Great Crepe Expectations

I spent the last day of 2015 with good friends, under the moonlight and bright lights of Las Vegas Blvd, watching the fireworks. After a night like that, how can I make the first day of 2016 as special as the last?

IMG_2814

 

In my dreams, I’d grab my passport, hop in my private jet and dash off to Paris to grab some drinks and breakfast someplace in view of the Eiffel Tower. In lieu of that option, I headed down Eastern Avenue to Crepe Expectations. Champagne check. Nutella check. View of the Eiffel Tower, nope, but this place has so much character you’ll forget you’re on Eastern Avenue. Walk past the outdoor seating and step into a charming room, accented with a dark wood bar that faces the crepe making station, stone detail around the counter, and purple walls.

Being the first meal of my day, I opted for a breakfast crepe, The Monterey, to be exact. Bacon, scrambled eggs, tomato, red onion, mild Serrano peppers, Jack cheese, and since I wanted to start the new year out on a healthy note, I added spinach. While the menu describes the Serrano peppers as mild, they definitely have a noticeable kick which works well with the slight sweetness of the crepe itself.

Usually, when I go to Crepe Expectations, I’ll choose a pot of warm jasmine tea or a glass of fresh squeezed OJ with my crepe, but today I went with the Mimosa Trio Sampler. My choices: pomegranate, blood orange and strawberry.

IMG_2776

After my breakfast crepe and trio of mimosas, my stomach wasn’t quite bursting at the seems yet, so I tried to convince my eating companion to go half on another crepe, something on the sweeter side, maybe the Avalon or a Simple Delight. We decided not to give in to gluttony and just savor the experience of breakfast. When I finally returned home and the “itis” settled in, I was glad we had taken the less gluttonous route.

IMG_2777

The Monterey Crepe with a side salad and Mimosa Sampler

The owners got it right in describing Crepe Expectation as “Yum in Action,” their trademark. With 3 categories of crepes to choose from: sweet, savory, and breakfast (served all day), plus an ample selection of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, there are several reasons to love Crepe Expectations, and to keep coming back.

Crepe Expectations
<$8/person
9500 S. Eastern Ave.
Las Vegas, NV 89123

Tea and Tranquility 250 feet Above the Strip

The strip can be sensory overload, flashing lights and neon, sounds of slot machines and crowds of people. Now imagine, literally, being above it all, like you’re floating up in the clouds. Soothing tea, peaceful music, quiet conversations, this is the tea lounge at the Mandarin Oriental. With its floor to ceiling windows and views right up the center of the strip, you are truly above it all.

Taoist believe doing a little, is better than doing a lot. This statement explains your arrival to the Mandarin Oriental hotel. You enter from an isolated driveway, hidden from the strip, and walk past huge urns into a bare, nondescript lobby.  The real lobby is on the 23rd floor, next to the tea lounge.  When you arrive on the 23rd floor, there are no erupting volcanos or giant lions to greet you, only Vegas as seen from 23 flights up.  You can even see the area from the ground, as it looks like the builders cut a slice out of the exterior walls and replaced them with glass.

IMG_2452

The tea lounge, like the entrance to the Mandarin Oriental, is nothing elaborate, just a few couches and velvet chairs in the section separating the check-in area from the Mandarin Oriental Bar. Like most places on the strip, the tea lounge is not about stretching your dollar. I’ve been to other tea times that offer more food for less money, but I don’t think there is a more peaceful place on the Strip.
We opted for the vegetarian selection of sandwiches with our tea, which you can call ahead and request. The vegetarian option featured little cones, filled with roasted vegetables and hummus, as well as cucumber and tomato sandwiches. My tea, Peach Artisan blooming, and for dessert, a selection of pastries from Chef Phillepe Angibeau. While my taste buds usually favor the savory over the sweet, the pastries were a highlight of tea time.

 

The view from the Tea Lounge at the Mandarin Oriental.

The view up the Strip from the Tea Lounge at the Mandarin Oriental.

I think this is a must visit for anyone looking to escape all the commotion of the Strip and float up in the clouds above it all. I would suggest visiting the tea lounge at the Mandarin Oriental during the winter months when the sun sets earlier in the evening, giving you a chance to see the Strip “turn on” as as the sun sets.

