Finding a Slice of Happiness

For those of you who’ve followed my Facebook and have seen the wealth of posts I’ve been making recently about Spoonfest, you will undoubtedly realize now that the great event of the semester has come and gone. My life should, apparently, be all the less stressful for it, but alas — as my seventh semester of Berkeley would have it, life goes on, filled with papers, quizzes, and the usual lengthy to do list.

It’s been getting difficult recently to find the light at the end of the stress tunnel. The days drag on, and events that took place yesterday feel like they passed almost three days ago. Despite all this, I decided that it was about time for a break. Whether or it was well-deserved or well-earned, I can’t be sure, but at least going to Bartavelle Coffee & Wine Bar helped me find a little slice of [avocado] happiness this morning before I returned to my books.

Photo by Courtney Cheng
Photo by Courtney Cheng

Bartavelle Coffee & Wine Bar is located a fair ways away in West Berkeley — hence my lack of a visit until now, after it received the stamp of approval from a very good, foodie friend of mine. Its storefront is unassuming. Tucked into the corner of a tiny, five-car parking lot between a winery and Acme Bread, this cafe is all too easy to overlook.

The interior space barely has enough standing room for all the patrons in line, let alone the small number of stools lining a thin bar across from the kitchen counter. It’s almost impossible to reach the coffee condiment bar without saying “pardon me” at least twice, and you better pick your table spot carefully because once you sit down, it’s essentially not worth it to get up again.

But don’t get me wrong — even with these shortcomings, Bartavelle’s fare is worth the seating and space struggles.

Their coffee is bitter, but smooth and wakes you up pleasantly. After experiencing coffee jitters this past week, I was a bit wary of ordering a caffeinated beverage, but thankfully, this cup of coffee marked the first of (at least) three that went down and settled naturally.

My foodie friend has vouched multiple times for Bartavelle’s avocado toast, so of course, I had to get it. There was no deliberation, and I was most definitely not disappointed.

Photo by Courtney Cheng
Photo by Courtney Cheng

Freshly baked Acme levain toast (from next door) is topped with a generous slather of fresh avocado, which is then topped with olive oil and red pepper flakes. The rich, creamy texture of the avocado pairs wonderfully with the crunch of the toast, and the red pepper flakes add hints of excitement to the otherwise well-blended flavor. Bartavelle’s pairs this toast with two small slices of picked carrots which, similar to the red pepper flakes, adds a nice sour tinge between bites of avocado-slathered toast. This was the first time I’d ever had avocado toast, and I finally, finally understand the mass bandwagon following it accumulated over the past couple years. It’s barely been 12 hours since I had this and I’m already ready for another order.

As is our tradition when frequenting new cafes, my partner and I also decided to splurge on a Hawaiian mochi pastry with coconut milk, vanilla, and palm sugar.

Photo by Courtney Cheng
Photo by Courtney Cheng

This tasty pastry had a lightly hardened exterior and dense, cake-like body. It was, indeed, filled with mochi — though not precisely the typical Asian mochi texture that you’d perhaps imagine. It was only half as sticky as its Asian counterpart, and this one was flavored with coconut and (what I’d consider) brown sugar. Each of the distinct flavors within the pastry complemented the others and came together in one extremely satisfying, rich experience that thankfully didn’t make me feel bloated or overwhelmed afterwards. It was tastefully sweet, and the perfect ending to a lovely Sunday breakfast.

Unfortunately, as it is now nearing the end of Sunday night, the reality of school and responsibilities returns, and so I must part with my coffee shop day dreams. But these brief visits are always a comfort, and experiences I treasure so dearly, particularly through these stressful weeks.

Onwards and upwards I go.

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