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On the Search for Italy’s American Cappuccino

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A little ache behind my eyes, a little pulsing throb at the top of my head. These are the signs of my espresso and cappuccino withdrawals. I spent two and a half weeks motoring around Europe, tasting at least two rich and velvety espressi a day. Sometimes for the purpose for a kick in my step and sometimes for the mere soothing taste of Italy’s fine coffee. Now that I’m back in the Bay Area, I’m on a search for an American cappuccino that tastes just as delicious as its parent Italian cappuccino.

The Search

What am I looking for? I’m lactose intolerant, so soy is a must. A thick foam that floats gracefully (at least a half-inch) above the pool of smooth, nutty espresso. Not too milky and pale, but just the right amount of milk that slips into the espresso to make it a milk chocolate color. The cappuccino should taste nutty and well, like espresso — which is harder to find than you would think! And lastly, I’ll be looking at the residence of this cappuccino. A friendly place where I can plop down to people watch and write. (Also, what kind of food is on the menu, because you never know when  you’re going to get hungry!).

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Fraiche’s Cappuccino

My first stop is Fraiche Yogurt, an all natural yogurt place with a variety of subtly sweet yogurts ranging from soy to seasonal pumpkin. The cappuccino ($4.21) I order is a regular cup size with fluffy, thick foam on top (about half an inch). It withstands my flurry of cinnamon and sprinkling of sugar. It’s not as hot as I would like, more like a warm cup of coffee. There’s no need to let it cool, but race to drink while it’s at its optimal temperature.

After adding in some honey, I take a sip and sample a nice mixture of frothy soy milk and warm coffee. I taste a little of the espresso, but more of the milk. The color is a light caramel color, but gets a little darker as I make my way down to the bottom. I also taste a little more espresso and cinnamon with the last sips.

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The menu items include a savory, non-greasy, egg frittata ($6.83) loaded with perfectly cooked broccolini and bell pepper. The home-made bread slices are from the popular Mayfield’s Bakery, known for their fresh bread made right on location of their Palo Alto restaurant. Oatmeal (top with any ingredients for the yogurt — fruit, nuts, granola, jam, etc.), soups, other baked goods, acai bowl, grain salad, smoothies and quite a selection of other hot and cold drinks. Fraiche has a perfect, cozy atmosphere with many large window to view pedestrians and the sun.

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