Sunday, October 12, 2008
A drive down the Mississippi to enjoy the Autumn Colours took us to Alma WI. Alma is a small town situated right on the banks of the river. A few years ago this was a regular trip for us and we were always happy to see the place getting better with each visit. New cafes and restaurants and many art galleries and gift stores were starting to occupy old empty buildings. It is always good to see this kind of regeneration. On our last visit, which was almost two years ago, we got chatting to someone who was in the middle of refurbishing an old building into an Ice cream Cafe. But it was obvious this was no ordinary update. The two gentlemen undertaking the project were turning this cafe into something special. They had imported antique fixtures and furnishings from Europe and had installed a tin ceiling. The cafe had a very old European feel about it, and with the gardens at the back also being brought back to life this seemed to me like a little gem in Alma's Main Street. On our return visit we stopped in for coffee for me, and ice cream for my husband. I saw at once the place was just as beautiful as before and with the addition of an amazing large brass coffee machine I thought I was in for a rare treat, really good coffee in small town US. There were beautiful ice cream dishes piled behind the counter, and nice mugs and cups. Then things started to go wrong. Both the coffee and ice cream were put into takeout cups, although we had said it was not to go. My coffee did not come from the beautiful brass coffee machine on the counter but instead from a pump vacuum. It was then put into the microwave. "It's not very hot" the server informed me, so nuked it was. I asked for a proper mug and it was poured into one. The "dark french roast" which I had ordered, and looked forward to with anticipation, was merely a cup of warm, not sure the microwave had warmed it much, wet tasteless liquid. How disappointing. When I inquired about the beautiful shining brass coffee machine I was told it was broken.I wondered if indeed it was purely ornamental and had never worked. The ice cream? Passable but nothing special.
I can't help but wonder when there was obviously so much love and attention put into creating the cafe why some of that care and attention had not been put into what was being served. Yes, the place looks beautiful, but sadly did not live up to it's promise. I'm afraid if they can't even serve a good cup of coffee, and how difficult can this be, then business will never pick up. A freshly prepared french press would have made me see the place in a completely different light. I would have been spreading the word. Sadly I cannot do this at this point. Maybe things will improve, I do hope so.
You can see from the photos how beautiful and inviting the place is so let's hope in the future it will live up to it's promises.