Wednesday, February 28, 2007

CoffeeFest Chicago 2007: part I

This post may end up being a two or three part entry, rather than a single long one. For those who didn't know, this past week was a vacation, of sorts, for me although a fair amount of my time away from the Stump was coffee-related. This past weekend (actually Thursday night thru Sunday afternoon) Kim, Cheyenne and I traveled to Chicago for the CoffeeFest event at Navy Pier. It was a fantastic weekend!

We split up and attended several classes and training sessions that covered everything from coffee basics to advanced espresso blending, marketing and branding to smoothie prep and yerbe mate' (the next big thing?), "boring" stuff like P&L and staff management to the more exciting advanced barista techniques, and so on... We also learned a good deal from talking with numerous vendors each day, about their products (both familiar and brand-new) and how to prep and use certain equipment. They say if you go to a convention or seminar and come back with one worthwhile bit of knowledge to make your business better (improve quality, increase business, have more fun, etc) then it was a worthwhile trip. Well, we came back with several worthwhile ideas, along with a recharged sense of mission.

We arrived Thursday evening after an enjoyable and too brief stop in Milwaukee and UWM to visit with my ol' compadre Jeffrey Hayes, Professor of Art History and Liberal Studies. A collection of art works that Paul Phelps, Jeffrey and I organized into an exhibition some years ago for the Haggerty Museum of Art is currently being displayed at the UWM Union Art Gallery (click here for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel review). The work comes from the hand of artist and preacher Prophet William Blackmon, and it was great to see it up on walls again.

Prophet Blackmon in front of a few of his paintings (the cross-shaped piece behind him is from my personal collection).

On to Chicago...We arrived at our hotel (Hotel 71), got settled in and after getting a restaurant/cigar bar recommendation from the concierge (a fellow cigar aficionado named Jose) we head right over to Sullivan's Steakhouse. Everything was excellent and I had an absolutely awesome porterhouse, done to perfection, followed by a monstrous piece of "Death by Chocolate." Sullivan's has a very cool cigar bar upstairs, but we were pretty tired and did not partake of the atmosphere this night.

Friday morning we got up early and hit the streets to make the 20 minute walk to Navy Pier. Sessions on barista techniques, business management and marketing filled the morning. Afterwards, we visited with some vendors, most notably Jay Lijewski from Dillanos Roasters. This company has spared no expense in their marketing materials and image. Their booth was by far the coolest of the show and their literature looks awesome...just the right blend of retro and vintage cool. And Jay, the rep we spoke with, was great...the dude's got the look and a great attitude. My impression of Dillanos is that everything they do is top notch and that the people who work there genuinely love their work. And their coffee is pretty darn good too... (almost as good as Two Rivers Roasting!). Sorry I don't have any images to post for this day; I took some pics but don't know what the heck happened to them.

Next, Coffee Cupping 101... and home roasting with McGuyver...

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

CoffeeFest Chicago 2007: preface

local pic by Ken Le Greve

Hey y'all! Just got back from the Chicago CoffeeFest (I guess it was Sunday that we actually got back, although it seems like only yesterday). Have some posting to do in the next couple days about the event, so pop back soon for an update. Right now I've got a lot of other work to get done before getting back to the Stump tomorrow. Hope everyone got their driveway shoveled...we got stuck and couldn't make it through our alley Sunday eve, and finally made it over to Ma & Pa's house to spend the night until the plows went through on Monday...s'posed to get hit again tomorrow they tell me!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Art, Music and Coffee at Stumpjack

Man, I have got to get our web site up and running! I'm accumulating so many photos from stuff at the Stump and don't want to clog the blog with them all. Here's a few from this past weekend though.

Friday, Feb 16th - The Poster Art of Wade Marks.

