There was a bakery in St. Paul, or actually Minneapolis, across the street from Lake Calhoun, and the bakery was called Rustica. The bakery portion, where the actual baking took place, abutted the sidewalk and had huge plate glass windows so you could stand outside and watch the breads being moved on wooden paddles, the baguettes proofing in their cloth canoes, the buns and torpedos and rolls and loaves being pulled by floured forearms. I remember the bakery being white and stainless steel.
The next set of windows, and the door, led into a warm wooden room that smelled of freshly baked bread, golden crusts, and coffee. Croissants flaked in baskets on the the display case. Elephant ears sparkled with crystals of sugar, cinnamon rolls glistened sweet with brown spice, and olive loaves sat dusty and dark: caramelized crusts covered in flour with slices of black olives poking through. I could never decide what to get. I usually got a savory and a sweet — a dessert pastry for after my bread.
But, as if the bread weren’t enough, this bakery had the best coffee I’ve ever tasted. And I swear it had something to do with their grinder. It was an intense thing, the coffee grinder — a BIG DEAL — behind the counter, up against the wall, on it’s own sturdy table. It was rectangular, heavy, solid, stainless steel. It probably weight 100 pounds.
The grinder whirred and whined and ground the coffee almost to a powder. And when they brewed the coffee, it came out rich and strong, subtle and smooth, with no outlier burnt flavors or unpleasant bitterness. I did not know coffee could be so good.
I visited there several times when we lived in Minnesota. On winter days I’d whoosh in the door with the frozen lake behind me. I’d find a small table since I was alone, and I’d claim it with my notebook. I’d take off my wool hat and puffy down coat, unwind my scarf and pull off my gloves, and then I’d stand at the case forever before finally ordering a piece of olive bread, an almond croissant, and a coffee. And then, I’d nibble, and I’d sip, and I’d look out the window, and I’d write.
For the month of April, I will be publishing a 10-minute free write each day, initiated by a prompt from my prompt box. Minimal editing. No story. Just thoughts spilling onto the page. Thank you to cindyloucamp for the prompt, “coffee grinders.”