Friday Favorites: Cafe Legato

Ah, Cafe Legato. With a name like that, how could I not love it?

Shockingly enough, this place was discovered by my non-musician brother. His hipster soul was drawn by its relative obscurity, while I of course come back time after time for the classical music theme. Located only a few freeway exits south of my house, it has quickly evolved into my favorite work spot.

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Not just coffee. It’s the experience. But the coffee is great too.

You notice the classical music theme as soon as you walk in the door. The walls are decorated with paintings of composers and performers, framed bits of sheet music, and posters. There’s even a piano along one wall. They also have some cute branded merchandise, and one of these days I will bite the bullet and get myself a Cafe Legato mug.

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When you go to order, you can choose from a whole list of “normal” cafe beverages, as well as speciality drinks like the Vivaldi’s Winter, Staccato Freeze, Amaretto Overture, Symphony Delight, and Chai Quartet. They also have a small selection of pastries, and patrons benefit from free, no-log-in-required wifi. The best part is, you can use your FiveStars membership card here and earn points towards a free drink. (I earned mine today!)

My vanilla chai latte helping me get through a morning of church choir organizing, blog writing, and opera planning.

My vanilla chai latte helping me get through a morning of church choir organizing, blog writing, and opera planning.

I don’t have many complaints about Legato, but if I had to give one critique, it would be the staff. They tend to come across a bit unfriendly and unsociable. This is exactly the kind of place where I could see myself being a “regular” and making friends with the owners, but they never seem interested in making even the smallest of talk over the register. I’ve tried more than once, so I don’t think it’s me. (They were also giving me weird, suspicious looks while I was snapping the few photos in this post, so I apologize for the less-than-stellar quality of them.)

The good news is, the coffee is delicious and it’s a quiet place where I can come to work and feel surrounded by the music that inspires me. I just wish more people knew about it!

Bay Areans, have you ever been to Cafe Legato? Let’s go sometime!

Friday Favorites: La Lune Sucrée

When I was in grad school, one of my go-to food stops before, after, and in between classes was La Lune Sucrée, a Europe-inspired café right across the street from the campus. My friends and I would go out of our way to eat there, running (okay, speed walking) all the way to the other side of campus from the music building and across the street, wait 20 minutes for our sandwiches or crepes, and rush all the way back to the music building for our next class. Sometimes we wouldn’t even have time to eat until after the next class, but it didn’t matter because we had food from “La Lune” in our possession.

Me (second from right) and three friends on one of our frequent lunch dates at La Lune.

Me (second from right) and three friends, including Julie at Alone With My Tea, on one of our frequent lunch dates at La Lune. Photo courtesy of Julie herself. 🙂

I happened to be downtown today running an errand, so naturally I paid a visit to La Lune.

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Look how cute it is!

Beautiful painted window that I love.

Beautiful painted window that I love.

Just part of their menu. It's all so delicious!

Just part of their menu. It’s all so delicious!

My sandwich of choice is the brie and ham, which comes on a baguette and also has apple slices and toasted almonds on it. Yummmmm. I didn’t have time to eat there, so I brought it home to enjoy while packing for church camp this weekend.

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Look at that goodness.

La Lune Sucrée is located at 116 Paseo de San Antonio, San Jose, CA 95112. Next time you’re visiting downtown San Jose, I highly encourage you to stop there and enjoy one of their life-changing sandwiches, crepes, or pastries, or even just a cup of coffee or a pot of tea.

Note: This is not a sponsored post.

Bad Drivers and Harrassment

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: Bay Area drivers are the worst.

One time, before T and I were married, he was driving me home one night and we saw someone turn left onto the wrong side of the road and then just sit there.

Another time, in college, we saw a biker get hit by a car. The bike and the guy did several flips in the air and landed in the middle of the street. Luckily the fire station was two blocks away, and the guy ended up being fine.

A third time, we were driving home from our church (which is in the middle of a notoriously bad driving area), and the person next to us at a stoplight was so anxious to get through the light that they just kept inching forward. By the time the light turned green, they were literally in the middle of the intersection already.

