It's What's Inside that Counts.
I was reminded of a lesson we've all heard from our grandmothers a thousand times, "It's what's inside that counts." I went to Cafe Astoria, home of the infamous rainbow, floral, and 24k gold lattes. The Minnesota foodie Instagramers posting their tantalizing photos of seemingly impossibly beautiful lattes have taunted me for months. I needed to go, I needed to consume the perfection inside those mugs sip by sip.
The time finally came last week. It was my coworker Katie's last few days, she was leaving us to go back to school and follow her dream of becoming an interior designer, an admirable move to say the least. She had also been tormented by the perfection of the Cafe Astoria Instagram, and a group of us decided to celebrate by finally joining the elite rainbow latte club. We grabbed menus, and agreed that we wanted the maximum beauty possible at our table, so we were to all order something different. We chose from the signature drink list, we thought that these assuredly would be the most gorgeous. I ordered "Leah's Happy Place," a lavender and pistachio matcha latte, and I couldn't wait to see what ornate decolletage would adorn my mug.
We. Were. Wrong. Our names were called at the counter, and these things were NOT what we wanted. They looked NORMAL! My lunch cohort took their drinks with slightly disappointed, yet accepting faces and found us a table. I on the other hand, the most "extra" and definitely the highest maintenance of the group, did not come all the way from Bloomington to St. Paul on a lunch break for a normal looking latte. I came for the gold, God dammit! I went back to the counter, and explained that I had ordered the wrong thing, and that I wanted "a pretty drink." I come from the restaurant industry and customer service world, and here I was being the worst kind of customer, wining at the register because my drink wasn't pretty enough. I assure you, I was rolling my eyes at myself the entire time, and did apologize a lot. "I'm so sorry ma'am, I know this is annoying, and this is completely my fault, but may I also order a, ummm, a pretty one?" She knew exactly what I meant, and I ordered a RAINBOW M-FING MATCHA LATTE. But I mean come on, look at that drink, can you really blame me?
I walked back to my table with my second, much prettier beverage, and my friends couldn't help but laugh at the strange sense of pride I had for my new acquisition. "I hope it's good!" Katie said, with the unspoken implication of "you just spent a lot of money on a second expensive drink because of how colorful it is." I sat down smugly, "Oh, it will be."
I. Was. Wrong. Well, i wasn't wrong per se, it was good, but it didn't hold a candle to my first drink. That's right folks, the ugly drink tasted way better than the pretty one. At this point I should probably clarify, the "ugly" one wasn't ugly at all. It was in fact lovely looking, and would have been very photogenic under different circumstances, but these rainbow creations really are the supermodels of the latte world, and they set impossibly high beauty standards. Leah's favorite matcha latte was nutty, floral, warm and soothing. The rainbow matcha latte had peppermint and tasted very strongly of it, which wasn't bad, but definitely not as good as the pistachio and lavender.
So there you have it. I came to Cafe Astoria for the gram, and I got a much deeper lesson in internal versus external beauty. Thank you for that, Cafe Astoria. I will be back, and I will be ordering another gorgeous latte (I've got my eyes on those edible pansies of yours), but I'll also be ordered an ugly latte on the side.