One of my favorite things about being in Paris is the wonderful tradition of café expres (espresso). You can pop in any old place, sit with Romance at the bar, stare at fabulous people and cool your elbows on the smooth marble countertop, while you sip a little cupful of rich, fragrant coffee. It's a very romantic, European thing—to be so grandiose, so spontaneous—to make such an event of drinking a thimble-full of anything. That anybody can accomplish such a stylish, nostalgic moment for less than $2 makes it that much more appealing.
Lately, Colin and I have been making a habit—albeit spontaneous—of popping into cafes for a little restoration. In Burlington on Church Street, there are at least two good places I can think where you can experience the inexpensive luxury of espresso, elevated to an art form. But all you really need is a bar, a good atmosphere, and of course an espresso machine (there are some really wonderful restaurants in town that, sadly, do not have one).
Lake Champlain Chocolates is perfect, because not only do they serve espresso, but they also sell what is, in my mind, the best chocolate around. The two really go hand in hand (that's why in Paris and elsewhere, they always serve espresso with a chocolate-covered coffee bean or almond). It takes the edge off the dark Arabica brew. Lake Champlain Chocolates has a little bar where you can sit and enjoy your moment while watching the passersby on the street. Colin and I dropped in the other day while we were out running errands and ordered two espressos and one square of dark chocolate (to share). The entire thing cost around five dollars, but it felt much more extravagant than that.
I know I talk about Leunig's Bistro a lot, but I can't help it. We love to eat there. And while it's true that you can get a little over-the-top with the menu, some of my favorite moments there have been the simple and spontaneous ones, sitting at the bar, with just a glass of wine and Vermont cheese plate. You could just linger there all night and really feel like a neighborhood regular by the end of it (for under $10 a person). Last night, we stopped in before a movie date for some espresso and one of their amazing maple creme brulees to share—it's the best creme brulee in town, and I'm an expert.
I don't know why I'm telling you any of this. I just felt very good when I remembered these two moments. They reminded me of other espresso moments. I love that these moments are at the same time economical, romantic, and memorable. What more could you ask for in a date?