Saturday, March 31, 2012

Russia's Vodka Wars

Vodka is a crucial component in Russian life. And in Russian death. Alcohol-related accidents and cardiac arrests have already decimated Russian life expectancy by well over a decade during the last decade alone.

Vodka is also big business. The brand "Stolichnaya" sells $2 billion a year worldwide. Hence the interminable and inordinately bitter battle between the Russian ministry of agriculture and SPI Spirits. The latter, still partly owned by the state, is the on and off owner of the haloed brand "Stolichnaya", James Bond's favorite.

SPI's PR firm, Burson-Marsteller, posits this commercial conflict as a classic case of the violation of the property rights of hapless foreign shareholders by the avaricious and ruthless functionaries of an unreformed evil empire. They question Russia's readiness to accede to the WTO and its respect for the law.

SPI's latest press release consists of the detailed history of this harrowing tale. The brand Stolichnaya, as well as 42 others, were privatized in 1992. The firm quotes a document, bearing the official seal of the maligned ministry, which states unambiguously: "VAO Sojuzplodoimport has the right to export Russian vodka to the USA under the following trademarks: Stolichnaya, Stolichnaya Cristall, Pertsovka, Limonnnaya, Privet, Privet Orange (Apelsinovaya), Russian and Okhotnichya."

The privatization was completed in 1997 when the old SPI was sold to the new SPI Spirits. The new SPI claims to have assumed $40 million in debt and invested another $20 million to rebuild the company into "one of the world's leading vodka producers". Yet, the Russian government, as heavy handed as ever, clearly is unhappy with SPI.

It says the privatization deal was dubious and that SPI paid only $300,000 (or maybe as little as $61,000 claim other sources) for the multi-billion dollar brands, including "Stolichnaya", "Moskovskaya", and "Russkaya". The government values the brands at a far more reasonable $400 million. Other appraisers came up with a figure of $1.4 billion.

The government, in a bout of new-found legal rectitude, also insists that the seller of the brands, the defunct (state-owned) SPI, was not their legal owner. It also questions the mysterious shareholders of the new SPI - including a holding company in tax-lenient Delaware. SPI's trademarks portfolio is represented by an Australian law firm, Mallesons Stephen Jaques.

Putin himself set up a committee for the repatriation of these and other consumer brands to the state. He craves the beneficial effects the alcohol sector's tax revenues could have on the federal budget - and on its powers of patronage. A central state-owned brand-holding and distribution company was set up less than two years ago. Ever since then, the alcohol sector has been subjected to relentless state interference. SPI is not the most egregious case either.

"The Observer" mentions that SPI currently runs most of its business from inscrutable Cyprus, a favorite destination for Russian money launderers, tycoon tax evaders, and mobsters. SPI's German distributor, Plodimex, is increasingly less active - as three new off shore distribution entities (in Cyprus, the Dutch Antilles, and Gibraltar) are increasingly more so.

The FSB ordered Kaliningrad customs to prohibit bulk exports of Stolichnaya. Cases of the drink are routinely confiscated. Criminal charges were brought against directors and managers in the firm. The Deputy Minister of Agriculture is discrediting SPI in meetings with its distributors and business partners abroad. He is also accused by the firm of obstructing the court-mandated registration of its trademarks.

The courts have lately been good to SPI, coming out with a spate of decisions against the government's conduct in this convoluted affair. But on February 1, the firm suffered a setback, when a Moscow court ruled against it and ordered 43 of its brands, the prized Stolichnaya included, returned to the government (i.e., re-nationalized).

SPI is doing its best to placate the authorities. It is rumored to have offered last month to use its ample funds to supplement the federal budget. It has indicated last September that it is on the prowl for additional acquisitions in Russia - a bizarre statement for a firm claiming to have been victimized. "The Moscow Times" reported that it is planning to sign a $500,000 sponsorship agreement with the Russian Olympic Committee.

Summit Communications, a country image specialist, placed this on its Web site in November 2001:

"One example of a savvy Russian company that has managed to do well in the West by finding the right partner is the Soyuzplodimport company (see also p. 14). Soyuzplodimport, or SPI, has the exclusive rights to export Stolichnaya, which vodka lovers in the U.S. fondly refer to as 'Stoli'. Some 50% of the company's export turnover comes from the United States, thanks mostly to its strategic alliance with Allied-Domecq for U.S. distribution.

'I'm not sure that all Americans know where Russia is on the map, but most of them know what Stolichnaya is,' muses Andrey Skurikhin, general director of SPI. 'I want the quality of Stolichnaya in America to create an image of Russia that is pure, strong and honest, just like the vodka. At SPI, we feel that we are like ambassadors and we will try to do everything to create a more objective and positive image of Russia in the U.S.'"

SPI's troubles may prove to be contagious. Allied Domecq, its British distributor in America and Mexico, now faces competition from Kryshtal International, a subsidiary of the troubled Kristal distillery, 51% owned by Rosspirtprom, a government agency. Kryshtal signed distribution contracts for "Stolichnaya" with distilleries backed by the Russian ministry of agriculture.

Allied and Miller Brewing have announced a $50 million investment in product launch and marketing campaigns only five years ago. "Stolichnaya" (nicknamed "Stoli" in the States) sells 1 million 12-bottle cases a year in the USA (compared to Absolut's 3 million cases).

The trouble started almost immediately with the first foreign investments in SPI. As early as 1991, Vneshposyltorg, a government foreign trade agency,  tried to export Stolichnaya in Greece. This led to court action by the Greeks. Vodka wars also erupted between the newly-registered Russian firm "Smirnov" and Grand Metropolitan over the brand "Smirnoff".

The vodka wars are sad reminders of the long way ahead of Russia. Its legal system is rickety - different courts upheld government decisions and SPI's position almost simultaneously. Russia's bureaucrats - even when right - are abusive, venal, and obstructive. Russia's "entrepreneurs" are a penumbral lot, more enamored with off-shore tax havens than with proper management. The rule of law and private property rights are still fantasies. The WTO - and the respectability it lends - are as far as ever.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Rokok Kretek: The Culture and Heritage of Indonesia's Clove Cigarettes

Rokok is cigarettes, kretek is clove flavored, so rokok kretek means clove flavored cigarettes or clove cigarettes. For many millions Javanese and Indonesians, kretek is enjoyable companion, tasteful, it gives a feeling of relief & relaxation and its price is nothing compare to the comfort given.
Clove tree In restaurants, pubs, bars, discotheques, public buildings and in many other places outdoor, the sweet smoke from kretek are smelt. This is a common sight, but nowadays, many sites are divided to smoking and non smoking areas. Some air conditioned buildings even declared as non smoking.

Brief history

Rokok kretek was invented by a man from the town of Kudus, 50 km eastward of Semarang in the early nineties AD. The man Noto Semito was from a long time suffering from cough and asthma. Desperate to cure his illness, he rolled tobacco mix with crushed cloves in dried corn leaves - this is the original kretek cigarettes.
The rokok klobot (klobot is dried corn leaves). After smoking these kretek he was cured and become healthier. He began to manufacture his new kretek cigarettes with trade mark of BAL TIGA (three balls). He actively marketed the kretek every where, through radio, touring vans with music and dancers, even by air dropping promotion leaflets.
He become a very successful business man, a billionaire. His steps was followed by many others and soon kretek industry was mushrooming also in other cities. The fate of Noto Semito, The Father of Kretek, ended tragically, he was bankrupt in 1953, crashed by his invented kretek vast industry.

The Present Day

The kretek follows 'modernization' in cigarettes industry. The new filter kretek are major products, the contents of crushed cloves are smaller, changed with clove essence. The crushed cloves are kept to maintain the voice of burning kretek - crakling : tek, tek, tek, from here comes the name of kretek.
The leaders of kretek nowadays are Djambu Bol, Sukun, Nojorono, Djarum (in Kudus and Central Java), Bentoel (in Malang), Gudang Garam (in Kediri) and Sampoerna (in Surabaya). There are also smaller manufacturers, such as Menara (in Solo), Pompa (in Semarang), etc. More than 95% of local smokers prefer kretek than rokok putih or white cigarettes - non clove cigarettes.
No one denies that kretek industry brings a huge sum of tax to the state purse and millions of people depend their income to this chains of business, starting from the tobacco and clove farmers, workers at the factories, sellers in many shops and stalls, truckers, involved in this industry and it's worth to note - their families.

Tobacco Connoisseur

The kretek factories absorb a lot of tabacco. The buyers - mainly the kretek producers, they hire several connoisseurs, experts of tobacco, to secure the quality of their products. They are very well paid. No doubt of their specific expertise. Only by smelling the wet tobacco leaves or dried cut tobacco leaves, high qualified connoisseur should know precisely the origin of the tobacco. It is from Wonosobo , Magelang or Boyolali (Central java) or from Besuki (East Java), and knows the harvest year of every tobacco tested. The testing is important as prices differs from region to region.

Where to Buy

Most tobacco stores carry clove cigarettes. Try the local mall, Some convenience stores carry them, but not the major chains. You will have much better luck finding clove cigarettes at family-owned and operated convenience stores, especially stores owned by recent immigrants to the United States (since they tend to have more knowledge of clove cigarettes). But due to the high taxes of cigarettes people like to look for altervative sources. The best place to get your clove cigarettes without have to pay these high taxes is the internet. You can search the internet and you will find lots of websites selling clove cigarettes. One of the most trusted website that sells clove cigarettes is - The Original Indonesian Clove Cigarettes Online Store .With a long history in the clove cigarettes business and over 6 years of online experience, not only offers genuine products at competitive prices they also guarantee that all of their products are freshly supplied to the customers for their full satisfaction.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Roasted To Excel Premium Gourmet Coffee

Coffee at Its Finest

Some people who find slurping coffee in specialty shops as an indulgence would definitely agree to the fact that these samples of rich concoction is worthy of the amount paid.  There is nothing quite the same to the taste of specially brewed premium gourmet coffee with its unique aroma that, to some, is synonymous with being serenaded by an orchestra while lying on a luxurious hammock.

Such is the experience of coffee connoisseurs who have met their match of the perfect cup of premium gourmet coffee. Since there are a variety of coffee beans to delve our eyes upon, it usually takes several tries before one can decide which should be a regular partner in our early morning habit.

