Friday, October 29, 2010

Trader Joe's Opening in Athens & Stovetop Espresso

Trader Joe's Athens (736) - Scheduled to Open Oct. 29th!
1850 Epps Bridge Parkway
Athens, GA 30606
Phone Number: 706-583-8934
Trading Hours: 8:00 am - 9:00 pm
4.6 miles


Okay, so I haven't been waiting for this forever--it's something I found out Thursday in the costume shop while cutting up gas station Mexican blankets.  But!  Trader Joe's opened today!  I am going to be there as early as the boyfriend can stand to get out of bed, believe you me.  No more two-hour drives to Atlanta!

I am going to get so much wine, you guys.  I am going to go and stock up on wine and goodies.  The wine rack we inherited from the boyfriend's grandfather is going to be respected as it should be!   I'll be able to buy 100% pure stevia--as opposed to freaking Truvia!

Maybe, just maybe, they'll carry French chestnut puree.  I  bought so much of that in Paris this summer and had to throw it all out at security, because apparently substances that do not move when you turn the jar on its head with the lid open are considered a liquid and not allowed on planes, wtf.  (Seriously?  Nutella is also not allowed in your carryons; did you know this?)

The sad thing is that I don't think I'd be this devastatingly excited if only I could shop at our local EarthFare and be able to afford more than half a pomegranate and a tablespoon of Nama Shoyu.  At least Trader Joe's respects its wine enough to allow a great deal of it to be imbibed by, ahem, significantly lowering the price.  It makes no economic sense, but then I don't think it is intended to; the story I heard is that the Two Buck Chuck comes from a vineyard that suffered from a divorce; it's a vindictive asset-dumping issue or something like that, and the determination to refuse the ex as much money as possible is keeping down the price.

Although I just googled it, and apparently that is total myth.  The grapes are just from a less expensive region of Napa Valley.  Or, as another Google source claims, the grapes are from anywhere but they are BOTTLED in Napa Valley, which is cheating but tremendously funny.  (Oh, Google.  You're as bad as Wikipedia.)

On the schedule for this weekend:  reading, researching, memorizing, and redecorating the house for Halloween!  This will most definitely involve a jack o'lantern.  Oh, yes, it will.  And roasted pumpkin seeds, miniature pumpkin pies in ramekins, and probably some butternut squash soup.  (I invented this soup a year or two ago, and it is superfantastic amazing.)  And wine.

Yes.  Wine.

You guys, this means I don't have to buy presalted cooking wine from the vinegar aisle anymore, which is so nasty by itself that you can buy it on Sundays!  I'm dancing in my seat a little.

However, before I go buy out Trader Joe's, I want to recommend this Gatao Vinho Verde highly; it's great for those who don't want an incredibly sweet white wine, it's inexpensive, and good for cooking.  I've used it in any recipe I've posted in the past month that involves white wine.  I bought it because it was a Vinho Verde and it had a cat on it, but it was surprisingly good.  Price is between $6 and $8, so it's a pretty good deal for a nice, crisp wine.  Check it out on Google Shopping; you can even find it for $3.99.

This morning was gorgeous, because classes were cancelled and I spent a lot of time hanging out with the cat and a Georgette Heyer book, and it was chilly and sleepy enough for me to be seriously interested in a cup of coffee.  However, I don't drink or make coffee much, so it's a waste of counter space to buy a coffee maker.  Instead, I have a gorgeous little macchinetta, which is a stovetop espresso maker, and I believe it is one of the items, like the garlic press, that my mother picked up while traveling all around Europe auditioning for orchestras.

Want espresso but have no desire to plunk down $100-$1,000 for a fancy espresso maker?  Seriously, don't spend over $30.  The traditional espresso makers are amazing.  But they're not totally self-evident, so I photographed the process!

What You Need
Italian macchinetta
Freshly ground or pre-ground coffee
Filtered water
Coffee fixings (optional)

So you begin with this cool shiny coffeepot, and you think "How in heaven's name does this make espresso?  I am confused.  Let me go search the Internet for directions.  I feel that operachild may have written something about this recently.  AHA!

There are five parts to the coffeepot:  the bottom, the middle filter with the downwards-pointing tube, a round piece of rubber, a small disc with holes in it, and the top bit with the handle and the lid that opens.  The small round disc goes into the underside of the top part of the pot (with the handle, on the far right), and the round piece of rubber holds it in place.

Then, you fill the bottom part with filtered water.  If you want to make the maximum amount of espresso, fill the pot until the water level reaches a small raised aluminum line on the inside.  Put the large filter with the downwards-sticking tube in it onto the bottom of the pot, like so:

Add the ground coffee.  It usually isn't more than 1/4 to 1/3 cup.  As a rule, the stronger you want your espresso, the more coffee you put in.  But don't fill it full to bursting; you want to be able to screw the top on.  You don't have to use an espresso roast; use whatever you like best.

I switched from Starbucks Sumatra to this African Kitamu, because it looked interesting and was on sale.  Normally, I'd try to buy whole beans and then grind them at home, but this was only available in preground--and it still turned out a nice cup of coffee.

Screw the lid on and place on the stove.  Turn the heat to medium-high and wait.  This will take between 4-6 minutes, but you will hear the coffee steam bubbling up through the middle of the pot.  You can pop the lid open to check and see if it's full, because you don't want overflowing coffee on your burner, pot, and stove, but don't do it too often; you don't want to let the steam that's making your espresso have a chance to escape.

Pour and enjoy!

I drink my espresso black, because I remember thinking in college that only cool, hardcore coffee lovers drank their coffee black, so I would learn to love it.  I think this is the same reason I drink mostly red wine.  So don't be a dunce like me, and drink yours however you want to!  I occasionally fiddle with the idea of adding a bit of almond milk.  You never know.

One other thing:  the macchinettas are sold with measurements like "3 Cups" and "6 Cups".  The cup measurement has nothing to do with huge eight-ounce mugs; they mean demitasses.  Check out the picture on the left:  they mean the really small white one.  I believe that mine is a six-cup macchinetta, but it fills about two of the gold and white cups at the right of the picture.  Keep this in mind when you're buying.

Voilà!  Enjoy your very inexpensive, very traditional homemade espresso!  Which, by the way, you can also use in a variety of baked goods, including some out-of-this-world coffee cake.

I leave you with a cutesy quote from the "vegan" list of products on the Trader Joe's website, which, coincidentally, is also from one of the two plays I'm in:

Sir AndrewAguecheek: "I am a great eater of beef and I believe that does harm to my wit."
Sir Toby Belch: "No question." 

William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, Act I, Scene III