Art Burn: Leaving Town by Way of Essence Bakery Café

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It's about this time of year that Phoenicians -- even some of the natives -- start looking to get out. It's not that we don't love our warm, sunny spot on the map. It's just that our hotter than hell summers are the equivalent of snowy northern winters; the time of year in a particular region where locals just need to go somewhere else for a couple of days. Basically, anywhere with a different climate.

And while we haven't quite made it to our annual "summer vacation" yet, on one recent visit, Essence Bakery Café on University Dr. in Tempe managed to temporarily transport us to San Francisco, Europe and some nameless wonderland where it actually rains. How? Well, the food has a distinctly European sensibility (we'll get to that later) and they offer amazing French macarons, but it's photographer Mark Kroeppler's prints that really eased our cabin, er, city fever.

More food and photos after the jump...     

These two water-related images again give us a taste of what Phoenix residents crave. Water. In After the Rain (top), Kroeppler captures the achingly beautiful moment just after a storm, when the water below calms and the sun breaks through the clouds. It's the kind of image that brings you right into that time and place, as if you'd just witnessed the storm firsthand. So lovely...

In this image, Kroeppler addresses an interesting paradox -- can a photograph of art be art in itself? The garage mural, painted by artist Susan Cervantes is certainly a stunning work of art, infusing SF's Mission District with a little tropical flavor. Kroeppler's photo allows us to see the gorgeous mural, whereas otherwise those outside of San Francisco might never have that chance. Yet, a photo of someone else's art always seems second-rate, much like a photocopy will never quite be the same as the original no matter how good the copier. Perhaps that's why this one isn't for sale.  

The food at Essence is as clean, crisp -- and sometimes colorful -- as Kroeppler's prints. Sandwiches, salads and oh-my-god-that-looks-orgasmic cookies and pastries are offered, plus a good-sized breakfast menu served well into afternoon. What we love about Essence is that plates are served European style, meaning don't expect the heaping pile of eggs and eight gazillion meat products you'll get at IHOP. 

The "Big Breakfast" includes one large Schreiner's sausage, a yummy seasoned potato cake, eggs, toast and some tomato slices. It's big enough for a manly man, but not so big you're rolling out of there. The fried egg sandwich with gruyere, tomato and ham we had on our last visit was perfectly portioned, and delicious. We totally intended to leave without eating one of the store's delicate pastel macarons. And we did.

Instead, we took home a whole box, for, um, our friends and family.

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