There are folks who like the popular dark roasted coffee beans while some are into the light roast that they find are just right for their taste.  The rest are in the middle ground of medium roasted coffee taste.  It all comes down to personal preference, when all is said and done though.  Trying it all to conclude at a decision is not a bad idea for those who are searching for their personal finest choice of coffee.

Placing a Premium on Gourmet Taste

These roasted beans differ in the way they are prepared, along with the flavor they distinctly bring:
1. Dark roast - Usually a popular choice for those wanting a strong taste of smokiness to their cup of beverage; this comes out of being roasted longer than the other types of beans.  The burnt flavor has a finish to it that could really perk up the sluggish coffee drinker on the way to work.
2. Medium roast - The choice of those wanting a slurp that does not necessarily send them up and about in a second. This type of roasted beans usually produces a flavor that is about right for the drinker who likes to the take time enjoying his cup for its natural taste.
3. Light roast - As its name implies, this produces a drink that is neither strong nor overly rich in flavor, but offers a natural whiff of coffee taste that is just about enough to be savored by coffee junkies.

Coffee drinkers who have long since determined what their top choices are would really put the premium on a gourmet coffee cup that is just the exact match to their daily grind.  Nothing quite beats the moment of drinking premium gourmet coffee that has been prepared well by baristas who know their business or simply by someone at home who has that flair for excellent taste. Wherever one may be having a blast drinking their premium gourmet coffee, in their offices, in a coffee shop or while lounging at home, it definitely is a little taste of heaven.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Restaurant Scheduling for Success- from Richard Saporito's e-book-How to Improve Dining Room Service-

Restaurant Scheduling for Success

- excerpt from Richard Saporito’s e-book “How to Improve Dining Room Service”

 This Tip will Help Maintain the Staff Schedule Keeping the Dining Room Service Staff Tight and Content which is Essential for Pleasing Paying Guests. 

Staff scheduling is closely tied to dining room customer service and crucial for keeping your staff tight, happy and well connected. In every way, a balance must be achieved by matching the dining room service labor needs to forecasted business.

There should be a system whereby the staff shift availability days can be communicated in writing to the person who makes up the schedule. A simple staff shift availability sign-up sheet posted conspicuously will do. There was a schedule maker from one of my past restaurants who asked for shift requests on little pieces of paper. The main point is that constant communication with the staff while staying abreast of their available work shifts will facilitate the scheduling process immensely.

Each staff member should work a balanced amount of shifts throughout the week. If the schedule maker is burning out staff members with extra shifts or scheduling too many staff members to work only 1 or 2 shifts, it will subtract from customer service. Usually, a restaurant will get more efficiency from staff members working 3, 4, or more shifts per week rather than only 1 or 2 shifts per week. Though at times, one may have to bend this guideline to keep the work schedule filled, but it should be kept to a minimum.

The person who makes the schedule should be highly aware of the projected business in the restaurant. The schedule should contain the correct amount of labor needed to provide a proper level of service for each work shift. Seasonal aspects, (e.g. busy holidays/slow summers), special occasions, private parties etc. must be figured into the schedule. Any outside activity that may affect business in the restaurant such as food festivals, parades etc. needs to be taken into account. If there are separate dining rooms, the busy times must be properly forecasted for each room especially if one dining room is more popular such as showing off a special type of décor or providing entertainment on certain nights. If there is outdoor seating, the weather should be watched closely for it can change quickly.
Forecasting helps to schedule the correct amount of staff with the perfect balance always being sought. If there is light scheduling on a day that gets very busy, the dining room customer service will be slow and inefficient --affecting sales and reputation. On the contrary, if there is heavy scheduling on light business days, it will become frustrating for waitstaff who will be working very few tables while draining the payroll. 

Generally, the schedule should start Sunday; therefore it needs to be posted by Thurs. or Fri. of the previous week.  Excel spreadsheet formats are great for scheduling organization. The schedule should be posted in an easily viewable location with enough copies available for all staff. Staff phone lists should be printed, copied and made readily available to all. This improves communication especially for work shift substitutions.

This leads to the substitution process for staff work shifts. There needs to be a Substitution Book readily available with blank spaces for names, upcoming dates and work shifts for the next 1 to 2 months. If a substitution made, the information must be recorded with the date and shift time a.m/p.m. etc. It must be initialed by both parties involved and finally initialed by a manager ensuring no mistakes in communication. A substitution mishap may result in a shift not being covered. 

Scheduling may look great for payroll cost control, but it must be remembered that dining room service staff are real people with real lives whose cheerful and efficient service is what restaurants are dependant upon. The schedule maker needs to be understanding towards the staff’s schedule requests, but should not roll over and play dead (again, balance). It is impossible to please everyone 100% all of the time, but a proper scheduling balance will truly have a positive effect on restaurant dining room customer service and staff.

*** It is better for a manager or service consultant to handle the schedule at the initial phases of a new operation. Afterwards, it should be monitored by a second or third person-- especially if the restaurant has just opened. Some mature restaurants may let a senior member of the service staff handle the schedule because there is better communiqué’ with schedule concerns.

 Please use whichever system works best for the establishment for the staff schedule is a strong part of customer service and should not be taken lightly.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Regional Cuisines Of China

It’s easily one of the world’s favorite foods. No matter where you are, someone you know is bound to suggest, “Hey, let’s do Chinese.” For decades, Chinese food meant one thing – Cantonese cuisine. It was the style of Chinese cooking with which most of the world was familiar – the appetizers and roasted meats and delicate sauces that blend vegetables and spices in a perfect marriage of flavors. But Chinese food is far more than just the Cantonese cuisine. There are four major styles of cooking across China, and several more subdivisions to divide them even further.

Cantonese is the most well-known and popular of the Chinese regional cuisine styles. Cantonese chefs specialize in delicate sauces and roasted meats, in steamed and stir-fried dishes with vegetables that are as carefully chosen for appearance and appeal to the eye as to the palate. Steamed rice is a staple of Cantonese cuisine, and is the base of most meals. Every vegetable is sliced to best show off its color and shape, even in a stir-fry or sauce. One of the more enduring and widely enjoyed traditions of Cantonese cooking is ‘dim sum’ – ‘little hearts’. In many cities, both in China and in other countries around the world, you’ll find little dim sum shops tucked beneath stairways and in storefront shops. They serve tea and the delicious savory and sweet little dim sum pastries to businessmen and afternoon shoppers.

Szechwan cuisine has grown in popularity over the last few decades. Most famous for searingly spicy foods like Kung Pao Chicken and Double Cooked Spicy Pork, Szechwan cuisine is a distinct style of cooking that is native to the landlocked mountainous center of China. The pungent flavors of ginger, fermented soybean, onions and garlic characterize much Szechwan cuisine, but there are also more subtle dishes that rely on the interweaving of texture and flavor. The typical cooking methods include frying, frying without oil, pickling and braising.

Hunan cuisine is the most well known of the several regional Chinese cuisine styles from Zheijiang region of China. It is characterized by thick, rich sauces and complex pungent flavors. Typical ingredients include scallions, chili and pepper. A popular favorite dish in the Hunan style is Pepper Chicken, with small chunks of succulent chicken quick-fried with black pepper and onions.

Shangdong cuisine is characterized by its emphasis on fresh ingredients in combinations that emphasize the flavor, aroma, color and texture of each ingredient. The Shangdong regional cuisine is known for delicate flavor combinations that are surprisingly pungent. Garlic and scallions are frequent ingredients, as are seafood, fresh vegetables and shoots. The soups are either thin and clear with a light flavor, or thick and pungent, rich with cream and spices. One of the most famous dishes from the Shangdong area, Bird’s Nest Soup, is typically served at major affairs of state.

While these are four of the main styles of Chinese regional cuisine, there are a number of others worthy of note. Fujian and Jiangsu Cuisine both focus on seafood and shellfish, accompanied by fresh vegetables. Fujian cuisine blends sweet, sour, savory and salt flavors in magical combinations. Jiangsu cuisine is light, fresh and sweet, and is characterized by its elegant presentation. More than any other style of Chinese regional cuisine, it emphasizes appearance as an important part of the appeal of a meal.

China is a complex country, with many smaller nationalities and regions within its borders. Most have typical styles of cooking that are starkly different than those of other regions around them. It is, however, a nation whose love affair with food has produced some of the most complex, rich, delicate and delicious dishes ever created.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Regional Cuisine Of The United States: Louisiana Cajun Cooking

Louisiana Cajun cuisine originated with a group of French residents of Nova Scotia, who were expelled by the British in 1755. They eventually, after years of a nomadic existence, settled in the Southern Louisiana swamplands. There they adapted their native cooking methods to use ingredients that were available in their new land. This cuisine is the food of hardworking country people, used to difficult conditions. It is practical, strong country food, taking advantage of easily available local ingredients, often an entire meal prepared all in one pot. This style of cooking became the hallmark of these people, called Acadians, which was later shortened to Cajuns.

Authentic Cajun recipes can be hard to come by, as they were traditionally passed down verbally from one generation to the next. They also tend to change a little with each generation, each adding their own flair. There are hundreds of recipes for most common dishes, as the independent nature is of the Cajun people is reflected in their cuisine, each kitchen adding their own special touches.

Some of the specialties of Cajun cuisine include gumbos, stews, etouffees, and rice dishes, such as jambalayas. Cajun dishes often begin with a roux, which is butter or oil cooked with flour. Roux is used to thicken, and for flavor. There are three types of roux, depending upon how long it is cooked. There is light or blond, medium, and dark roux. The light and medium types are primarily used for thickening gumbos, etouffees, and sauces, while the dark roux is used for flavor.

The common ingredients of this cuisine are easily available and native to the Southern Louisiana swamplands. Seafood is very common, such as crawfish, shrimp, oysters, red fish, speckled trout, and crabs. Rice is a staple ingredient. Other ingredients frequently used are pork, homemade sausages, beans, black-eyed peas, tomatoes, yams, okra, figs, pecans and oranges. Game is also used, such as wild turkey, duck, turtles and frog.

