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Megan Blocker

My morning coffee fix...

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I was walking to work the other morning, relishing the crisp, cool fall air. Those of you who either live here in NYC or have had the pleasure of visiting in summer know that the smells you encounter during those months can be...less than pleasant. So, it's always a treat when summer departs, taking the stench with it.

Fall's cleaner, colder air also allows you to smell all the good things you couldn't in August - roasted nuts, smoke from a brownstone's chimney (what I wouldn't give for a WBFP!), and, above all, coffee carts. Every corner, it seems, is perfumed by them in the morning, the aromas wafting toward every commuter in a one-block radius.

As I passed a fourth or fifth coffee cart on my commute, I started wondering how people in other parts of the world get their morning caffeine fix. I've always been a coffee cart devotee, and even though I changed jobs and offices more than a year ago, I still miss my "guy" down on 24th and Park...he knew exactly how I liked my coffee and that if he saw me coming down for a second fix at 10:00, it was a crazy day.

So...how do you get your morning coffee (or tea)? Cart? Coffeehouse? Do you make it at home and carry it with you?


"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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I hate to say this, but I drink only the free coffee at work. And I have to put a ton of creamer in it, before it's drinkable.

On a really, really good day, when I actually got my butt out of bed as early as I'd promised myself I would the night before, I will stop by Starbuck's for a latte.

Occasionally, I'll stop by McDonald's when I'm doing errands for the office. It's hard to find better coffee around here, than theirs.

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I hate to say this, but I drink only the free coffee at work.  And I have to put a ton of creamer in it, before it's drinkable.

On a really, really good day, when I actually got my butt out of bed as early as I'd promised myself I would the night before, I will stop by Starbuck's for a latte.

Occasionally, I'll stop by McDonald's when I'm doing errands for the office.  It's hard to find better coffee around here, than theirs.

Hey - free is good, man!

To justify my coffee cart addiction, I just think about the $3.00 I could be spending at Starbucks, and smile as I hand over my single.


Edited by Megan Blocker (log)

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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I'm a stay at home Mom. My coffee fix has turned into a tea fix. I've discovered something from Celestial Seasonings called Morning Thunder which is a mixture of black tea and mate. It's supposed to rev you up without giving you the jitters, and I'll be darned if it doesn't work as advertised. I <heart> my Morning Thunder.

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I go the Mc Donald's route. The coffee is better at Dunkin' Donuts, but it's way off the hell and gone, and Mickey D's is just around the corner from my house. The office coffee tastes like its been run thru a skunk. (where's the little green guy when you need him?)


"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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Morning coffee has become a ritual in our house, mostly because I have an old Silex narrow-neck vac pot that requires a certain level of ritual just to get it to produce coffee. Excellent coffee.

I fill and sit it over the gas flame before my eyes are fully open. Then I grind the beans and pour them into the upper chamber, having made sure the glass filter is locked into place. Something deep inside me knows exactly how long it will take to get just warm enough to gently move up the tube into the upper chamber without spurting all over the place. I turn the heat down when I snuggle the upper part onto the lower and then I find something to do in the kitchen, maybe get breakfast parts out, with one eye on the pot. Once the coffee starts to rise, I give the grounds one good stir and watch the crema form. At the moment that it starts to bubble, I set the timer for 2 minutes and 15 seconds. When that goes off, I remove the coffee pot from the heat and tinker around some more while it "goes south" into the lower pot. I pour my first cup of coffee, I fill my husband's Nissan leak-proof commuter mug and screw down its top, and I put a tea cozy over the pot. It will still be warm 20 minutes later.

Every morning I test the leak-proof-ness of the commuter mug by "pouring" it into something different each day, i.e. hubby's cereal, the turtle tank, my slipper. It never leaks (except the one time my husband thought he could screw in the cap with one hand, didn't test it, and got coffee all over his books in his bag), but I test it anyway because it's become a silly source of laughter, imagining coffee on or in various objects.

It's the only part of the day, until the very end, when I regularly take my time to do something I love. The whole thing is THE start to the day, it lets me know I'm awake. And it's that first sip of coffee that lets me know I'm alive and all is well.

