Saturday, July 08, 2006

That's Amore!

Crema Café
3403 Lyndale Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55408-4152
(612) 824-3868

Remember that time when we were lost wandering in a warren of alleyways in Italy? Wasn’t it great? It was so beautiful, and every time we turned another corner life rewarded us in some new way. Was it the frothy cappuccino? The ice cream that melted like velvet? The flowers? Chocolates? The Breakfast?

No, it was that BLT made with Minnesota-grown heirloom tomatoes, farmhouse Wisconsin cheddar, and organic bacon that has haunted your memory ever since? Wait. Do you mean to tell me that wasn’t Siena? It was South Minneapolis- and we can go whenever Beau uses up his vetoes on Bakery on Grand and Birchwood?

The entrance to Crema Café is on the sunniest corner of Minneapolis. It always takes a minute or so for my eyes to adjust to the interior, which is just enough time for my overactive imagination to transport me straight to the Mediterranean. Clearly, folks have put some thought and work into this place – the tiles, ironwork, tables,…everything about the interior is beautiful and purposefully placed -including the fact that to order you will have to pass by the entire retinue of small-batch ice-creams and a case filled with all sorts of hand-made tarts, chocolates, and assorted treats.

The menu is small, and is made up of a combination of seasonal and locally produced organic foods prepared in a French-Mediterranean-Midwestern style. Nearly everything is good and nearly everything that comes out of the kitchen is done well. Whether you want a traditional breakfast, or a Croque Madame, there will be something on the menu that will sound lovely, particularly, since while at Crema, you are on vacation. The potatoes are tasty, but are not uniformly crispy. Your meal will probably contain fresh herbs. After consuming every morsel on your plate you will not be so full that you will skip lunch-not necessarily a bad thing. You may consider coming back to Crema for lunch. Your waiter will not bring something that you really, really wanted but were too shy to actually order- but I don’t think the staff can be faulted for not being able to accurately read minds.

Crema utilizes a semi-counter service format. You will bring your own water, coffee, and a limited number of accoutrements to the table. I have never figured out exactly what I need to do for myself, because I’m relaxed and easy going while I’m on vacation and that end of the counter is crowded. Specialty coffees, your meal, and anything out of the ordinary (for Crema), will be brought to your table later by your server. This works because it gives you a chance to re-arrange the plaza chairs so that half of your party can sit in sun and the other half in shade with one person in half-sun half-shade, for example. This doesn’t work, because you must request ketchup specially, and it comes in a 1.5 tablespoon serving (one Roman tablespoon = 1.5 American standard tablespoons).

Just like your last vacation when you were bored waiting for your return flight and you started mentally converting euros back to dollars and had to have one last grappa to stave off the panic attack, Crema is not all dreamy perfection. After the last TCBC meeting, several members pointed out that as long as the treasurer was paying, we loved Crema, but if the bill was coming out of our own pockets, we might not be head-over-heels. Crema’s atmosphere has no equal among breakfast joints, but good food and organic local ingredients can be found elsewhere for less money (although not necessarily on the same plate). Definitely cheaper than a vacation on the Italian Riviera, Crema is perfect for times when you need a meal length vacation, and don’t mind paying the equivalent of euros for dollars.

Overall Grade: A- among the adventurous, B-/C+ from the traditional breakfast lover.

1 comment:

Amadeus said...

Finally Rachael is an offical memeber! Now that you've got the taste, we'll be fighting for each post.

Just because I like my breakfast in the traditional manner, doesn't mean I am not adventurous.

Crema was good, but given the price, portion sizes, and limited menu they fail to make it into the pantheon of old standards in my book. I fear I am in the minority though. How many vetos do I get?