There are relatively few spices used in Cajun cuisine. The unique flavor comes primarily from the long simmering of the dishes prepared. One spice that is used liberally in this cuisine is Cayenne pepper. It is a fiery, finely ground spice made from the Cayenne Chile. It is usually used along with white and black pepper. Another seasoning common to Cajun cooking is file powder, also called gumbo powder. This is made from sassafras leaves that are dried and ground. Creole mustard is also used in many dishes. This is a coarse and spicy local mustard. Tabasco and other hot pepper sauces are standard condiments on the Cajun table

Cajun cuisine is unique to Southern Louisiana, making the best of the native resources, but still retaining the French influence brought to it by the migrants many years ago. It is varied and flexible. Whether you are craving a touch of the exotic, or a little down- home comfort food, this cuisine has managed to include both, often in one big pot. There is something for everyone to enjoy when experimenting with this wonderful style of cooking.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Regional Cuisine Of Mexico

Just south of the United States and bordering the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, Mexico is quickly advancing both culturally and economically. The devaluation of the peso in 1994 threw the Mexican economy into a frenzy, lowering their per capita income to a mere quarter of that of the United States. Through repeated social and economic turmoil, the rich cultures of the original Yucatan civilizations has remained, though somewhat jaded after their emersion from under Spanish rule in the 19th century.

It isn't hard to research the rich history of Mexican cuisine. When the Spaniards first landed in Tenochtitlan (present-day Mexico City) they carefully chronicled every aspect of life there in Mexico, especially the food and cooking techniques of the natives. During their observations, they noticed that the Mexicans had a lot of corn-based foods. This was due to the fact that maize was Mexico's chief crop at the time. A lot of these notes have carefully been preserved in the name of history--not that that is necessary. The Mexican culture has continued to live on through food, if through nothing else at all.

Be warned: Mexican food is not for the faint of stomach. Consisting of such rich, heavy foods as tortillas, chili peppers, and beans, many bodies cannot take the richness and spiciness of Mexican cuisine.

Mexican food is one cuisine that will always have a taste and sabor (flavor) all its own. Present-day Mexican food is a mixture of original Mayan and Aztec cuisine combined with the influence of the culture of the Spanish conquistadores. While Tex-Mex and local "authentic" Mexican restaurants have become very skilled in mastering the style of Mexican cooking, there is no comparison between the Americanized "restaurant" version and the real thing. Mexican food is known for its wealth of spices and intense, deep flavoring.

Tortillas are the staple of Mexican cuisine. Tortillas are made by curing maize in lime water, kneading the mixture into a dough, and cooking the thin patties on a flat grill. The most common tortillas in the United States' version of Mexican food are made of corn, although this version of the corn tortilla is quite unlike the original, authentic version. Authentic corn tortillas are made by hand on a flat grill (called a comal). The corn is ground by hand, resulting in thick tasty tortillas that the grocery store versions pale in comparison to. Flour tortillas were implemented only after the Spaniards introduced wheat to the Mexican region.

Chiles are another staple in traditional Mexican cuisine, adding color and dimension to many traditional Mexican dishes. Bell peppers, tabasco peppers, and paprika peppers add the color and the flavor kick that Mexican food is so known for.

It is also important to take into consideration that Mexican cuisine varies in reference to the region it is coming from or being made in. Northern-style Mexican food normally consists of dishes with a lot of beef, while southern-style Mexican cuisine consists more of chicken and vegetables such as bell pepper, radishes, and broccoli, more than anything else. Veracruz is also another common style of Mexican food, coming from the coastal areas in Mexico. Veracruz cuisine, which was named after a state in Mexico and its largest city, consists of seafood such as fish and shrimp. More indigenous areas have even been known to incorporate spider monkey and iguana into their meals. Especially while in Mexico, "Mexican Food" does not always imply tacos and burritos.

Authentic Mexican cuisine is not to be confused with the Americanized Tex-Mex or New Mexican food (versions of Mexican food in Texas and New Mexico).

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Regional Cuisine Of India: Tasting East India

East India, with a complex history that includes long periods of European colonization, has developed culinary traditions that reflect centuries of tradition and a variety of cultural influences. In addition to the various cultures that have been assimilated into the cuisine of the region, the geography also has influenced the development of the culinary traditions of East India, as has the climate.

Portuguese and Spanish explorers first brought the spices of India to widespread European use in the 15th and 16th centuries, inspiring European political and economic colonization of the area. The famous British East India Company and the Dutch East India Company, both established in the 17th century, were companies specifically created for the production and sale of a variety products from the region, including spices. Naturally, as the native populations interacted with the European peoples, including through forced service in their homes, a European influence came to affect local cuisines.

The coastal area ensures that seafood is an important part of the East Indian diet. The wide variety of fish is served in many ways. Naturally, the area is well known for delectable fish curries, but seafood is also served steamed and delicately spiced, fried with spices that serve to enhance rather than to mask flavors, and is used to created snacks and appetizers like pakora, served with chutneys and other dipping sauces. Because of the prominence of seafood in the cuisine, and a climate conducive to the growth of a variety of vegetables and fruits, as well as the culinary influences of past Portuguese and British colonization and the Muslim population, the food of East India tends to be of a lighter sort. Spices are used with a lighter hand, preferred cooking methods are often of the sort that enhance natural flavors and encourage the subtle blending of flavors, such a stir frying, steaming and boiling. A moist, rainy climate allows for the production of rice, which functions as a basic element of most meals.

In addition to savory fish dishes, East Indian cuisine is known throughout the world for the quality of its sweets, with many of its confections having deep roots in Hindu culture. Many religious ceremonies and celebrations have specific confections associated with them, and include ritual offerings of sweets to gods and to the poor. As with many East Indian dishes, the sweets of this region tend to be less dense, lighter, making them a bit more appealing to westerners than some of the very heavy, ultra-sweet confections of other regions in India. In addition to candies and other similar dessert style sweets, the region is known for its fine cakes, which have a distinctly European influence, as does the preference for tea as a beverage.

East Indian cuisine has a distinct character that sets it apart from the cuisines of other parts of India. With coastal areas that made seafood a staple and a climate that made a variety of fresh foods readily available, came a tendency towards letting the natural, fresh flavors of foods take center stage in the cuisine. European explorers who were attracted to Eastern shores contributed their own culinary style to the region, as did Muslim settlers, resulting in the amazing combination of cultures that created the unique flavors of East Indian cuisine.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Regional Cuisine Of India: North Indian Flavors

India, one of the most populated nations in the world, has rich and varied culinary traditions, many deeply enmeshed with spiritual traditions that are thousands of years old. Other culinary styles arrived throughout India’s long history with those who wandered into the land from afar and settled here and there, as well as with those who invaded its territories, overtaking native populations. Still others have been shaped by the natural forces climate and geography. These many culinary styles can be generally divided into four regional cuisines, with North Indian flavors and style standing out distinctly from the rest.

The northern part of India, it is said, is part of India in which the influence of the early light-skinned Aryan invaders can still be seen, in the cuisine, culture, and language. This is the part of the world in which Sanskrit is thought to have evolved. North Indian cuisine encompasses the culinary traditions of the various northern countries, including Punjabi, Kashmiri, Awadh, Rajasthani, Marwari, Gharwal, and Pahari. Due to climate and growing conditions, wheat plays a stronger role in North Indian cuisine than in other areas of the country. Tandoori cuisine comes from the north.

Spices are an essential element to Indian cuisine, and they use some of the most aromatic and beautiful spices on earth. Historically, however, in addition to serving to add delectable flavors and attractive aromas, the spices were chosen for their food preservation and medicinal properties. While many spices are common throughout most Indian cuisines, the methods and ratios of usage differ in each region, with some spices being much more common in some areas and other flavors being more specific to certain areas. North Indian cooks tend to use their spices in freshly ground powder form.

Chili peppers are common to Indian cuisine, and in the north, the Degchi Mirchi, or Kashmiri chili pepper are especially popular. Ground red chili powder is important North Indian flavor, as is turmeric, cumin, coriander, sweet bay or laurel leaves, black and green cardamom, cassia tree bark, for which cinnamon is often substituted, cloves, nutmeg, saffron, black and yellow mustard seeds, fennel, fenugreek, asafetida, curry leaves, tamarind, and fresh cilantro leaves and mint leaves.

Garam masala is a spice mixture used extensively in North Indian cuisine. This is a blend of spices, which is loosely built upon a set of common spices, but varies widely from region to region, even from family to family. In the north, a basic garam masala would consist of raw cardamom seeds, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper. Ghee, or clarified butter, is particularly important to the flavor of northern cuisine.

Flat breads of various types, including roti, puri, chapattis, different types parantha, and tandoori baked breads, such as nan, are a part of most north Indian meals. Showing the religious influence of the Vaishnava Hindus, the northern states, Uttar Pradesh in particular, have created some of the finest vegetarian cuisine in the world, built upon a wide variety of pulses, or legumes and fragrant Basmati rice.

North Indian flavors have become an important part of international cuisine, spreading throughout the world’s metropolitan centers and into the food cultures of many countries. Beloved especially for its specialized tandoori dishes and vegetarian creations, North Indian cuisine continues to expand and flourish globally.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Regional Cuisine Hunan Cuisine

Hunan cuisine shares many commonalities with its close, more well-known cousin, Szechwan cooking, Both cuisines originate in the Western region of China. The climate there is sub-tropical – humid and warm enough to encourage the use of fiery spices to help cool the body, and to require high spicing of food as a preservative. With similar climate, the two regions also share many ingredients – rice is a major staple in both diets, and chili peppers are an important part of most dishes. The two styles of regional cuisine are similar enough that many restaurants and cookbooks lump them together under ‘Western Chinese cooking’ or simple refer to both as Szechwan cuisine.

There are some important differences, though. Hunan cooking is, for one thing, even more fiery than most Szechwan dishes. Szechwan dishes often include chili paste for rubbing into meats, or including in sauce. Hunan chefs include the entire dried chili pepper, with its intensely spicy seeds and rind.

The differences in the actual land of the two regions also has an effect on the differences in their cuisine. The Szechwan region is mountainous jungle, with little arable land for farming. The Hunan region, by contrast, is a land of soft rolling hills and slow rivers. Because of its fertile hillocks and valleys, the Hunan region has access to an amazing variety of ingredients that aren’t available to Szechwan chefs. Seafood and beef are both far more common in Hunan cooking, as are many vegetables.

