For an escape from the typical café snobbery, Cloud Forest Café serves up a delightful blend of culinary freshness and friendly ambiance.
Expansive windows line the front of the café on D Street, and local artists‘ paintings and vintage coffee burlap sacks adorn the surrounding walls. The atmosphere is entirely unlike that of the dark, cave-like Mishka’s, and with fewer future-prize-winning-poets-slash-antisocial-computer-junkies pecking away at their laptops.
Cloud Forest is open and bright, with an outdoor patio where couples with their dogs can be seen sipping coffee and smiling at the young family next to them.
And although the café offers wireless Internet connection to their customers, most come for the food, drinks and service – if not the freshly roasted coffee.
The menu offers a wide variety of sandwiches, salads, pastries, bagels, smoothies and juices. The sandwiches defy the laws of café cuisine; there are no ordinary club sandwiches with coleslaw on the side. Costumers instead order items like the “Cloud Forest,” a panini on herb focaccia with turkey, pesto, avocado, Monterrey cheese, mayonnaise, mixed greens and tomato.
Most of the sandwiches are flavorful takes on traditional recipes. For instance, my favorite “Fresh Mozz,” is a basic tomato, mozzarella and basil panini, but with a tangy vinaigrette on their trademark herb focaccia. The sandwich is pressed with olive oil, which, on some days makes for a crunchy shell, but on better days has a satisfying crispness.
Even the potato salad served on the side validates the food-oriented character of the Cloud Forest Café. With the right amount of creaminess and crunchiness, the salad is one of the best items on the menu.
But not the best – that’s the coffee.
The owner buys the coffee beans while they’re still green from a coffee warehouse in Oakland. He roasts the beans about every other day in the café’s roaster, which makes this coffee the very freshest Davis has to offer. The beans come from several different countries, each roasted on different days, ensuring customers a variety of different flavors.
The taste is outstanding and strong. Unlike Starbucks or Peet’s coffee, it doesn’t taste muted, stale or burnt – a testament to the fresh quality of the beans and roasting process. A non-coffee loving friend who lunched with me even liked the Guatemalan blend we had that day.
The café also sells half-pounds and pounds of their coffee for a reasonable price of $10 and $12, respectively. But keeping in mind the freshness of the blend, a cup ordered on the day the coffee is roasted is a rewarding culinary experience.
To accompany that coffee, the café recently added bagels with homemade cream cheese to the menu for cheaper than Posh Bagels down the road. Though I have yet to try them, I feel confident that the flavors promised – artichoke and jalapeño, roasted garlic and chive and sun dried tomato, to name a few – will keep consistent with the high quality tastes of the café.
Even if coffee isn’t your cup of tea, Cloud Forest serves freshly squeezed juice from their juice bar. Though the orange juice is standard, the “Three Amigos” with carrot, apple and orange, is an unexpected but tangy refreshment. The smoothies are also fairly ordinary, but are nonetheless fresh and healthy.
The only major complaint would be the furniture. The chairs, for instance, are small and not very sturdy, which tends to make dining experiences less comfortable. The tables are also rickety and somewhat small – an indicator that the café is still premature after it’s November 2008 opening.
At times the quiet of the café can be unsettling if you’re not studying or reading the newspaper, but for those calm mornings and afternoons, Cloud Forest is the place to be. A little upbeat music wouldn’t hurt, though.
The service is pleasant and welcoming. A few times that I’ve been there, the chef has offered samples of ingredients, like caramelized almonds. The cashiers are consistently friendly and helpful – whenever I can’t decide what to eat, they offer suggestions, which usually turn into a satisfying meal.
The owners of Cloud Forest Café manage to keep the prices low, considering the fresh ingredients they use. All sandwiches, salads and pastries typically cost $5.00, unless you want to add extra ingredients. The price is about the same for a ASUCD Coffee House sandwich, but for an exponentially better product, and less than a Nugget sandwich, which is comparable in taste.
Its close proximity to campus and its location downtown make the Cloud Forest Café ideal for a college town like Davis, and the prices are equally ideal for such a town. If the food and atmosphere of the little café don’t sell you, the coffee will. I, myself, am well on my way to becoming a Cloud Forest regular.
LAUREN STEUSSY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.