Classic English Afternoon Tea $38/person
3752 S. Las Vegas Blvd.
23rd Floor
Las Vegas, NV 89109

Tea Time, My Favorite Time in Annapolis

I have to say, the highlight of my gastronomic adventure in Annapolis was my trip to Reynolds Tavern. Before I’d even arrived in Annapolis, out of the blue my mom mentions that she has the taste for tea sandwiches. Fast forward a couple of weeks, and as we’re walking down West street we stumble upon Reynolds Tavern. I think it must have been the little yellow tea pots filled with flowers on the table settings outside that tipped us off to their tea service. Regardless, we had found not just tea sandwiches, but a tea experience.

As soon as you step foot into Reynolds Tavern, you are catapulted back in time. The furniture, the candles encased in hurricanes, even the jazz playing in the background, takes you to another era. The atmosphere is definitely fitting for afternoon tea.

The view of St. Anne’s Church from the tea room at Reynolds Tavern

Reynolds Tavern serves afternoon tea a couple of different ways. You can go for the more basic option, like the Cream Tea, a teapot of your choice served with 2 scones, whipped cream and preserves, or try something more elaborate like the Jubilee Tea, with your choice of a first course selection. My Mom and I decided to go the more traditional route, and we both ordered the Colonial High Tea with your choice of “Soup, Salad or Quiche”.

No matter which Afternoon Tea services you order, the real fun comes in selecting your tea. The tea selection at Reynolds Tavern ranges from the basic and more common choices like Camomile and Peppermint, to the more exotic like Yin Zhen Silver Needle or the artful and beautiful Blooming teas. After much deliberation, I decided to go with the Sencha Kyoto Cherry Rose Festival, a green tea. The Secha Kyoto had that sweet nutty flavor, characteristic of green tea, but then it leaves your taste buds with the sweet fruity undertone of cherry. My mom went with the Blueberry Infusion. This tea was a tropical medley of flavors, ranging from hibiscus to blueberries.

My mom and I both decided on the cream of crab soup for our first course. While our teas were being prepared, we relished our soup. The slivers of crab meat dissolved seamlessly into the cream, and the tarragon gave the soup a nice peppery yet tart flavor. So far, our afternoon tea time was off to a good start.

Cream of Crab Soup

Next, our waiter brought out a three tiered tea tray with an assortment of goodies, all of which are made in house. The bottom tier, had orange and cranberry scones, with a perfect combination of tart and sweet, served with whipped cream and strawberry preserves. The next tier, had tea sandwiches and bite size shepherds pie. The cucumber and egg salad sandwiches were so light and refreshing. Then, the top tier, had a selection of various sweets. The island girl in me enjoyed the banana bread with cream cheese icing. The lavender short bread cookies were also a nice savory addition to the selection of sweets.

(clockwise from left) Orange Cranberry Scone with Whipped Cream and Strawberry Preserves, Lavender Short Bread Cookie, Cucumber and Egg Salad Sandwiches and Shepherds Pie

While I savored every bit of my tea meal, what I enjoyed even more was the experience. A chance to sit back and enjoy the afternoon, to take things slow, to sip on tea and nibble on little sandwiches, to savor the moment and to remember the excitement of being a little girl and having a tea party. I can’t wait to return to Reynolds Tavern.

Gift options for the tea lover

While in Annapolis, my mom and I also enjoyed Lemongrass and Annapolis Ice Cream Company, two other places we visited, on our gastronomic adventure in Annapolis. Click the links to read about our time there.

IMG_1385

Reynolds Tavern

Afternoon Tea $10-$25/person

7 Church Circle

Annapolis, MD 21401

Reynolds Tavern on Urbanspoon
Reynolds Tavern on Foodio54

Best Ice Cream in Annapolis

Ok, so I’ll admit, I haven’t tried all the ice cream shops in Annapolis. To be honest I haven’t tried most of them, but I have eaten my fair share of ice cream and can say that Annapolis Ice Cream Company has some good ice cream.

