Drinks – The Geeky Gourmet

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Absinthe fountains

Absinthe fountains

Absinthe fountains

Wed, 08 Aug 2007 13:00:47 +0000

Absinthe fountains

As I

on Truffles for Breakfast, I recently paid a visit to , the only store in Paris devoted exclusively to

and its various accouterments. When the owner asked if we’d like to sample some absinthes, we eagerly agreed. He poured a bit in a glass, put a slotted spoon on top, placed a sugar cube on the spoon, and then positioned the glass carefully under one of the spigots of a device like this one.

Although such gadgets are generally called “absinthe fountains,” that term is a bit misleading. In fact, you fill them with ice water and use them to dilute your absinthe. Turning on the spigot, or robinette (various models have anywhere from one to four), allows the water to flow, but only one drop at a time. Yes, this is a type of fountain designed expressly to drip! The idea is that the water must fall slowly enough to dissolve the entire sugar cube by the time your drink has reached the desired level—typically a 4:1 or 5:1 ratio of water to absinthe.

Vert d’Absinthe sells the fountains here in Paris; you can also buy them online from such sources as

and , as well as (naturally) eBay. They’re pricey, and of course you’ll pay more if you’re getting an antique model from the early 1900s than for a modern reproduction. But they automate what is otherwise the rather tedious job of drizzling out ice water from a pitcher at a slow and steady rate for several minutes per glass.

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Zarafina Tea Maker

Zarafina Tea Maker

Zarafina Tea Maker

Tue, 10 Oct 2006 23:40:54 +0000

Zarafina Tea Maker

Given the choice, I’ll nearly always opt for coffee over tea, especially when I can get my coffee from a . However, as much as I rely on coffee’s high caffeine content and strong aroma for their stimulant properties, I do enjoy a nice cup of tea from time to time. Recently, I’ve been on a

kick; Earl Grey is my default choice.

Making tea is no more complicated than making coffee, but you do have to be careful with white tea not to have the water too hot (whereas it should be boiling for black or green tea). And, of course, you want the tea to steep long enough—but not too long, lest it become bitter.

Now there’s a machine that does for tea what my Saeco Royal Professional does for coffee: automates the whole process, making it virtually foolproof (regardless of what kind of tea you’re drinking). The

has three slider controls. One lets you set the type of tea, one indicates whether the tea is loose or in a bag, and one determines the strength. Pop your tea into the hopper, set the controls, and turn the machine on. It heats water in its built-in tank to the proper temperature, soaks the tea leaves in it for the proper time, and then dispenses the final product into a ceramic teapot. Although I haven’t tried it, it looks like a brilliant concept and a well-executed design. And, at about $150, it’s an order of magnitude cheaper than a good superautomatic coffee machine!

Update: This post was featured in .

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Aquanomy

Aquanomy

Aquanomy

Fri, 06 Oct 2006 14:00:58 +0000

Aquanomy

In Morgen’s Interesting Thing of the Day article about , she described this new trend—the connoisseurship of water—which results in some trendy restaurants having water lists as long as a good wine list. She said:

This may seem like decadence to those used to drinking water straight from the tap, or a huge luxury when even clean water is a rare commodity in much of the world. However, I agree with Guiliano in her praise of this trend; we spend much more money and resources on beverages that aren’t healthy for us, what’s wrong with enjoying the experience of drinking something that’s actually good for us?

Far be it from me to gainsay my wife, but I have a somewhat different take on this. I can agree that water is healthier than pretty much any other beverage choice you might make, and that if you’re going to drink water, you might as well enjoy the taste. Where we differ is in the willingness to spend significant money on “designer” water rather than simply making do with ordinary, filtered tap water.

What’s at issue for me is the feeling that, as a consumer, I’m being taken advantage of in a truly blatant and brazen way. I decry the whole bottled water fad, and to the extent that aquanomy is another step in that direction, it bugs me. I’ve regularly seen bottles of very ordinary domestic spring water selling for twice as much as a comparably sized container of soda, milk, or even beer, and that’s just wrong. It’s not that I have anything against selling water in bottles as such. It’s that the prices are obscenely high given the amount of effort it took to obtain and package it, and absurdly out of proportion to the price-to-production cost ratio of just about any other liquid. Heck, I’ve even seen decent wine that sells for less, per milliliter, than mid-range bottled water.

My point is: if I’m in a restaurant, I don’t want to pay for water. (Well, OK, that assumes the restaurant in question is located in a part of the world where the municipal water supply isn’t contaminated; I’ve gladly made exceptions to this rule in certain places outside North America and Europe.) I certainly don’t want to pay the standard restaurant markup on top of an already inflated price for something someone just pumped out of a spring and put into a bottle with a fancy label.

I’d support a restaurant having an extensive water list if the prices were reasonable, but I know enough about the restaurant business to realize that’s economically infeasible (for the same reason you’re often charged a “corkage” fee if you walk in with your own bottle of wine). So here’s a puzzler: in the future, will restaurants charge you for the use of a glass if you bring in your own fancy water? I wouldn’t bet against it.

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