A busy evening and great fun seeing people respond so positively to Wade's art. He was the king of the evening, holding court and explaining his work to appreciative folks all night. We sold several pieces, which is always a great thing, and everyone enjoyed the loose improv playing of The Lonely Sound, unplugged (thanks Derek and Dylan). Kim and I had a fun post-reception dinner at the Element Bistro with our friends Paul and Laura from Oconomowoc (Thanks Paul!).

Wade explaining his working process...or pretending he's on his Big Wheel again...

Wade and his Mom...very nice...

Saturday, Feb 17th - Live Music: Happenstance

After last weekend's raucous party with Marcella and The Lonely Sound it was a great counterbalance to have Happenstance play a mellow acoustic set on Saturday night. Becky and Debbie were great, with lovely vocals and guitar work. I continue to be pleasantly surprised at how much coffee we sell in the evening at these events, even though most of them are mochas and other flavored drinks. People are definitely digging the coffee.

Happenstance: Becky and Debbie

It was also the beginning of a week's vacation for yours truly, during which I intend to get some house work done, finish reading Barak Obama's book The Audacity of Hope (and try to decide if the guy is legit or too far left for me), get ready for CoffeeFest this coming weekend, do a little cooking, walk the dog and enjoy some Puerto Rican coffee with a couple of Torano cigars (although as I'm writing this, just a few minutes ago I received a package that I'm hoping are the ACID samplers I won on auction last week).

Kim tickles Glen...Glen responds with the beginning of the Chicken Dance...

Friday, February 16, 2007

Coffees this Week...and Cigars...

Where can you find a vintage image of a pin-up girl with both cigars and coffee?

This week I'm not only telling you of some of coffees we have available (rotating in the brew pots from day to day and available daily in whole bean form), but I'm also pairing the coffee with some of the cigars I've enjoyed along with them in the past several weeks. Please feel free to comment and share your own pairing preferences with any of these. All of the blends that we get from Two Rivers Roasting contain around 50% of the primary origin, which is unlike many other blends where the origin coffee may comprise only 5% of the total.

Organic Columbian
- A wonderfully smooth, nuanced cup, with a clean acidity and brightness that lingers nicely. Its medium roast tastes darker than it is and there's an almost green tea-like quality to this coffee, and a bit peppery. A Torano Reserva Selecta Petit Corona would be the perfect cigar, in my humble opinion, to pair with this coffee. It's a mild, somewhat "sweet and creamy" tasting cigar (or as "sweet" as a natural, non-flavor infused cigar can taste) that would make a nice counter-balance to the Organic Columbian's spicier acidity.

Nicaraguan Blend - This coffee has a lovely aroma, with some soft cocoa/cacao notes. This is a bright coffee with fruity notes and a strong clear finish. Has a very nice mouthfeel. I've been enjoying some Honduran Bench Press cigars gifted to me from a customer who has become a wonderful friend and this smoke meshes perfectly with the Nicaraguan, both in flavor and aroma, as well as appearance. It's a somewhat rough-looking, medium to dark smoke with a dark wrapper and a fine leathery, spicy taste. If you can enjoy both the Nicaraguan coffee and the cigar while sitting by a crackling fireplace or fire pit in the backyard, so much the better.

Guatemalan Blend - With 50% pure Guatemalan, this blend has a soft acidity, tobacco-like smokiness, is medium bodied and is very nicely balanced. There's a quality to this coffee that reminds me of fresh, just-rained earth...deep forest earth. Try this coffee with the Torano Signature Collection Toro, a full-bodied, rich, sweetly spicy cigar.

Kenya Blend - I'll just magpie what I wrote about the Kenyan below: "Silky in the mouth with light, leafy sweetness and gentle herbal aroma; Kenya’s bright tartness is smoothed out in this blend, creating a beautifully balanced cup." The other day while in Green Bay Kim and I picked up a few cigars from Bosse's shop, some of which were the Kahlua Cigars Delicioso by Drew Estate. While I didn't actually partake of the Kenyan coffee and Kahlua cigar together, as we smoked one of the cigars on the ride home, I'm confident that this would make a good pairing. The cigar is sweet and nutty, which I think would be a nice compliment to the herbal mellowness of the coffee. A nice midmorning combo.