Lonnie (aka much-ado-about-nothing)


"It is better to ask some of the questions than to know all of the answers." --James Thurber

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I used to put a kettle on then line the top of the french drip pot with a scott paper towel, fill 1/2 way full of coffee and then slowly pour the boiling water through the grinds. Now I do everything the same except I get my water already hot from the hot water dispenser and pour it in via glass measureing cup. The hot water is at 212 F when it comes out of the spigot and that turns out to be the best temp. for brewing a pot of between roast coffee. It's just at a boil at that point. It's also handy for making tea on the fly..you know, you have just 5 minutes before you have to leave. I drink a lot more tea now!

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Megan, I love your description of NYC and fall and coffee--beautifully written.

My husband makes me coffee every morning. It is waiting for me when I get up. When I can't drink coffee, he makes me tea. I got him a coffee mill and he makes his from fresh ground beans melita style. Then he makes my cup--the fresh ground beans somehow seem too much for my system so I use store bought flavored coffees and currently he's brewing me cinnamon bun coffee, sugars it, or rather splendas & honey's it (y'know eating local natural honey helps calm sinus issues?!)

:raz: Yes, I totally understand how lucky/spoiled I am. :wub:

I used to make my little Mom a pot of coffee when she came home from work. I might not have gotten the chores done, ok I probably never did my chores :rolleyes: but I remember making her lots of coffee, timing it so it would be ready when she walked in the door. She had an all clear glass pyrex percolator, I mean the top & bottom of the basket was metal though, all full of holes so the water could pass through and between them was a clear glass basket--she had a long lean little bitty brush you could clean the brown goo out of the glass stem. You heated it on the stove. You could watch it all happening though--very cool. When you see the liquid bubble up the stem, hit the cap in the top and splay down onto the basket a couple times, then you turn the fire down & let it percolate. She loved coffee! Don't forget the filter!! Damn, that was like forty freaking years ago...

:laugh:

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I put my kettle on the fire and head out the door with two of the three dogs. They each pee at their same spot. We than, all three of us, walk to the end of the driveway to pick up the paper. We all come back up to the yard and one and only one of the dogs goes to the bushes and squats and leaves a gift for the yard. We than all return inside at which point I grind my beans, dump them into my french press. As if by magic, the water is now ready and I pour it into the pot. Four minutes later, I plunge and pour. I drink it while sitting on the couch reading the paper.

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Morning routine:

I walk the dogs. I feed the dogs. I rinse and wipe out the moka coffee pot. I fill the bottom with water. I grind just enough beans to fill the basket. I put it on the stove. I pour a cup of whole milk and heat it in the microwave. I go get the dog that has to be carried upstairs. I let her outside and bag her poop. I turn on the stereo (Minnesota Public Radio), and scan the front page of the newspaper. I hear the steam escaping from the tiny hole in the bottom portion of the moka coffee pot. I turn off the stove. I grab a 16-ounce cearmic mug. I skim the skin that has formed on top of the hot milk. I pour the milk into the mug (it fills it halfway). I fill the rest of the mug with the strong coffee from the moka pot. I take my mug and read the newspaper.

My wife comes downstairs, heats up her owm milk, and gets what's left in the pot.


We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

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I'm really loving hearing about how regular everyone's dogs are!!!! :laugh::laugh::laugh:

Definitely the best unforeseen consqeuence of this thread...keep it coming! :rolleyes:


"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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On weekdays GF is up before me, and I'll have one-half cup of Folgers while I check my email.

On weekends I meet my racing buddies at a local cafe where the coffee is lousy but the bs is entertaining.

In either case, when I get to my shop I'll make some real coffee. I prefer grinding my own French Roast beans, often from an internet source like Peet's, but if I'm busy I'll use a premium ground coffee I get at the local bakery/deli.

I've never seen a coffee cart. Of course, around here one would be either stuck in the snow or frozen up for half the year!

SB (-4 this morning) :sad:

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IV

It's remarkably efficient. I just hook up to the shunt in my arm and moments later I am ready to face the day.

Actually,

One very strong cup at home, usually New Orleans roast (no chicory) and hot milk. Au lait, you know?

Then, at work, I drink that stuff (I rep some small roasters and usually have a supply of good coffee around pretty much until I start shaking, then I go eat lunch, and then I come back and do it again. I give it up for the rest of the day around 4. I drink waaaay too much of it, but I really like it.

