Monday, May 23, 2011

Crepes-a-Go-Go, San Francisco, CA & Washington, DC

For reference, I have never been overly excited about crepes...until recently. On a trip to San Francisco last year, my good friend, Naida* and I decided we would head over to Berkeley for a day before attending the annual Outside Lands Music Festival in Golden Gate Park. Parking around Berkeley for a few hours is fairly uncomplicated, just watch those meter times. After finding spot on a side street, Naida and I headed to Telegraph Avenue, which is one of the main drags through the town. Like Haight-Ashbury, Berkeley has a lot going on and all types of people of all ages milling about the neighborhoods. We window shopped at tattoo parlors, bought a few trinkets from street vendors and took in all of the sights. I happened to look across the street and spot a ‘Crepes’ sign. We had not eaten much that day and I thought a crepe might be a great snack to hold us until dinner. This was a hole in the wall spot that changed my view of crepes forever. They have a sweet menu (dessert or breakfast treat) and then a savory side (lunch or breakfast meal) from which to choose. All of them sounded delicious, so it was difficult to decide. You can have something as simple as sugar and butter or cheese and smoked turkey or a more creative version such as the King Samm (Nuetella, banana, coconut and Almond powder) or sauteed spinach with caramelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes and feta. Decisions, decisions. Naida knew she wanted the cheese, spinach and egg. I anxiously pondered - they all sounded great and I did not want to miss out on anything. Finally, I ordered the cheese, avocado and tomato. We both chose Swiss for our cheese and took a seat in the narrow space to watch the action behind the glass.

A gentleman quickly drizzled the crepe batter onto the crepe griddle with the ease that he had been making these a good while. Naida’s came out first and mine was close behind, both in roughly five minutes. These crepes were like no other. They were folded in half twice so a triangle shape is left, which was placed in a paper triangle holder so you can easily eat it on the go, if needed. The Crepes-a-go-go crepe itself is thicker than a typical crepe, somewhere between a pancake and a thin crepe, which can be too thin and ‘weak’ in form, in my opinion. They have a very thin crispy layer on the outside which I definitely liked! Naida and I could not take a bite without talking about how great these in, we said it in between EVERY bite. The tomatoes on mine were fresh and flavorful, as was the avocado. I decided Swiss was the perfect choice for this combination, but cheddar, feta, Monteray Jack and ricotta were also options. We did not want these crepes to end but had to finish up and continue on our Berkeley adventure. We paid a little over $5 per crepe. That’s a deal.

After our day in Berkeley, we settled down for dinner. Upon finishing, we decided to find out if other Crepes-a-Go-Go locations existed to grab a dessert crepe. We had satisfied our savory crepe fix earlier and now needed to try a sweet crepe to make sure Crepes-a-Go-Go was a good as it seemed. I rely on a friend to help me in these situations since to this date, I refuse to get on the smart phone bandwagon. He sent me address of another Crepes a-Go-Go in Berkley and then two in San Francisco. We were set! After our delicious dinner at Zachary’s Chicago Pizza (review coming soon), we headed towards the University Avenue Crepes-a-Go-Go. Thanks to Naida and her trusty maps, we found it fairly easily. It was empty, but we arrived close to closing time. Perusing the menu, we saw Nutella, various fruits and a variety of sauces (caramel, chocolate, etc). I quickly decided we should make our own and opted for peanut butter, honey, coconut and whipped cream. Naida was certain this would be terrible, but as she always says, she should trust me more. Our crepe was ready within minutes and turned out fantastic! Naida could not believe how tasty my concoction was. As I had presumed, it was a perfect combination. We satisfied our sweet tooth and headed home to rest and gear up for San Francisco’s two-day Outside Lands 2010 Concert.

Post day one of Outside Lands, Naida and I decided to check out yet another Crepes-a-Go-Go. Who says three times in thirty-six hours is too much? Not us. After visiting two locations, we figured finding the third would be easy. We were not quite expecting what we found at number three. Our difficulty locating this third Crepes-a-Go-Go was easily explained when we finally found it - it is a mobile food truck that sits on a street filled with a bunch of clubs. We were traipsing back and forth looking for a storefront and no wonder we missed it. Slightly nervous, we approached the the truck, but once we saw the menu, we relaxed. It was Crepes-a-Go-Go...on the go-go. Naida and I ordered straight off the menu for our savory crepe to share, roasted eggplant with zucchini, bell peppers, basil, sun-dried tomato and feta. We then tried our combo from the previous night but instead of honey, we went with maple syrup - even better! We sat in this slightly run-down picnic area, ate our crepes and watched the clubbers go by. It was a very mental and memorable moment. I would only have this experience with Naida and I am so glad I have her as a friend, with whom to share these bizarre memories and laughs. The crepes were just as delicious and this location stayed open until 3-4am to grab all of the clubbers with late night cravings.