About six months ago, I was driving home in the evening and changed lanes completely safely and legally. The person behind me in the new lane, who was going about 20 MPH over the speed limit in a red sports car, followed me to the dry cleaner where I was stopping on my way home, parked their car in the middle of a lane in the parking lot, and ambushed me as I got out of my car.

A couple of weeks ago, I was stopped at the last left turn before home on my way home from rehearsal. The person in the left turn lane next to me rolled down their window and started yelling “HEY!” over and over at me. When I didn’t respond or look at them, they proceeded to throw things at my windshield. Luckily a) it was just a couple of pretzels or something and b) the light changed right then.

And those aren’t all the stories I have. I’ve seen people stopping right in the middle of expressways in front of me, people making right turns from the leftmost lane, people driving 40 on the freeway and 80 on the streets. I’ve also been in accidents where I got rear-ended and the cop wouldn’t even bother taking my information because I was a 20-something woman in jeans and the other person was a middle-aged man in a business suit. This very day I got cussed at for pulling up to a stoplight and preventing someone from making an illegal left turn on the other side of the road. The number of times I have been verbally harrassed by other drivers for my perfectly legal, safe driving habits (read: only been pulled over once, ever) is shocking. If only we had a halfway decent public transportation system, there’s no way on God’s beautiful green earth that I would even bother driving.

Do you have any awful driving stories to share?

On the Decline of Arts Organizations

I have to take a pause from my Europe trip recap to share my thoughts on an issue that has become rather personal to me recently, especially since it affects both me and many of my closest friends. It may not be obvious to the average American, but to those of us who work in the industry, it seems like a new theater or opera company closes its doors every week.

Earlier this year, New York City Opera declared bankruptcy and shut down. A couple months later, San Diego Opera made the shocking announcement that they were following suit, and only after much drama and discussion about the shady activities of its highest level of directors did they miraculously rise from the dead. And just this week, the press releases started flowing about the closing of San Jose Repertory Theatre in my own hometown.

The San Jose Rep.

The San Jose Rep. Source

Obviously, this most recent closure stings the most for me and my immediate circle of colleagues. Back in the fall, I participated in the Rep’s workshop of The Snow Queen, an original musical based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairly tale of the same title (the same source material for Frozen, FYI). They had auditioned music and theatre students on our campus the previous spring and I was lucky enough to be offered a spot. Together with a handful of other students, I had the chance to read through an original script and score to give the writers a chance to adapt it before the “real” production went up. It was a fantastic experience and a fun process, and when I found out a few days ago that the company will close its doors, it seemed more real and personal to me than those other, larger companies for whom I had never worked.

When the announcement came out about the Rep, my Facebook news feed exploded with shocked, upset, and even angry comments from the theatre and music world. There were several themes that manifested themselves in these comments, but one of them stood out to me more than others: “Why, in one of the capitals of wealth in the state, the country, and even the world, couldn’t the tech industry manage to bail out a struggling theatre company?”

Honestly, I think there’s a perfectly good answer: it’s not their responsibility.

Yes, art and culture is a huge part of what makes the Bay Area thrive. Some would probably argue that that alone means that we all have a responsibility to keep it alive, and maybe that’s true of individual people and businesses that are directly related to the arts or have already expressed an interest in them. But we, the arts industry and its supporters, can’t assume that the big corporations or “the 1%” will step in to save our skins every time we find ourselves in financial trouble.

Obviously I’m on the side of the arts here. It’s my job, for goodness’ sake. But allow me to be controversial for one second and tell you what I think the real problem is for a company like the Rep: no one cares about their seasons. They program shows that don’t draw an audience. One glance through the archived seasons list on their website is extremely telling. Upon showing the list to my husband who doesn’t work in the industry but is an arts appreciator, a category that I imagine most of the Rep’s patrons fall into, he recognized maybe three titles over the past eight seasons, with eight shows per season. That’s not a very good ratio, or one that will interest the average theatergoer.