It works for me.


Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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I'm really loving hearing about how regular everyone's dogs are!!!!  :laugh:  :laugh:  :laugh:

Definitely the best unforeseen consqeuence of this thread...keep it coming!  :rolleyes:

Er, shouldn't that be going ? :laugh: *runs away, giggling*


"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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I am not a big coffee drinker, and will not touch the stuff they call coffee at the office. When I do have a morning cup, I go to the ING cafe, which is halfway along my way to work. Since I have an account there, my coffee is free if I make a deposit. They brew Peet's, which is pretty darn tasty.

On the weekends, we go to our local Columbian bakery if we're in NY, and brew a big pot when we're home in Philly. With warm frothy milk.

P.S. We don't have dogs, but the coffee makes me regular. :laugh:


Karen C.

"Oh, suddenly life’s fun, suddenly there’s a reason to get up in the morning – it’s called bacon!" - Sookie St. James

Travelogue: Ten days in Tuscany

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Once a week I visit my parents and pet their dog. I knew you'd want to hear about my dog :laugh:

But in the morning I'm blissfully unencumbered by anything other than work responsibilities.

So here's how it works for me:

Two or three evenings per week and once on the weekend I roast about 150 - 300 pounds of green coffee beans per day in 34 pound batches.

I roast it on this gizmo:

gallery_2480_97_3826.jpg

Tuesday through Friday mornings at about 8:30 I make myself a quad shot (two double ristretto shots - about 3 fluid ounces of espresso) latte with foamed 2% milk in a paper cup. I get up at 5:00 AM and begin work at 6:00 AM but don't care for caffiene that early in the day.

I use the "house espresso blend", which is a staple on my early morning barista job. That drink travels with me to to my desk - where the "real" job begins at 9:00 AM- and the drink lasts until 10:00 or 10:30 AM.

I make the drink on this beautiful machine:

gallery_2480_188_1097006044.jpg

Friday night I turn on my little home espresso machine.... leave it on straight through Monday morning and drink any number of 6 oz cappuccino's in these cool little Illy cups. I can rarely handle more than two of them each morning (each has a 1.5 oz double ristretto shot of espresso) but sometimes I cave in to desire (make that most times) and have another one in the afternoon or after dinner.

The espresso blend is usually one that I've been experimenting with for future use - sooner or later Phaelon Coffee will be selling it on-line but for now it's just research. My current favorite includes Brazil, organic Mexican Chiapas, organic Sumatran and Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. But I've sworn myself to secrecy and I can't reveal the proportions here (despite having already done so in this forum in some previous post :wink: ).

I make them on this:

gallery_2480_97_80445.jpg

And the drink looks like this:

i4379.jpg

Occasionally I even manage to achieve some rudimentary latte art but for me... at home... it's all about how it tastes. And it tastes good.

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I'm really loving hearing about how regular everyone's dogs are!!!!  :laugh:   :laugh:   :laugh:

Definitely the best unforeseen consqeuence of this thread...keep it coming!  :rolleyes:

Er, shouldn't that be going ? :laugh: *runs away, giggling*

Niiiice...I definitely think we're upping the level of discussion with this thread. :laugh:

Great altar of coffee you have there in your kitchen, Owen - and the machine from your workplace is so beautiful and gleaming...it looks like the Vespa I've been eyeing for years. :laugh:


"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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Once a week I visit my parents and pet their dog.  I knew you'd want to hear about my dog  :laugh:

But in the morning I'm blissfully unencumbered by anything other than work responsibilities.

So here's how it works for me:

Two or three evenings per week and once on the weekend I roast  about 150 - 300 pounds of green coffee beans per day in 34 pound batches.

I roast it on this gizmo:

gallery_2480_97_3826.jpg

Tuesday through Friday mornings at about 8:30 I make myself a quad shot (two double ristretto shots - about 3 fluid ounces of espresso)  latte with foamed 2% milk in a paper cup.  I get up at 5:00 AM and begin work at 6:00 AM but don't care for caffiene that early in the day.

I use the "house espresso blend", which is a staple on my early morning barista job.  That drink travels with me to to my desk -  where the "real" job begins at 9:00 AM- and the drink lasts until 10:00 or 10:30 AM. 

