East Coast Roadtrip – Easton and Baltimore

March 9th, 2008

As I said in my last post the next event on my calendar was the barista jam at Easton, presented by Counter Culture and Troy from Cosmic Cup did a lot of the organisational stuff and hosting on the evening and day. We got in to Easton and bumped into John Hornall from Chestnut Hill Coffee at the hotel and had a good chat. From there we met up with the rest of the Counter Culture crew – Brian, Phil and Peter to eat fine Italian sandwiches and to talk more about Molly Ringwald.

The Jam opened up the night before with registrations, a keynote speech from Jon Lewis (that Jay Caragay filmed and I hope puts up on youtube) and then a talk from Peter Giuliano about sustainability and exactly what it can encompass and how far away we are from being a genuinely sustainable industry.

Jon Lewis

Jon is 18 grams of coffee

After that it was time for the Spro down. $10 bought you three minutes in which you could pull 3 times and most people served the last of those. Three stations were set up as we had 30 people to get through and I judged the second station with Devlin from New Harvest (who supplied the coffee). The coffee was very interesting – 1 yirg, a kenya, 2 roasts of a harrar and a sumatran coffee. The levels of acidity in it didn’t lend itself to well to updosed short shots and Rich from Aldo was the barista who progressed from our station to the final three with a slightly longer and more balanced shot. Phil from Counter Culture and Austin (a barista from New York) were the other two in the final. Again Rich pulled a longer and more balanced shot and that won him the day. I think he was quite surprised. The trophies were described as being from the Nick Cho trophy cabinet. (apologies for the coffeed injoke)

Devlin and Aaron Ultimo

Devlin and an excited Aaron Ultimo

rich aldo wins

Troy presents Rich his trophy

There was a really nice atmosphere and we headed to bed reasonably early, in order to spend more time being cross with the incredibly loud airconditioner whose sole purpose was to wake us up every hour on the hour.

The next day the jam started early and I was teaching (I use that word loosely) an espresso class. Lots more people turned up that day and the way it worked was to split them into two groups. It meant that I had a one hour espresso extraction class with a 3 group GB5 and 40+ people. It quickly degenerated into a question/answer session which was a lot of fun. I was somewhat nervous having Scott Rao in my second group as I tried to explain my theories about approaching brew recipes with a view to the components in your coffee and their roast level. People seemed to agree with what I was ranting about, and the atmosphere in the room was great.

talking to the baristas about espresso

Giving the espresso extraction class

There were a lot of people at the event I enjoyed meeting or catching up with again, and the demands of the roadtrip made leaving halfway into the day quite frustrating even if we were heading somewhere quite exciting. I could have spent hours talking to Jon, and the conversation about sig drinks between Jon, Jay and I was just getting interesting when the call of the road became too loud to ignore.

It was great to meet a load of baristas there, and that jam seemed to me to be what barista jams were all about – interaction, fun and lots of great coffee. Congrats to everyone who worked hard on it.

So on the road and a quick stop in Philedelphia for a tasty espresso at a brand new store called Spruce Street (thanks Faith), and a waffle that I hope was worth the parking ticket (I thought it was!) before heading down to Baltimore as we had reservations at the Woodberry Kitchen. If you read Jay’s blog you have probably heard of the place and my expectations were pretty high.

Spike, the owner and chef, met us on the way in and I was later quite excited when he took our menus away and made decisions for us. The setting of the restaurant is fantastic, a beautiful old brick building, high ceilings, wonderful detail and to back it all up Spike and his chefs can really, really cook. Cindy, Ryan Jensen, Anette and I enjoyed about 5 courses I think, and Ryan and I shared a fantastic bottle of wine.

Spike came over at the end for a chat, and asked if I had had coffee. His barista apparently had been primed but I had decided against it, because for a long time now I had been against espresso in restaurants, but he insisted and I had to eat my words as the shot Mischa (his barista) pulled really was very, very good. In fact the best espresso I’ve ever had in a restaurant. (I am aware not every place has a 2 group Cyncra and a dedicated barista!) I was impressed and for once a great meal was improved and not ruined by the coffee.

Us at the Woodberry Kitchen

Mischa, myself, Anette and Spike at the Woodberry Kitchen

I love the feel of the place, and the level of care and detail in every section impressed me, and it sounds like what they are planning to do next is going to be amazing.

After this we headed into DC, guests at the Jensen/Ultimo household – but more about that in the next post….

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