Fontaine Caffe

Caffe with TWO F's!!! My theory about the misspelling is that it wasn't out of ignorance, instead, it was intentional to make it easily findable by search engine. There are Fontaine Cafe's and Cafe Fontaine's, but only one Fontaine Caffe.

When I heard that a low-key creperie opened in Old Town, I was very curious. It has potential to be a must-go spot, but for now it's definitely skippable. It should be an adorable buzzing place that evokes a corner Parisian cafe, but instead it's awkwardly quiet (not much in people-watching) and inconsistent in the food department. Like it's French counterpart, the service was nothing to be proud of--just kidding, Paris! Don't hate me because I'm American.

Food-wise, I had parts of the Zenist (lentils, spinach, and tomatoes simmered in coriander coconut curry sauce) and the Moroccan (spinach and feta topped with mint-yogurt sauce). The Zenist was underwhelming in flavor and texture, it tasted like lumpy lukewarm mediocre lentil soup leaked onto a crepe. The crepe flavor didn't work well with the lentil mixture at all.

The Moroccan was DELISH and if I was forced to go back, I could eat that and be very happy. But I hope you aren't thirsty, because when you ask for water for the third time and finally get it, you may never get a refill. We all had a mug of (cold) French cider, which was pretty fun and different. But still, I want my agua!

E, what did you have and was it good?

J had the Washingtonian--steak and potatoes with a red wine mushroom sauce. His conclusion was that it was okay, but the large squares of steak weren't conducive to the crepe format...maybe thinly sliced or shredded would have worked out better. It required a fork, which pretty much sucks the fun out of being in a creperie.

Dessert was much better. But what creperie could possibly serve a "bad" dessert? The Marathon--nutella, peanut butter, and either banana and peanut butter--embodies all that is right with a sweet crepe. Mmmm. J had the Grand Chocolate, which had dark chocolate and praline mousse with chocolate sauce, was creamy, sweet, and totally decadent.

All of the sweet crepes look good, though--I'd love to try the marscapone and cherry, or the butter pecan (ice cream), poached pear, and cognac. Basically, I'd like to go there with 5 or 6 friends and share a bunch of desserts.

So to wrap up, it's not my first-stop in Old Town for dinner, but it's decent for dessert, if you aren't in the mood for frozen custard (Dairy Godmother).

Fontaine Caffe
119 S. Royal Street
Alexandria, VA
Metro: Blue or Yellow Line to King Street
Fontaine Caffe & Creperie on Urbanspoon



I wanted to go to Palena for a long time. When we went inside, it didn't quite look the way I expected. The name invokes a subdued but colorful Spanish-inspired look in my head, but it was really quite a mix--mostly neutrals, with some color on the booth upholstery, and very classy (and comfy looking) bar stools with big Marie-Antoinette-like cushions.

So there's the dining room, where you can only partake in a fixed price menu (and which takes reservations, I believe), then the cafe. The cafe doesn't take reservations, you can order anything from the fixed price menu a la carte, AND choose from an extremely reasonable cafe menu. Our server was clear about how much different courses will cost from the fixed price options, and was just extremely helpful, kind, and efficient. J heard that on weekdays people line up at 4pm to be seated when the cafe opens at 5:30, so on this Saturday before Easter we arrived at around 6pm. After a 35 minute wait (which we spent walking (not too deep)) around the zoo, we were seated in a roomy booth.

On to the food.

Fry plate: Hand-cut fries, really long, thin, hot and crispy; a few onion rings, dauphine potatoes, and the biggest surprise--quarter-dollar rounds of fried lemon. J was brave. When I warned him his next bite was lemon, he shrugged his shoulders and continued, while I paused to consider the possible sour bite to come. They were surprisingly good, and didn't cause any scrunchy faces.

Gnocchi: Yukon Gold Potato Gnocchi with a Tyscan-style sauce--I had relished every word of Jason from DCFoodies' recommendations for Palena. And the gnocchi was really good--definitely the best gnocchi I'd ever had, because the texture was admittedly, probably was what gnocchi should always be. But the rest of my meal really out-shined those few bites.

J had the stuffed lamb off the cafe menu, he said he couldn't really tell about the "stuffed" part but it was really good. I can't recall what it came with. Wow, I'm so self-absorbed in my own food!

Roasted organic half chicken: What in the crispy outside, juicy super-soft inside is gong on! Tell your server right away that you want the chicken, as it takes 45 minutes to prepare/serve. And it's worth every minute of the wait. There was tons of meat, this was no El Pollo Rico or Super Pollo. I guess the 45 minutes is when they dilute the magic sparkle dust and turn it into my chicken.

Dessert brought the Warm German Apple Cake, which was as it sounds. It wasn't too sweet, and had a delightful large dollop of ginger ice cream alongside. The ice cream was refreshing, not too ginger-y, but enough to warrant the name.

I'll definitely be back at Palena. We had a delicious, beautiful gourmet dinner for less than $100.

3529 Connecticut Avenue NW
Metro: Red Line to Cleveland Park, take West exit.


The Heights

The Heights is fun. Also, it's now a stone's throw away from Marshall's, Best Buy, Target, Lane Bryant, and other things that were formerly foreign to Columbia Heights. The Heights is owned by the same peeps as Merkado (never been), Logan Tavern (never been), and Grillfish (been--good but uneventful, a long time ago).

Enough small talk...

