Apprentice: Martha
A Ridiculous Display

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Paging Bobbie Spencer
I'm writing this recap from Washington, D.C. where it is damn cold. I almost forgot how to dress for this weather but luckily for me, my Minnesota blood reminded me that putting on the wool coat I had been carrying since we left San Francisco was a good idea. Of course, after lying in the sun for two years, my Minnesota blood is a bit sluggish, so it didn't actually give me this directive until AFTER I stepped outside.

After raking leaves for three hours in temperatures that never quite reached the upper thirties, a steaming mug of something hot and spicy is just what the recapper ordered. I've found that it also helps shut people up who bitch about the weather, crap coffee "systems," grammar, and how annoying reality show contestants are. And by "people," I mean me.

Gröggy Mulled Whine

2 1-1/2-liter bottles of cheapy red wine, such as Yellowtail Shiraz or Bella Sera Sangiovese
1 cup brandy
1 packed cup brown sugar
2 unpeeled oranges, quartered, juiced
2 slices fresh ginger, about 1/2-inch slices
3 sticks cinnamon
2 teaspoons whole cloves

The Mull:
In a large, non-reactive stockpot or pasta pot, combine all ingredients. Don't use an enamel-lined Dutch oven like a Le Creuset unless you want it wine-dyed for all eternity. Not that I did that to my mother-in-law's pot or anything. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat and simmer for about 1 hour. Do not allow the wine to boil unless you want to stay completely sober. After 1 hour has passed, taste the wine. If you want it sweeter, add more sugar, 1 teaspoon at a time. After each teaspoonful, stir to dissolve, and taste before adding more.

Ladle into heatproof mugs and garnish each mug with a cinnamon stick.

In telling us what happened last time, Martha treats us to yet another commercial for Tassimo: "Primarius did win, in part because they demonstrated the unique qualities of the Tassimo Hot Beverage System -- a revolutionary and easy-to-use, no-mess, cartridge-based system. It's capable of making a variety of coffeehouse-quality hot beverages at home. From tea to hot chocolate to cappuccino." Just in case you didn't catch her botched demo of it on Martha the day after this episode aired, or aren't yet sick of the pop-up internet ads. It strikes me that there's something very UN-Martha about the Tassimo Hot Beverage System. First of all, putting the word "System" in the name is rather unappealing. It makes me think of "digestive" or "endocrine" or having a really OCD way of filing contracts. Second of all, the quality of the junk in the cartridges sort of blows. You don't even get freeze-dried mini marshmallows with the hot chocolate. What's that about? I mean, SERIOUSLY. Also, ink comes in cartridges, not "hot beverages at home." Okay, I admit that after years of nurturing a serious addiction to Starbucks vanilla/gingerbread/pumpkin-type lattes, I only recently became a black coffee snob, and it was totally because I discovered Blue Bottle Coffee. I get that not everyone can get their hands on artisanally roasted beans that are delivered to your door (free of charge) within twenty-four hours of roasting, but Gloria Jean? That's so...Mall of America. Third of all, they had one of these Tassimo things in the Evil Dr. Mathra's department at grad school, and only one out of every five cartridges attempted actually worked. Even then, you had to bitchslap the machine just to get the damn things clicked in. I'm not saying everyone has to grind and brew their own beans, but if you're going to plunk down over one hundred dollars for something, it damn well better have a better track record than that. Plus freeze-dried marshmallows.

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Apprentice: Martha

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