Go for the Coffee, Stay for the Tiramisu
Sometimes, it’s nice to find a place that lets you leave your world outside. I had such an experience in Midtown’s business district. Tucked away amid the steel and glass edifices, this unlikely place, a European coffeehouse, sits on the corner of Peachtree and 11th streets next to Loews Atlanta Hotel. Its entrance is marked by thick glass doors with ornately carved brass handles and elegant gold lettering.
When you step through the foyer and into Café Intermezzo, you are transported to an age when old world elegance, charm, etiquette and grace were as much a part of the dining experience as the food. It doesn’t matter if you came for a single cup of coffee, a small bite to eat, a bit of solitude, or a chance to catch up with a friend you haven’t seen in years. Café Intermezzo is an opportunity to experience the antithesis of fast food, to sit at a table and make the statement that you are here by choice. The gentle light from the chandeliers and pleasant smile from the hostess assures –there will be no rush.
I agreed to meet Valerie at Café Intermezzo at noon. She needed to interview me, and asked if I’d be available. The tables were small – there was barely enough room for Valerie’s notebook, our glasses of water, the beverage menu, and silverware. The beverage menu is quite extensive; it would have proved a daunting task to choose from its 50 pages if not for our helpful server Mirlene.
She answered all our questions and allowed us to take our time in choosing: I decided on espresso with a shot of Bailey’s topped with whipped cream. Valerie opted for Godiva Roche, a delicious tea blend of rooibos, cacao bean, vanilla, hazelnut pieces, calendula and sunflower petals. Mirlene had confided that these were her favorites, and Valerie and I both agreed, they were delicious!
Café Intermezzo also offers a smorgasbord of savory menu choices featuring crepes, appetizers, soup, salads, breakfast, lunch, and dinner choices. Mirlene suggested Valerie try the duck crepe with goat cheese and fig jam; I chose the seafood dip with crab, shrimp and scallops smothered in cheese. I asked Mirlene to bring share plates so we could sample everything, and both dishes satisfied our expectations. The fig jam and goat cheese were a nice complement to the flavor of the duck, and my dip featured generous amounts of seafood. The roasted peppers in the cheese sauce gave the dip a pleasant heat.
I was really enjoying myself, so I decided to splurge on dessert. Café Intermezzo has a marvelous glass showcase filled with a wide range of cakes, pies and cheesecake. In fact, it’s the first thing your eyes are drawn to as you walk into the café. I like the visual appeal of a dessert showcase, but found the manner in which desserts are sold a bit quirky.
I wasn’t able to order dessert from a menu or through my server. I was informed by Mirlene that patrons must visit the showcase where the desserts (which have no signs on them) are explained by a “tour guide”. The significance of this was lost on me. I stood in front of this magnificent glass case and asked questions about the desserts that caught my eye. My “tour guide” responded with the name of that particular dessert, then stood there as I made up my mind. It would have been a better experience if my “guide” was able to offer information about the ingredients, or how that particular dessert was made, or maybe a brief history on the origin of a particular cake or ingredient. Yes, desserts have a history too – and oftentimes the story is just as sweet.
After I made my selection, I went back to my seat and my choice was brought to the table. Hopefully, Café Intermezzo will improve on the concept of a “dessert tour guide”. It’s the only thing that detracted from my overall experience.
I chose tiramisu and another cup of espresso to go with it. The tiramisu at Café Intermezzo is the best I’ve ever had. I was so surprised that I bought a second slice to take home. Tiramisu is my all-time favorite dessert. It’s also my litmus test for the quality of a restaurant’s dessert whenever I eat out. My experience of trying to find good tiramisu in Atlanta has been abysmal – oftentimes I’ll ask for a to-go container after the first bite. I’ve decided it’s better to carry the dessert home in its casket, rather than risk spoiling a good meal with a bad menu choice. I was happy that today there was no need for a “dessert walk of shame.”
I’ve never had the privilege of sitting in a tiny Parisian café nursing an espresso and soaking in the joie de vivre. But at Café Intermezzo, I made the transatlantic voyage through a Midtown Atlanta portal.