetness isn't necessarily a sign of good fruit, however, especially in grapefruit.

    To help us evaluate some specialty fruits from Florida companies, we asked two experts to help us out: Bonnie Moore, a former sous-chef at the Inn at Little Washington who is now the culinary director and executive chef at Foodfit.com; and Dean Gold, co-owner of Dino restaurant in Cleveland Park, who worked as a buying coordinator and executive at the Fresh Fields and Whole Foods companies for 10 years. Here are their assessments (companies are in alphabetical order; prices include shipping and handling).

    ********************

    Blood's Hammock Groveshttp://www.bloodsgroves.com, 800-255-5188. One tray Rosalie Red grapefruit, $36.95.

    These Rosalie Reds were particularly pretty, with a touch of pink on the outside and a deep rosy red inside. Marketed as sweet grapefruit, the Rosalie Reds were a bit too sweet for our tasters, who preferred a more astringent, but not bitter, taste. "But they're probably not sweet enough for kids," said Moore. "They're good for eating now," said Gold, "but somewhat bland, without a lot of flavor or aromatics."

    Cushman's Limited Edition Fruithttp://www.honeybell.com, 800-776-7575. HoneyBells, 14 pounds, $42.94.

    HoneyBells look like oranges with a knobby top. They're usually sweeter than oranges, and about 80 percent of them are seedless. Called tangelos by some companies, HoneyBells are a hybrid of a Dancy tangerine and a Duncan grapefruit and are available only in January. Ours, which were ordered from Allen Cushman, the son of the man who named them, were heavy and firm but not hard. Moore and Gold liked their smell and taste, noting a little spice and hints of honey, but found them a little sugary.

    "They're very low acid," said Gold. "Good for kids. And they would add a real brightness to a fruit salad." They also praised the small center core surrounded by nicely connected segments that did not pull apart from one another. "The sacks are very juicy and plump," said Gold. "When you cut through them, they don't collapse. They hold the juice." A good-quality fruit overall, said our tasters.

    Hale Indian River Groveshttp://hales.com, Empire Nova tangelos, approximately 10 pounds, $25.93 .

    Rounder than Cushman's HoneyBells and a deep orange color, these tangelos were heavy for their size, and juicy. "They're really fragrant and really good," said Moore: "Both orangey and spicy with a taste of honey." Gold praised the fruit, too. "There's a lot of tangerine flavor, and nicely sweet with a strong tangy component," he said. "Kids would like them. And they'd make fabulous juice."

    We included these in the tasting because the judges liked them so much. But we seem to have received the last batch: They won't be available again until November.

    Hollieanna Groveshttp://www.hollieanna.com, 800-793-7848. Half-bushel of grapefruit, half Ruby Red and half Marsh White, $42.90.

    Our tasting wasn't set up as a competition, but the Ruby Red grapefruit from Hollieanna was the runaway star. Our tasters praised them for their nice heavy feel, their excellent interior condition and, most of all, for their taste. "They're not very sweet," said Gold. "They have real tang and a lovely bitter aftertaste. "Not for mass-market America," said Moore. "Kids probably wouldn't flock to them. But to me, they have much more versatility -- you can eat them out of hand, cook with them, play off their bitterness, and they're a real palate cleanser. "

    The Marsh White grapefruit was somewhat plain, according to our experts, a little bland and very acidic. "I look for more flavor, more balance between sweet and sour," said Gold. "Disappointing," said Moore.

    Policicchio Groveshttp://www.juicycitrus.com, 321-452-4866. Star Ruby Grapefruit, 1 tray ( quarter-bushel), $33.90 .

    If judged on their looks, these grapefruit would have been tossed aside. Their shape was fine, but the dark brown patches on the skin were leathery and made them look damaged. Their weight was good, however, and when cut open, they were a beautiful ruby red and exuded an appealing aroma. "They're delicious," said both tasters. "They have the complex flavor [of the Hollieanna Ruby Reds]," said Gold, judging these "only a little less fabulous."

    "Kids wouldn't like these," said Moore, "but chefs would. They have a pleasant bitterness that would go well as part of a salad with avocado, bibb lettuce, some of the juice, olive oil and salt."

    ********************

    Ordering Tips

    • Order citrus from companies that grow it. That way there's no lag time between picking the fruit and sending it.

    • Allow at least two to three weeks delivery time.

    • After you place an order, make sure you receive confirmation with an order number.

    • Once you have an identifying order number, track your fruit so that someone can be at home when it arrives. It should be promptly unpacked and refrigerated. If it seems damp, dry each piece.

February 11, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Who wants to be the leader in customer–friendly garbage bags?

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Step forward and collect your suggestion for a product/customer–experience improvement right here.

As I was opening a new box of Hefty 39-gallon clear lawn & leaf bags (above) and digging around inside for the twist ties, the penny dropped: why should I always have to dig around looking for them?

Even more annoying, why is it that as soon as the box has been opened and the ties put somewhere, they're effectively gone — disappeared into the black hole containing "the other sock," et al.

Solution: attach a tie to each bag so there's never a problem locating one.

No, don't use tape, that costs money and margins — like the plastic these bags are made from — are thin enough as it is.

Rather, simply place the tie within the bag's folded surfaces if you're offering them in a flat form or, if you do the roll thing, make sure they're placed at the top of the opening of each bag.

There will be no charge for this advice — that's precisely what it's worth.

Thank you for your courtesy.

Now, back to my regularly scheduled treadmill office/living room newspapers–piled–to-the–ceiling cleanup.

