Sunday, April 22, 2007
Weekend Escaping (Chicago Pt. 2)
My friend, Devin Pedde, and I just got back from an awesome two day escape back to the city of Chicago. It was a much needed time for both of us. Things are getting crazy in all directions. Life's stressful, SCAA is just around the corner. We both just needed some time to really get away. So, we packed up my jeep and busted down to the Windy City for a couple days of exploration and experience.
Upon arrival in Chicago, we headed to the roasting works for a cupping with Marcus Boni, Sarah Kluth, and Doug Zell. The cupping was practically a necessary after leaving Minneapolis around 7AM. Of course, no trip to Chicago is complete without a stop in Milwaukee to visit Alterra, and the people's hero... Scott Lucey. Anyway, the cupping involved some of the Direct Trade offerings and a couple other coffees in the Intelli line-up. Standing out most on the table was either the Papua New Guinea or the Peru. Both were solid coffees with few flaws. The New Guinea tasted much like mango or passion fruit to me and was very enjoyable. The Peru had a very veggie like aroma with a medium chocolate-like body and flavor.
From the cupping, Doug and Sarah bounced with us over to a bar called The Matchbox. Which is, literally, a bar. There's room for no more and no less. The best part about being in Chicago is the availability of New Belgian's Fat Tire. I probably should have realized how great of a beer this is before I moved to the 'Tireless' state of Minnesota. We BS'd the night away until Doug had to bounce home to put his daughter to bed.
Being exhausted, we trekked our way over to master barista, Mike Philips apartment, where we ended up crashing that night. Initially, we had every plan on making to The Map Room... but with our lack of energy, and the fact that Mike had to open the Broadway store the next morning, we thought it best to just stay in. However, that did not keep us from enjoying a little rum. For months now, Miguel has been sharing with me how excellent this 'Ron Zacapa Centario' rum is... So, you should have seen the look on my face when Mike pulled out a bottle. Miguel was right... the stuff does not disappoint.
Devin and I had made arrangements to meet up with Mr. Boni the next day to explore the Chicago stores. However, we were up way before we needed to be, so we took to the streets of the city. I miss big, busy cities. It was lovely finding a new breakfast spot around every corner. Almost everyone of them had an Intelligentsia logo somewhere. Eventually we caught up with Marcus and on to Broadway we went!
The weather was perfect the entire time we were in Chicago. With so much sunshine and the bustle of the city, Chicago was ten times more appealing than any past visit has been. We made our way into the Broadway store, which was rockin' very steady. We ran into Matt Riddle, who was passing through on his way out and about the city with his bike. I like Matt... he's all-champion with no ego. Mike Philips, who just made the change to working in a retail store, is yet to be bar certified. So, he kindly took our orders and made sure we received a couple nice cups of cat.
Watching Marcus as we visited each store was cool. It's a Saturday, the guys showing us around, and more often than not, the moment he's in the store he's asking the employees how they are, helping out, collecting loose dishes, and just making sure every customer is being taken care of. He's thorough. Even as we were on our way out of the Broadway store, he stopped for a few minutes to talk to a customer who was sitting outside the store. He was was making sure she was enjoying her drink and informing her that next week the out door furniture would be out for her to enjoy.
Our last stop was the Millenium Park store. I've seen the Broadway store a few times, but the Millenium Park store is so different... and beautiful. It's very polished and sheik. The lighting and sign-age is awesome. We had a few drinks there and tried some of the coffees we had on the cupping table, pulled from the Clover. The Kenya from the day before was no longer muted like it had been. It was shining citrus and sweet melon. Lovely! We wrapped up our visit and Marcus dropped us off back by the Jeep.
It was a lovely couple days escaping Minneapolis and life. It was nice to be around more passionate coffee professionals. Now, it's back to getting things together. Billy Wilson flies into town tomorrow. It'll be good to see him. SCAA is less than two weeks away and I am stoked to see everyone there!
Oh, and be on the lookout for a new Twin Cities publication... The Twin Cities Imbiber. The cover was shot at Kopplin's and my latte art is on the cover. Jeff Halvorson, the guy putting it together is a very knowledgeable beer resource and is a passionate imbiber himself. I think the publication is going to be sweet and really help specialty coffee in the cities...