Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Name That Café: Part II

Lil' Mama at Two Tarts

I'm afraid my kids never did learn to play the violin.  My husband figured out that piano lessons made more sense.  "You can't throw the piano on the floor!".  True, no one ever threw down the piano, but getting the kids to practice was never fun.  So Pavel and I, basically fun-loving and not altogether good at carry-through, probably didn't push hard enough.

It didn't all end badly; our son turned out to be quite good at focusing when he was interested in something.  Composing has been one such thing; and lately he's been working hard at teaching himself to play the piano. 

Wouldn't those long fingers have been great on violin?

Sadly, I can't tell you what name of that café was, I've never figured it out.  But I can tell you where to go in Portland today if you need to hunker down with cookies and coffee, and you don't happen to have any at home. Or you have some at home, but need to get out of the house for a while.  Because maybe someone won't stop playing the piano.

View Back for Seconds at the Nameless Café in a larger map

Two Tarts Bakery started out as so many food shops in Portland do: with a stand at the Portland Farmers Market.  Then, last year, they opened their shop on NW Kearney, just off of NW 23rd Avenue (with parking!).  Tucked into a mini-mall next to a toy store, Two Tarts is cozy, a little like walking into a gingerbread house.  If I had little kids, I'd take them here after school every Friday.  The walls are painted the color of café au lait, and 4 small tables fill the seating area.  Then comes the counter, with its inviting case, carrying more than a baker's dozen of types of cookies.  The kitchen stretches back from the counter, open to the customers.

Unusually for Portland, Two Tarts does not serve espresso drinks.  Instead, they offer milk, cocoa, the local Foxfire Tea, and  Courier Coffee (local roasters who deliver all their coffee by bicycle).  Two Tarts brews a solid French Press, and give you a timer so you know when to push down the plunger.  It's the perfect cookie accompaniment.

Clockwise from the back: Hazelnut baci, ginger molasses, fleur du sel choc chip, double chocolate chew, Lil' Mama

And the cookies.  They are dainty, about 1 to 1-1/2 inches in diameter, each variety thoughtfully flavored.  Such a pleasure in this era of massive, clunky cookies, where one cookie is so often made with enough dough for three cookies.  Of course, you will probably eat more than three of these little ones.  How would you choose just one or two?  And the pricing encourages gluttony: 75 cents for one, $7.50 for a baker's dozen.

That's why I try to bring a friend to Two Tarts.  The other day I dragged my son away from the piano and went for cookies and coffee.  We picked out a baker's dozen, optimistically expecting to bring some home. Somehow we forgot to save any.

Clockwise from top: lemon bar, s'more, cappuccino cream, pumpkin seed macaroon, peanut butter cream, maple shortbread in center

I love Two Tarts' mix of cookies.  You'll find updates on old favorites, such as their chocolate chip with fleur du sel, but also cookies that remind you of old favorite store-bought cookies, heavily improved.  Their Lil' Mama, vanilla buttercream filling sandwiched between two chocolate cookies, are everything you wish an Oreo was.  The Peanut Butter Creams are peanut butter oatmeal sandwich cookies, tasting like a particularly delicious Nutter Butter.  And then there's their S'mores: two square graham cookies with housemade marshmallow in the center, the corner dipped in chocolate.

Many of the cookies benefit from being small.  Lemon bars, so often oversized, gloppy squares, are delicate and complex tasting at Two Tarts.  Others might be too rich in a bigger cookie.  Their baci are like hazelnut Mexican wedding cakes filled with chocolate ganache; specialty macaroons (pumpkin seed yesterday) are also often filled with chocolate ganache.

 Pumpkin Seed Macaroon

And their shortbread?  I've tried a few over the last year.  The lemon clove tastes deeply of cloves, a flavor that always makes me think of the Middle Ages.  Now they also have a delicate maple (made with maple sugar).  I've tried their vanilla shortbread, with a dollop of concentrated apple butter.  And yes, on a couple of very lucky days, I've walked in to find a plate of brown sugar pecan shortbread.  Sandy texture, rich with the nuts and butter, and just sweet enough.

Thinking about getting back to the piano


Grace said...

Heeheehee... "Because maybe someone won't stop playing the piano."

And he's wearing the sweater I bought him!

I miss Portland. I think I will have to stop reading your blog. Mini cookies and delicious French press and coffee delivered by bicycle - it's too much for me!

Giovanna said...

No, don't stop reading--it's all part of my evil plan! I want to make you miss Portland so much you'll stay a good long time next time you're here. As in years and years.

lshere said...

It sounds like a lovely little place and the cookies look and sound sooo tempting.

And what a nice sweater for such a handsome young man.

Francesca said...

Your kids don't have to be little to go there Fridays after school!

Can't wait for next year!

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