Sunday, April 3, 2011

Profile: Rene at Rim Cafe

     Sometimes we get so caught up trying to find great places to eat, finding the next great recipe, or finding where to get that perfect dessert that we forget that behind that bowl of great soup is a person.  And I really wish I could have got to know more of the people responsible for the food while I was in Europe.  While I was in Philly we were introduced to a coffee shop owner/chocolatier.  His shop was at the end of the 9th street Italian market, and its called the Rim Cafe.  You walk into a very intimate cafe, unassuming and kind of dark and behind the counter is a short Frenchman.  As soon as anyone walks in you are automatically greeted with a warm smile and a hearty greeting.  All along the walls are awards Rene has received for his chocolate, his coffee, and for his cannolis.  A dozen Best of Philly awards for various years dot the wall behind him as he standing there greeting everyone who walks through the door.  At first sight this cafe was small and since I do not drink coffee probably would never gave it a second look.  Rene not only sells coffee he makes hot chocolate and various truffles, cannoli, and biscotti. 
     I ordered a Volcano which is a spiced hot chocolate that tasted incredible and Rene made it by hand, melting the chocolate and shaving various artisan chocolates that he had made himself.  These chocolates were everything from dark chocolate, chocolate with pistachio, chocolate with peppers, and even chocolate with cinnamon and cardamom. He grated a wide variety of these chocolates over my drink and then topped it off with whipped cream.   The entire time he was making my drink he was joking and telling us stories about his life.  He has lead an interesting life and has an even more interesting personality and outlook.  He is from France and came to the United States and has fallen in love with the United States.  He kept praising his new life in the United States.
       He was always insanely positive about everything, even if he dropped a cup, he did not care.  He picked it up and then carried on joking around and tell us stories.  Another amazing drink he made was the Magnum.  It was hot chocolate topped with marshmallows and whipped cream.  This drink was not only about how great it tasted but also it was its own show.  First Rene pulled out a pot poured in the chocolate.  He then took out a hand torch and spun the chocolate while cooking the chocolate.  Not only did it smell great, it looked interesting with the chocolate bubbling and the flame treatment it was getting.  Next he poured it into their cups and topped with the marshmallows and gave them the same treatment
toasting them turning them golden brown or sometimes black on accident. Whenever he finished a drink or just at random times while we were there he would enthusiastically shouted "Make it happen"  He loved to be positive and his passion and upbeat attitude was contagious.  He loves to play with his food and that passion for his food is obvious.  He is always creating new drinks, creating new chocolates, and he has even created his own version of Nutella that he wants to start selling in stores.   He not only has that great passion for his food but it spills out into the passion with which he treats his customers as if they were family.  Walking into Rim Cafe is like walking into his living room, where you are greeted with familiarity even if its your first time there. 
         The next day we came back to say goodbye to Rene. When he heard that we were leaving he told us that we deserved a going away present.  He made us the biggest drink I have ever seen.  It started with a extra-large martini glass.  He then proceeded to fill the glass with every form of coffee he had and then decorated it with marshmallows, a red simple syrup, and a cinnamon raft with a chocolate waffle and a strawberry.  It was a work of art.  We sat down and all 9 of passed it around and took sips till it was finally gone.  Rene took tons of pictures of us during our visits and agreed to take a picture with us once we were leaving.  Meeting Rene helped remind me that sometimes its not all about the food that there are amazing people that are making the food as well.  And not just celebrity chefs or personalities.  Its the waitress at the local diner, the baker at the corner bagel place, or Rene an amazing, upbeat, and loving cafe owner who made my visit to Philly even better.
Rene's hand make chocolates
Leftovers from our good-bye present  
My Volcano being made.
One of the many awards Rene has won.

Rim Cafe on Urbanspoon

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