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot: of course you'll want to use the official trash bag of bookofjoe for your own clean–up purposes — what was I thinking?

23 will cost you $7.99.

February 11, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Wooden Nickel Historical Museum

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Finally.

February 11, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

M & M Poster Speakerphone

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From the website:

    Full–featured speakerphone features:

    • Dry–erase surface that lets you write directly on the poster (marker not included)

    • 3 Programmable speed–dial buttons

    • Touch–activated buttons

    • Bright colored graphics

    • Hangs on any wall

    • On/Off switch

    • Flash/Redial

Dimensions: 12"H x 20"W x 1"D.

Requires 2 AA batteries (not included).

Available in your choice of a big red or yellow M & M conducting the symphony.

$20.77 (third item down).

February 11, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

What has value

1201lzzzzzzz

"House Republicans flexed some partisan muscle Thursday and punished retired Del. James H. Dillard II by refusing to confirm former Gov. Mark Warner's appointment of Dillard to the College of William and Mary Board of Visitors."

That was the opening sentence of Bob Gibson's story in yesterday's Charlottesville Daily Progress about a little dust–up in the Virginia House of Delegates last week.

"Punished?"

Let me just say that if you informed me that my "punishment" would be not having to go, once a month, to Williamsburg to sit in a big room around a big table with a bunch of geezers, all listening to reports and speeches and what–not, for a full day, I'd say, "Can I have some more, please?"

I detest meetings: always have, always will.

I'll do anything I can not to take part in one.

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Why the 72–year–old Dillard, presumably capable and accomplished and in full possession of his faculties, would actually want to go to meetings is so far beyond me, they don't have a telephoto lens that can take you there.

And on top of it, at 72 you're more likely than not on the final approach to "till death do us part" and all so why would you possibly consider spending your final fantasy — if indeed that's what life is — in a stuffy board room?

I can think of about 10,000 things I'd rather be doing than attending a meeting of the Board of Visitors of the College of William and Mary.

Stuff like picking at a hangnail, clearing pine cones from my driveway, tossing broken branches down the hillside behind my house, scrubbing the bathtub... anything but a meeting.

The only possible explanation for the delusional thinking that leads so many people to prefer the prestigious meeting route to real life is that somehow they missed the boat when the guy pointed out that time — not money — is by far the most valuable currency of all.

It would appear that most of the world continues to play with — and treat as real — funny money.

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More power to them: more time for me.

February 11, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mini Ziplok Bags

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I save these whenever I happen on them in packaging or whatnot.

But no matter how religiously I keep throwing in my desk drawer where I keep such odds and ends, I never seem to have one when I need one.

From the website:

    Mini Zip Bags — 1,000 Uses!

    Mini zipper bags keep "small stuff" organized!

    Great for storing beads and buttons, pins and needles, nuts and washers.

    Clear plastic allows easy identification.

    Set of 30 mini bags includes 10 of each: 2-1/2" x 3"; 3" x 3"; 3" x 4".

    Set of 60 regular has 20 of each: 3" x 4"; 4" x 6"; 5" x 8".

The set of 30 mini bags costs $1.99; the set of 60 regular is $4.99.

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I'll tell you who could've used these: my roommate during my sophomore year of college in good old Rieber Hall at UCLA (Go Bruins!).

He was a grad student in psychology and putting himself through college by selling speed.

He'd sit there at his desk under the lamplight with his scales and baggies and piles of pure meth and ledger book, weighing and measuring and recording the whole night through.

He was a super–nice guy, great roommate, quiet, everything you'd want in someone sharing tight quarters.

He said that if I ever wanted any speed or any other drugs to let him know and he'd get me the pure stuff, the best, no problem, at cost.

I never took him up on it.

Even then I thought reality was — by far — the best drug of all.

w00t!

February 11, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

bookofjoe Classifieds™ — Just like at Google, the new features just keep on coming

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Today marks the very first ever bookofjoe Classified™.

I am pleased — no, scratch that — delighted to present to you not the one and only Billy Shears but, rather, the one and only... drumroll... Marc Kawecki.

Who the heck is he? you're wondering.

Well, I'd have asked the very same question until 6:03 p.m. (ET) Thursday evening when, out of the blue, his comment on Wednesday's "Fun with citrus" post appeared.

His comment is published below, in its entirety — unexpurgated.

Not one word has been omitted.

    The smell of lemon comes not from citric acid but a combination of other wonderfully fragrant chemicals.

    The characteristic lemony aroma that we all know and love is due primarily to two such chemicals: neral and geranial.

    A whole handful of other constituents do their part to round out this wonderful fragrance and some digging around on the Internet should yield a determined searcher (or crack research team member) plenty of additional information.

    Shameless Plug: If you happen to be reading this and are in need of an entry-level Mechanical Engineer with Biomedical specialization in the mid-Michigan area, please read my e-mail address carefully and get in touch.

Well?

His email address: marc.kawecki@gmail.com

Tell him bookofjoe sent you.

February 11, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Cupholder 'Tower of Power' Swivel Storage System

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Perhaps you really like the concept of San Francisco's de Young Museum but you don't have a thousand dollars or two lying around to bring it home with you.

No problema.

An on–the–cheap iteration has just arrived in the form of a tower of [storage] power for your car's cupholder.

From the website:

    Car Swivel Container System

    Car swivel container system converts ordinary cup holder into an easy–access car clutter organizer.

    Take control of loose change, gum, tickets and more.

    Features four swivel–open/shut interlocking compartments.

    Clear plastic shell lets you easily identify contents.

    8¼" x 3" x 3".

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$14.98.

February 11, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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