We stumbled upon this place on the second day of my visit. My mom and I decided to walk along Main Street, in downtown Annapolis. The day I arrived, it was gloomy, overcast and wet, but today was much sunnier and warmer. The sunny day, combined with the stroll down Main Street, made a perfect backdrop for some ice cream. There are several ice cream places located in historic Annapolis, but the sign that read “Our ice cream is made right here,” caught my attention and drew me into Annapolis Ice Cream Company.

All of the ice cream at Annapolis Ice Cream Company is made on site and they offer such unique and delectable flavor choices as Apple Pie, Blackberry Cobbler and Brownie Batter. I opted for the Brownie Batter because who doesn’t love brownie batter. They give you the option of mixing flavors, either with multiple scoops or within one scoop. A mixed scoop sounded liked the way to go, but I wanted to make sure I picked a flavor that complemented the Brownie Batter. Strawberry sounded fitting but I wanted to get professional advice, so I asked the lady serving the scoops. As I mentioned to her my intentions of combining Strawberry and Brownie Batter for my scoop, her eyes began to melt into the back of her head, as a smile developed on her face. At that moment, I knew I had picked a winning combination.

My scoop of Brownie Batter and Strawberry. No skimping here.

The Brownie Batter ice cream tastes exactly like fresh chocolate brownie batter that’s been mixed into vanilla ice cream. Combining it with strawberry, was like having a chocolate covered strawberry in ice cream form. The only trick was making sure I got a little bit of both flavors in each spoonful.

As I sat down to enjoy my scoop, I noticed a sign on the table that read: “Only the real stuff…” It basically explains what your taste buds will encounter at Annapolis Ice Cream Company, flavors made from real strawberries, blueberries and raspberries, real sugar, not that stuff from corn, cream from cows not treated with hormones, and no preservatives, exactly the way I like my ice cream.

Decorated spoons on display

So the next time you’re in Annapolis, I highly recommend you check out Annapolis Ice Cream Company, they serve up nothing but the good stuff.

P.S. They make cakes too.

 

While in Annapolis, my mom and I also enjoyed Lemongrass and Reynolds Tavern, two other places we visited, on our gastronomic adventure in Annapolis. Click the links to read about our time there.

 

Annapolis Ice Cream Company

<$5/person

196 Main Street

Annapolis, MD 21401

Annapolis Ice Cream on Urbanspoon
Annapolis Ice Cream Company on Foodio54

First Stop in Annapolis, Lemongrass

When I first arrived at BWI, I was starving. I’m not sure if you know this, but they don’t serve food on airplanes any more.  I did some research, and decided that my Mom and I should try Lemongrass as our first meal, a Thai restaurant in Annapolis with good reviews and reasonable prices.

Lemongrass is located in a townhouse on West Street, just northwest of the more historic parts of downtown Annapolis. Lemongrass is small, so I can imagine there being a wait on a busy night or during a lunch rush, but we arrived just before the dinner rush and were seated right away. Parking can be kind of scarce on West Street, and while Lemongrass is located adjacent to a parking garage, they do not validate for parking.

To start, my mom and I ordered the Steamed Dumplings to share. The steamed dumplings were filled with a mix of pork, shrimp and crabmeat. The flavors of the three meats blended well together as you could taste hints of each, without one standing out more than the others. Each dumpling was also an ample size and with 6 in an order, they make for a great starter to share, or even a light meal for one. While I would definitely order the Streamed Dumplings again, I saw several tables that seemed to be enjoying the Lettuce Wraps, and I would have loved to try those.

For her entrée, my mom ordered the Crispy Duck. The boneless pieces of roasted duck are deep-fried, then stir-fried in a sauce that reminded me of a very light garlic flavored BBQ sauce, with a combination of tanginess and sweetness, and a little kick of spice to finish it off. While the flavors of the Crispy Duck were good, I think that the multiple cooking techniques used on the duck seemed to dry it out some. (I have to admit that I’ve also been spoiled by the oh so delicious Crispy Duck Drunken Noodles at Lotus of Siam. The Crispy Duck at Lotus of Siam makes it hard to enjoy any other.)

