Gluten-Free Goes Dunkable at ETG in Fremont

Lorilynn Mason, owner of ETG in Fremont, laughs. A lot.
Today, my inability to pay attention has worked out in my favor. I am sitting at ETG Coffee and Bakery in Fremont, because it is next door to Silence-Heart-Nest, and Silence-Heart-Nest is closed. It is a normal business day, but I neglected to note the dates of the staff's Spiritual Retreat on their website before driving all the way to "The Center of the Universe," thus ending up trapped in Fremont without breakfast.

Fortunately, two doors down, ETG is open, and carries gluten-free pastries. A significant portion of a cinnamon-hazelnut biscotti is bobbing gloriously around in my morning Americano, marking the first pastry-dunk my coffee has seen in years. While that may not sound especially appetizing, let me just say that you never know how great it is until you miss it.

Gluten-free biscotti are not a frequent find, and the ones at ETG are worth trying. Made in the classic thick-cut, softer style of homemade biscotti rather than in the tradition of those stale, chocolate-dipped cookies usually served in coffee shops, the cinnamon-hazelnut flavor combination proves just right for coffee accompaniment. It must be noted that gluten-free pastries at ETG are prepared in a small bakery, with special attention to avoiding cross-contamination, but there is no dedicated facility. Also, they are kept on separate plates, but in the same case as the regular pastries, so those with very serious allergy concerns should be cautious.

If you are able to visit, however, you should. ETG is a staple of the Fremont community. Although tiny and often overlooked, the business has been operating in the same location for 29 years, and remembers a myriad of stories about people and places in the neighborhood. Elements like the elaborate chandelier and truly vintage cash register give a sense of having stepped back in time, or else (when combined with the Escher-reminiscent floor) of having stepped sideways into another dimension. Owner Lorilynn Mason falls easily into conversation with every person who comes in, making it impossible to ascertain which customers are long-time regulars and which are first-time visitors.

Gettin' cozy with the clientele: space is limited at ETG.
The way Lori tells the story, the coffee shop was named because the original ownership team couldn't think of a name, and so decided on "ETG" for "Espresso to Go," which was all they focused on at the time. Even today, there is only one table with two chairs in the store, and no wireless Internet or other incentive to sit and stay except the conversations, stories, and escape from the norm. In the miniature entryway, two customers are company, but three make a significant crowd; as I've decided to sit at the table and enjoy the quirkiness for a while, I've discovered that four customers coming in the door means that one of them will end up nearly sitting in my lap. But it seems that everyone here accepts this, and is open to being temporary best friends with any and every other person in the store.

As an added benefit to the gluten-free goodness and cheery communal lack-of-space, if you stick around a while and listen, you might learn something really fun about the neighborhood, or walk away with a new bit of life wisdom. My favorite for the day? In response to someone accusing her of running too many ventures at once (she also owns Tippicanu children's clothing), Lori insightfully replied, "You have to diversify in this world. Because you never know. One day, you may be going along and the building might fall down. Oh wait! That DID happen once . . . "

. . . just another brilliant segue into one more gem of a story . . .

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