I'm a big proponent of downtown revitalization; especially that of historic buildings. Fortezza Coffee, at 819 S. Calhoun St., is another positive, unique addition to downtown.
From its decorative tin ceiling to its serene gray walls and dark wood furniture, Fortezza offers a welcoming atmosphere of relaxation. (Outdoor seating is also available.) Upon opening the door, you are greeted by the intoxicating smell of java. Like bacon, coffee is one of my favorite aromas.
The friend who was with me opted instead for an iced chai latte, which was served in a canning jar with a handle. The milky liquid was too sweet for my taste, but my friend pronounced it perfect.
Her creme brulee French toast was impressive in presentation and taste. Three thick slices of bread were saturated with a delicious custard and dusted with powdered sugar. Swirls of whipped cream and fresh raspberries garnished the toast. The brulee - caramelized sugar - gave the toast a deep golden brown color. She rated her meal as “fabulous.”
There are so many ways French toast can go wrong - too soggy, too greasy or burned. Fortezza's French toast was none of these. It was outstanding.
The French toast alone would have been a satisfying amount of food, but her meal also came with a small cup of yogurt sprinkled with granola. She said the tanginess of the yogurt was a perfect complement to the sweet toast.
My cappuccino - adorned with fancy latte art - wasn't as sweet as the iced chai latte and would pair well with the French toast.
The open faced chorizo sandwich I chose is definitely a knife-and-fork entree. Two slices of toasted buttery bread were slathered with creamy cottage cheese, loaded with spoonfuls of diced chorizo and topped with leaves of Frisee - a curly endive - and pickled onions. Though the sandwich looked appetizing, I have to admit I was a bit leery of the unusual mixture of ingredients. Those apprehensions were groundless; after the first bite, I realized this was a special sandwich.
This unexpected combination of ingredients was packed with complex flavors. With each bite the heat of the chorizo built; the cottage cheese offered an excellent balance to the spice. The Frisee and sweet pickled onions offered another dimension. For even more flavor be sure to take advantage of the accompanying lime wedges. The sweet potato hash was equally outstanding.
My only criticism of Fortezza Coffee was the cinnamon roll. While the flavor was good, the texture was hard and dry.
Brunch is served from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m., so be sure to get there in time to take advantage of Fortezza's unique offerings.