For my entrée, I ordered the Chesapeake Pad Thai, from their specials. When I saw this traditional Thai dish with a classic DMV (DC/MD/VA) ingredient, I had to give it a try. Summertime in the DMV isn’t complete without a few bushels of crabs and some beer, so what better way to say, welcome home, than some crabmeat on my Pad Thai. The crabmeat was left in its natural state, with the lumps of meat just sprinkled on top of the Pad Thai. The natural sweetness of the crabmeat added another layer to the traditional flavors of the tamarind and the peanuts in the Pad Thai. I thought this dish was a great local take on Pad Thai and would definitely order it again.

All in all, I have to say that I would return to Lemongrass the next time I’m in Annapolis. It serves its purpose as a convenient neighborhood lunch and dinner spot to get decent Thai food at reasonable prices.

While in Annapolis, my mom and I also enjoyed Reynolds Tavern and Annapolis Ice Cream Company, two other places we visited, on our gastronomic adventure in Annapolis. Click the links to read about our time there.

Lemongrass

lunch $10-$15/person; dinner $15-$20/person

167 West Street

Annapolis, MD 21401

Lemon Grass Restaurant on Urbanspoon
Lemongrass Restaurant on Foodio54

May You Have Nothing But Good Fuku

I’ve travelled to several places in the world, and I can tell you that some of the best food I’ve tasted is often street food. Well, Las Vegas is no different.

Street food in Las Vegas, is of the food truck variety. While there are several food trucks in Las Vegas serving up good eats, my current infatuation is with Fukuburger (Fuku comes from the last name of truck co-owner Colin Fukunaga and means luck in Japanese). While the Fuku patties themselves are yummy, cooked to perfection and made with beef from a local butcher, Larry’s Great Western Meats, what keeps me coming back is the unique Japanese inspired flavor combinations. Ingredients like kabayaki sauce, wasabi, ginger and kaiware sprouts, add unique flavor kicks that change the ubiquitous hamburger, into something oh so special.

If I had to give Fukuburger a rating, it would be 5 mics. That’s right mics. Anyone who’s a fan of hip hop, or who’s ever read The Source, knows that 5 mics is the highest honor an album can receive. It means an album is a classic. Something that you can throw in your CD player and listen to all the way thru, without skipping any tracks. You might have your favorite song on a given day, but you love the whole album. That about sums up the way I feel about the menu at Fukuburger. And then, just when I think I might be getting bored with the menu, they’ll serve up an amazing special. It’s like the food world’s version of a mix tape.

One day, I might be yearning for the smokey, sweet flavor of the Buta Burger, a Fuku patty with applewood smoked bacon, American cheese, pickled red onions, red ginger, japanese bbq sauce and wasabi mayo.

On another day, I might feel the urge for a Tamago Burger, a Fuku patty topped with a fried egg, teriyaki, wasabi mayo and finished with crispy onion strings. The egg is fried over easy, so when you bite into the soft yolk, yellow egg juice goes running everywhere. Make sure you catch it in the little paper tray they serve the burgers in, so you can sop up a little of that creamy yellow egg juice, with each additional bite.

If you want something to make your taste buds tingle, try the “spicy” Karai Burger, or an all beef hot link Naga Dog. And don’t worry, if you’re not in the mood for beef, Fuku Burger still has you covered, with the Chicken Katsu; a panko crusted chicken patty, topped with shredded cabbage, katsu sauce and “crack” sauce. Yes, “crack” sauce, aptly called because it will have you fiendin’ for more.

Buta Burger aka "Pig" with Jazz Fries

To accompany your Fukuburger of choice, you can’t go wrong with either the Togarashi Garlic Fries or the Jazz Fries (shown above). The Jazz Fries are also topped with some of that “crack” sauce, and gravy.

Currently, there is a Fukuburger restaurant in LA, but as they say, All the fresh Hollywood food places always start off as a good little hood thang. So, pull up a bucket, have a seat, and enjoy your burger.