I make the drink on this beautiful machine:

gallery_2480_188_1097006044.jpg

Friday night I turn on my little home espresso machine.... leave it on straight through Monday morning and drink any number of 6 oz cappuccino's in these cool little Illy cups. I can rarely handle more than two of them each morning (each has a 1.5 oz double ristretto shot of espresso) but sometimes I cave in to desire (make that most times)  and have another one in the afternoon or after dinner.

The espresso blend is usually one that I've been experimenting with for future use - sooner or later Phaelon Coffee will be selling it on-line but for now it's just research. My current favorite includes Brazil, organic Mexican Chiapas, organic Sumatran and Ethiopian Yirgacheffe.   But I've sworn myself to secrecy and I can't reveal the proportions here (despite having already done so in this forum in some previous post  :wink:  ).

I make them on this:

gallery_2480_97_80445.jpg

And the drink looks like this:

i4379.jpg

Occasionally I even manage to achieve some rudimentary latte art but for me...  at home...  it's all about how it tastes. And it tastes good.

Owen -- you are like -- my hero.

My ritual...

- Run hot water to warm coffee press and cups

- Heat fresh cold water until it JUST boils -- don't allow to boil long (filtered in our case -- Northern VA water has a chlorine smell)

- grind French Roast beans in my Kitchen Aid burr grinder

- gently warm milk (2% or full fat) in a stainless steel saucepan

- when water boils, set microwave timer to 4 minutes

- deposit 3 coffee measures of freshly ground coffee in press; steep 4 minutes

- Use frother to froth milk

- Timer goes off; plunge press

- pour milk, then coffee; skip drawing designs in froth (too groggy)


Edited by Foodie Craze (log)

Neil

Trivia Craze LLC

http://www.triviacraze.com

Creators of Foodie Craze,

The fun trivia game for food lovers

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Owen, that is one impressive set up you have there.

What do you call that machine? I can't quite read the script.

I make the drink on this beautiful machine:

gallery_2480_188_1097006044.jpg


Karen C.

"Oh, suddenly life’s fun, suddenly there’s a reason to get up in the morning – it’s called bacon!" - Sookie St. James

Travelogue: Ten days in Tuscany

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It's fun reading these.

We have a Quisinart Automatic Grind & Brew. Each weeknight, Russ loads the water and the beans into it and sets it for 5:30. It is our first alarm clock of the day when we hear it grinding the beans. Soon after that the clock radio starts playing music, and Russ hits the Snooze. A few minutes later the TV in our bedroom turns on, as I have set it the night before. Wake up and smell the coffee. By now we smell the coffee. Shortly after that the music alarm goes off again. This time he turns it off. A few minutes later we get up, Russ first, and only stopping to go to the bathroom, we immediately go for the coffee. Russ drinks two or three cups at home. I drink one at home. My second cup of coffee is the free stuff at work, if I go to the office or the Hospice House. If I start my work day on the road, I pour a travel mug to take with me in the car.

I didn't realize our coffee drinking habits were such rituals until writing this!


Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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I just moved to Portland, OR from Minneapolis, MN and while I'm really missing the midwest I am now working my way through the Stumptown coffee roster one bean per week, which is a level of coffee glory I couldn't have dreamed of walking down the street for in MN. So, this week I'm on the Ethiopia Sidamo. The guy at Stumptown mentioned something about strawberries, and truly it has a hint of strawberry Quik! Anyway, since my boyfriend and I have moved to Portland we've been hitting the garage sales pretty hard and I happened upon a Starbuck's Barista grinder, which, while not top of the line, beats the pants off my old anonymous blade grinder (now truly anonymous since I lost the lid in the move and can't remember the brand name). So, at 5am before I head to the hotel where I plie others with coffee from massive urns, I grind my 5 tablespoons, pour them into my french press, add the water from my electric kettle, swirl, wait 3 minutes and pour my coffee into the waiting cream and sugar. It's my own little ritual, and I feel like a queen.

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I brew a small vacuum pot and dump some heated milk into a couple of travel mugs (long commute!) I roast several batches of beans over the weekend, enough to (hopefully) make it through the week.

