Monday, July 09, 2007

several trips in one, part two

we left tulsa later than scheduled because your humble blogger was busily engaged behind the la marzocco gb/5 at kokoa's second store, tracking pseudo-scientifically three separate profiles for the custom espresso brown created for kokoa. x seconds pre-infusion; y temperature. taste and make some notes. b seconds pre-infusion; c temperature. more notes and on the fly empirical comparisons. d seconds pre-infusion; e temperature. collate information and run the three again, only this time in reverse order, just for flow and to trick our palates a bit.

there sat my wife and two beautiful children patiently as we pulled shots after shots and compared notes, the manager and i, on what we liked at how many grams and so forth. this is critical work to be done and i feel extremely fortunate to have the chance to sort through it all in person as, again, i live eight hours to the south and don't figure to be able to just pop up to tulsa from san antonio at the drop of a hat.

anyways, we zeroed in on what we thought was an appropriate profile sequence and off i went with my amazing family to st. louis and the as-yet-to-be-determined rendezvous point where my in-laws would be meeting us to take my better half and our offspring the rest of the way up to lafayette, indiana. i, on the other hand, had a pick up of my own to make at the st. louis airport. my friend was flying in from california that afternoon and together he and i were to drive due north to what is my annual pilgrimage of amazing music and the fantastically rich depth of culture that is the life of faith in Christ (a life most outside observers simply have no inkling about) known as cornerstone festival. say what you will about a "christian music festival." but if scoffing is your agenda then you have no hope of grasping the breadth and width of what an event like this means to the ritual and tradition of a life freed from the cares and concerns of this world.

i digress. the highlights of the week at cornerstone were hanging with our friends and brothers from one of my favorite bands, questions in dialect, who played a simply mind-blowing set in front of hundreds of eager listeners. we sold a lot of merch, took lots of fun pics and had an all around great week seeing more bands than i can even recall right now. (credential and brave new world are two newer labels putting out some interesting bands, just as a quick tip...)

anyways, cstone wrapped up on saturday night with some sweet screamo and hardcore on the main stage from the likes of august burns red, emery, norma jean and underoath
but by early sunday morning my friend sean and i had said our goodbyes and were heading up to the windy city to meet my lovely wife for a day trip around town before heading back down to lafayette that night. unfortunately, we were famished by the time we arrived in chicago. fortunately, the taste of chicago was going on and we soon found ourselves surrounded by southern barbecue ribs, cuban pork sandwiches, indian mango chutneys, new york chocolate cheesecakes and of course, tons of deep dish chicago-style pizza. we ate until we couldn't hardly see straight. but i had other venues on my mind...

so we headed north just a few blocks on foot, past the ridiculatrons on the street with their embarrassingly derivative and shallow honk-for-peace protest posters with lazy analogies such as bushitler, america as terrorists and that stupidly uninformed number of 655,000 iraqis dead since the start of the war. normally i would relish in the opportunity to set morons like this straight about such misinformation/disinformation; but as i said before, i had other venues on my mind.

intelligentsia operates a sweet little place just a couple blocks off millenium park. of course, all the hype an operation such as this generates means my expectations were sky high. their reputation is held in such high regard by people who are held in high regard, so i was naturally eager to see for myself whether the reality lived up to the online buzz.

in a word, it didn't. it so clearly surpassed my expectations and hopes that i was filled with renewed vigor and enthusiasm for what i do in my own little corner of the coffee world. it is so rare to walk into a venue and see just about every detail of excellence being executed dead red on the money: from dosing, distributing, tamping and pulling great shots of black cat to extracting a delectably complex cup of anjilanaka, direct trade organic bolivia on the clover that, from their online descriptions, i couldn't decipher whether it was the big lot or the micro-lot. nonetheless, it was nearly flawless. here's what i got from it: very citrusy and crisp with good fruit like golden raisins and lime peels that dried up like the parting of the red sea in the leave. sounds macro. and i mean crisp, defined finish line that was licking-the-inside-of-a-walnut-shell dry. (i don't mean that as a negative description; it was super good and complex and took a quality turn i don't normally experience...always a plus in my book.) my friend and wife both noticed those same characteristics on their own (my wife cups better than me!) and so based on the predominantly crisp and clean profile we were experiencing, and based on the paltry $2.65/cup price tag, i'm gonna hazard that it was the macro lot and not the micro lot. anyone know for sure? in all, after a small clover cup and a double ristretto for me, a double for sean and an iced latte for my wife our overall first impression of this intelligentsia branch was one of solid praise and nary a negative to be spoken. well, one negative, i guess. i understand that there is an upstairs at this location (?) and i would have loved to spend some extra time over another clover cup and soak up that atmosphere as well. but we had a good vantage point downstairs where we were of what should be agreed upon as truly one of the best operations in america today. hats off to them for a fine display of operational excellence.

more later on chicago and the rest of the trip in the next and final episode, part three: building the roaster from scratch.

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