this blog’s non-profane translation of what moderator nick cho had to say about the seven usbc finalists: “um, wow.”
video will follow soon via the neandertal innerneck connection that is this blog’s dial-up. please do not call my house. it can abort the ftp data transfer, which is done painstakingly over telephony cables made of southeast regional champ lem butler’s dreadlocks on which the star anise seeds leftover from no fewer than three barista presentations (deferio and riddla come to mind) carry tiny data bits of video with all the lightning speed of alistair durie pulling lungo-lungo shots of toscano.
(pause, reread paragraph, blanch). the scariest thing about what i just wrote is that it smacks of references so obscure and insidery that this blog might just end up scoring an honorary day-pass to the third wave echo chamber, where it could be co-opted into the same group of folks who use terms like “wendelboian” and “cigaragay” with impunity. scary.
herewith my totally inconclusive spectator impressions of the finalist routines, in ascending order of finish, with the caveat that i missed steve fritzen’s gig. something about a scoring error producing seven finalists instead of six, an earlier start to the round, etc. no one went over time. all but one of the sigs were very simple and elemental. video is limited to the signature portion of each routine — the logic being that there are fewer visible differentiations during the espresso and capp portions, and this blog is just flat-out sick and tired of waiting for massive video files to upload.
* 7th – ryan dennhardt, barista’s daily grind, kearney, nebraska. very clipped, direct, confident delivery. wore a short, white waiter’s jacket and a mondo-spike. a fascinating wine theme focused on beverage aromas, introducing air at the appropriate times, etc. menu displayed for judges as a wine bottle label. musical mix of electronic, soul, funk, r&b, dance. somewhat rushed at the end, performance grew very intense. the sig included eight shots of espresso (yes, eight) swirled in a wine decanter with fruit juice, vanilla syrup and chocolate. finished with about 10 seconds on the clock. sig video.
* 6th – steve fritzen didn’t see.
* 5th – jon lewis, bumper crop, coeur d’ilene, idaho. highly rehersed routine included a forceful rendition of an ‘i have a dream’ speech envisioning world crises solved by espresso diplomats, etc. trippy. controlled funk music. running commentary the whole performance, centered on “the good life.” sig served in two parts — one blood orange juice and creme anglaise, the other straight espresso. judges asked to alternate between them. sig video.
* 4th – ellie matuszak, intelly, chicago. somewhat of an updoser. extremely confident and professional, always knew where she was headed next. liked referring to the “sparkling” tanzanian peaberry in her espresso blend. served espressos very early — 3:45 into the routine. old-school jazz, film music. all about the grapes. extracted fresh grapes with an antique press, mixed with espresso and brown sugar over frozen grapes in a shaker. served in aroma-enhancing glasses. offered the intriguing notion that the grape helps preserves crema. tons of time remaining. sig video.
* 3rd – amber sather, intelly, chicago. very low-key, understated, classy routine. colombian theme, spanish music, some sounded a bit alt. didn’t talk a whole lot, overall. very simple, very attractive sigs – caramel, half & half and espresso, served with dashes of brown sugar and savory sea salt. 8 seconds left. sig video.
* 2nd – billy wilson, albina press, portland. dressed all black. easily the most polished, professional, creative and impressive performance to my eyes. groove, jazzy and alt mood music. very quick with his movements, very precise. obvious down doser (used hairbender). used water from an extra thermos for warming his cups. the sig was the one i most wanted to try. essentially, an exaggerated hairbender taste experience, served as a foam instead of a liquid (a texture-changing culinary technique called “spuma.”). used kumquat to play off hairbender’s citrus, cocoa to underscore the chocolate notes and some sugar. combined those ingredients with the espresso itself in a nitrogen canister along with egg whites. shook into a foam, left it shortly in a warm water bath. served in conical glasses with straws with which to suck the foam from the bottom. slick. believable. finished with scads of time left. sig video.
* 1st – matt riddle, intelly, chicago. dressy clothes, yellow dominated. low-key presentation, very smooth and poised. spoke when he needed to, but not a ton. jive, rhythm, ballad music. referred to the visual aesthetics of being a graphic designer for intelly. simple, graspable sig with the year’s popular ingredient — star anise. put molasses in his glasses, pulled espresso on top, added milk that had been steamed with the mashed star anise infusing in a tea bag. fig syrup and a simple elegant star design on top. encouraged a full stir. musta been good. five seconds left. sig video.
UPDATE: dan kehn offers an even more detailed description of riddle’s winning routine. nice.