It is not every day that I meet a furry friend on my travels through coffee shops. Normally, I find a heart shape design or a leaf, or a flower in the foam of my cappuccino-- a symbol of my barista's or baristo's skill, passion for his or her art, and hope to make my day that much better. But last week, after returning to Via Quadronno for one of their delicious cappuccini, my friend and I were handed what seemed to be the most delicate design I had even seen.
There he was--just staring at us with beautiful details. The cappuccino was actually for my friend Ashley, and I could see the sadness in her eyes as she knew the design would soon be gone when she went to drink the coffee. The panda's eyes almost formed a tranquil look as well--as if he knew his time was short.
For the rest of the day I continued to talk about my run-in with a panda bear at the cappuccino shop. My co-workers were nearly as amazed as we were. So I made it my mission to visit another well-known cappuccino place in Lower Manhattan, La Colombe.
When I arrived, I ordered my cappuccino, hoping that without question I'd receive at least some design. Instead--I received this--rather quickly and sloppily (even though I was the only one in line).
I almost approached the barista to ask what THAT mess was. Is that a half-assed heart, I thought to myself. Was there a failed attempt? But I kept my mouth shut...sipped on what was actually a tasty cappuccino, and thought of kinder ways to approach the situation.
I returned to the counter, with the panda photo ready on m iPhone.
"Do you or any of the baristas here ever create art like this?" I nearly shoved my phone in her face.
"Ha," she laughed... "We don't have time for that--we are much too busy, we'd never get through a line. Plus we don't have the tools to do that."
Now--I may have been perfectly okay with this answer had she not continued, but it was when she continued that I had to refrain from pulling out my business card and telling her "I am no amateur in cappuccino tasting."
"Besides--after you do all that work, the cappuccino doesn't taste good."
'WHAT,' I exclaimed, in my head.
Ashley had declared her panda cappuccino delicious (Ashley was a fellow friend in Italy--so her opinion is as trust worthy as mine); and all my heart, leaf, and face cappuccini before that had been just the same--wonderful. And here, this barista was telling me that with more work, the cappuccino wouldn't taste as good.
But instead of saying this out loud, I nodded, walked out the door, and vowed never to return to La Colombe--no matter how good their cappuccino may have tasted--again.
(Edited: I returned to La Colombe and had a cappuccino. I couldn't resist how good it tasted---Sigh.)
Via Quadronno – 25 East 73rd Street, New York, NY 10021-3521 – (212) 650-9880
La Colombe – 270 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012 – (212) 625-1717
Libby Segal is a New York City based associate producer, writer, and stand up comedian.
by Chef Mark Shoup