Fruit Bombs & Fermentation: Atlanta & Chicago


Sprudge.com co-founder Zachary Carlsen spent a week embedded with Cycle Two of the Counter Culture Coffee Fruit Bombs & Fermentation road show. His first dispatch from Asheville is available here, and we rejoin the story as the caravan begins its journey to Atlanta…

The blue Cortado Minivan of Broken Dreams headed due south from Asheville, embarking on a jaunty four hour ride to Atlanta. Katie Carguilo played DJ in the front while Tim Hill and I sat in the back (I was blogging most of the time). Brian Ludviksen drove us safely, surely, and yes, maybe a little slowly. At one point we pulled into a big rig truckin’ gas depot travel center, just after we passed an “I don’t believe the liberal media!” bumper sticker on the back of someone’s Ford F-250. It hit me like a ton of Yankee brokeback bricks: “Whoa, I’m at a truck stop in South Carolina and anything can happen!

Then we went inside, and the two check-out clerks called me “sweetheart” and “hon” a bunch. This particular truck stop was some sort of luxury truck stop (!), as they had an amazing selection of baubles, doodads, doohickeys, knickknacks, thingamajigs, trinkets, and wooden boxes with air brushed wolves and bejeweled kitten statuettes. The bathroom featured a quarter-operated imitation perfume spritzer. The truck stop was even a small boutique bookesller, offering reads like SATAN, YOU CAN’T HAVE MY CHILDREN and CB Radio For Yokels. Their coffee offerings went from “MILD” to “ENERGY BUZZ”.

After trucking the long haul something fierce, we finally arrived at the Atlanta Counter Culture Coffee training center, which looks kind of like a cool bachelor loft – big kitchen, exposed brick, and a lot of espresso machines. The ATL crew were chopping up vegetables when we arrived, finalizing the spread for guests. This was a beer night: bottles of Chatoe Rogue Pumpkin Patch Ale, Hoppin Frog Imperial Stout, and Saison Imperiale Farmhouse Ale, just to name a few. The prized pig on the offering table was undoubtedly the huge platter of pork belly, described by one guest as “bacon croutons that just melt in your mouth.”

Tim’s cupping and Katie’s signature drink presentation went over like gangbusters, attended by over seventy people in the bachelor loft. A highlight for me was meeting a Sprudge reader from Georgia who is in the Air Force and drove two hours “down the road” to come to tonight’s event. He told me that he explained to his friends that meeting Katie was like “going to meet the winner of the Iron Chef who was cooking food for free.” Pretty cool stuff.

Post-party, we headed to Empire State South for a night cap. Empire State South is magic, basically, and we love, love going here when we’re in Atlanta. They’ve been written up and featured by everyone, and they do great work with their coffee service. My negroni was delightful, my can of Schlitz refreshing, but we couldn’t stay up late. Why? Because we had to wake ourselves up at 4:30 the next morning. Why? Because we were taking a detour from our road show to visit the happiest, sassiest, most root-tootin’ boot-scootin’ place on earth.

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Dollywood. Often mistaken as “Dollyworld” when actually it’s “Dollywood” because little known fact – it’s a play off of California’s “Hollywood”, which is somewhere in Los Angeles. Oh, what a dream it was! We ended getting there four hours before they opened (check those winter hours) so Katie and Tim went on a scenic helicopter ride around the Smoky Mountains. We also stopped into Sexy Stuf.

Dollywood is a country-western theme park paradise located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The grounds were flooded with the kindest folks, with nary a shitty Six Flags teenager in sight. Dolly done good with a number of thrill rides, roller coasters, and interactive southern delights. A grist mill, a glass blowing studio complete with a two thousand degree “glory hole”, pork cracklin’s fresh out of the pot, and her world famous cinnamon monkey bread – drizzled with frosting and paired with a mediocre robusta blend, prepared for us by Dollywood’s team of senior baristas on staff. It was heaven. We never wanted to leave. But we had to, because we needed to get to Chicago before morning. And it was at least seven hours away.

Our Dollywood fantasia complete, we hit the road with bellies full of cinnamon bread and miserable Wendy’s salads. To keep us awake and charged we listened to the screeching comedy of Eugene Mirman and Louis CK. It was a long trek through Kentucky, where we woefully passed the exit to the Basil Hayden distillery (next time!). We also drove right past College Road 20, which had just been in the news earlier in the week because of its 2,000+ hog farm sewage leak responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of fish in the nearby creek. We could smell it for at least twenty miles.

By the time we arrived at our hotel in Chicago is was 3:30am. Katie Carguilo had to be at the training center by eight to lead a USBC competitor’s class and workshop, followed by the final event in the evening. It was going to be a long day, but we didn’t care, because Chicago is magic like that. Chicago!

The next morning we braved through parade traffic on the Miracle Mile to get coffee at the Millennium Park Intelligentsia. I had the Kenya Gitchataini with a Black Cat espresso back. After devouring a deeply satisfying Uno’s deep dish pizza, we headed to the training center to put on the final show of the tour.

A big bowl of natto.

The Chicago staff had spared no expense in the fermented foodstuffs: goat cheese and apricot toasties, Ethiopian injera rollies with plenty of dipping sauces, cheeses further than the eye could see, bourbon barrel aged fish sauce with spoonfuls of steamed rice, charcuterie, pickled products, wines, a kombucha gin bitters cocktail was passed around! It was a fermented feast!

The amount of Chicago foodie elite present at the night’s festivities was jaw dropping. 80 guests filled the space to cup and drink and eat. I met a foodie who called herself a foodie before the term “foodie” was coined! Now that’s saying something. The night capped off by raffling off the La Marzocco GS/3 – the prize went to a fellow in Atlanta. He’d purchased over $80 worth of tickets.

In the end, $5400 was raised for projects at the Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union. I flew back home to Portland, landing in the middle of a windy rain storm, blogging this all out til the stewardess made me shut down the laptop. A few days later I reached out to Brian Ludviksen for the last word on CCC’s F&FB Cycle 2:  “It was a lot fun,” he told me. “The whole idea of behind the Works In Progress series is to throw these great parties, then mix all the fun social stuff with an educational twist. I feel like Fruit Bombs was a really great showcase for this idea, and it’s exciting how many people joined us and were a part of it.”

 

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