Rainy Day in Venice à la Française : Le Café au Zinque

"The fragrance & adventure of poetry endlessly pervades each cup of tea"~ Henri Mariage

This morning, gray drizzle. I am wearing a knit scarf, yoga pants, a long sleeve cotton top, and a cozy sweater. But I am not wearing boots on this rainy day. In true Venetian style, I am wearing flip flops in hopes that I'll make it over to the beach on my cruiser bicycle. Perhaps it will clear up, and I can stroll along the sand. I haven't had leisurely time these days. I am not accustomed to it either. But the soul requires slow. I am a dreamy sort, trying to keep up with the quick moving city bustle. I think to myself, we can't possibly be made for rushing about in the fray, driving in traffic, spending hours upon hours in the car, wondering what to make for dinner, when and where to buy groceries, and then worrying about things that we don't want to think about but do, because sitting in traffic trying to get to places on time will trigger that sort of thinking. And so, in defiance of all the hurry scurry that usually fills my days, I am having a lovely cup of tea, an egg sandwich with tomato, basil and Swiss cheese, and a bowl of granola with berries and yogurt. The bowl of granola with its yogurt, plain and unassuming, lightly covered in granola with fresh raspberries, blueberries, and halved grapes.

This newly opened coffee house/wine bar in Venice is just near the intersection of Abbot Kinney and Venice Boulevard, and it's très français. Warm, fresh from the oven le pain au chocolat, croissants that taste like croissants, tartines, café, thé, vin et le champagne... oysters every Monday night with a master ecailler, wine tastings, and other temptations that are just irresistable.

How can one resist? Comment pouvez-vous?

Le Zinque, a coffee and wine bar, is just the place for me. The first time I came to Le Zinque was with Darling for a cozy evening nibble of cheese, some tartines, and a carafe of wine for two.

French cafés are zincs, and its interior is as simple as its name--- a long wood counter, concrete floor, rustic beams, nothing fancy. It's Abbot Kinney location lends even more of a hip and yet relaxed feel, an easygoing nonchalance, where writers like me can enjoy a moment of contemplation and feel the creativity flow through our veins with a little chocolat et thé.

Writers and artists have always flocked to cafés, throughout history. Paris had its Montparnasse brimming with les artistes, and Café du Dôme was where all the intellectuals, sculptors, writers, poets, painters, and penniless bohemians had their fill of sausage (Saucisse de Toulouse) and mashed potatoes for cheap or perhaps a drawing or poem on a napkin. Which I wish still worked as currency, because I'd have to paint a grand painting for my pain au chocolat et thé at Le Zinque for my petit morning of leisure. My egg sandwich is superb, however. They bake the eggs in muffin tins so the egg comes out plump and round, with the swiss cheese melted lusciously all over it, peppered, the tomato juicy and tasting of fresh tomato, not mealy textured or watery, basil leaf dripping with moist delicacy, the English muffin crisp and warm.

And how I love a good egg sandwich. The tea is Mariage Frères, Rouge Bourbon Vanillè. It is a vanilla black tea, creamy, exotic, marvelously sensual. Frothy steamed milk served in a large bowl-like cup. The egg sandwich, satisfying my need for comfort.

It is my new bohemian habit to come to this café, and have tea, or if later in the day, a glass of wine, a tartine. One morning I arrived early, just as the pain au chocolat came out of the oven. The flaky and tender pain au chocolat paired with a Marco Polo tea filled my belly as I read through a cookbook, planning my next cooking adventure. Ah, the Marco Polo tea blend is a marvelous flavor. According to the tea maker, Marco Polo tea is "Mariage Frères' most famous secret is this mysterious blend that takes you to distant lands and strange countries." Chinese and Tibetan flowers are blended with fruit, giving a uniquely deep and floral bouquet. Its aroma lingered as I sipped from my cup, and then a bite of the buttery pain au chocolat. I will be like the artistes of Montparnasse, and frequent Zinque as often as I can write, paint and create, for the love of food and sensuality.