Fukuburger Truck 
At a location near you –> schedule
$6-$10/person

Fukuburger (Mobile Truck) on Urbanspoon

Get Your Meatless Monday on at Ra Sushi

It’s been a while since my last post. I’m back in school now and between work and school, I have a lot less time to write. While I haven’t had as much time to write, I’ve still kept up my commitment to No Meat on Monday. The other night, I met a friend for dinner at Ra Sushi. As I mentioned in my last post, it’s a lot easier to stay on a vegetarian diet when you’re cooking for yourself, but when you’re out and about, it becomes much more difficult. As I started to glance at the menu, I was pleasantly surprised to see how many meatless options Ra Sushi had, and good ones at that. I wouldn’t be stuck with a boring salad and an order of french fries, the most common, yet lousy excuses for vegetarian menu items at most restaurants.

I decided Ra Sushi would be the first restaurant I would highlight as a Meatless Monday dining option. Ra Sushi is conveniently located on The Strip on the outdoor promenade of The Fashion Shall Mall, directly across the street from the Wynn. Not only does Ra Sushi have some great meatless menu items, they also have a great Happy Hour, Monday-Saturday 3-7p, with drink and food items starting at $2. Best of all, several of the vegetarian options at Ra Sushi are included on their Happy Hour Menu.

I decided I’d try the Shishito Peppers since they were on the happy hour menu. I’d never heard of Shishito Peppers before I tasted them at Ra Sushi, but now I’m definitely a fan. Shishito Peppers are a Japanese green pepper, smaller than a jalapeno. Unlike a jalapeno, they are more mild in flavor and very thin skinned. The Shishito peppers at Ra Sushi are sauteed in a mix of Asian spices, sesame seeds and what tastes like sesame oil. The sesame adds a nutty, roasted flavor to the Asian spices that the peppers are cooked with.  The plate is garnished with a red sauce that taste like a spicy tomato pure. Shishito peppers are a great starter the whole table can enjoy.

Since I was at a sushi restaurant, I had to order sushi, right? I opted for the vegetable tempura roll. It’s filled with tempura battered fried asparagus and sweet potato, then wrapped in Nori and rice. The roll is topped with tempura battered Japanese eggplant, which has a more delicate flavor than American eggplant. The roll is garnished with colorful tempura flakes, and drizzled with eel sauce. Both the sweet potato and eel sauce add a hint of sweetness while the tempura batter and flakes add a crispy texture to the roll. And if you didn’t already know, Nori (seaweed), is also a great source of protein as well as other vitamins and minerals.

I also tried the Dengaku Tofu. Tofu has been a major source of protein in vegetarian diets in the East for nearly 2000 years. Though many people complain it can be bland, the red miso ginger glazing process used to make Dengaku Tofu at Ra Sushi, adds a savory flavor and caramelized texture to the tofu. The Dengaku Tofu is topped with crispy pieces of Japanese eggplant and snow peas, and served with tempura sauce.

These three veggies options were just the tip of the iceberg at Ra Sushi. Here’s a brief run down of the meatless options on the menu at Ra Sushi. (HH) denotes an item that is included on the Happy Hour menu. The last 2 items on my list, the Nutty Grilled Chicken Salad and the Tuna² Salad, become great Meatless Monday choices if you hold the meat. In addition to having some tasty ingredients, like cilantro and mandarin orange slices, both salads include nuts, which are a great source of protein.

  • Cucumber Kimchee Salad
  • Dengaku Tofu (HH)
  • Edamame (HH)
  • Garlic Sugar Snap Peas (HH)
  • Miso Soup
  • Miso Hot Soup
  • Pineapple Cheese Wonton (HH)
  • Seaweed Salad (HH)
  • Shishito Peppers (HH)
  • Veggie Sushi Roll (HH)
  • Vegetable Tempura Bento Box
  • Vegetable Tempura Roll
  • Nutty Grilled Chicken Salad*
  • Tuna² Salad*
(HH) – denotes an item that is part of the Happy Hour menu
* hold the meat on these and they are great meatless options.

So the next time you’re enjoying a little shopping at Fashion Show Mall, whether it’s Monday or not, head over to Ra Sushi for a tasty meatless meal.

Ra Sushi
3200 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Fashion Show Mall Outdoor Promenade
Las Vegas, NV 89109