I had a burger, and it was large and VERY filling. They reasonably allowed me to substitute any of the side dishes for the french fries--I mean, if you aren't at Beck, what's the point of wasting calories on fries?

Be my shrink for a sec--I have to tell you something. I was disappointed with the roasted butternut squash. Let me tell you what I was expecting, okay? Somewhere in my weird fantastical notions about butternut squash I thought that alongside my burger I'd find large wedge-like slices that were soft (but not mushy), sweet (but not too sweet) and creamy (um...that's all, yep, creamy). Instead I got a small bowl (what?!) of squash diced up to the same size as the tiny tomatoes on my salad. The soft/firm-ness was inconsistent, and despite the appearance of some onion and spices, the flavor didn't wow me. Bland. And it bothers me, because, it's like, my MOM can make some pretty sweet squash quickly in the microwave with some cinnamon and general mom-like pizzazz, so what's with that, Heights?

Now on to the BEST PART OF MY MEAL! No, I didn't have dessert. I purposefully skipped the part about my great salad. I asked our friendly (and patient) server to rank the salads according to his personal preference, and promptly chose his 2nd favorite for my starter. Repeat these words over and over, until you get to The Heights. Grilled. Romaine. Salad.

They take the heart of romaine lettuce (it's all connected, so it's a bunch), and throw it on the grill for what is probably a VERY short period of time, put it on a plate with blue cheese, and finely diced tomatoes and olives that must have been marinating in the AWESOME vinaigrette. I don't even like tomatoes, and I was scraping every bit of the topping off my plate and into the endless receptacle that is my mouth.

I'll be back at The Heights soon, where I will probably make my date buy me one of the delicious-sounding entrees. If you've been paying attention, you probably noticed that I love nut-crusted fish, so the pecan-crusted trout is natural. The salmon special sounded good but there was a lot going on--why did it need to have a lobster cream sauce? How many fish/seafood items really need to be in one dish? Also, I bet if we go, J will have the lamb. Mark my words!

The Heights
3115 14th Street NW
Metro: Green Line to Columbia Heights


Postcard from Tortola

Located in the British Virgin Islands (about a 45 minute ferry ride from St. Thomas, a USVI), Tortola is a picturesque, largely undeveloped (commercially, that is--no big resorts or chain hotels) island with gorgeous beaches of clear water, soft sand, and colorful fish. People are drawn to it for surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, and plain old relaxation. Many people on the serene beaches are retirees, and I turn green with jealousy when I ask them in March, "So, how long have you been here?" and they say, "Since New Year's." Ahhhh!

I'm not going to tell you everything they offer, go on and on about the view (it truly is lovely), or bother with the "downer" that is the parking situations on the island. These are the highlights. Consider yourself warned!

If you find yourself on Tortola, your cruise stops there, or you take a trip there from nearby St. John, St. Thomas, Jost Van Dyke, or Anegada, consider the options below:

Sugar Mill Hotel
Sugar Mill is a small hotel in Little Apple Bay located across the street from the beach that has a spacious restaurant. Brunch at Sugar Mill is delightful--you can refill your own coffee as much as you want, and the entrees are all delicious. Mom insists they are known for their apple French toast, and it definitely was a winner.

Jolly Roger
This Soper's Hole joint, also known as "Louie's" for the owner, is known for its burgers and pizzas. Jersey born and bred, I rarely eat pizza outside the Garden State or NY, so for me it's the HUGE burger at Jolly Roger that makes my day. The dock seating allows for an entertaining view of people coming in off their boats, and the huge fish that hang around hoping for dropped food.

Virgin Gorda: Restaurant at Top of the Baths
The jerk chicken sandwich was good, but had quite a bit of kick. If you are weak in the tastebuds, go for the regular grilled chicken. The spinach fritters were a GREAT starter, perfectly fried to a golden crisp. I can't say the same for the lobster bisque, which several members of my party said reminded them of "canned tomato soup infested with fake crab meat." Ouch. Location-wise, there's no better place than this to grab a bite to eat after you go to the Baths but before you head back to the ferry.

Road Town: La Dolce Vita
As the capital of Tortola, Road Town is bound to have both an overwhelming number tourists heading from cruise ships AND some of the best bites on the island. This gelato place is downright awesome, and we can't make a trip to "town" without stopping for a scoop, regardless of the hour. All the traditional flavors are there, and our favorites include the creamy strawberry, chocolate chip, and tiramisu.

Palm's Delight

I saved the best for last. Chicken in a ginger wine sauce, johnnie cakes (pancake meets cornbread), and beef patties (like empanadas) make this place a MUST. Like most other spots in Tortola, it's tiny, mostly outdoor, and the service may not be as quick as it is in the states ;) We're on island time, people.



When it's cold, all I want to do is go to Minh's. Good service, never a wait (although it does get busy on a Friday or Saturday night), super affordable, and most importantly, delicious.

I recommend anything ginger- or lemongrass-related then cooked in a clay pot (it will say it on the menu), the 5-spice chicken, and by golly, the pho! Pho is a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup with thin strips of brisket--they offer several variations but in the end they are mostly the same. A "small" in their pho is actually a big bowl, so please, order the large, and take a picture so I can see the results.

Five people each got a "small" pho then shared three entrees and left stuffed for around $65 including tax and tip.

What are you waiting for?!?!?!?

2500 Wilson Blvd
Arlington, VA
Metro: Orange Line to Court House