People have been talking about love all week. After all, 'tis the season for mixed messages sent through conversation hearts (be careful who you give that 'ILY' to), overpriced long-stem roses (I prefer my stems short, thankyouverymuch), and Instagram snaps of you and your Valentine (human, cat, or otherwise). This year, however, it seemed that a lot of people realized that February 14th doesn't have to be about material things. That instead, we can use this time to ponder love in all its forms, and perhaps even hold on to this appreciation beyond the 14th, through the rest of our year.
I was recently able to appreciate love found out in the wild, in the form of a little café in Mid-Wilshire called Paper or Plastik. The place is like a breath of fresh air; the huge open space is flooded with light from the floor-to-ceiling windows. Even on a weekday, it's full of people chatting, sipping coffee, and enjoying each others' company. Every little detail speaks to the care that was put into making this place - it's in the handwritten menus and signs, the pieces of art hiding here and there, the shelves of hand-picked boutique items, the rack of carefully curated independent magazines, the gorgeous handmade pastries lined up neatly in the case, and of course, the wonderful coffee. Many tables are laptop-free zones, reserved for "dining, daydreaming, and conversation," reminding us to disconnect and appreciate the world around us. There are even pops of red, the ultimate color of love, found throughout the décor. And as if all this weren't enough, when I arrived, the Sleepless in Seattle soundtrack was playing. If that won't help you to find love in the world, I don't know what will.
It's really no wonder that Paper or Plastik is oozing with love - its founders are a family of artists: husband-and-wife team Anya & Yasha Michelson and their daughter, Marina. The Michelsons opened Paper or Plastik in 2010 as an addition to their lively dance studio and special event space, Mimoda. The cafe offers customers a place to experience a sense of community while enjoying lovingly crafted food and drink. Chef Brian Leitner, a native Angeleno passionate about sustainability and farm-to-table cooking who counts Alice Waters and Gordon Drysdale among his mentors, oversees a diverse menu that changes seasonally. With tempting breakfast items offered until 3pm daily, this is a perfect spot for those pesky weekday brunch cravings. We've brunched here ourselves a few times, and hold a very high opinion of the blueberry ricotta pancakes.
But today, we're here to talk about the coffee. Paper or Plastik fits right in to the third-wave coffee movement, putting quality and sustainability at the forefront of their efforts. Brews offered include a selection from popular roasters like Coava, 49th Parallel, and Black Oak, as well as their own single origin beans roasted in-house. Milk selections include dairy milk from Straus Family Creamery and Califia Farms almond milk. Alongside the classics, the coffee menu features fun, signature drinks like the Lavender Chai, the Maple Latte, and the Mole Cortado.
As expected, in the name of science, I ordered up my usual cappuccino. Served in a small glass cup (as is apparently the fashion these days), this lovely concoction was piping hot and full of flavor. It reminded me a bit of eating a really nice slice of tiramisu; it was buttery and smooth like a thick whipped cream, and had a warm aftertaste with flavors like cocoa or hazelnut. The foam-to-coffee ratio was just right, and it was adorned with lovely latte art which was topped, appropriately, with a little heart. Delightful.
As I enjoyed that lusciously creamy cappuccino and watched the world go by, I heard the ever-familiar crooning of Jimmy Durante, asking me to "make just one someone happy." If that was indeed the goal, then the folks at Paper or Plastik have surely succeeded. And I hope that they're happy, too.
Paper or Plastik Cafe
5772 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90019