The land, and the hardships associated with it, also give the Hunan more time to concentrate on food. Hunan cooking features complex and time-consuming preparation time. Many dishes begin their preparation the day before they are to be served, and may be marinated, then steamed or smoked, and finally deep-fried or stewed before they reach the table. The same attention is paid to the preparation of ingredients, and it is said that Hunan cuisine is the most pleasing to the eye of all Chinese cuisines. The shape of a food in a particular recipe is nearly as important as its presence in the final dish. Hunan chefs are specialists with the knife – carving fanciful shapes of vegetables and fruits that will be used in preparing meals, or to present them.

Hunan cuisine is noted for its use of chili peppers, garlic and shallots, and for the use of sauces to accent the flavors in the ingredients of a dish. It is not uncommon for a Hunan dish to play on the contrasts of flavors – hot and sour, sweet and sour, sweet and hot – pungent, spicy and deliciously sweet all at once. Hunan chefs are noted for their ability to create a symphony of taste with their ingredients. A classic example is Hunan spicy beef with vegetables, where the beef is first marinated overnight in a citrus and ginger mixture, then washed and rubbed with chili paste before being simmered in a pungent brown sauce. The end result is a meat that is meltingly tender on the tongue and changes flavor even as you enjoy it.

More and more, restaurants are beginning to sort out the two cuisines, and Hunan cuisine is coming into its own. Crispy duck and Garlic-Fried String Beans are taking their place alongside Kung Pao Chicken and Double Cooked Spicy Pork. But there is no battle between the two for a place of honor among Chinese Regional cuisines – rather, there are only winners – the diners who have the pleasure of sampling both.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Regional Cuisine – New England Clam Chowder

Sea air, crisp apples, the brisk, spice of fallen leaves – there are few things that say autumn in New England like the scents that seem to buffet the senses from everywhere. Among those marvelous treats for the senses are popular dishes from appetizer to dessert that you just won’t find – or at least won’t find quite the same way – anywhere else in the country. If you doubt it, there’s always an ad that was popular this past autumn – after the Red Sox won the World Series. In it, a man was explaining, “Son, when you live in New England there are three basic truths... clam chowder is white…”

And the other two truths don’t matter. We New Englanders take our clam chowder seriously. Up and down the New England coast throughout the autumn, nearly every town and township has its Chowder Festival. Throughout the six states, restaurants cook up pots of chowder from their best recipes and compete to be named Best Clam Chowder. The granddaddy of all New England Chowder Festivals is held in Newport, Rhode Island, where dozens of area restaurants compete for the title of ‘America’s Best Clam Chowder’.

It’s a simple enough dish, but like chili in Texas and crab cakes in Maryland, every cook has their own special twist on the recipe. There are the basics: clams, potatoes and milk. From there, it’s every chef for himself. Some swear that clam chowder without salt pork is just potage. Others insist that clam chowder can’t be made without onion. Chefs nearly come to blows over whether heavy cream should ever be used and why a butter and flour roux is a better base than clam liquor. Secret recipes abound – and everyone has their favorites.

My own personal favorite is the thick, creamy, eat-it-with-a-fork variety of clam chowder served at Legal Seafood and Au Bon Pain in Boston. Rich and laden with chunks of potato, meaty bits of clam, onions, garlic and salt pork, it’s a meal rather than an opener for one. Served with a slab of homemade bread slathered with butter, it’s guaranteed to raise your cholesterol level and please your taste buds for hours.

While many chefs cry sacrilege, others believe that fresh corn adds the perfect touch of crisp sweetness to the rich broth and pungent bits of clam meat. Corn isn’t the only bone of contention when it comes to this regional specialty. Purists insist that the only real ingredients in clam chowder are clams, water, milk, onions, potatoes and butter. They argue whether chowder should be made with mussels or littlenecks (if you’re in Maine, it’s littlenecks – in Connecticut, mussels. Anywhere else – it varies), whether to add the clam bellies or just the necks, even whether clams should be steamed ‘virgin’ or with garlic, wine or beer.

Whether you like your chowder thick or thin, with or without corn, flavored with salt pork or bacon or something else entirely, there is one thing on which all New Englanders agree – clam chowder is white. We’re not sure what it is that they serve in Manhattan – but it’s not clam chowder.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Reading Food Lables; Buyer Beware!

As you stroll up and down the isles at the supermarket filling your grocery cart, you are armed with everything you need to make sure you choose your items wisely. Making good, healthy choices is the very reason you carefully put together your shopping list the night before. Now, you know that most of the snack food items are taboo and should be off limits, but maybe you could take a walk down junk food lane on the off chance you might find something acceptable to munch on later. When you see the words "low fat" or "fat-free", your brain automatically gives you the go-ahead because these foods can't make you gain weight, right? But, is that really all there is to it, or is there more here than meets the eye?

According to studies, Americans eat around 49,000 extra calories every year which translates into a grand total of 14 extra pounds of body fat per year. This is why an estimated 65% of Americans are considered overweight. In essence, Americans are slowly getting fatter, and it is largely from the consumption of "fat-free" foods.

The problem is, while "fat-free" foods contain no actual fat, many of them do contain high amounts of sugar. It is all this sugar that has been added to these products that allows them to be called "fat-free". Consuming high amounts of sugar will cause you to gain weight because sugar makes your blood sugar levels rise rapidly, causing a large insulin response. Insulin, particularly in high amounts, will transport much of this sugar right to your fat cells for storage. With this in mind, is there anything you can do to prevent yourself from being lured into the labeling web of deceit?

Here are some things that will help clear up the blurriness of labeling reading so you can have a more clear view of what's really in there.

To start with, always read everything on the label. Do not just look at the fat content then only skim down at the rest. Look at the sugar content and compare it to the overall carbohydrate content to see how much of the carbohydrates are actually sugar.

Always compare the calories from fat to the total calories. Fat should not be higher than 30% of the total calories at the absolute most.

Look at the protein content and try to make sure there is at least a decent amount of it in the item. Protein rich foods like granola make good, healthy snacks.

Also important is to look for the fiber content of certain foods. When you buy breakfast cereal for example, make sure it has at least 5 grams of dietary fiber per serving. Also try to buy whole grain items like whole wheat bread and whole wheat pasta as these also provide decent amounts of fiber.

Aside from reading the labels, you should also read the list of ingredients. Here is where you get to see what is actually in each item. When buying any flour items such as bread or pasta, avoid anything with the words enriched, bleached, or white flour in the ingredients. The more enriched a product is, the less nutritious it is. White flour has a very high sugar content and therefore is not the best choice. Look for items with whole wheat flour instead.

One thing that gets hidden in the list of ingredients that you really need to be aware of is the trans fats. These trans fats are cleverly disguised with the words "hydrogenated vegetable oil". These are oils that the manufacturer adds hydrogen to in order to transform them from their liquid form to a solid form. These fats are more dangerous by far than saturated fats and you know how bad saturated fats are. If you see the key word "hydrogenated" anywhere in the ingredients, put it down, back away slowly, then turn, run, and don't look back!

Always remember to read everything on both the nutrition label and the list of ingredients before buying an item. Never let yourself be fooled into thinking an item won't make you gain weight by the words "fat-free" so boldly displayed on the front of the package. It is this kind of deception that has been the cause of unwanted weight gain throughout the nation. Remember, the FDA requires all food manufactures to disclose everything in their products to you, but it is ultimately up to you to read far enough to find it all.

The next time you go food shopping, take these tips with you and ensure yourself that you are making the right choices for you and your family.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Raise Your Beer Mug To The World Or How Say To Cheers! In Zulu

The Moguls did it. So did the Vikings. “A mouth of a perfectly happy man is filled with beer.” After coining that phrase, you don’t think this anonymous Egyptian from 2200 BC kept it to himself. I can see him raise his drinking vessel to his Nile-side neighbors while repeating the words.

Every country in the world has some sort of traditional drinking toast, often dozens. Usually one or two words, common toasts are not in the same league with toasts to the bride (which can drone on for hours), or to the retiree who’s been with us for 30 years but would rather get to his food while it’s hot. All of these really should be briefer, especially if a meal is being served. The everyday, no black tie, corner pub toasts exist in every culture and the vast majority simply mean ‘I wish you good health’. Not surprisingly it is the English who have strayed from the norm. ‘Cheers’, ‘Down the Hatch’, ‘Bottoms up’ and many more. I always assumed the latter referred to the bottom of the glass, however the Hawaiians have taken this literally. ‘Okole Maluna’ means ‘buttocks up’. I am including a list of multi-national toasts to impress your friends and use as a sign of respect when in the company of people from different cultures.

Here’s a bit of etiquette to go with your cosmopolitan language skills. It is customary to toast the first round, and let the host go first. There is some controversy over the clinking of glasses. It is said that the tradition started as a sly way to test the authenticity of the host’s crystal. Whether the Vikings clinked wooden goblets or not, it is considered more civilized to ‘touch glasses’ rather than bash together in a resounding crash. And while you’re about it, serve on the left and remove from the right!

Toasts From Many Lands

This is just a sampling of simple drinking toasts from around the world. Some are impossible to find in language dictionaries as they are colloquial phrases, slang or in dialect. I apologize in advance for spelling mistakes: I’m no linguist. Meanings have been included when I could find them. Fill in the blanks if you can. Some are just a general ‘cheers’. If you were making a bet on possible translation, you wouldn’t lose money by suggesting that every one of these toasts is wishing the recipient continued health and general well being. My spell check is about to go wild!

za vashe zdorovye (Russian)
slainte duine a ol (Irish) to your health
genatzt (Armenian)
a sua saude (Portuguese) good health
a votre sante (French) to your health
banzai (long life) (Japanese)or
kanpai (dry glass!) (Japanese)
bud mo (Ukranian)
cin cin (chin chin) (cheers) (Italian) or
alla salute (in good health) (Italian)
proost (Dutch) cheers
vivat (Polish) revival, survival
tervist (Estonian) general greeting
skal (Danish) cheers
here’s looking at you (kid, optional) (American/Bogart)
kia ora (Maori) all purpose greeting
egeszsegedre (Hungarian) to your health
Iechyd da (Welsh) good health
I sveikas (Lithuanian) your health
kippis (Finnish) cheers
le’chaim (Jewish) to life
na zdravi (Czech) to your health
noroc (Romanian)
prosit (German) here’s to you (and your health of course)
wen lie (Chinese)
salud (Spanish)
bahkt tu kel (Romany/Gypsy) good luck and health be on you
Here it is folks – oogy wawa (Zulu)
(wawa means ‘fell’, oogy wasn’t listed, any ideas?)