Last week I accidentally did a "same-varietal blend". I put too big a dose of Harar beans into the iRoast. Some of the beans were well into second crack by the time the stragglers were reaching an acceptable roast. The most-done beans were oily and dark, while the less-done ones were just light brown. The result was a great balance of the floral / herbaceous quality of the less-roasted beans, combined with the chocolate / caramel of the over-roasted ones. Not sure I could repeat the process if I tried.

What do you call that machine? I can't quite read the script.

I think it's a La Marzocco. See the my new baby topic.

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No coffee, i brew my self a cup of tea using my nifty loose tea thingy I got off the internet and water brought just to a boil and some China Keemun Black, let it steep for 4 minutes, remove the tea leaves and enjoy my morning. I don't take sugar, or cream or lemon in my tea. I don't know where the lemon idea came from, but yuck. I like my tea too much to put that much tart acid in it, screws up the flavor I think.


It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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Karen:

Yes it is a La Marzocco.

Maesie:

I'm jealous - Stumptown rocks!

Have you been to a coffee cupping at the Annex yet?

Megan:

I assume you're talking about that coffee they usually serve in the little blue cups with the Greek design on the side. I love the concept of the carts but the coffee I tried from them... yuck! Perhaps they're not all created equal?

When I worked in NYC I tried several carts on 8th Ave between 42nd and 34th but they were all terrible. Ended up getting my morning cup at Au Bon Pain in Port Authority and carrying it down the street to the office. It was way too much hassle to carry coffee into the city from NJ on the bus.

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Megan:

I assume you're talking about that coffee they usually serve in the little blue cups with the Greek design on the side.  I love the concept of the carts but the coffee I tried from them...  yuck! Perhaps they're not all created equal? 

Sadly, the little Greek coffee cups are going away...they were never made in the larger size I favor (need my CAFFEINE!!!), and now a lot of coffee carts have cups with ads on the side - last year, there were tons of TNT cups, this year, a lot for Bliss, the spa.

And, no, not all coffee carts are created equal. Some make coffee that tastes like filtered dirt, but some are pretty good. For instance, there is a cart near my house that I won't go to, but one near my office that I like. I still haven't found one I like as much as the one by my old office, though. :sad:


Edited by Megan Blocker (log)

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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      It’s all done in the spirit of promoting local Chefs and restaurants while having fun with food and cooking. (And as fate often demonstrates on live TV -- the viewers have a few laughs at wacky cooks who muster-up enough courage to come on live television and make some sort of horrendous tuna casserole).

      We try to make the recipe simple enough that it can be done in a reasonable amount of time, but we don’t restrict ourselves to doing recipes in 30 minutes or less.

      If you have to chill the custard base of the ice cream overnight, that’s what we tell the viewers. While we may use short-cuts on-camera to demonstrate the steps of the recipe, short cuts in the actual recipe aren’t allowed for the sake of convenience.

      If crab cakes taste better when they’re sautéed in clarified butter, so be it. We don’t forsake flavor at the cost of cutting fat and calories. We present the most flavorful dish possible.

      I e-mail the producer about three weeks before the show with a general idea of the dish I’m planning. Then about three or four days before the show, I send the recipe of the final dish. This allows KXLY to do promos up to two days in advance of the show: "Coming up on KXLY Sunday Morning Northwest, our favorite local chef, David Ross, will be preparing a delicious dish using fresh Dungeness Crab and Shrimp from Williams Seafood in the Valley."

      The recipe we post on the station’s website is usually written to serve 6-8 people. But, when you cook on local television, there is a very, very important consideration that you must factor into your shopping list-enough food to feed the crew.

      That means a recipe written for the public to serve precisely one "Shrimp Stuffed with Crab" to each of 8 guests, is a much different, and much larger recipe, behind the scenes. It’s more than just a matter of prepping 8 stuffed shrimp. It’s a matter of stuffing 30, maybe even 40 shrimp.

      I triple or quadruple the quantities called for in a recipe so that I can feed the cameramen, the floor director, the producer, the hosts, the sports guy, the weather lady, the DJ’s in the adjacent AM radio station booth-every person working in the studio on Sunday morning will have at least one of these delectable stuffed shrimp. (It’s vital to send the crew home sated; they are the ultimate taste-test panel. If they like your food, the viewers will like it too.)

