Apr 22, 2008

caffeine and a sandwich

a highly-caffeinated 4 hours in seattle.

first stop was the espresso vivace at e denny and broadway to get some of emails out of the way, make a call, and wake up at a window counter made of blue volga granite. like any institution, vivace makes much of its history and the space (a large, high-ceilinged room sparsely populated with tables and chairs) reminds me of the original peet's coffee on walnut/vine in berkeley. apart from a wide selection of literature about coffee-making, vivace distinguishes itself by celebrating the latte art of its baristas. particularly beautiful latte art is commemorated with framed and dated photographs on the walls of the cafe (also turned into postcards on sale for a couple of dollars), and it appears to be a badge of honour to be placed on the wall. my latte was excellent (with velvety, micro-foamed steamed milk) and a perfectly symmetrical heart of a rich, rust-red hue; it was made by someone who was very proud of having just gotten her first wall photo (2nd column from the left on the east wall, left side, 2nd from the bottom). before leaving, i got a single-shot espresso just to see how much they were able to preserve the caramelised sugars in their roast; it was probably the sweetest, least bitter espresso i've ever had.

with two hours remaining, i wanted to get lunch at salumi, the fabled cured meats place in downtown seattle run by mario batali's father, armandino. on the way there, i passed stumptown roasters on pine street and was unable to resist stopping in for my third coffee in 2 hours (latte, also excellent), then walked the rest of the way to salumi feeling brittle, as if sudden motion might have unfortunate consequences.

southern aspect of the seattle public library, from 4th ave

on 3rd avenue, i joined a crowd of walkers leaning into the wind as they walked south, and nearly missed the light yet massive angularity of rem koolhaas's seattle public library, which stacks are arranged in an unbroken spiral climbing many stories up into the prismatic volume of the building. i ducked in for a quick look and took a long series of escalators up to the reading room at the top of the library. the inside was as crystalline as the outside, and filled with medium-toned wood paneling and plenty of matte aluminum, lime green paint, glass, light, and high ceilings. it felt a lot like being inside the fortress of solitude, except with more books and lime green paint.

just down the street, the line outside armandino's was relatively short but glacially slow, and i was bookended by people who had never been there but had seen it on the food network. counter staff came out periodically to pass round small dishes of cured meats for the people in line to try: winter salami (with cracked black peppercorns), finocchiona (with fennel and black pepper), lamb prosciutto (a dark and translucent ruby colour). 45 minutes after getting in line, i got a hot braised oxtail sandwich with peppers, onions, and salsa verde on a baguette-shaped section of bread that actually tasted much more like damper than baguette. the crumb was dense and a pale grey, with large crystals of gluten and only a few airspaces; the crust was firm with only a light crunch. the oxtail had been braised for so long that it had fallen apart into small shreds bound together by a light marinara sauce. very nice.

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