While we were at the late night spot, the owner of the San Francisco area Crepes-a-G-Go locations, drove up to drop off supplies. We chatted with him for a few minutes and when we mentioned being from Virginia, he said there were Crepes-a-Go-Go franchises in Washington, DC and Maryland. I could not believe our luck! As soon as I was in the DC area, visiting Naida, we put visiting the Dupont Circle location at the top of our list. After a sobering, yet necessary experience at the United States Holocaust Museum, Naida and I needed a pick-us-up and headed for Dupont Circle. After being nailed by a parking prince of darkness in front of the museum, we were pretty cognisant about where we parked. After checking the meter about ten times, we walked into Crepes-a-Go-Go. While all of the locations have essentially the same menu, there were a few ingredient differences. Of all things, peanut butter was not listed, but we did not fret. We had already decided to order one savory crepe and one dessert crepe. Our museum visit lasted about three hours longer than expected and we had dinner in a short time, so sharing one of each type seemed like the way to go. Something we had seen at the late night San Francisco location, the sauteed spinach with caramelized onion, sun-dried tomatoes and feta caught our eye and along with that, we made a version of the dessert crepe from the west coast. Delicious! For the second, instead of peanut butter, we opted for Nutella, honey (no maple syrup on the menu), coconut and whipped cream. While the maple syrup is thicker and I still prefer that over honey, we still loved this crepe. Our treasures came out in under ten minutes and the place was pretty busy. Small, but cozy, this location was filled with some obvious Dupont Circlers, but I think a few others were like Naida and I, who had come from another part of DC to nab a crepe. Thoroughly happy that we had made it to one of the east cost Crepes-a-Go-Go’s, we relaxed for a while before journeying to our next destination. I cannot wait to go to DC again to get another crepe!


Check locations for hours.

2122 “P” Street, N.W. (just off DuPont Circle)
Crepes on the Walk -- 701 7th st NW (outside the Verizon Center)
514 Main Street Gaithersburg MD 20878 (in the Kentlands) (the DC & MD locations website)

2334 Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley
2125 University Ave, Berkeley
350 11th Street between Folsom & Harrison, San Francisco
2165 Union Street, San Francisco
1220 Polk Street, San Francisco

Crepes-a-Go-Go on Urbanspoon

Cous Cous, Richmond, VA

Cous Cous exterior doors
My friend and I had tickets to the Sleigh Bells/CSS show at The National in Richmond and decided this was a great opportunity to eat somewhere new. I pulled up a few Richmond restaurants that I had read about and we settled on Cous Cous after we saw they had a coupon. It never hurts to get a deal, especially with a new place. We arrived around 8:45pm and took a seat at the bar since we were on a tight time schedule and were later than intended. The bar tender was friendly and had a good wit about him. Charlotte* ordered a Lemon Cooler beverage ($10) and I, being the driver, stuck with tea. She said her drink was refreshing with a kick. We perused the menu and decided to order a bunch of appetizers (mezze) because so many sounded delicious. Here is a rundown of what we had: the Manchego Fritters (5 fritters for $8) were probably one of my favorites. I love this Spanish cheese and having it fried was pretty amazing along with the mango coulis. The sauces at Cous Cous made the dishes. The Sweet Corn Fritters (a good size bowl for $6) with chipotle creme fraiche were also tasty and this appetizer was plentiful. Guess they have not received the memo that corn is not a deal anymore and creme fraiche always makes me think of the South Park episode about Stan’s dad and cooking shows. Next, we Fried Spinach and Mushroom Arancini ($8) which was a new food to me. Risotto, spinach, mushrooms and parmesan risotto fried and served with a roasted red pepper and tomato coulis. The coulis is all over this menu. This appetizer was less rich than the first two, probably a good thing since we were on a roll with fried food.

Onto something different, we next had the Ricotta and Basil Gnocchi ($9) which Charlotte said was cooked a little too much and I agreed. This is a very rich dish Gorgonzola cream sauce so the pasta needed to remain more firm. The Curried Cauliflower ($7) with pine nuts and currents was a nice change from our rich choices. This was big with Charlotte, but she is not a huge curry fan, so do not let that deter you. I enjoyed it and had had something similar at Balliceaux not that long ago. It was also probably our healthiest choice! We liked the idea of the Crispy Eggplant ($7) with apricot marmalade & toasted almonds, but the marmalade was very, very sweet and we left a lot of that behind. A third of that would have been suffice for the dish. Our last selection was the Acorn Squash ($10) which was roasted and stuffed with cranberry and granny smith apple risotto. We like this a lot but had reached our breaking point and could not finish it. It was very different and I love how they mixed the risotto so many ways.

Cous Cous has a few larger plates, some of which can also be upgraded to entrees for an additional $8. would treat this restaurant as a a tapas spot. There are lots of very different things to try (it was pretty hard to narrow it down) and it is fun to share sometimes. Having the coupon lessened the blow of the bill, which still was not bad with all that we had - grand total before tip was $67. We did not make it to dessert because of time and being full but there are a few that sound pretty tasty, such as the Warm Chocolate Bread Pudding and the Panna Cotta. Next time!