We should all feel well cheered and healthy after all that!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Quick And Easy Way To Figure Out If It Is Junk Food

This article was written to answer many of the most frequently asked questions on this topic. I hope you find information helpful. Unless we really love cooking or plan and prepare ahead with our meals, we can fall victim to the easy way out - fast food or junk food.

Here is a story; could it be you? The weekend is here and you think you now have a couple of days to relax. Saturday morning - you make the coffee to start the day and then you're off shopping. You get back just before lunch and discover that you have to get the kids to their hockey practise. Too late for a healthy lunch, by the time they are organized it will be time to go. So you pick up a hamburger on the way. Traffic is a nightmare. By the time you put your feet up, you find it is time to get the kids. It's almost supper time and you're really tired now and you're in no mood to prepare a meal so you pick up pizzas from a well-known fast food outlet. Sunday and time to prepare brunch and you go downhill from there so you pick up some chicken with chips and some salad...

So what is a good diet? One which contains the nutrients your body needs in the correct amounts. That is the key to a healthy lifestyle. The main things your body needs from food are proteins (for growth and repair), carbohydrates (for energy), fats (gives a store of energy and the fatty layer protects and insulates your body from impacts and temperature loss), vitamins (for good health), minerals (for the correct functioning of your body systems) fibre (aids digestion and production of faeces) and water (70% or so of the body is water).

Does the hamburger provide all the things your body needs? Does it supply the nutrients you need? The answer is yes. The burger itself contains some meat, so there is the protein, some minerals and fat, the burger also contains fillers and those, plus the burger bun provides carbohydrate. The salad that comes with the burger meal provides fibre, water, vitamins and minerals. The fries provide more fat and carbohydrate and the main bulk of the water comes from the drink. To our surprise, the burger meals do provide all you need!

The problem is with the quantities of these nutrients. There is usually way too much fat and carbohydrate compared with the other nutrients. There is very little fibre. The vitamin and mineral proportions are low, unless you have a shake with the meal, which will increase the proportion of dairy product based minerals such as calcium. Now you need to make sure your next meal makes up for this out of balance meal. For your evening meal you should eat a low fat, high fibre meal, plenty of vegetables cooked lightly or eaten raw so as not to destroy the vitamins. If you must eat between meals, snack on fruit or vegetables.

Another issue is the use of additives. For example, the addition of salt improves the flavour of food so naturally manufacturers put it in so eating processed food increases your salt levels - increases blood pressure and leads to heart problems. A little salt is necessary; it provides your body with the mineral sodium which is needed in small quantities. Preservatives are another issue here. In small quantities, these are not supposed to be harmful. Do you eat processed food all of the time? This is something for you to think about because you are really causing great harm to your body.

Antioxidants are so important. They help to prevent damage to the cells of your body, damage that can lead to cells becoming cancerous. Teas are a very good source of antioxidants. Ordinary (black) tea provides some but a lot of the beneficial constituents are lost during the fermentation process. Unprocessed, pure organic teas like Green Tea or Oolong (the latter is only partly fermented) are the best. So instead of coffee in the morning, try tea, because it is more beneficial. Tea also contains the caffeine, but not as much as in coffee. You might have to drink more but think of the extra benefits to your health. Also, Green tea is thought to inhibit the absorption of cholesterol. The high levels of animal fats in burgers inevitably mean more cholesterol so there is another good reason for switching from coffee.

Simple changes to your diet can make your hectic lifestyle more healthy. Enjoy the odd burger or other fast food; just compensate healthier foods for the rest of the day.

I must say, a system that works very well for me is when I am making meals, cook extra and freeze them. When I come home tired, I just get the individual meals out of the freezer, heat them up and in minutes I'm eating a super meal. It's even faster than fast food and tastes better too!

Thank you for joining us. We hope you have a look around while you're here.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Quel Cadeau Offrir A Vos Employes

Les Soirées Entreprises:

Marre des traditionnels restaurants sur des péniches, ou dans des cabarets traditionnels pour essayer de contenter tout le monde? Pourquoi ne pas réaliser alors organiser une journée casino au sein de l'établissement.

Pour cela, rien de plus simple. L’option première consiste à faire appel à des animateurs de soirée casino qui, en plus d’apporter le matériel, vous serviront de croupier pour l’ensemble de vos jeux pour près de quatre heures de rire et de détente. L'avantage, ces jeux resserrent les équipes et permet de découvrir la face cachée de chaque employé.

Les cadeaux traditionnels:

1) Les Objets Publicitaires
On y retrouve du plus classique à la perfection du Hi-Tech tels les équipements portatifs de téléphonie, les MP3, les DvX, lecteur CD, radio-réveil, sans oublier les vêtements ou chapeaux personnalisés, ou encore les célèbres stylos plume ou plus original, un livre sur le thème professionnel de votre choix comme comment s'épanouir au travail. Eux aussi on la part belle. On en trouve pour tous les budgets et pour tous les goûts. Ces derniers sont d'excellents supports publicitaires pour afficher la marque de votre entreprise. Bien que la plus part des personnes soit déjà pourvues de ce genre d'accessoires, ces derniers restent banals.

Ce qui est sur d'atteindre votre but, ce sont tous les cadeaux de maroquinerie. En effet, sur le cuir, vous pouvez inscrire ou encrer votre logo d'entreprise discrètement et être sur que l'employé l'utilisera. Cela va du simple portefeuille en cuir au porte-documents, sans oublier le conférencier et le kit de voyage.

2) Pour Noel
Traditionnellement, l'entreprise se fixe sur des corbeille d'assortiments gastronomiques composés de foie gras en boite, avec une mini bouteille de champagne et ou de vin. N'oublions pas non plus les boites de chocolat, re-designer pour l'occasion mais gare à la date d'expiration car combien d'employés ont déjà reçu un "chocolat empoisonné" du fait de la péremption?
Alors pourquoi ne pas innover? Pourquoi ne pas offrir à vos employés des places de théâtre, autre que celles proposées par votre Comité d'Entreprise. En prix de groupe, cela vous reviendra moins cher et pourrez profitez de cette économie en proposant par exemple un dîner gourmet dans la cantine redécorée pour l'occasion.

Ou encore, pensez aux articles de cuisine, l'art de la table, la salle de bain, autant de lieux "visités" régulièrement par les consommateurs, et où il est donc judicieux de vouloir "placer" des objets publicitaires à leur marques et messages. Citons aussi les outils de jardinage, les plantes, les sets de table, les horloges etc.

Autres Idées Cadeaux:
D'autres idées cadeaux sont présentes pour vos employés. Tenez, par exemple le secteur de la bagagerie publicitaire, les t-shirts et casquettes personnalisés qui sont de très bons supports pour afficher votre marque de manière bien visible.

Pour vous rendre encore plus original, pensez vacances. Quel est l'élément qui vous sera utile pendant vos voyages? Des jumelles? Pourquoi pas? Ou alors un réfrigérateur réchauffeur? Un équipement de volants et raquettes de badminton pour les remettre en forme?

Vous voyez les idées ne manquent pas.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Puerto Rican Cuisine

Puerto Rico is an island nation that is officially a territory of the United States. Puerto Rican cuisine has evolved from several strong influences, including those of the original peoples, such as the Tainos, and the Spanish conquerors that drove most of the natives out and enslaved the remaining. African and Caribbean influence is also reflected in the cuisine of the island, which has also been shaped significantly by its climate and geology.

Cocina criolla, one of the main cuisine styles particular to the island has deep roots, extending far back to the native Tainos and Arawaks. Their culinary traditions were based tropical fruits, native vegetables, seafood, and corn. With the Spanish came a host of other ingredients that expanded the criolla style. These included olive oil, rice, wheat and meats, such as pork and beef. As enslaved African peoples were imported for work on the sugar cane plantations, their culinary traditions took root as well, and their contributions, which included taro and okra, became assimilated into the whole of criolla cuisine.

Many of the island’s main dishes are seasoned with adobo and sofrito, spice mixtures that impart those flavors that the island is so well known for. Adobo, which can vary from cook to cook, or if bought prepared, from manufacturer to manufacturer, generally consists of black peppercorns, oregano, salt, garlic, olive oil, and lime juice. When bought prepared in powdered form, most include salt, powdered garlic, citric acid, pepper, oregano, turmeric and MSG, which is a good reason to spend a little time making your own if experimenting with Puerto Rican cuisine at home. While generally used for seasoning meats, it is considered to be a sort of all-purpose seasoning mixture.

Sofrito is made from onions, garlic, cilantro, peppers, and often includes achiote, which is from the seeds of the annatoo plant, and helps to produce a bright yellow color in the finished product. This, too, is used in a variety of dishes, ranging from meat dishes to soups to standard forms of beans and rice.

One pot dishes, or stews, are common to Puerto Rican cuisine. These are often made of meats, and flavored with a variety of spices and ingredients in addition to adobo and sofrito. Among these are Spanish olives stuffed with pimiento, sweet chili peppers, capers, potatoes, onions, garlic, fresh cilantro, and occasionally raisins.

Chicken with rice is a dish that has become a Puerto Rican specialty, with many families having their own special style, handed down from generation to generation. Chicken is a main ingredient of many criolla dishes, and these dishes, while careful attention is given to spicing techniques, rarely are they what could be termed hotly spiced.

Naturally, seafood is an important part of the island cuisine. Fried fish is often served with a special sauce made of olives, olive oil, onions, pimientos, capers, tomato sauce, vinegar, garlic and bay leaves. Broiled, steamed or grilled fish is lightly seasoned, if at all, during the cooking process and served with a splash of lime juice with perhaps just a hint of garlic.

Puerto Rican cuisine has many facets, arising from the island’s long, complex history. The blend of native culinary traditions with those of the European settlers and the enslaved African populations that they brought with them has resulted in a unique and flavorful cuisine that is beloved by many.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Provence – A Wine Lover’s Dream Come True!