Puerto Rican - See the posts below for some profile info on the Puerto Rican. Silky smooth, chocolaty and nobody else around has it! Hey, it was President Teddy Roosevelt's favorite coffee (another fine cigar smoker himself). I'm not sure what specific cigar I'd pair with this coffee, but it would have to be something smooth and mellow, with some chocolate notes and a nice Connecticut Shade wrapper. Perhaps the Torano Reserva Selecta again, with its Connecticut wrapper, and probably the torpedo style (something about the torpedo just seems "right" for pairing with coffee from Puerto Rico).

Ironically, just as I was finishing this post this afternoon, who should pop in for a cigar/coffee chat but our own local cigar mentor and entrepreneur Joe Donati. Joe runs Lakeshore Cigar Company in Manitowoc, a great looking little spot across from Washington Park with a very cool and relaxed atmosphere. The conversation became doubly ironic when Joe (whilst enjoying a cup of the Organic Columbian) brought up the idea of putting on an outdoor cigar event this summer that would include Stumpjack coffee and some possible pairing tastings. Veeeery interesting...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


This past Saturday night was so hot at the Stumpjack that the front windows were steamed up enough to prevent passersby from seeing the place packed wall to wall with people gettin' into Marcella and The Lonely Sound. Several people came in Sunday morning and told us that when they drove by Saturday evening they could barely see through the windows but that the music pumping out into the street and the people outside in front told them that something was goin' down at the Stump. I couldn't say it in my last post announcing Marcella but the night really came together because of our friend and poster artist-extraordinaire Wade Marks (the opening reception for Wade's showing is this Friday night). The party and band gig were a surprise birthday gift from Wade to his gorgeous wife, Melissa.

Wade & Melissa

So the place was loaded with people invited to the party and people who came in just to hear the band (everybody yelled "Surprise!" when Melissa came in). Even though we had a half-barrel of Sleeman Honey Brown, bottled beer and wine available, we served a lot of coffee early in the evening, with a number of single and double shots of espresso, which was both a little surprising and very cool.

Marcella was simply awesome. Anna, Ben, Dana, James are a well oiled machine, play their own tunes and have a really unique jazzy rock sound. Trust me, it probably won't be long before Marcella has a national recording contract and is getting a lot of critical acclaim. These "guys" are that good.


They're so good, in fact, that the local police came by a couple of times to see and hear the band (yes, many of our local police officers are blessed with good taste in both coffee and music). The boys in blue responded to a noise complaint (we were loud and proud) and they handled it with class, humor and professionalism. We did have to turn things down a notch or two to jive with the city ordinance and decibel meter, but that had no affect on the energy the band generated. We play Marcella's CD in regular rotation now, and you can get a copy either directly from them (visit their web site) or from us here at the Stumpjack.

The Lonely Sound is a duo of Dylan Koch (drums) and Derek Czekala (guitar) and these two cats are unbelievable. All the best tiramisu you've ever had,
ethereal and very heavy and rich at the same time. We were totally blown away. We quit and went home a bit after 1:00 a.m.. And a good time was had by all...

The Lonely Sound

This Friday (the 16th) is Wade's opening reception for his poster art exhibition; it's open to the public, of course. The local paper is coming to interview him today. Then, this Saturday (the 17th) we have Happenstance, an acoustic/vocal duo playing here. Then next weekend it's off to Chicago for CoffeeFest for me and Kim (the Stumpjack will be open, manned by my charming partner, Glen).

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Marcella Live at the Stumpjack


Next Saturday, Feb. 10th Milwaukee-based alternative rock/jazz band MARCELLA will be playing live at the Stumpjack. Check out the links below for a taste...and their sound is very tasty indeed...

Here are a few video clips from the Urban Theater

Friday, February 2, 2007