      After the recipe for the dish I put together an "Invoice," a shopping list of ingredients that lists the cost of the products I’ll be buying for the recipe. This serves as my contract, if you will, for KXLY.

      The final piece of the written paperwork for each show is the "script" that I write for myself.

      This isn’t the same type of "script" that might be rehearsed by the actors on "The Bold and The Beautiful." The only person that reads this script is me. (And maybe the co-host who glances at the script tucked under the plate displayed on the set). When you cook on local television you don’t rehearse with other actors. If you choose to rehearse you do it at home ahead of time.

      Remember, this is live TV. We don’t have room for errors. We don’t do re-takes or re-shoot scenes. We’re LIVE! For my own piece of mind, I need a script as a sort of crutch to lean on. (Hey, Martha always has a cheat sheet on the counter).

      The script is my guide to all the points of the dish that I want to convey. This Sunday, I want to mention Williams Seafood and the array of products that Mike offers. I’ll talk about using wild American shrimp because they have a sweeter taste than farm-raised, and I’ll demonstrate how the prosciutto serves as a natural wrapper to hold the crab stuffing in the shrimp.

      The script helps me with my timing when I’m on-camera -- and timing is critical when you cook on television. I rehearse the script over and over and over in my living room, while a little white kitchen timer ticks away.

      I can’t tell you how many professional chefs and amateur cooks I’ve seen on television who didn’t rehearse their bit-and the results on live television were disastrous.

      (Like the chef who -- at the moment of presenting his dessert -- realized that he left the ice cream in his car. In the sun. He literally ran out of the studio, on live TV, to go get the ice cream.)

      The only small measure of direction I get from the Floor Director on the set is when I’m told to "look into the camera" seconds before the red light comes on.

      + + +

      I’ll need two of Mike’s best crabs for Sunday’s show -- one for the meat in the crab stuffing, and another one for the display of ingredients on the set.

      This morning Mike takes literally 20 minutes to scrub and wash the shell of the prized "display crab." As he toils away, I vow to honor his crab by insuring that the shell will be kept wet and shiny during its appearance -- or I won’t be able to show my face in Mike’s shop again.

      I’ll be making a crab cake mixture to stuff the shrimp. I’m wondering if Mike can top himself after the wondrous crabs he’s already given me, but he doesn’t disappoint today -- his fresh Wild American Shrimp fished out of the Gulf of Florida are just the right size to hold my savory crab cake stuffing.

      In the case of Sunday’s dish of Stuffed Shrimp, the recipe calls for grilling the shrimp on the outdoor barbecue. But we won’t be barbecuing the shrimp on camera this Sunday. I’ll grill the shrimp at home and then we’ll go through the motions of the cooking process during our live segment.

      I try to have all of my prep work done by late Saturday afternoon so I all I have to do on Sunday morning is pack the coolers and drive to the studio. There won’t be a Hummer limousine at my doorstep on Sunday morning waiting to whisk me in comfort to KXLY. I’ll be driving myself to the studio in a Dodge pickup.

      My home office serves as the "staging" area for packing the coolers. Make note of the supplies on the floor next to the cooler-dishes, toothpicks, silverware, tongs, spatulas and kitchen towels.

      And yes, I am following the direct instructions of Mike the fish guy -- I bought a spray bottle at the "Dollar Store" so that I can keep our precious "display crab" wet on camera.

      + + +

      I’ve never cooked on the "Today Show" on NBC in New York. I’ve heard that cooks who appear on "Today" are escorted into what is called a "Green Room," catered with lush displays of fresh fruit, vegetable and cheese trays, pastries and a never-ending assortment of beverages to await their few moments of fame. We don’t have a "Green Room" at KXLY. What we have is a room used by the weekday news staff to script out the flow of the news programs.

      Not having a Green Room is a blessing in disguise. The atmosphere in the studio is very casual and I don’t have to sit in a cold, lonely room waiting for a perky intern to escort me to the studio. I wait in the studio.

      You learn to be patient and immodest around the crew -- these are the people who watch you unzip your pants in the studio. You pull out your shirt so they can thread a small microphone from your waist, underneath your shirt, up to your neck and then clip the little mouthpiece to your collar.