Provence is often overlooked by companies that offer traditional wine tasting tours, in spite of the excellence of its wines. If you’re a true wine lover and wine fan, this beautiful location in France offers the most fascinating scenery and, not to mention, some of the best vineyards around.

In Provence, as everywhere in the Mediterranean, you’ll find the people full of warmth, spontaneity and a “joie de vivre”. As you will soon discover, any of these master oenologists (winemakers) will be delighted to introduce you to the wines they have become famous for; and share a little of the region’s history with you.

In Provence your days will be filled with sunshine and warmth, and lush nights, scented with jasmine, lavender and wild thyme - whether you stay in a bustling, crowded metropolis with all the modern conveniences, or a turn-of-the-century country guest house filled with 17th and 18th century antiques.

However, little do outsiders know that winemaking in Provence is a serious business. Many of the winegrowers here have won the rights to include the prestigious “AOC” designation (Appellation d’Origine Controlee) on their bottles of wines. This label assures the buyer of a guaranteed vintage from the designated region. In order to win the right to become designated as an appellation wine, winegrowers much pass rigorous tests and inspections.

If you are thinking of traveling to the south of France in the near future, think about including a trip to one of the vineyards of the 60 winegrowers in the "Cotes de Provence" region. A small, yet beautiful area, it takes in the departments of the Var and part of the Bouches-du-Rhone.

Located in the heart of Provence’s winemaking region, the “Maison des Cotes de Provence” boasts an outstanding selection of appellation wines. The Cotes de Provence winegrowers are experts in utilizing traditional methods when harvesting and bottling their wines. Their deep respect for the soil, the climate and the different varieties of grapes they use comes through in the quality and taste of each bottle.

During your visit to Provence, you can also arrange to take a wine tasting course at one of the vineyards where you will learn a complete understanding of wine: its robe (color), its bouquet (perfume), its body (strength) and everything you need to know about service, conservation and more. Not only will you be able to taste the finest wines, but you will also learn invaluable winemaking tips you can’t learn elsewhere.

For the true wine lover, Provence is definitely a place to visit – both for the fantastic wines and unforgettable scenery!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Boot Camp for Coffee Drinkers

Ok, so we go to a local coffee house and we order cappuccinos, café mochas, lattes and espressos.  It isn’t the paper cups that make these drinks taste so good.  It’s the recipe and of course the prettiness factor.  Baristas all have a style of their own and every cup will taste different because of the roast, the grind, the amount used, the water, the temperature and many other things.  We have all tried to make these coffee delights at home the way we think they are made, but do we really know the real way they are supposed to be made to extract the enchanting flavors correctly?  Here is a quick list of how to make the basic drinks.  This is boot camp for coffee drinkers.<br><br>Cappuccino:  Equal parts of steamed and frothed milk and espresso. The milk goes on top of the espresso. Dust with nutmeg, cinnamon or chocolate powder or shavings.<br><br>Café Mochas: The easiest way is to use a good brand of hot chocolate, throw in a shot of espresso and top with whipping cream and chocolate powder or shavings.  It looks the best if you put it in a tall glass and use a long handled spoon.  For a finishing touch add a saucer and a napkin.  Or make a latte and toss in a chocolate flavored shot.<br><br>Lattes:  Foam & steam milk to 140-degrees.  The ratio is 50% espresso and 50% milk.  Pour the milk down the side of the cup so it infuses with the espresso.  The difference between this and a cappuccino is a latte blends the two things together, whereas the cappuccino keeps them separate.<br><br>Espressos:  We’ve all had bad espresso.  There are many reasons why this is.  The number one reason is an unfavorable bean.  If you like espresso you are likely a connoisseur of coffee and know what constitutes a good bean.  Anyway, to make a good espresso you must do the following:<br><ul>
<li>Use a fine grind
<li>You must tamp the espresso down firmly
<li>You must use a high pressure machine or stove top model
<li>You must not try to make too much at once
<li>You must see the creama on the top, which is a golden-brown foam
<li>You must use an appropriate espresso cup to keep the temperature from dissipating too quickly
</ul><br>All in all, making coffee correctly is all up to you and the way your flavor buds react to the taste.  If you like it a particular way, then make it that particular way.  However, if you have guests over they may just like the basics.  So do yourself a favor and learn the correct way to make lattes and espressos.<br><br><br>

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Before You Purchase A Home Espresso Machine

Instead of running to your local coffee shop or favorite corner café for the perfect cut of espresso, consider making your own at home. If the thought of becoming a kitchen barista has you shaking without any caffeine, think again! There are a wide variety of espresso machines that are geared for home use, from the basic to the same machines used by the professionals. However, before you drop a couple hundred of dollars on that top of the line espresso machine, consider your options and needs. Also, if you are experiencing sticker shock from some of the higher end espresso machines, keep in mind that you are saving a great deal on a daily basis by avoiding high priced indulgences at coffee shops or cafes.

The first think you should know before choosing a home espresso machine is that there are several different varieties of machines. Each different type of machine will come with a different price tag and different capabilities. Although the top of the line machine may be nice, it may not necessarily meet your needs. Instead of buying an espresso machine simply because it is deemed the “best,” buy a machine that you can (and will) use on a regular basis. The different types of home espresso machines are:

Pump Espresso: Typically what you will find in a coffee shop, a pump espresso machine are usually made for commercial purposes, but can be used in your home. Be prepared to expand your budget if you are looking to purchase a pump espresso machine, since they are typically the priciest of the bunch. Also, pump espresso machines are usually the largest, heaviest, and noisiest of the options, but it produces a fantastic cup of espresso. These machines work by using a pump to keep the water pressure at an appropriate level.

Piston Espresso: If you are looking for a great, low maintenance espresso machine, consider those than run on a piston or lever system. Instead of a pump to create pressure, these machines use a level that must be maneuvered in order to create steam. Although a piston espresso machine is very quiet, they may require a great deal of arm strength to continually pull on the lever. Furthermore, the piston espresso machine is capable of making a great cup of espresso, but it may take practice to get the hang of the process.

Steam Espresso: Using steam to create pressure to make the espresso, these steam powered espresso machines are typically the type found in the home. With smaller machines that occupy less space and cost less money, steam espresso machines are quite quick and easy to use. However, keep in mind that the steam produced may not provide the appropriate level of pressure, so the steam level should be constantly maintained.

Moka Pots: Moka Pots are a stovetop method to producing espresso. The process is simple and easy, although the final product may be less than professional. Using specially designed two-part pot, the steam produced by the water boiling in the bottom of the pot is forced into the top part of the pot, where the coffee is boiling. It requires a great deal less pressure than the other types of home espresso machines, but there is no milk frothing or foaming attachments, so you may have to sacrifice that feature for price and size.

Any one of these different types of home espresso machines will allow you to make a delicious cup of espresso. Your choice should be based upon needs, usability, overall size of the machine, and of course the price. A high end espresso machine can run up a bill in the thousands of dollars.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Barista Competitions

A barista is a person who prepares coffee drinks in a coffee house as his or her profession and especially strives to create the <b>perfect espresso</b>. The barista possesses extensive knowledge on different kinds of beans and roasts and has the technical skills required to master the espresso machine.

Baristas consider the extraction of coffee as art and they actually perform in front of their customers each time they prepare an espresso, a cappuccino, a caffe latte or a caffe mocha. However, if they wish for larger audience and consider themselves as really talented they can consider competing in <b>barista competitions</b>. These events take place every year and they are held at local and national levels. The ultimate title to win is the World Barista Champion.

The World Barista Championship was first held in 2000 in Monte Carlo and it became quickly a public event where the best baristas from different countries battled for espresso making supremacy. The World Barista Championship takes place every year in a different country and the competitors are the winners of the national barista competitions.    

In the United States the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) hosts several local barista competitions. There are ten regions, and each state has been assigned to a region. Local competitions are sponsored by businesses, and the winner of each of the local events has the chance to try to impress the jury at the US Barista Championship. There are many barista competitions in Europe and the United Kingdom. Canada, Australia and Central America also have barista competitions at the local, regional and national levels.

In a barista competition the judges have to assess both the contenders and the coffee drinks they make. The criteria based on which they score each barista involve the quality and taste of the beverage, personal presentation, technique and also the presentation of the coffee drink.

The baristas race against the clock as they are only allowed to perform for 15 minutes. They also have 15 minutes before the actual presentation to prepare with every detail for the show - ingredients like syrups, chocolate sprinkles or anything that you can think of except alcohol, cups, trays, blenders, mixers and portable burners. Contenders even roast their own coffee and bring it with them at the competition. After serving their drinks, baristas have 15 minutes to clean their station before they make room for another contestant. The espresso machines used in the competition are key to the taste of the coffee. The machines must be left absolutely clean and free from any impurities.

During the 15 minute performance interval baristas have to prove their skills by preparing <b>4 espressos, 4 cappuccinos and 4 signature drinks</b>. Four sensory judges that have to decide on the quality of the drinks sample each one of the beverages. While preparing the beverages, the baristas have to present their work, give details about the ingredients they used to the audience and also treat the judges as customers in a coffee shop. One can only imagine the stress.

After the espressos and cappuccinos, which are finished with latte art - complicate designs drawn atop the cup with foamed milk by using the pitcher, the time comes for the <b>signature drink</b>. It is the competitor's original creation and this is where baristas reveal their creativity and skills combining roasts, syrups, steaming and frothing milk and using all sorts of ingredients and flavours that turn their beverages into savory works of art. The baristas can spend even months to invent this perfect drink that can bring them the victory in a competition. 

Here are some examples of drinks that barista champions have invented:

<ul><li>Troels Poulsen, the 2005 World Barista Championship winner, created a drink called ESB, as in "enhanced sensory balance" by combining melted pepper-gel, espresso and lavender syrup.</li><li>Phuong Tran, the 2005 USA Barista Champion, was inspired by her childhood in creating the Crimson Sage, a drink made of sugar cane juice, white pepper powder and steamed milk infused with sage leaves. She said that as a child she loved drinking sugar cane juice with ice and she always dreamed of using it in a drink.</li><li>Sammy Piccolo, the 2004 Canadian Barista Championship winner, created "Insieme" by using raw sugar, egg yolks, curry, bittersweet chocolate and milk.</li><li>Bronwen Serna, USA Barista Champion of 2004, entitled her signature drink "Sweetness" because the main "secret" ingredient was honey. She also used dark chocolate powder and served it with a dark chocolate square.</li></ul>

Baristas train hard for these competitions, especially if they have the chance to participate in the World Barista Championship. They try to bring to perfection their technique and put together their program as during the competition everything has to work smoothly, no glitches are allowed. They can actually be compared to athletes rehearsing for the Olympic games as some of them even have coaches that sometimes play the role of judges in preparation for the competition. 

