Saturday, February 27, 2010

Coffee Stop: "French Press," Salem, OR

The Northwest is wired with coffee places that have unique personality and charm. In this corner of the country, just about every city and town has a passel of ‘em. Cool little bustling spots that open before all the other businesses, serving up coffee creations and pungent aromas that delight you even before stepping inside the door. Interesting, odd little places that used to be banks or country stores or whatever, and now they’re filled with the sounds of espresso machines, funky music, and cheap little tables just large enough for cups, elbows, and conversation. Ready for a change of pace or scenery? No problem here in Oregon. Try the next place a half-block away...their pastries are to die for! For me, this is part of what sets Oregon apart from other parts of the country. My theory is that this is probably why your relatives come out here from Delaware and don’t want to leave. They don’t have cool coffee shops--I’m not making this up--they actually boast about the Dunkin Donuts coffee there. Sorry, Delaware, we win...but you can visit us anytime!

When you visit me in Salem, I might take you to a cool little spot that’s fairly new in town. It’s called “French Press.” I like this place very much, and I recently met up with my family there at the end of my bike ride (living up to the title of the blog, I suppose). Situated on South Commercial just before the Liberty split, its outside appearance draws you inside to see what you might find. Walking through the door convinces you to stay to partake of the food and atmosphere. A bit of french inspiration in this place is the result of some intentional decor, wall art, and the fare on the menu. Of course you’ll never really imagine you’re sitting inside a Paris cafe, but it’s got its own kind of charm and energy worth enjoying. Tables are situated near a fireplace, facing an open kitchen with an energetic crew that prepares every dish just the way you like it. Outside seating is available, but it’s kind of noisy because it’s so close to Commercial Street.

Here at French Press the specialty is the crepe. Since I’m not an egg guy (severely allergic actually), I can’t really comment on the crepes other than to say that a whole lot of folks look really happy when they’re eating them here, and the restaurant is really proud of them. Mrs. C and Nat had crepes while we were there, and they looked pretty yummy. Enough so that I took pictures. My egg-free option was a bagel loaded with veggies and stuff. It was good too. So yay for the food.

In my opinion, what takes this spot from good to great is the quality of the coffee. Whether you buy the house coffee or order a french press, you will enjoy an unmistakably bold and fresh cup and you’ll want more. They are proud to let you know that they use fair trade coffee for their on-site roasting process, and they’ve got the whole presentation thing figured out. Even the cup is shaped to mold right into your hands so that you lean across the table and wish you knew how to say something exquisitely French to your sweetie. But be careful. When I tried this move, I leaned forward and got a cramp in my leg from just having gotten off of the bike. Whatever I said out loud to Mrs. C probably didn’t really sound all that French...just really foreign. Still, the whole experience was magnifique!

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