BBQ and baristas


ABOVE: Katie from Counter Culture helps out a student from Dallas in the training lab.


I’ve been eyeing the espresso training labs offered by Counter Culture Coffee few a couple of years now. Perhaps the largest speciality coffee roaster on the East Coast, Counter Culture, based in Raleigh-Durham, dominates the specialty coffee market out here, supplying many of the so-called third-wave coffee shops in the East.

To serve their wholesale clients, Counter Culture offers training and machine service at several regional training centers, but are also open to the public for a fee.

I recently started working a few hours a week at Darien’s Espresso Neat, so I figured now is the time to finally take one of the classes. Yesterday, 13 coffee geeks, from advanced amateurs to professional baristas and shop managers from as far as Texas attended the Beginner Espresso Lab in New York.

During the day-long course, we covered the history of espresso, the basics of operating commercial machines and grinders and tamping and milk steaming techniques.

After pulling a few shots on the La Marzocco, we headed out to lunch. Fortunately, the training lab is across the street from Hill Country barbecue.

Coincidentally while covering the ALCS at Yankee Stadium a couple of weeks ago, Brad Mangin, who is well known as both an exceptional sports photographer and a barbecue fanatic, clued me in to Hill Country giving me these words of advice: “get the fatty brisket.”

Hill Country is legit.

When you walk into the restaurant, the beautiful aroma from the smokers hits you like a brick wall, this is when you know you are have stepped into a serious barbecue establishment. But when you see that they import their sausage from the world-famous Kreuz Market in Lockhart, Texas and that everything is simply wrapped in butcher paper and slapped on your plastic tray, your suspicions are confirmed.

As it turned out, four people in our group were either Texas natives or current residents, and each and every one agreed this is some of, if not the best, cue in New York City.

My only complaint: no Shiner Bock (they do have Lone Star).



Chris Preovolos