I recommend a reservation if you want a table as the place was packed with a mostly hipster crowd even at 8:45pm. Dim, in red hues and stylish, Cous Cous is a restaurant which I will definitely visit again. Besides a good atmosphere and friendly staff, Cous Cous’ menu is so unique and we left a lot on the menu to sample. Cous Cous offers lunch and dinner Monday - Friday 11:30am-2am and dinner Saturday 5pm-2am. This would be a good locale for a late night snack after a show.

Cous Cous
900 W. Franklin Street
Richmond, VA 23220
(804) 358-0868
*Watch the online directions, Franklin is one of those streets that stops and starts again at least twice.

Cous Cous on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 20, 2011

Town Point Club - Norfolk, VA -Teetering on the brink of a break up

Have you ever loved something because of what it once was? Perhaps you see the potential of a glittering diamond underneath the rough exterior. My husband and I have a running joke about the three phases of relationships, based on both our unfortunate and fortunate cumulative experiences.

Phase One:
(I also call this one “The Honeymoon Phase.” )
Everything is perfect, wonderful, beyond compare. No faults exist and none are noted. Bliss.

Phase Two:
Some Issues, but minor ones. You will tolerate these inconveniences because:
a. You have a strong memory of Phase One
b. You know the other options out there
This phase includes things like leaving up the toilet seat, minor breeches in etiquette, annoying laughs, burps, farts, and etcetera.

Phase Three:
Nothing but Issues. You have no remaining memory of Phase One and are busy planning your exit.

Does this apply to Restaurants? Absolutely!!! As much as I hate to admit it, I believe that I am teetering on the edge Phase Three with the Town Point Club…and it is killing me. Why? Because of what once was and what I know could be if they would just get their act together! My husband and I have been going here for almost ten years. I still miss Lynnwood Craig’s smile and his tableside stories while prepping the best Caesar Salad ever. Town Point is a club. You pay to be a member and you gladly do this for the EXPERIENCE. It is one of the few dine dining experiences remaining in Hampton Roads, but if I am honest, I have to admit that it has been in Phase 2 for a while now. Let me relay my last visit….

I make 7pm reservations for dinner with two other couples for a celebratory dinner. We decided to arrive early and enjoy some cocktails in the bar before dinner. Not knowing I had made reservations, my husband called the restaurant at around 5pm to make sure we had a table. He was told that we had a reservation, which was a good thing as they were booked for the evening.

Highlights of poor service experiences for the evening:

1. When we arrive the hostess is eating potato chips out of a bag. Really?!

2. In the bar. (The bar is empty.)
a. We walk into the bar at about the same time as another couple in our group. We need to put two tables together in order to seat all 6 of us. No one helps. Ladies in dresses and heels, men in suits move tables.
b. The tables are dirty. I mention this loud enough for the bartender to hear since she was obviously visually impaired and did not notice that NONE of the tables were clean. No effort is made to wipe the crumbs and scum off the table. I do so with my cocktail napkin.

3. The meal. We are seated promptly at 7.
a. The place is empty. There are maybe 4 other tables all night and a wine tasting party on the deck. Yes, glad we had that reservation!
b. We all order varying assortments of appetizers, soup, salads, entrées. A bottle of red wine for the men and a white for the ladies is ordered.
c. Big time lapse until food arrives. Big. It is approximately 8:30 before entrées hit the table. Although wine glasses are filled, no one ever suggests another bottle be ordered when it is gone. Too bad. We would have jumped on it.
d. I love the old school way entrées arrive covered, placed on the table, and then the covers are removed in unison to sounds of ooohs and aaaahs. Too bad. Half the entrées arrive and are uncovered. Since our mamas’ raised us right, we all sit and wait for the other half…about 10 minutes. Jeez.
e. The meal is good. She crab soup was outstanding. Everything else is good. Not knock your socks off, mind bending, culinary wowza; just good. I ordered Rockfish, which I adore. This was not the best I ever had.
f. Our server is awkward. I don’t know how else to describe her. Maybe she was new? There is no polish, no finesse. She lacked a certain confidence and professionalism you would expect with a fine dining experience.

4. After dinner drinks and dessert.
a. I am the last person at the table approached to order after a resounding run of “coffee please”. Not me. Gimme some of that dessert! I order dessert AND a Bailey’s on the rocks. Okay, now everyone has a brain surge and changes their orders to drinks with a little more zing than coffee.
b. The wait. Holy cow. Forever. I am dying. It is late. Drinks have long ago been served and consumed. I want my pie dammit. Don’t come between a woman and her dessert . I approach Ms. Frito Lay at the reception area because the waitress in MIA and say, “I am begging you. Please have someone bring out my pie.”
c. I can’t even remember what the pie was now. Just that I was tortured waiting for it.

5. My favorite quote of the evening…
“For your convenience we automatically add a 20% gratuity……” Right, of course you do.

Definitely Phase three. Since it was such a great group of friends we all had a great time, but it was more in spite of the club,than because of it. Should I break up with Town Point Club? Can they change? Do they want to? I go there about once every month or two for their lunch buffet and it is outstanding. The service at lunch is very solicitous and accommodating and the food is always delicious. What in the world is going on when the sun goes down?