This is true for opera companies as well. Many smaller companies are programming operas that are rarely performed and thus less popular, or modern operas whose music doesn’t appeal to the average non-musically educated audience member. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely support the programming of these kinds of shows. After all, opera won’t survive if nothing new is being composed. But entire seasons of obscure repertoire in the name of being “artsy” or “controversial” can’t carry a company financially.

I hope it’s not too late for the Rep. It’s an extremely important part of the arts scene in San Jose, and I would love to see it make a comeback like the San Diego Opera did. However, I also hope that other companies will learn from the Rep’s struggles and realize that the answer isn’t waiting around for a patron or the tech industry to rescue them. They need to rethink how they attract audiences and make their seasons relatable and interesting to the people who buy tickets. When did that become such a challenge?

Randoms For Your Monday

It’s been a long time since I posted, partially because I’m so freaking busy, and partially because I feel like I don’t have anything interesting to say. So here are a few random facts about me and other thoughts.

1. One of the things I love most about being a singer is the work uniform… that is, I love wearing fancy dresses. I have a board on Pinterest called “Dress Envy” and it’s one of my most frequently used boards. I was at the mall today on my lunch break and I had to stop and look at the gowns and day dresses. I have a recital coming up, which is a great excuse to buy a new gown, right?

The gown for last night's concert. I love it, but somehow it was a little smaller when I first bought it...

The gown for last night’s concert. I love it, but somehow it was a little smaller when I first bought it…

2. I’m a master at eating in my car. The other day I ate pasta with a fork while driving. It’s really just out of necessity, since I’m almost always either engaged in an activity that prevents me from eating (like singing), or driving to or from work or rehearsal or whatever. The bad news is, my car is full of empty food containers and silverware. And no, I have never once gotten pulled over or gotten in an accident because of eating.

3. Our city had a really bad sports week. Between the Sharks losing to the Kings and the Warriors losing to the Clippers, it’s pretty safe to say the Bay Area hates L.A. right now. Few people are more depressed about it than T, who promptly and grumpily shaved off his beard after the Sharks threw away Game 7.

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T and I at the Sharks game we most recently went to, before the playoffs (and the sucking) started.

4. T and I have an unhealthy relationship with our cats, Nora and Nigel. We spoil them and treat them like people. As a result, they can be quite the troublemakers:

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KITTEHS.

And finally…

5. We are going to be an aunt and uncle in October!!! T’s older brother and his wife are expecting their first baby. We don’t yet know the due date or the gender, but that info should be coming to us soon. We’re SO excited, and of course T’s parents are beside themselves. Can’t wait to welcome Baby W into the world!

Yummy Spots: The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf

One of the great things about living in the Bay Area is the abundance of awesome coffee shops. Possibly due to the abnormally high number of hipsters that flock to San Francisco, many of these places are independently owned and offer a tasty, cheaper (and in some cases, green and healthy-ish) alternative to the Starbucks empire.

Today’s post is not about one of those independent, hole-in-the-wall shops. But it is about a place we didn’t even have anywhere near the Bay Area until a couple of months ago.

The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf was one of my most-frequented spots during college, since the branch furthest north was only a 20-minute drive away from my college town. Once I moved back to the Bay Area after college, I particularly missed their cinnamon-y, earthy, delicious chai lattes. Every time I make a trip to SoCal, where there are an abundance of Coffee Beans, I make it a point to go, even if it means going out of the way to a shopping center a mile away from the freeway.

So imagine my giddy, squealing, practically jumping-up-and-down delight when I discovered this past December that there was a Coffee Bean going in at one of our local malls, right here in San Jose! It’s not the closest mall to my house, which is probably better for our bank account, but while I was waiting for T’s car to get smogged today, I was able to run across the street to the other mall and grab a much-longed-for chai latte from the brand new shop.

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The other people relaxing in the open café area thought I was ridiculous for taking a selfie.

If you’re planning a trip to SoCal, it absolutely must include a visit to Coffee Bean. And if you find yourself in NorCal, specifically West San Jose, check out the newest location at Westfield Valley Fair!