The arrival of mid-October has generally meant one thing to Hot Dish: Coffee Fest, the annual trade show where we report from the front lines of the retail beverage industry. This year, as a change of pace, we decided to contact Fest manager David Heilbrunn in advance to get a preview of what the 2004 expo has in store for Seattle baristas, cafe managers, and espresso-machine salespeople. Heilbrunn is particularly excited about the Latte Art Competition, a yearly showdown between baristas trained to make roses, trees, and apples out of milk foam. The winner nabs a cool thousand dollars, plus beaucoup bragging rights. "This is gonna be an unbelievable competition," he raves. "With these five champions [from other Fests], another guy who thinks he can beat the champions, four people out of Japan, and—finally, at this show—a representative from Starbucks." Heilbrunn insists that foam-based flowers and evergreens aren't just for show: "If you do the art, that means you have a handle on the scientific factors that come together for proper espresso extraction and preparation." According to Heilbrunn, the hottest coffee trends of the season have to do with environmental and social consciousness. He cited a number of companies appearing at this year's Fest whose java is "triple-certified": organic, fair trade (i.e., nonexploitative to workers), and shade-grown. And though he admits that most people still don't think too much about where their morning latte comes from, Heilbrunn is optimistic about the rise of P.C. coffee. "I think it's going to take time, but there are consumers out there that will hunt it out," he says. Plentiful paella West Edge lunch counter/food shop The Spanish Table is saying "gracias" to longtime customers by throwing a food and wine extravaganza to celebrate nine years in business. Starting at noon on Thursday, October 16, and Friday, October 17, the Table will present cooking demonstrations, serve delicious food, and uncork a few bottles of vintage wine. Owner Steve Winston aims to stuff his guests with Portuguese lingüiça sausage grilled on a red clay asador and fresh local clams steamed in a copper cataplana (reminiscent of an old cooking method used by Portuguese fishermen). Winston also plans on making a giant paella large enough to feed 40-plus people; such a bountiful quantity of saffron rice, seafood, chicken, and fresh pepper should be more than enough to get you there. Popcorn pride Unbeknownst to many, October is National Popcorn Poppin' Month, and former Detroit Pistons team captain Isiah Thomas has emerged as a somewhat unlikely spokesperson for the campaign. His official statement on behalf on the Popcorn Board (www.popcorn.org) is as follows: "There's no denying that good times are popping with popcorn." Thomas also claims to "still eat it every day," which prompted us to ask Board employee Wendy Boersema-Rappel whether daily poppin' is actually advisable. "I think that popcorn consumption need[s] to be part of an overall sensible diet plan," she said, adding that two cups—not an enormous bag or tub—constitutes one healthy serving of the stuff. To her credit, Boersema-Rappel is a popcorn traditionalist. "I still like to pop it stove top, with a little bit of oil, and put a little bit of salt on it afterwards," she explained. Informed that we'd never talked about popcorn for upwards of 10 minutes before, Boersema-Rappel laughed, then confessed that she carries on such extended conversations all the time. Food and/or beverage news? E-mail Hot Dish at email@example.com.