I have an imaginary blog about Los Angeles called “Getting Warmer.” It’s made up of imaginary postings about new businesses in LA that sound great, but don’t quite succeed in terms of being any place I would like to go.
For example, earlier this year I pretend-posted about The Fix, a café that opened near my house. Reviews said the coffee was great, the place had outdoor seating and wireless internet access - sounded perf. So I go. The interior of the café looks like the inside of Coldplay’s tour bus: Over-the-top mood lighting, minimal seating. Disorienting, but whatever, this is LA — I can just sit outside. But wait, something is on fire in the middle of the courtyard! Wait, it’s supposed to be on fire — it’s an eternal flame! An E -TER-NAL FLAME! At a coffee shop. Parents were desperately trying to keep their kids away from it. One child looked up at her Mom and asked “Why is it here?” I don’t know Jane, maybe to commemorate the death of good taste?
After three years of this sort of let-down, I was beginning to think it was me. Which it partially is. But when I went traveling over the holidays I encountered lots of great cafes. In fact, some of them were TOO perfect. Here are a few:
Iris Café in Brooklyn Heights - A new café in a schmancy neighborhood on an achingly charming one-way. The interior is standard-issue perfection: wood floors, brick walls, tin ceilings. Behind the counter, Christopher Reeves and Isabella Rosselini’s lovechild is doing a crossword puzzle. It’s 75% complete. It’s the SATURDAY NEW YORK TIMES PUZZLE. Next thing I know I’m ordering a cookie even though I don’t want one. Turns out it isn’t a cookie, it’s the most perfect cookie in the entire world. Might have been oatmeal chocolate chip, but it tastes like I’m skydiving and getting a massage at the same time. My high is enhanced by the perfectly-executed latte which has clearly been made from beans that were sustainably biked in from South America by two malaria-vaccine-wielding, recovering-drug-addict literacy tutors -and paired with the milk from a sacred cow, frothed to perfection and topped off with my initials written in foam, even though I didn’t tell him my initials.
Random Order in Portland OR - Since a glut of world-famous indie rock musicians clogged the restaurant where I’d initially intended to eat breakfast, I had no choice but to walk past a vegan belt store and head to the corner coffee shop — which of course was a perfect coffee shop. Beautiful toddlers with unusual names knitted scarves amidst a Benetton ad’s worth of smudge-eyed twenty/thirty somethings reading Jean Genet, MFK Fisher, and my mind. Patient, soulful, tastefully-tattooed counter guy unjudgementally takes my order while badass bike-messenger-cum-barista flirts with the girls and guys standing in front of her sparkling, espresso machine that looks like a silver Lamborghini without wheels. I read solicitations for CSA shares and flyers advertising my next favorite bands before the molasses cookie I’m eating plunges me into a dream-stupor that magically navigates me between rain drops and leaves me browsing in the poetry aisle at Powell’s.
La Colombe in Philadelphia, PA - The pastries are local; the baristas are imported. Accented staff take your girlfriend’s number while you tip them an extra dollar. Nice continental touches like real spoons instead of tongue depressors, abundant tables for lingering, and a shroud of secondhand smoke around the front door. High ceilings held up by sponge-painted walls held up by French women with haircuts and shoes. Match.com has nothing on this place.
If you know of a perfect café, please tell me about it. If it’s in LA, I’ll post about it on my other imaginary blog. It’s called “The Best Things about LA,” and it currently has no entries.