30 June 2014

This is it

I write this on June 29th. It's eleven in the morning, although the wall clock's hands rest unanimously at 6, and for a couple of days already. I keep forgetting to get new batteries. On the other hand, it may be an omen. If you are into soccer and, by extension, the currently unfolding 2014 World Cup, you probably know it's the second round and today it's Netherlands v Mexico. If you are not into soccer and, by extension, the currently unfolding 2014 World Cup, you should know nonetheless that it's Netherlands v Mexico today. At 6 p.m. Amsterdam time, to be exact. Later tonight it's also Costa Rica v Greece, but let's not go any further.

What I wanted to say is: this city is electrified. Being outside right now feels like being near a high voltage transmission line. On my way to a supermarket to pick up fresh fruit for breakfast I ran into a neighbour and his toddler. Nine hours away from the match, both already had their faces stencilled with miniature Dutch flags, and the father admitted he was nervous and couldn't eat since yesterday.  

It's not unimagined that come 6 p.m. the TV screen will be the evening's focal point. In my estimation, this should leave the streets and most of the eating establishments temporarily empty. I'm thinking of using that to my advantage and get a pizza, a Salami Picante, at Anthony's restaurant, otherwise packed to the brim on a Sunday evening. I'm not the biggest soccer aficionado, as if it needed any pointing out. Besides, I don't even need to see the match to know how it develops. When Netherlands played against Spain, I heard it: car horns went off and lung-fuls of screams spilled out from each and every bar and home at every goal. When Netherlands took on Australia, I heard it. Actually, when Netherlands took on Australia I first nearly got kicked off my bike in the rush-hour traffic, and not once. Too much testosterone on the road that day. 

In the supermarket, besides me there are three or four shoppers, it's early still. I fill up my basket with punnets of local strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and (non-local) apricots -- as usual I go to town with the summer fruit. A stocky man in an orange T-shirt, "7" on the back, stocks up on beer (three crates) and soft drinks (one crate). At the check-out he exchanges a few words with a cashier, I can't hear what he says to her, the cashier smiles back politely. He looks excited. Maybe a little jumpy. I get jumpy like this when a pair of Phillip Lim shoes I ordered online finally arrive and I'm seconds away from finding out if they are a good fit, and thus, if the money I splurged isn't a waste, and similarly excited after two double espressos consumed at work, at dawn, within an hour.

By the way, that reminds me of one more subject I meant to talk about: cold-brewed coffee. How does it sound? I bet you think it's complicated to make, I bet you think you shouldn't even bother. But you should (assuming you like coffee)! If you've got a handful of good coffee beans, a grinder, a glass jar, a sieve and a few paper filters, you are set to make your own. Grind your beans coarsely (coarsely as in resembling salt crystals), mix them in the jar with cold water and leave the assembly alone, covered, at room temperature overnight or twelve hours. Done. This is it. This is a cold brew in the making.

Next morning strain the grounds through a sieve, run the brew through a paper filter to pick up any silt, and dilute it one-to-one with cold water. That's really it. Be sure to notice how much clearer than a hot brew it is, a lighter fit for the summer. Take a sip. There is no bitterness about it, no harshness, you'll probably forget about sugar, no need for it. You may want to add ice to the lot. I don't. I refrigerate it instead for an hour or longer. Take one more sip. You'll probably pick up on chocolate and caramel -- and even cream notes. There may also be hints of citrus or red fruit, and even pineapple. That depends on your beans. My recent cold brew tasted very much like Baileys, minus 17.0 % alcohol.

Hup hup!

Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee
Adapted from The New York Times
Yield: two or three drinks

30 g (1/3 cup) coffee beans, coarsely ground
375 ml (1 1/2 cups) cold water

In a glass jar, stir together the coffee and water. Cover and let sit at room temperature overnight or twelve hours.

Strain first through a fine-mesh sieve, and then once again through a paper filter. What you've got is coffee concentrate. Dilute it one-to-one with water. Refrigerate (covered) or add ice cubes, if desired.