Coffee Fest Chicago Wrap Up

Tuesday February 22, 2011 // By Kari Guddeck

View of Chicago from Navy Pier


My head and stomach are still reeling from Coffee Fest Chicago.  I judged the North Central Regional Barista Competition that started on Fri and wrapped up Sun afternoon.  I’m proud to say that I was chosen to judge the finals again – hooray!  I know I’ve said it before, but I have to say again that I find myself very lucky to be given the chance to taste some of the best coffee in the country prepared by amazing baristas.  I’m continually blown away by the dedication and skill these baristas possess.  That being said, my stomach is not as happy about the situation….especially after a high percentage of very acidic signature beverages.  It’s a good thing there was a lot of good food to be had in the windy city to soak up all that coffee (see restaurant notes at bottom)!




How about a quick wrap up of the show and competitions:

-          North Central Regional Barista Competition winner: Ryan Knapp (MadCap Coffee, Grand Rapids,NCRBC Michigan)

-          North Central Regional Brewer's Cup winner: Jonathan Jarrow

-          Latté Art Competition winner: Ryan Soeder

-          The tradeshow was well attended.  Folks were treated to samples of everything from coffee to pastries to smoothies to oatmeal to energy bars to chocolates and more.

-          We were happy to run into quite a few old friends and had some great chats about new things to come for BPS.

-          Chicago: we started our stay enjoying beautiful sunny weather (great for walking and exploring) and left in a winter storm down pour.  Also, it really is windy there.  Really.

-          Single origin espressos have been all the rage at recent competitions, but slowly and surely the blend has been making a reappearance.  Look for one in a competition near you!

-          Friendly peeps.  We had great service and experiences in Chicago.  Thanks for the hospitality!

I thought I’d add a few notes about our dining experiences this time, since I seem to find myself exploring cities in search of interesting and great food. 

1.       Publican – If you like beer and pig, you should go here.  This place had a great communal set up and it was hoppin’ in there!  The beer list is long with hard to find and interesting options.  We had blood sausage, a charcuterie plate, and a great cup of 7 year old pu-erh tea with dessert.

2.       The Girl and The Goat (The Goat to locals) – Founded by a Top Chef winner, The Goat was also very busy….and had great Hendrick’s martinis!  Small and medium plates dominated the menu.  Standouts for us were: Roasted Cauliflower (w/ pickled peppers and a nice amount of spice), veal and goat ragu, wood oven roasted pig face (with sunny side egg, tamarind, cilantro, and potato stix), seared scallops (brown butter XO, goat sausage,  white shrimp, shiitakes, and winter squash)….yum!

3.       Primehouse – Known for their aged steaks.  I had the 55 day aged, and it was good.  TheJon in Primehouse aging room sides (soy/ginger sautéed asparagus, mac-n-cheese, mashed potatoes, sautéed mushrooms, etc.) were ok.  The wine list is great.  The highlight of the evening was a tour of the salt room (aging room, see pic of Jon and our friends from Kerry).

4.       The Public House – Beer.  The main reason to go.  Flights of 5oz tasters were $9 for 3, and they had many beers on tap to choose from.  The bottle selection was good too.  They blend and grind their own hamburger.  The fried cheese curds were interesting, but the regular fries were pretty bad.

5.       Grahamwich – We had pastrami and gruyere croissant sandwich and a coffee for breakfast here….and wish we’d had more time to check out their lunch sandwiches!  Two words: truffle popcorn.  The coffee was made using the Xpress Lid (used to brew French press in paper to go cups) and was really good (roasted by Metropolis).  Coffee was free with purchase of breakfast sandwich....nice.

6.       Gage – a newer restaurant in the Millenium Park area.  Menu had a nice price range for entrees.  Not to be missed is the Scotch Egg (a hardboiled egg surrounded by sausage, breaded, and fried – it sounds weird, but trust us!). 

7.       Gibson’s Bar and Steakhouse (in Rosemount) – If you get delayed at O’hare like Jay and Jon did, then go here.  The service was awesome and steaks were tasty (though obscenely huge).

8.   Sable Kitchen & Bar - This was the bar in one of my hotels.  The breakfast food I had was just ok, but the cocktails we had one evening were inspired!  The cocktail menu itself was written in an intriguing way...and it was long!  After much deliberation, we chose: Black Friar’s Pint (Plymouth Gin, cardamom-spiced Guinness, Lustau East India Sherry, fresh lemon, egg white), Fancy Free (Woodford Reserve, Luxardo Maraschino, Angostura bitters, housemade orange bitters), Cloak and Dagger (Rittenhouse Bottled in Bond, Carpano Antica Formula, Cruzan Blackstrap, Laphroaig Quarter Cask, Greg’s Physical Bitters), and Winter Light (Pierre Ferrand Reserve Cognac, Green Chartreuse, Peychaud’s bitters, fresh thyme).

Trends we noticed:  extensive beer lists and food/beer pairings, truffle popcorn, seasonal ingredients, and pu-erh tea.  

Welcome ! Remember that any order of $1750 or more qualifies for free shipping, and that you will receive at least a $50 rebate towards freight if you spend more than $750.