The Crêped Crusader

Certain foreign foods adapt better to Americanization than others, just as certain sit-down dishes adapt better as street eats than others. Pizza, for instance, adapts both ways excellently when the adapted version is at its best, like good New York-style pizza by the slice. Sure, a typical N.Y. "vegetarian" slice loaded with most of the supermarket produce shelf is different than Italian pizza, the latter sporting suitably sparser toppings because of its far thinner crust, and, except in Rome and Milan, always sold by the whole pie and eaten sit-down style on a plate with a knife and fork. But if the N.Y. slice's crust is crisp and tasty enough, like a good sourdough roll, the Americanized overabundance of ingredients works well.

Crêpes? Well, crêpes in France are already sold in both sit-down and street snack forms, the latter usually just folded more, into quarters rather than served flat or folded in half as for a fork-eaten lunch. But CrêpeMaker's "hand held" creations go French streetcart crêpes one better. They are fatter, almost cone-shaped. This makes them a terrific concept for outdoor shopping/entertainment malls where -- the popularity of sit-down fast-food "food courts" notwithstanding -- what one really wants to do is munch while strolling and window shopping.

All-American ingredient overload, unfortunately, did not seem to work as well in a crêpe as on a pizza, at least not for me and my two co-taste testers. The Very Philly's marinated but pretty dry steak strips with sautéed onion, melted mozzarella cheese, portobello mushrooms, and caesar salad dressing did not taste like a Philly cheese steak sandwich; it tasted like too many ingredients -- namely the mushrooms and salad dressing -- for even a cheese steak's standard sub roll, much less for a delicate crêpe. And the Blue Cheese Vegi's combo of warmed apples coated in cinnamon and powdered sugar, allegedly melted blue cheese (actually little crumbles with little blue-veined flavor), walnuts, artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, "vine-ripe" (nah, as usual) tomatoes, fresh basil, and "Crêpemaker seasoning," which was understandably undiscernible in all the above, might have been too much for even a sturdy wooden salad bowl.

An Opulence (marinated chicken breast, artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, portobello mushrooms, and melted mozzarella) was a bit less overwhelming. But both the chicken breast and the artichoke/hearts of palm mix tasted packaged, as though they'd been originally prepared somewhere else, long ago and far away, and merely reheated and/or assembled on-site.



8269 SW 124th St., Miami (Also kiosks at Sunset Place and the Falls.)

Open daily, 11:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; till midnight Saturday; till 11:00 p.m. Sunday. Call 305-233-4458.

Despite a pesto sauce so mild that it had virtually no basil taste, much less garlic or pignolias, a Veri Vegi wasn't bad, with green peppers as well as the listed sweet red peppers, red onion, portobellos, and melted mozzarella. But the mozzarella, like that in the Very Philly, had obviously never seen Paree or Roma; it tasted like standard American supermarket stuff.

A Black and White that we tried for dessert, though, worked well after our rather pricey pick-me-up (most crêpes run $5 to $6). A combo of sliced bananas and Nutella chocolate/hazelnut spread enclosed in a crêpe that, for some reason, was made from batter before our eyes instead of flipped from a premade stack onto the grill to warm over, it was best because it was freshest and simplest.


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