katie duris, mid-atlantic champion, opened the day. unfortunately it was a gross, sleety portland day. as the morning unfolded, it took a long time for the number of people sitting in the audience to rival the number of people in line for chris owens and m’lissa muckerman working the fourth machine and serving espressos to the general public…many of whom either apparently read about it on the front page of this morning’s oregonian or were leaking in from the scrapbooking convention…kind of hard to tell them apart…anyway…
jesse crouse was next, travelling to a scenic overlook of mirador colombian coffee and an altitude at which maple syrup boils differently. while making cappuccinos: “something beautiful happens when milk meets mirador”. and i believe he gave the coffee’s agtron measurement. i think jesse is smoother and tighter today than this routine has ever been.
i have been so excited that michael elvin entered since i first heard he was in the northwest regional, and today elvin was again great….using olympia coffee roasters’ big truck espresso, in fact, he may have used an even bigger truck than the day before! also, he likes to describe his milk as tasting like “microwaved ice cream”, which is why i love elvin.
phuong tran, another northwesterner (and a member of my auto theft ring) and robin seitz also gave serene and heartfelt performances, only to be followed up by the homie ryan willbur who i have decided, under the right lighting conditions and with the right ascot, looks a fair bit like prince. may have to explore this theory more. mike marquard rolled in from st. louis with a gingham handkerchief and nervously delivered a solid show.
and then scott lucey gets to the stage, starts describing the sweet citrus notes of his nelson melo colombian coffee, which he references by a bowl of sliced texas red grapefruits on the judges table. and in fact, if you’re having some trouble getting that smell…scott whips out a dollar-store pocket fan, and directs the aromas toward them. first use of a battery-powered pocket fan in a barista competition? o.m.g.
scott also manages to say a bunch of totally crazy shit in his performance, without ever looking like a grandstander or someone who isn’t 100% sincere and excited about what he is doing. i’m pretty sure he told the judges to aspirate the espresso around their palate, imagining the roofs of their mouths as caves with diamond stalagtites…um…whoa. it’s smooth and incredible and great all until the horrible point at which a shot of espresso meant for liquid swords is spilled, and no one even has the energy to gasp or exchange nervous glances: we are all directing it towards the stage to act as if nothing is wrong and this won’t mean disaster, everything can and will be okay, scott, just um… pull another shot. and few things are better in an environment like this than a truly graceful recovery, which scott pulls off within time and with little to no visible ruffling. a pro, he is. a pro with a battery-powered fan, who refers to the honey in his drink as “elmer’s glue”, and that, my friends, is the kind of pro you want to watch barista-compete.
sara peterson begins her routine to the left, and yet, scott is still busy just casually making liquid swords for a few more people in his cleanup time (only lucey gets away with shit like this) and i finally snag one of these bad boys, and it is delicious as i had expected (the grapefruit juice really does stay with you when you take the second part of the drink) but over at the next station sara is doing an amazing job, and rivals the diamond stalagtite when she says that the sweet notes in her espresso give her what she likes to call…”flowermouth”.
so many competitiors are biting their lips, and more than a few are repulling shots today, including alex pond and amber sather. the jaw-dropper of the afternoon is probably jason silberschlag from arizona, who brings out a chiller-top device called the ANTIGRIDDLE on which to make shave ice by spraying espresso and saffron onto an instafreezing metal surface. what! who? huh! i have never seen such a large room of people collectively thinking WTF. (it would have been awesome if it had really worked, though.) oh also it was called “spro cones”.
renee teichen is a delight and should compete again next year so she can kick everybody’s asses, brett walker surely suffered from judge beard-bias, i think i missed greg lefcourt while i was eating the delicious and generous lunch my cousin brought us all, and then i ran to see michael phillips — actually maybe the only person here i consider not only a friend but whom i also have the pleasure of actually getting served drinks from a few times a year when i go home to chicago — who delivered the best possible version i’ve seen of this routine, finally seeming both really comfortable and energetic with it. brother i hope you take this thing far. also, mike charmingly delivers his drinks to the judges with a “miss” and “sir”, which might seem fake if that wasn’t how he actually talks to people in real life…
nick griffith is serious, serene, and i’m not sure he’s having fun, but i have a feeling we’ll get to see him looser tomorrow…
devin pedde, still this blogger’s hunch (though lucey is convincing me it could be between the two of ’em) for champion, encourages the judges to “taste my cupping sheet” through the expression of flavors in his on-the-fly generated, persnickety-belgian-brewer-infused signature drink. there is deep drama when the brewer won’t tip in time, and devin actually grabs his syphon burner and holds up an additional fire source…holy crow. it works out, we all exhale, take our blood pressure meds, and move on to watch another strong show by chris demarse, whose music is quickly eclipsed by south central champ clancy rose managing to fit both “don’t stop believin'” and eminem into his soundtrack. damn, brother! micah svedja chases that with some emo tunes, and colin whitcomb delivers the most genuinely pumped and excited performance of the day, gesticulating enthusiastically and actually says to the judges: “great shot, huh???” after they drink their espressos. we love you colin. all hearts.
last competitor danielle glasky is the southeast champion and boy does
she have all the glassware to prove it! she does great, but… goes well over time. see you next year glask, you can rock this thing hard.
and the finalists for sunday:
a lake michigan rivalry, the three intelli kids from LA who swept the regional, and our rogue little st. louis entrant. who will win? i have a stomach ache already.