A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Esselon Café

I stopped into the Esselon Café recently while cruising around the Happy Valley with friend Lorna. I'd been passing the café on Rt. 9 in Hadley and wondering about it for some time. It had popped up like a mushroom all of a sudden: the building looked old, but at the same time unfamiliar. With an attractive yet kind of weird name that sounded like it should be something spelled backwards.

Turns out it's the latest project of Scott Rao, who sold his extremely popular Rao's Coffee in Amherst a while back and went down under for a time. His partner is former Rao's customer Denis Laflamme, whose wife Essie was the inspiration for the café's name. The pair spent hundreds of thousands of dollars renovating every square inch of the place--to look old.

There's lots of wood everywhere, a big old coffee roaster in the back corner, a really nice enclosed porch, and a superb outdoor space with adirondack chairs and tables made out of rocks. Obviously not a choice for midwinter, but undoubtedly a prime spot in warmer weather. My favorite part of the décor was the hand-rubbed tin ceiling, intricate and beautiful.

The scones were good--not as good as mine, which are fabulous, if I do say so myself, but better than the gluey overly-sodaed lumps of dough that pass for scones in most places. And the coffee was excellent. Coffee is one thing Scott Rao had mastered before he ever left the Valley. Now he's back, the coffee is back, and you can have it in a really charming spot. Hugs all around.