CoffeeBeer >> Double Shot Buzz >> Previous Coffee Columns >> Avalon Cafe

Back Buzz - October 9, 1998

Avalon Cafe, 108 Union Street, Downtown

This pretty little art cafe is located kitty-corner from the new Benaroya Hall and directly underneath the William Traver Gallery, one of the more notable glass art venues in town. The cafe features Illy Caffé, probably the best Italian coffee you can find in this country. My double short dry cappuccino was served in a delightfully perfect shaped cup: petite, not too wide, not too tall, creating a wonderfully seductive arc in the hand, resting on a pedestal saucer like the ones they use at Mondeo. The cup, made by Mittertech of Bavaria for Illy Caffé, was decorated with painted outlines of figures in bold strokes -- one black female and three red male figures.

Before I forget I should mention the cappuccino itself. It was very nicely done, with pleasant foam in its beautiful little cup. The drink itself was good but not as spectacular as previous Illy Caffés I've had. Perhaps it was a bit too wet and the shots a bit too weak. It was still a very pleasant visual experience as well as textural (to my hands, that is).

I drank my cappuccino while sitting on the inviting padded black bench which runs across the western wall, at one of the cool little thin round shiny wood tables on simple black pedestals. On my first visit a couple weeks ago I really liked the art on the walls: cool paintings by Robert Roche done in a similar style to the cups (i.e. thick brush strokes of outlined figures), but with more detail and color -- lots of red and metallics. That's why I liked them so much, because I am very fond of metallics and the color red. On my second visit a few days ago the art had changed, consisting of some nice (but uncredited) ceramics. This seemed fitting, seeing as how I was accompanied on this visit by my friend Susie, an art teacher and muralist from Albuquerque who was in town to see the Picasso ceramics at the Tacoma Art Museum. Susie and I sat at a table on the sidewalk where she slurped her grande Americano out of a large soup bowl while I enjoyed my double macchiato in the same Mittertech cup as before. (By the way, my macchiato was superb, much more satisfying than my previous cappuccino.)

On the eastern wall of the cafe is a magazine rack full of design and travel magazines for your browsing pleasure. Avalon also offers inviting-looking pastries as well as panini sandwiches, salads, pizzettas, and breakfast items.

Avalon's logo features a leaf motif. But why a leaf? There's no obvious explanation in evidence on the signs or menus or in the decor. When I think of Avalon I think of a small town on Santa Catalina Island, the most widely visited of the Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California, where I used to take the occasional weekend trip to go horseback riding. There's a once-famous casino at Avalon, as well as a small harbor offering rides on glass-bottomed boats. Buffalo graze on the hills of Catalina, and I was once told a story about how imported goats, cows, and horses destroyed the ecological balance. But I've never once associated Avalon, or Catalina Island, with leaves.

Perhaps trees once ruled the Channel Islands long before the town of Avalon existed. I read in the news this week that scientists have sent rafts of iguanas across the ocean to prove that landbound animal populations can indeed migrate across large bodies of water, if only as "accidental" stowaways. Perhaps the trees of Catalina were destroyed by roving bands of famished giraffes who "accidentally" sailed from Africa across the Atlantic, down around the tip of Cape Horn, and up the Pacific Coast to the Channel Islands. Or perhaps it was orangutans, known for their proclivity for stripping foreign plants of their foliage. If so, whatever happened to these giraffe and orangutan populations, anyway? Where's Charles Darwin when we need him?

Speaking of ecological enigmas, I'm reminded of an e-mail exchange from last year with my Bay Area friend:

I heard an alliterative report on NPR's Morning Edition today concerning a recent discovery at a cave somewhere in Mexico. Among the formations found on cave ceilings and walls, spelunkers typically find, as we know, stalactites and stalagmites. (I had also heard of soda straws and helictites, but they weren't mentioned.) At this cave in Mexico visitors have seen hundreds of soft, jiggling little wads hanging from above. (While a woman was staring at one, a drop fell into her eye.) Although I might come up with other metaphorical titles, this reporter said they resembled nothing so much as, well, phlegm. And they have been informally termed "snottites." Unlike stalactites and stalagmites, which are purely the result of mineral-laden drops of water, snottites are actually the product of some unexpected life form that is still being investigated.

This sounded like an April Fools Day report, but I guess it's the truth.

Actually it sounds exactly like an "X-Files" segment. I do love all the wonderfully disgusting oozing and wriggling "unknown life forms" the series' writers and makeup artists come up with -- although I have yet to see that wriggling mass of neon green vermicelli I always dream about.

Actually, though, if this had been from an "X-Files" episode, the drop of snottite landing in the woman's eye would subsequently cause her to experience some sort of agonizing, oozing, disgusting death or disfiguration. Perhaps it happened later, like the biologist recently in the news who accidentally dribbled a tiny droplet of mercury on her skin and died horribly several weeks later. There was also a story in this week's paper about some botanist who was pulling Russian knapweed out of his study garden with his bare hands and later ended up with malignant tumors on his hands which resulted in several fingers being amputated.

So watch out for that mercury and knapweed -- and snottite, just to be on the safe side.

And while we're on the subject of what animals eat, here's an e-mail exchange from two years ago with my Chicago friend:

I took my dog Soter to the vet today for his shots. The vet told me I have to make him lose -- get this -- 30-I-repeat-30 fucking pounds. No more Hershey Bars for a while, I guess.

Is Soter on any kind of lite dogfood? (I hate that spelling: LITE. What the hell does that mean, anyway? The word is spelled L-I-G-H-T, for chrissake! And I hate all this NO FAT and REDUCED FAT plastered on everything in the stores. FAT, FAT, FAT; how many times do I have to see the word FAT when I'm buying groceries, anyway? What I hate the most is when they changed the label on Philadelphia Neufchatel Cheese to read Philadelphia 1/3 LESS FAT! Cream Cheese. What's the matter with "Neufchatel", anyway? I'd much rather eat a cheese from an Alpine valley village than one that's been sent to a Yuppie fat farm! But I digress...)

My cat Alex went from a slightly pudgy 14 pounds to a lithe 12.5 pounds over the course of a year, just from switching from Science Diet to Science Diet Light (or LITE, if you must). Is there a "light" version of those lobster-caviar nuggets you buy for Soter? Let's see...if he lost weight at the same rate that Alex did -- accounting for the fact that Soter [an English mastiff] weighs as much as 14 Alexes -- Soter could lose 20 pounds in the same time period.

Along with talking Soter into drinking pale ale instead of oatmeal stout, and perhaps going easy on the sour cream and guacamole on his Mission-style burritos, I think you'd have a reasonable diet plan.

Just don't run out and buy one of those abs machines. I don't think dogs really care about how firm their abdominal muscles are. Besides, Soter'd probably use the thing once or twice and then never touch it again.