“We just opened!” Karen, the sister of the owner of Atwater Village’s Proof Bakery says, proudly. She hands me cheddar chive grougere, excited now, because I wanted something savory, and this, by golly, was going to do it. “It’s only our fifth day,” she says to someone else who stops in. And she says it again and again, as people come in and out, some curious about the new kid in town, some still confounded by the fact that their old classmate Toni’s Rolling Pin moved on and Proof in.
Yeekai Lim, on the other hand, is manning his Cognescenti Coffee station. He’s talking milk. Strauss or Clover, which has a more neutral taste? He’s trying to figure out which would be better suited for his fantastic cappuccinos. He’s excited to try out the Strauss.
A 20ish biker (telltale sign: rolled up pant leg, right side only) comes in and orders tea. He seems to regret it a little bit once he discovers that Yeekai brews San Francisco’s Four Barrel coffee. He’s from San Francisco, too. He commits to his tea, though. Karen delivers it to him in kettle as he sets up his iPad on some strange contraption that I can only describe as a cross between one of those metal brackets you use to prop up your cookbook, bright orange version, and a DIY pop-up book. Me, I guess I’m stuck in the early-2010s with my laptop, propped up on nothing but its own plastic. Womp womp.
An old man, white hair, balding, stares at the bakery through the glass door. It’s a little creepy, actually, until he comes in and demands, almost politely, to know where the old bakery went. Toni’s. “Toni’s gone,” Karen explains, “But my sister [Na Young Ma] also makes some delicious baked treats!” He’s a little appalled, and asks if they have French bread. “Oh – no,” Karen says. “At least, not yet.” He thanks her and shuffles out.
The cheddar-chive grougere is very good. Very very good. Savory, yes. Hit the spot, yes. Perfect with Yeekai’s perfectly pulled cap.
Two women, a little boy and a little girl, come in. They’re looking for a bathroom. “Sorry!” Karen says, and directs them down the street to the Subway. The women linger. One of them asks the children if they want dessert. They do: ice cream. Sigh, dessert is right in front of them, and they want the other dessert. Kids are kids, I guess. “We’ll come back,” one of them says, on their way out.
They do come back. I thought she meant that they’d come back tomorrow or next week, but no, she really meant it. Between iPad guy’s commitment to his tea and these women, you’d think everyone in town was as true to their words. The whole party returns: the women with their purses, the boy with a Drumstick (the ice cream, not a roasted leg), the girl with a Push-Up (the ice-cream, not the punishment). Apparently, there is either a liquor store or an ice-cream truck wailing London Bridges nearby. The women order grown-up desserts (Valrhona shortbread cookies and a croissant) and coffee. They are very excited to try both.
Did I say how good the cappuccino is? It’s very good. Smooth. I could drink this all day, but it’s probably better for my nerves that I don’t.
A girl comes in and buys out the remainder of the cheddar chive grougeres. Ah, so she knows. She considers a cup of coffee, but hesitates because she’s already had one for the day. I convince her to get another. It’s rude to interrupt people’s decision-making process, but I had to interject for her own good. She asks Yeekai for a latte, and is doubly impressed by his latte art. This would be my one good deed of the day.
Two guys, caps on backward, lids ironed flat, come in and ask if they do ice-blended drinks. No. They thank everyone politely and leave. No one directs them to Starbucks.
Others wander in; some because they know Yeekai from Cognescenti’s first incarnation as a pop-up stand inside Acai Yogurt in Eagle Rock. They stay to try a Proof treat. Others are lured in by the delicious baked goods and want to know how much is that pastry in the window. They stay to try a cap or a poured-over coffee.
Proof and Cognescenti – come for one, stay for the other. It’s like the married couple you don’t mind having dinner with.
As of this post, Proof & Cognescenti have been open now for a little over three weeks. Check out their great space in Atwater Village, 3516 Glendale Blvd. Hours are Wednesday-Sunday, 8am to 4pm.