      The only style advice I ever got was from my co-host, Teresa Lukens, who cautioned me not to wear a striped or checked shirt on-camera-something about the pattern of my shirt being a distraction to the viewers. (And I thought the girth of my waist was more of a distraction to the viewers than the pattern of my shirt).

      I don’t wear a Chef’s coat, because I don’t consider myself a Chef. I’m a cook and I want the viewers to relate to my story and my personality with ease and comfort. I want them to feel comfortable going into their kitchens at home and creating the types of dishes they might have at a restaurant. I don’t want to scare them by thinking only a guy in a chef’s coat can cook good food.

      Our kitchen at KXLY comprises an electric, flat-top stove inserted into a formica cabinet on wheels, held in place with sandbags. We don’t have an oven, refrigerator, freezer or running water. We make do with what we have-and that’s why I bring my own spatulas, spoons and water bottle to spray the crab.

      After the "Pet for Adoption" segment, I’m allowed on the set to get ready. I usually have about 15 minutes to unpack the coolers, put the ingredients on display and get the stove-top heated.

      We begin our cooking segment with a 30-second lead-in, usually after the local sports report. Teresa introduces the dish we’ll be doing and then we break to another commercial. I don’t have a lot of time to grill shrimp when we go live on KLXY -- only four minutes total for cooking time and discussion of the dish with my co-host. I’m lucky to have Teresa as my host. She knows food and cooking. She knows that prosciutto is cured Italian ham and she knows it’s thin and slightly salty. She knows to ask if smaller prawns will work for the recipe. And without prompting, she’ll ask why I’m using fresh Dungeness crab instead of canned lump crab meat. At the end of the segment we cut to one last commercial.

      As we come back live, Rick and Teresa are their normally gracious selves, tasting the stuffed shrimp and declaring it delicious. The show is a wrap.

      One more taste-test lies ahead before we can bring this journey to an end. What will the crew say about my "Shrimp Stuffed with Crab?"

      They tell me the stuffed shrimp were delicious. But you know what they really liked? What impressed them the most? The radishes.

      About a week after Sunday’s show, I went back to Williams Seafood to get some photos of the shop for this story.

      I find Mike behind the counter cutting fresh tuna steaks.

      "At least it looked fresh this time," he says.

      + + +

      Epilogue

      Shortly after I finished this piece, I began working with KXLY on our next cooking segment, which was scheduled to take place on Sunday, November 16.

      The plan was to cook some unique side dishes that the home cook could easily do to accompany the holiday turkey or prime rib. At least that was the plan until I picked up the local newspaper on November 2.

      When I turned to the business section, I saw the ominous news: "KXLY cancels weekend news program." I immediately contacted the producer.

      I had been cancelled -- a victim of the horrible state of the economy. I felt like I had been kicked in the gut. Cancelled after seven years and dozens of live cooking segments. Cancelled.

      Because "Sunday Morning Northwest" wasn’t the lead-in program to "Good Morning America," on the weekdays, it relied heavily on local advertising for its survival. ABC wouldn’t (and KXLY couldn’t) carry the burden of producing a local show that didn’t feed into network programming.

      With so many local businesses filing for bankruptcy and others literally closing the doors, one of the first budget items to go was television advertising -- advertising revenue that paid to produce "Sunday Morning Northwest."

      I wasn’t the only on-air "personality" to get the pink slip. The weekend weather "person" also got her walking papers. Rick and Teresa Lukens returned to the security of the KXLY-AM 920 radio booth and continue with their weekday morning drive-time show.

      And I have taken an unwanted leave of absence from local television. At least for a few months.

      Loyalty is not a word that is highly regarded in the television business. If ABC cancels you, you talk to NBC and so I’ve shifted my ambitions to KHQ -- the local NBC affiliate.

      KHQ airs a local morning program seven days a week. So if the culinary Gods are praying for me, someday soon I’ll begin doing a live cooking segment on the "KHQ Morning News."

      * * *

      David Ross lives in Spokane, but works a one-hour plane ride away. When he's not tending to his day job -- or commuting -- he writes about food, reviews restaurants and -- obviously -- does food presentation. He is on the eGullet Society hosting team for the Culinary Culture and Kitchen forums.
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