It's 9 a.m., and a hungry drunk waiting for Tower Liquor to open next door has found his way to the free samples of pastries at the new White Windmill Bakery and Cafe. Confused over a glutinous rice doughnut, he bumps into a bustling Asian business babe holding tapioca tea. A jazz rendition of Charlie Brown's "Christmas Time Is Here" is playing in the background. It's not even Halloween. Or is it?
The inebriated one hones in on the familiar – a pastry decked with slices of hot dogs, relish and DayGlo mustard. Exploded Chicago dog meets croissant. Behind a wide window, chefs in origami high hats are piping out multitudes of miniature cookies full of mystery onto silver racks. A couple on a plush couch in the intimate seating area is kissing coyly. The aroma of bread, tea, coffee, the business babe's perfume and the drunk's perspiration wafts.
Don Quixote-worthy White Windmill offers an evocative atmosphere, even for Buford Highway, the place where cultural collisions of time, space and race commonly offer mad mixtures. Mexican meat markets flank massage spas. But this new Korean-owned, European-style cafe, serving Japanese-French-inspired baked goods, stands out like a sore thumb. So sore you want to suck it.
Don't say no to the deep-fried dough: Enter this almost scarily clean and somewhat cavernous cafe and grab a basket tray. Select your own sin among tables full of goodies, then pay at the counter. Try the pumpkin cream-cheese spirals, the delicately bagged cookies made with Earl Grey tea leaves, peanut-butter bread filled with cream cheese and enticing curry croquettes. The samosa-tasting pockets of dough are filled with an egg, veggies and earthy spice mix, all wrapped, deep-fried and lightly sugared. There are lacey mandel cookies, corn sticks speckled with poppy seeds, napoleons with strawberry cream, green-bean-puree puffs and butterfly-shaped walnut rye flour rolls crusted with fat nuts.
Counter encounters: Behind the counter lie other interesting offerings. Skip the prepackaged sandwiches ($2.99). The bland macaroni sandwich is an egg, pasta and mayonnaise mix. Do order a single serving of tiramisu or flan, or go for a slice of delicate green-tea cake topped with a sprig of parsley. There is little printed menu to speak of but ask nicely for the green-tea-sherbet fruit salad where homemade ice cream is piled with kiwis and berries and real European whipped cream (oh my, and around $4). Only the mixed-in corn flakes alter the elegance. But at least there's a touch of Americana in the milieu.
Trippy tea time: The tea, coffee and smoothie selection is generous, though once again, a more detailed menu might help in decision-making processes. Skip the overpriced plum teas ($3.50), made from a tube concentrate, and concentrate instead on a classic espresso or a "special tea" blend such as the French rose-petal mix or the Himalayan green. There's even a bourbon blend that might appeal to the man who has lingered here even after the liquor store opened.
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