“rad! i said it was RAD! R-A-D …”

November 17, 2009 – 2:21 am

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pre-mayhem, the crowd at charlotte’s southeast regional barista jam and latte art bash looks quite docile. haha!

here’s what it’s like walking into jason dominy‘s lair, an urban charlotte warehouse space not technically owned by jason dominy, but, you know, “owned” by jason dominy. at least, that’s what his raucous, all-night tenure at the microphone seemed to indicate.

shrouds of black denote the cool space. light ropes = party time! people clink their wine glasses around and sip and “sonicetoseeeeeyou!” for now, but OH THE MAYHEM of which they are capable. the DJ — surfer, magazine cover boy and former southeast barista champion lem butler, once dubbed “sexyfoam” by a cast of puppets — is clearly a favored part of the arrangement. he is in the action, as central as the pallet of cake, and the beats go shunk-a-junk and loudness happens almost before the place is fully populated.

“daddee,” the blogson says, all fixated on the moat of candy-capped cupcakes, “can i have one?” but in the din it’s all vowels, no consonants: ” ‘an i ‘ave uh?” “sure,” we scream, certain he couldn’t have meant a longneck, and then, oh, hey, a person we know! and another one! wow, let’s have a red-faced convo in which we laugh and shout and then shout the same thing again! and isn’t it funny that it looks like your tongue is in my ear! and oh, ow, i was trying to get my point across, not really butt your head! ha! wha?

these sorts of parties are great. maximum thoughts communicated in the briefest of primal screams. “rad!” someone says. “yup!”

that there was serious dilworth money plowed into the catered spread, no question. that a far-flung crowd from indiana to florida had made a substantial trek for a weekend of happy southeastery, absolutely. that the concept of a latte art throwdown, eye-rolled by some, was totally novel and awesomely radulous to much of the crowd, yeah. that this blog, being petrified in fear of the raging, all-or-nothing aurelia steam wands, was inevitably the first to be called upon to demonstrate these milky arts to the masses, of course it was!

“allllllll the way from greenville, south carolina,” the voice bellows, all mad-lib and no subtlety, “it’s the blogfamily mafia!” a phrase of indeterminate meaning, but oh, dominy was just getting started. as one listened to his full-throated commandeering, one almost felt compelled to gasp for air on his behalf. such a vent of exuberant, hysterical hyperbole, that dominy. in his verbal arts, atlanta’s octane coffee became “THE premier cafe in the entire southeast.” a possibility, yes, but maybe we could argue about it first? ben helfen was “the man i want to marry” or something equally stunning, and the crowd — the entire crowd, congealed as a single personality — was dubbed the “second most important person to me, after my wife.” whew, gasp. a party full of best men! the PARTY is your best man!

this colossal optimism, this overwhelming exuberance, of course, was a huge hit and an endearing thing for those present and, in the end, a sort of mascot for charlotte and southeastern coffee. lots of love and glee, very little of that west coast cynicism or angst.

turns out the latte art bash went something like three hours long, and this blog had told the son, “don’t worry! we’ll leave as soon as i lose!” hehe, yes. which ended up being in the final round, when we finally choked on a simple heart-topped rosetta and handed the entire 30-person competition to a very deserving chandler rentz of atlanta’s aurora coffee. by then the blogson was asleep on a table next to a longneck, and we had foolishly allowed ourselves to muse about that grand prize baratza vario grinder.

sigh. a reliably underwhelming bridesmaid, that’s what this blog is. always game to make a stab at it, never a real threat to take the prize.

not that second-place prizery wasn’t quite a haul. tamper, syphon, pitcher, scale, coffee, pallo tool, magazine. shamyeah. and to think, this blog hadn’t really used full-blast commercial steam before, always coaxed those big twisty steam wands to a relatively tame speed. the aurelia, with its snap-on steam lever, robbed us of all that comfort. which, hey, is like a prerequisite for artistic expression, no?

we left as dominy was, uh, chest-bumping(?) lem and making his way to the espresso machines. and hey, was that a bon jovi-m.i.a. mix that just left us newly deaf?

unlike last year, when this blog’s reaction was sort of bewildered bemusement, the result here was quite a head ringing. quite an expression of the coffee vibe in this part of the country. quite a night.

i SAID, “quite a night! quite an expression of the …!”

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those coffee and crema boys check out the latte art wares. “is this how you shake it, yo?”