Espresso Royale with Cheese

Sunday, November 15, 2009 | 0 Comment(s)

Friday I decided to roll to Boston to watch my friends compete in a "Coffee Jam." This is apparently the correct terminology for an event where barristers face off in hopes of A) Pulling the perfect espresso shot. and then B) Making the most original/beautiful latte art. And first off, a big congrats to Andrew, Marty, and Christina for putting themselves out there and competing. There was a coffee tasting competition as well, but I totally chickened out, both because I have very little regional expertise with coffee and also because the other contestants seemed to be a lot of middle-aged women. And, you know, i got a rep to protect. Sigh.

The first thing that needs mentioning is that the turnout for this event was much better than the Espresso Royale at BU was expected. I would say about 200 people rolled through at one point or another. Unfortunately, the shop only had one machine, so the "Latte Jam" turned into a "Coffee-a-thon" I'm talking starts at 7 ends at after midnight. The barristas should have gotten sponsored by the hour. Lots of standing and LOTS of espresso pulling.

Here are what I have deemed the high (and low) lights.

1. The Espresso Judges. This is #1 by far. After watching people pour coffee in various ways for 5 hours before having to drive 2 hours home, it is hard to not feel like you may have wasted your day. My overwhelming response to this is, "At least you weren't an espresso judge. These 2 guys drank what must have amounted to about 15 shots of espresso (about 30 competitors). At midnight, 2 hours later, these guys were tweaking out as if the gerbil running on its wheel in their brains had lost its footing and was just flying around and around and around. One judge grabbed the mic and was all, "Wellifyouguysarehangingoutlaterwewilldefinatelybehangingoutlateratoneoftwobars. Thisonebarandthenthisotherbar. We'llbethereforawhilecomehangoutwithus. The other guy was essentially walking laps of the store with occasional breaks to stand on chairs briefly and then dismount. If you are a movie buff, this one judge looked a lot like the backseat stoner in Super Troopers who eats the bag or weed and shrooms and then bugs out. He looked a LOT like that kid. Nothing says funny like other people's misery, and these two guys probably still haven't gotten to bed 2 days later.

2. Our crew took a little "coffee break" (muahahahaha puns) and went a got a beer at a nearby bar. The bartender was amazing. 38ish and a bit grizzled, this guy rolled out one liners so casually and coolly that he had us all in stitches. My 2 favorites. (in talking about the Celtic Rondo's new 5 year 7 mil dollar deal: "Only in America. I'm a school teacher as well, and I would love just the 5 years guaranteed." The way he said "only in america" was the funniest bit. Like most humor, it was all about tone and timing. I'm realizing that that one may not translate to the blog well.
The second one (talking about how he has a real affection for western Mass), "Are you kidding, in Boston im like a 3 (none of us know what the hell he's talking about at this point), but out near Williams, where I met my girlfriend, out there, I'm like a 9." Commence hilarious laughter. Hammer meet nail, on head. Amazing.

3. This one blows my doors off. At one point in the night Andrew's friend Jud announces (white bag in hand), "Free Cookies!" Myself, Christina and others have the correct response to that announcement which was: Take cookie. YUM! Free food + cookies = gloriousness. Enter super-supreme d-bag extraordinaire (SSDE). First thing about SSDE you should know is that this guy went first in the espresso contest and instead of 3 shots pulled in 5 min, he pulled 3 shots in what was more like 14 mins. If a shot can be pulled "haughtily," then he did it. Anyways, this kid breaks the 1st rule of free cookies. The first and only rule states: "Free Cookies ---> Take Cookies." Any additional step makes more work for the giver of free cookies, and is unnecessary. So SSDE comes up and asks, "What kind of cookies do you have?" I can let this slide. I'm not a monster. Jud kindly responds with the 3 types of cookies. SSDE then reaches into the bag, pinches and lifts a molasses cookie and says, "I assume these have no eggs or dairy?" WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT (thing Kyle's mom from south park). These are FREE FUCKING COOKIES. Either eat a god damn cookie or get the fuck out of the way. Period. And i'm not unsympathetic to food allergies. I'm lactarded and have tons of allergies. This is just a total breach of etiquette. It gets better. Jud, I think he must be a friggin saint or bishop or holy man or Buddhist or something, REPLIES that he believes that they don't have dairy but he's pretty sure they have eggs. These are cookies folks, of COURSE they have eggs. SSDE summons ALL the douchebaggery he has and says, (nose upturned), "Well, im allergic to both dairy and eggs, so i will have to decline." (puts cookie he's already handled back into the free cookie bag.)

I am not a violent man. but, i am 100% sure that if i were Jed, I would have slapped SSDE at this point. Slapped, not punched, but slapped very hard. are you kidding me. if you cant eat eggs or dairy, the words, "Free Cookies" should not appeal to you. When i see a "Free Cheese and Crackers" sign, i do not get excited because i can't eat cheese. But i CERTAINLY don't go up to the people and ask all sorts of questions about the cheese's origin and process and then say, "no thanks, I'm lactose intolerant." Cause it's a super dick move. SSDE failed free cookies hard. And if you can't even pass the "free cookies" test, you need to really do some self-examination.

4. This is getting long. I'm skipping to the latte-art contest. Here is the thing with this contest. If you are a cafe, putting on a contest, I really think (if you are doing the [not blind] judging as well)-you need to not have your barristers compete. They both have the advantage of knowing the machine and the judges. Never has this been more evident than the atrocity they called the judging of the art contest. First place was a nice design. The guy was super full of himself to the point of hoping he would trip and fall, but his pour was nice. Done. I didn't see the second place pour, so i can't comment. Andrews pour looked like this:

The 3rd place cup (oh i wish i had thought that it was good enough to picture at the time) looked like a it had a white pussy-willow branch down one side (no definition, no clarity), a slightly better rosetta attempt up the other side, and a tiny little heart on top. It was not good. At Amherst Coffee, that thing would not fly. Oh, did i mention this guy worked at that store. Yah, Andrew got screwed. It's not a matter of opinion either, its a fact. We now have a running joke that whenever something sucks real bad, like driving over a huge pothole, we say, "oh wow, that pothole sucked, it gets 3rd place." Disappointing.

5. This is the last thing. There were a lot of people there. But my personal favs were these two posh looking 40 something women straight out of my stereotype of ladies from Stamford, CT (turns out they own a shop in CT--i was shocked . . . um no.) These were the cattiest bitchiest coffee ladies of all time. Highlights:

Lady to me: "where are you guys from"
me: "amherst and northampton coffee (same owner-same team)"
lady: "oh i go to northampton coffee when I'm driving to VT. What beans are they using."
me: "Barrington Beans"
Lady; "Ohhhhhhhhhh (nose crinkles in literal DISGUST!!!) . . . . do you like them? (asked somewhat rhetorically.)
me: (With a look of disbelief) "yes, quite a bit."
Lady: Hmmmmm
Me: * SLAP * (kidding)

Now for Lady #2. As you can see, Andrew poured his latte in an "to go cup." Lady #2 had some real feelings about that.

Lady #2: "I mean, the design is beautiful and all, but you put it in a paper cup and its like, ewwww, who wants to drink that? Nobody?"

I can't believe this c-rag owns a shop. 80% of people get their coffee to go. I am SERIOUSLY considering a performance art piece involving me going down to these ladies' shop and causing a RUCKUS. fuck them. Their daughter/barrister entry who looked like a girl training to be a Stepford Wife, sucked btw. If you going to be a critical bitch, at least have the skills to back it up.

All and all, we had a ton of fun. Good company always trumps hideous results.

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