<b>Barista training</b>

Well, perhaps after reading about the competition requirements it might be wise to brush up a bit on your skills. There are several ways to either get basic skills training as a barista or enhance your existing skills:

<ul><li><b>Books and manuals</b>. There are many books or manuals available that take you step by step through the processes of making an espresso, a cappuccino and other specialty coffee drink. The drawback is that you only have still pictures to look at which may make it difficult for beginners to see the details of the methods.</li><li><b>Videos</b>. These provide both visual modeling as well as commentary on how to produce the perfect cup of espresso.</li><li><b>Training classes</b>. There are training locations in most areas that offer courses that range from three hours to a full day on learning the secrets of a barista. Many of these programs also deal with how to care for the espresso machine and offer a certificate upon completion.</li><li><b>Hands-on</b>. Some experienced barista will offer personal training or mentoring for those interested in becoming a barista or in improving their skills.</li></ul>

Whatever you decide to do, if you have a talent for making a great cup of espresso you should consider entering a barista competition. You will meet other people that share your passion for coffee and will certainly get some new ideas to try in your coffee shop.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

An Introduction To Gourmet Coffee

Over five hundred billion cups of coffee are consumed each year making it the most popular drink on this earth. For centuries, this aromatic, spirit-lifting drink has been the beverage to serve at any and all events. Many board meetings and friendships have thrived over a cup of coffee. Extracted from the seed of cherries growing on coffee trees, coffee is grown extensively in fifty-three countries across the equator.

Specialty gourmet coffee is very popular among coffee drinkers today. As a matter of fact, statistic show that it is one of the fastest growing food retailers netting approximately $8.5 billion a year. People enjoy the taste of the sophisticated beans used in the making of this delightful gourmet drink. The beans are grown at very high altitudes on Arabic trees and feed on volcanic ash.  A cool climate and lots of moisture result in a high quality bean group. The soil the beans are grown in produces the very distinct flavors of the gourmet beans. Gourmet coffee has a more balanced flavor and richer taste than the standard mass-produced coffee. The beans go through a rigorous process of certification that is very strict to help keep the quality high. To help keep standards high, the Specialty Coffee Association of American was created in 1982, for the specialty coffee trade.

You can find gourmet coffee in most grocery stores, specialty shops, restaurants and coffee shops. If you are a true connoisseur, you might compare gourmet coffee to a wonderful bottle of wine.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A coffee lover's best friend - The Cuisinart Coffee Maker

Cuisinart Corporation prides themselves in making innovative culinary tools.  They were brought into the limelight through world renowned chefs like Julia Childs and James Beard and who used the Cuisinart food processor and hailed it to be the future of cooking.  This started a worldwide interest in food processors and Cuisinart was there from the beginning.  They make a repertoire of cooking gadgets like Citrus Juicers, cutlery, food processors, Toasters, Waffle makers and the Cuisinart Coffee Makers.  Cuisinart collections are available in four basically different styles.  There is the brushed stainless steel collection for the sleeker contemporary décor.  The Matte Black Metals collection can blend into almost any interior décor style.  The Red Collection is reminiscent of the 50s and can be used as the focal point in your Retro décor style.  Finally the White and Stainless steel collection is perfect for your Country style kitchen.  No matter what your décor style there is a Cuisinart collection to suit your need. 

The Cuisinart coffee bar collection is an impressive collection of more than 15 different types and styles of coffee makers.  They range from four cup to twelve cup Cuisinart coffee brewing machine, cuisinart thermal coffee makers and the popular cuisinart grind and brew thermal coffee maker. The Cuisinart coffee maker has a stylish design making it attractive; it is also very durable and most importantly brews an excellent cup of coffee. With a stainless steel exterior the Cuisinart coffee makers are a welcome addition to any kitchen décor.   

Cuisinart’s latest product is a twelve cup coffee percolator.  This coffee maker is very versatile and mobile allowing it to be moved around the kitchen and plugged into different outlets.  The attractive stainless steel percolator has a detachable chord which allows it to be used as a coffee decanter as well. The Coffee Percolator has a no drip sprout with a transparent knob that allows you to monitor the progress of the coffee percolation.  The stay-cool bottom of the Cuisinart percolator allows it to stand on any surface without causing any damage.  Although the suggested retail price tag of $90 may be more than you are willing to spend, Cuisinart products come with a three year warranty and their quality and reliability justify the price.

Cuisinart coffee maker parts are easy to procure.  Simple visit the company’s website and find the Cuisinart retailer closest to you and contact them to find your replacement parts. Cuisinart Corporation prides itself in producing proven superior quality products and offering superior customer service.  On the company website you will find links to retailers that sell their products.  They also have an online catalogue that allows you to shop easily.

Cuisinart products can be found in fine and upmarket department stores and specialty stores all over the world.  If you are in the market for a Cuisinart Coffee Maker visit the Cuisinart website and find the closest retailer.  There are also many different retailers online offering a variety of Cuisinart Coffee Makers.  Online auctions sites also have a collection of the Coffee makers at deeply discounted prices.

Friday, March 9, 2012

A Brief Overview of Gourmet Coffee

The word Gourmet is used to refer to the fancier grade, cut, or quality of many of the foods and beverages we consume. Gourmet foods and drinks have long been associated as the regular fare for the rich and famous who can afford the higher pricing that often accompanies many of these finer food and beverage versions. Coffee is a beverage that has been available in cheap, regular and gourmet versions for a long time and the consumption rate of coffee among people from around the world continues to increase every year. Gourmet coffee may have once only been served in the finest dining establishments and found being served mostly in the homes of the upper class, but gourmet coffee is widely available and affordable to a variety of people and is found in a variety of settings today.

Coffee is made from coffee beans which are found within the berries that develop and ripen on a number of smaller evergreen bush plant species known as the Coffea plant. After ripening, coffee berries are harvested, and then undergo a processing which also includes drying them. It is the coffee beans that remain after the processing and drying of the coffee berries. The beans are then roasted to various degrees which cause them to change physically and in the tastes they produce. Finally, the coffee beans are grinded down into a fine consistency that is commonly known as coffee grounds, and packaged and shipped to destinations around the world where consumers can buy and brew coffee grounds to make coffee in commercial, hospitality, institutional, and residential settings. Some people prefer to grind their own coffee beans before brewing them for coffee. Packaged coffee beans that have not been ground can be purchased in stores and ground using the grinding mills that are made available in most of the stores selling them, but also with grinding machines in the home.

The two most commercially grown species of the coffea plant that produce the coffee beans used to make the coffee that the world's population consumes, are Robusta and Arabica. Gourmet coffee is made from the top tier coffee beans from the arabica coffea plant. These top tier arabica coffea plants are typically grown at very high altitudes (above 3000ft) with ideal soil and climate conditions. The coffee beans produced have fuller flavors, are more aromatic, and have less caffeine in them than other varieties of coffee beans such as Robustas. The coffee beans of arabica coffea plants grown at lower altitudes are still noted among consumers as having richer flavors than the flavors produced by Robusta coffee beans, but it is only the top tier arabica coffee beans that are considered to be Gourmet, and thereby from which gourmet coffee is derived.

Coffee bean grounds and coffee beans that have not been grinded down need to be stored in air-tight containers and kept cool in order to protect them from losing their flavor. The containers that coffee is typically sold in are not the most ideal for storing coffee for a long period of time. When you arrive home after purchasing coffee grounds at the store, consider transferring the fresh coffee grounds to appropriate storage containers to extend its shelf life and full flavor.

Coffee can be brewed in many ways such as boiling, pressuring, and steeping. Most of us brew our coffee using automatic coffee brewing machines and percolators which use gravity to pull hot water through coffee grounds where the hot water mixed with the oils and essences of the coffee grounds empties into a liquid holding container below. Filters are used to keep coffee granules from being emptied into the carafe or liquid holding container from which the brewed coffee can then be served from because most people do not want to drink the coffee granules. Coffee granules can be very bitter once the flavor able oils and essences have been removed through the brewing process. Plants and flowers love coffee grounds though for anybody who is looking for a greener alternative of what to do with coffee grounds after brewing instead of just throwing them in the trash.

Of course, Gourmet coffee beans are only the beginning to creating a truly gourmet coffee experience for many gourmet coffee drinkers. Some people are quite content with drinking their gourmet coffee black, without adding anything like milk, creamer, sugar or other sweeteners or flavorings, to their coffee. While many others want to enhance their gourmet coffee and drinking experience with tasty additions like milk that is whipped into a froth, sweeteners, and mixing in other flavors like chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon, and mint, to name just a few. Big name coffee chains sell a wide variety of gourmet coffee with different tasty additions and flavors to appeal to gourmet coffee lovers. However, brewing gourmet coffee at home is usually much cheaper, and you can add what you want to your coffee to satisfy your refined, gourmet tastes.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Brief History of Espresso

Luigi Bezzera, the owner of a manufacturing business invented Espresso at the turn of the century.  Luigi Bezzera was simply trying to figure out a way to brew coffee faster.  He figured if he could just add pressure to the brewing process it would speed things up.  Thus the "Fast Coffee Machine" was created.  His idea of a fast cup of coffee turned out much better than he had planned, what he ended up with is a better, fuller tasting cup of strong coffee, as well as a much faster process.  He found that the quicker more efficient brewing method allowed for the quality of the beans to be extracted as opposed to over extracting he had previously experienced.  The term "Espresso" means fast in italian, hence the term.

It wasn't until later when Desidero Pavoni purchased the rights from Mr. Bezzera for the espresso machine that it became popular.  Pavoni was extremely successful in marketing the product and probably changed the way people drink coffee from then on.  Just look around!  Coffee and Espresso shops are popping up everywhere, even in the U.S. it has become not only popular for the delicious beans, but has given us a new place to socialize.

