Tuesday, March 28, 2006


My Inner Essentialist

Those of you who've noticed my campaign against "essentialism", which I find hidden in such pushes as the push to teach "Intelligent Design" in schools, and which I fear will bring with it its handmaiden economic system of feudalism and their handmaiden of anti-Semitism, may be surprised, or not so surprised, to know that I have a hidden essentialist in me. I love situations, products, etc., that somehow seem to capture the archetype of what they are supposed to be (although my "universel" archetypes are probably based on my peculiar experiences in life).

To that end, some recommendations from my inner essentialist.

Tea: any proper "Scottish Breakfast" blend -- while I love any sort of fine tea, with their tannic oakiness, malty and fermented notes, these teas capture what for me is the Platonic ideal of tea

Champagne: Veuve Cliquot, Brut -- its balance of fruitiness, crispness and floral and yeasty notes is what to me a champagne should be, at least based on the interpretation presented by Goerlitz in their "champagne bubbles" candies: raison/warm-spice nose, floral yet acidic flavor with a long finish of red currants. I also like, in this vein, Alsatian Cremants (Arbarbanel Brut is good -- and kosher!) and similar style wines from the US (e.g. Chateau Frank Celebre) as well as Bulgarian sparkling Miskets (although those can make you sick immediately afterwards).

Coffee: Nordstrom's (secretly a Starbucks blend, I am told -- but it tastes different, and better, to me than any Starbucks blend I've had) is to me the ideal coffee flavor (well, actually, the ideal is coffee I had at a coffee bar in some grocery store in Woodland, CA, but Nordstrom's is close enough), especially for espresso. To get that almost artificial archetype of coffee flavor, what I've figured out is that you can start from any decent coffee -- you just have to let it sit for a while in such a way it doesn't get oxidized and hence stale -- e.g. in a reasonably closed containor or infused in liquor. For Irish coffee (ideal whiskey -- with its maltiness and buttery notes, Powers), though, you need a smokier coffee -- Chock Full of Nuts New York City Roast is perfect, IMHO. I also like coffee with some "chickoryness", especially made with a percolator (which usually ruins coffee) to get a smokey note. If you want coffee with a certain terroir, though, you oughta get a single region if not single estate coffee (but make sure it's from a region known for its good and "earthy" coffee, like Blue Mountain or Kona, otherwise it's bound to be insipid) South Indian style coffee also matches a certain image I have of "cowboy" coffee -- of all things to match.

Cigars: while the box does not match my archetype of a cigar box, I would say Onyx Reserve matches my idea of what the flavor should be: with musty/wet-cloth (with just the right amount of "stinkiness), warm spice and fermented notes ending with a bit of nettle herbalness and then kumquat-like acridity. San Louis Rey also makes a maduro cigar matching more or less my idea of what a cigar should be -- except, while not as full-flavored as the Onyx Reserve, it has intriguing additional herbal and spicy notes. If Onyx Reserve is the fine coffee of cigars, San Louis Rey is the good quality tea of cigars. Black Pearl Rojo is perhaps even better than either, but is hard to find (it's pricing reminds me of the old joke about bialies -- a customer notices a bakery selling bialies for $2.00 each and asks about the price, "why are you selling bialies for $2 when the store down the street is selling them for $1" to which the baker responds "why don't you get them from the other store then" to which the customer replies "they're out" to which the baker retorts "well, when I am out of bialies, I too sell them for $1 each" -- this joke also is good for teaching students about the properties of the empty set) and leaves a funny aftertaste in your mouth. CAO Brazilia's little cigars are good, but their full sized ones -- in general the CAO line is rather "cabbagy" in taste -- not so much ...

Pipe Tobacco: my inner essentialist was immediately attracted to RLP-6 from Lane Limitted. Evidently my exposure to pipe tobacco as a kid was to Captain Black, so this higher quality form, with nice notes of chocolate and Salice Salentino (my favorite general kind of dry red wine), was my first love in pipe tobacco. Revelation (Einstein's favorite) is also nice, but lately my inner essentialist is attracted to the Black and White blend from Red Carpet tobacco (although, unlike it's billing, it actually burns hot and, if you smoke it in a windy area, it bites). Otherwise, I tend to like Cornell and Diehl blends along the lines of Black Dog and Bridge Mixture.

Rum: pretty much anything Dominican and of reasonable quality. Especially Ron Barcelo Dorado: it is incredibly smooth and has a perfect rum flavor, almost like Demerara sugar, but not quite so heavy. It has a perfect "tropical" flavor for both the standard mixed drinks and drinking as is (or even letting sit for a few days over Chinese-style roasted melon seeds, which makes a rum rough but quite tastey -- Barcelo Dorado is smooth enough to start with that it is not too rough in the end).

Perhaps I'll edit this/post even more later, I have decided to change the time and date info to push this forward in my archives (I hope it works) ... but I think I've put up enough for now ...

My good man, I never realized you were such the epicurean connoisseur! I can relate to many items on your list, but these days, coffee-drinking seems to be the only vice of which I currently partake on a regular basis (with the exception of vodka with the in-laws!). I long for my Boston undergrad days of lighting the occasional cigar and pipe (I used a gentle cherry/vanilla flavored blend that was really quite pleasant), but while it might do my sinuses some good, the risk of oral cancer is a little less attractive. Ah well. I wish I had the time to respond to your legal and Torah related posts, but alas, it's back to lurker mode as I return to work....
I never realized you were such the epicurean connoisseur! - Craig

I have been called an Apikoros, it is true ...
Ah cigars.. those were the good ol' days.. I had to give 'em up.. My wife had it added to the ketubah!
Can't drink, don't drink tea (except when coffee withdrawl forces me to) you know what I think of Plato. Deadly allergy to tobacco. Ah coffee. My strongest weakness, aside from silly word games. I drink only Equal Exchange coffees, Cafe Nica, Breakfast Blend, Mind Body and Soul. Even tried something called "LoveBuzz.

I do have a weakness for fresh vegetables.
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