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Back Buzz - March 14, 1997

pumping heart Caffé D'Arte, 125 Stewart Avenue, Downtown

I'll never forget my first Caffé D'Arte espresso experience. I walked into their original location on 2nd and Virginia and sat at the only table not flooded with sunlight, where a ponytailed man named Josh served me a heavenly experience in a cup. I sat there alone at the table in the empty cafe, moaning and cooing happily to myself.

The 2nd and Virginia cafe is closed now, leaving only D'Arte's second cafe a block away at 2nd and Stewart. And Josh has short hair now and we're all a little older and wiser. But Caffé D'Arte remains one of the two best coffee roasters in Seattle, the other one being Caffé Vita (see past review).

This second location is more suited to my lifestyle. Located on the northeast corner of the block, it's perfect for photophobes like myself. It features sparse Italo-tech decor, sturdy green marble tables, and constant jazz which can be sometimes pleasant, sometimes innocuous, and sometimes irritating as hell. (I'll never forget the cappuccino I had here a few days before Christmas which was made by an overly perky barista as Christmas carols blasted loudly from the speakers. But I suppose it was no more offensive than 50% of the downtown businesses at that time of year.)

But never mind the music -- it's the drink I'm here for. The double short cappuccino is served in a classic sturdy teacup adorned with Caffé D'Arte's tasteful logo. A large ocean of virginal white foam hides that first OOMPH!--mmmm--AAAAHHH that rolls from the throat as the first suggestive bombshell of espresso explodes on the unprepared palate. Every cup is like losing one's virginity all over again -- the good way, that is: I'm talking about seduction, not molestation. Is this, by chance, why Caffé D'Arte was born on 2nd and Virginia?

As to the name, I'll be the first to admit that it's a bit pretentious. I much preferred the original name, Caffé Mauro, but they had to change it for legal reasons. So D'Arte it is. Besides, what's in a name, anyway? (See my review of Gee Whiz.)

By the way, if you buy beans, the Taormina blend is the darkest, richest, and best, in my humble opinion.

The scenery is splendid, too: directly across the street is the nine-story Bon Marché parking garage, a historic landmark in its own right. And down the diagonal of Stewart, the Westin's Twin Towers jut up proudly in all their 1970s plainness. In front of them you can barely see the back end of one of my favorite almost-triangular quadrilateral edifices, the Times Square Building; and just kitty-corner stands the St. Joseph Chapel in the Josephinum, which looks more like an old downtown apartment/retail building than a church.

As I stand up from this particular cappuccino and stretch to my full height, I can feel the two shots of dark ecstasy shoot through my veins, flooding corpuscle after corpuscle from head to toe with a wonderful energy. Yes, Caffé D'Arte espresso delivers what you expect from a double short!

And I'm sorry if I sound like an advertisement. I don't mean to. This is all from my heart -- my pounding, thumping, energized HEART!

Why is it, anyway, that when you can hear your own heart pounding, nobody else can hear it -- unless they're at the other end of a stethoscope, that is. Doesn't it seem like even if your flesh and muscles are thick enough to completely dampen the sound, a few loud thumps should escape every time you open your mouth? Perhaps the only person capable of hearing another's heartbeat from across the room is somebody whose own heart doesn't happen to be beating. Unfortunately, that usually indicates the person is either unconscious or dead, which could be extremely distracting.

This reminds me of the old if-a-tree-falls-in-the-woods enigma, which reminds me of the following e-mail dialog I had with my Bay Area friend last summer:

This morning on the public radio station a local announcer reported that "a large redwood fell in Muir Woods yesterday and several people gathered to hear it." It was the eighth old-growth redwood to fall in the grove this year. (The average is about one a year.) But this made it sound like a scheduled event. I'll have to check the park news to see if another one is due this summer.

And did you hear about the landslide in Yosemite, with "boulders the size of boxcars" falling from Glacier Point and crushing the small visitor's center below? When we used to visit the park, my dad would comment that he didn't want to be around when one of those big ones fell. I just assumed it didn't happen very often when people were around, but I guess I was wrong.

If a landslide in Yosemite with boulders the size of boxcars falls from Glacier Point and crushes the small visitor's center below but nobody is around to hear it, does it make a mess?

It's not terribly uncommon for people to think they can hear trees talk. Perhaps Muir redwoods are known for making eloquent speeches on their deathbeds, and that was why everybody gathered around the one that fell.

Or perhaps sound travels at a much slower pace in the Muir Woods than anywhere else. If when a redwood falls to the ground, the sound of it travels only as fast as, say, a banana slug, that would give people a good five or ten minutes to gather around the fallen tree before they actually hear it fall.

That would, however, make it very difficult to answer a telephone in the Muir Woods.

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