Espresso Timeline:

In 1901 Luigi Bezzera filed a patent for the espresso machine that contained a boiler and four "groups". Each group could take different size filters that contained the coffee.  Boiling water was forced through the coffee and into a cup.  Ambrogio Fumagelli says that this was the birth of (fast) espresso coffee.

In 1903 Luigi Bezzera's patent was then purchased by Desiderio Pavoni and put to market in a big way.

In 1905 The Pavoni company begins manufacturing the espresso machines soley based on Bezzera's patent.

In 1927 First espresso machine was installed in the United States.  It was a La Pavoni Espresso Machine installed at Regio's

in New York.

In 1938 Cremonesi designed a piston pump that forced hot water through the coffee.  It was installed at Achille Gaggia's

coffee bar.

In 1946 Gaggia begins manufacturing the commercial piston machine.  Resulting foam or cream layered coffee or cafe'.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Blog Of Brewed Coffee, Anyone?

Coffee is something that we a drink to enjoy the quiet moments of our day. It is also something we drink to jolt our systems when our system is falling asleep and we still need to work. What contrasting reasons to drink this brew yet both are accurate.

Coffee is a complex drink that is drunk at any time during the day. It is enjoyed by many millions of people yet not truly appreciated by these very same people. There are so many varieties and blends that it can be bewildering. In fact, as the character of Tom Hanks in “You’ve Got Mail” puts it, it can be a challenge to choose for those who have difficulty making decisions to go into a Starbucks shop because suddenly you are asked to make six, all in one go.

It is always great to learn new things and try out new tastes. It also helps if you can learn about what blends may match your taste without your having to waste money on a cup that you will find you absolutely unappealing after the first sip.

Coffee is grown in many places all over the world. Each area produces coffee that is unique to the soil it grew in. Though it is acknowledged that the first coffee plants came from Ethiopia, by no means has Africa cornered the coffee market. Thanks to the varying tastes of people, many delicious blends have resulted.

Coffee is like wine. To truly appreciate it you need to use all your senses and savor not only the taste of each brew but its aroma as well. The scent alone of coffee is enough for some individuals to relax. For them, coffee reminds them of home or a place to just hang out, kick back and relax even if they are sitting in the middle of a crowded café.

Of course, some may prefer to learn how to make great coffee at home instead of always buying from the local café. A blog that talks about practical tips on how to make coffee is invaluable. Recipes for various coffee recipes, be it brew or food flavored with this delicious ingredient, add an interesting and helpful touch to any website that is much appreciated by this reader. It is always nice to work with recipes that other people have already found to be successful.

There is much to experience about coffee and many people to enjoy it with. Each cup of coffee is a connection with that community. The beans and the brew spark off that common interest. provides a venue which talks about the many aspects of coffee. It tries to bring to life the fun  side of coffee as well as the facts of this beverage. invites you to sit in front of your computer for a moment and have a wonderful coffee break with other coffee loving individuals. It brings art, culture and facts right to your virtual doorstep. You may want to enjoy a cup while reading about today’s brew.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

7 Steps for World Class Gourmet Coffee

For a change, a good cup of coffee would be nice. It does take some time and some energy to find a great cup of gourmet coffee these days. If you do know of a perfect coffee shop, you are one of the lucky ones. But, did you know that you can basically make a nice cup of coffee on your own from home?

Here are 7 simple steps that you can take to produce the perfect cup of coffee every time.

Start with quality. One of the most critical aspects of coffee drinking is the grade of the coffee that you start off with. If you have a favorite flavor, then purchase whole beans in that flavor. If you can do this, it will allow you to get the most fresh coffee accessible.

Grind away. Purchase a quality coffee grinder. Some of the best grinders available today are easy to use and easy to clean up. By grinding your own coffee beans, youll be able to only grind what you need, meaning that you will have complete freshness in your coffee.

Store It Right And Tight. It is very fundamental to store your coffee tightly. Air oxidizes the coffee and can make it to get bitter quickly. Metal canisters can also enable a metal taste to get into the coffee, making it taste bad.

The top solution is for a plastic or ceramic air tight container for your coffee and coffee beans. Also, store it at room temperature because the moisture in the fridge or freezer can make it go bad faster.

Getting To The Coffee

The Maker. The coffee maker that you use is also critical. No matter what style that you go with, you can get a good cup of coffee out of it if you take the essential steps to keeping it fresh.

For example, you should insure that the coffee maker is kept clean after each use. In fact, youll need to make sure that you detail clean it, with the assistance of vinegar, every so often as well. Your preferences will ultimately determine which style of coffee maker you will use. Make sure that it uses a permanent filter in it.

Even In The Water. Even the water that you use is central to the quality of the coffee you will get from it. It is essential that you use water that is free from chlorine and minerals.

Often, using bottled water rather than tap water will augment the quality of the coffee. Also, keep the water nice and hot. A good temperature for the water is about 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

Supply The Right Amount. It is also central for you to use the right quantity of coffee beans and coffee grounds in the maker. Too many and you will have a very strong cup of coffee and too few will make it to be too weak. Follow the directions provided by the coffee producer for the best cup of coffee.

Lastly and probably the most vital aspect of getting a great cup of gourmet coffee is to make sure to enjoy your coffee when it is hot and fresh. Most restaurants are told to keep coffee for less than thirty minutes, but at home, the best coffee is the coffee that hasnt sat for more than twenty minutes.

Monday, March 5, 2012

4 Easy Tips for Making Iced Coffee Drinks at Home

A big chill is sweeping the coffee industry as iced coffee beverages gain popularity.

According to the National Coffee Association, the percentage of Americans who drink iced coffee beverages increased from 20 percent in 2003 to 29 percent in 2004. Following the popularity of cappuccinos and mocha lattes, consumers are discovering that coffee is just as tasty - and even more refreshing - when served cold.

Iced coffee can be as easy to prepare as iced tea. A variety of options, such as flavoring syrups, cold milk, chocolate and spices, allow you to create personalized coffee concoctions that are just as delicious as those served in your favorite cafe.

Beverages such as iced vanilla mocha, iced rum coffee and iced latte are easy to make at home. Here are some tips for refreshing iced coffee drinks.

* Pour the flavoring syrup into the cup first. To complete the drink, pour in espresso or coffee, then the ice, and top it off with cold milk.

* Don't let your beverage become watered down. Cool your favorite coffee beverage with ice cubes made from fresh-brewed coffee instead of water.

* Use a machine that produces a high quality coffee or espresso. The Capresso CoffeeTeam Luxe, for example, grinds coffee beans right before brewing and allows you to control the strength of your coffee.

* Be creative. Add a personalized touch to your iced coffee beverages with whipped cream, chocolate shavings, nutmeg or cinnamon.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Prohibition of The United States

The volstead act or (Prohibition act) took effect in 1920, in several states across america laws were already in place to try and stop the consumption of alcohol, these laws were in effect before the 18th amendment (volstead act, Prohibition act) was passed before congress.

Newyork was the 1st state to have any such laws passed in the year 1697. This law simply stated that all saloons and drinking establishments must close on a sunday as a sunday is revered as a day of rest and prayer and not drinking. Then in 1735, the government introduced its 1st state wide ban on alcohol in the state of georgia which absolutely failed and only lasted 7 years until 1742.

In 1851, they tried again to instill a ban on alcohol in maine, and this time it worked even better than they had hoped. By 1855, A dozen other states had joined Maine in becoming what is known as being "dry state".

In 1880, after the Civil War, women joined the "dries" and it wasnt long before the temperance movement was a power to be noticed. The WCTU (Woman's Christian Temperance Union)was formed and the Prohibition Party started gaining some serious weight.

By 1900, more than 50% of the continental united states had become dry. The prohibitionists thought they had the alcohol ban sortedand that there was no possible way for any person to get liquor into a dry state. Unfortunately for the dries, a loophole was found in the law, the postal service. Because the postal service was regulated by the federal government and not the state government, liquor could be mail ordered and shipped from a wet state.

This maddened the dries so in 1913, an Interstate Liquor Act was passed. This act effectively made it illegal for anyone to send liquor to any dry state by any means. which was actually a big loss for those trying to keep the liquor out as it gave rise to far more illegal methods of obtaining the alcohol as liquor distilleries were now in league with crime bosses.

In 1917, the 18th amendment was drawn up and it stated that it would now be illegal to buy ship or even manufacture liquor. This did not sit well with a lot of states so the amendment was debated in congress for a further 2 years. In 1920 33 states had declared themselves as dry and this meant a major victory for the prohibition party.

January 29, 1919. The 18th Amendment was ratified to make all hard liquor with an alcohol content over 40% (or 80 proof) be banned. Officially, it banned the "production, sale, or transporting of such alcoholic drinks." this was support by many peopleas they thought that only hard liquor was to be banned and that it would be fine to enjoy a glass of wine with a meal or have a beer after work.

However, it wasnt until a year later, the Volstead Act (prohibion act) was passed. The Volstead Act completely banned all alcohol that had more than 1/2% alcohol content. This effectively banned all forms of alcoholic beverages, with the exception of course being non-alcoholic beers. After the 18th amendment was ratified, the Volstead Act was brought into the light by the Prohibition supporters. For most of the prohibition supports who only wanted a little wine or the odd beer felt as though they had been betrayed as they were left with nothing when the act was passed.

1 group of people that no one considered were the veterans of the 1st world war, these ex soldiers felt very betrayed returning home from fighting in the war. Most of them had been stationed in France and came to know how a moderate amount of aclohol could in many ways enhance the quality of life. Then coming home and finding out that the dries had won a total victory over alcohol added to the bitterness of the veterans disdain.

The fatal mistake with prohibition was to ban all types of alcohol, which lost the Prohibition Party almost 80% of its followers.

Prohibition lasted for 13 years in the US until in 1933 the 21st amendment was passed to offically end the ban on alcohol.

Below explains both the 18th Amendment and the Volstead act and also give the 21st Amendment which is stating the end of prohibition.

The 18th amendment

1. After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.

2. The Congress and the several States shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress. The 21st amendment

1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

2. The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.

3. The article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress