United Nations weekend

Includes (all in Raleigh, NC): Simply Crepes, Vinos Finos & Picadas and Cantina 18   

Outstanding French-Canadian, South American and Mexican food all in a 31-hour time span, and right here in Raleigh. What a lucky girl I am!

Simply Crepes finally opened last week, so I went for lunch on Saturday. Nice family owners from upstate New York, beautiful environment, great service (thanks, Brittany!) and the largest and most creative crepe assortment I’ve seen in a long time.

My lunch was a goat cheese, arugula, portobello mushroom and tomato basil relish crepe. It’s great to feel nutritionally virtuous yet satiated after a meal. This crepe was full of vibrant color and healthy fiber — and the melted goat cheese added just the right flavor punch and layer of decadence.

I returned the same evening with a friend after a light wine and picadas supper (more on that in a minute). Even though we were both pretty full, we couldn’t resist the allure of dessert crepes. Crepettes to the rescue!

Simply Crepes offers an assortment of petite and full-size sweet crepes, plus their unique, crispy, one-bite crepettes. Three for $3.99 — just what the doctor ordered. My trio consisted of chocolate mousse and strawberry, peanut butter cream with toffee bits and sweet vanilla cream and raspberry.  Paired with a glass of prosecco — ahhhhh.

The small bar and lounge area is perfect for those evenings when — like us — you just want to pop in for dessert and a drink.

Other bonuses: Breakfast is served all day, and tofu can be subbed for the meat proteins in any of the crepes.

Welcome to the ‘hood, Simply Crepes!

Sandwiched between my crepe indulgences was a light dinner at Vinos Finos y Picadas. The upscale yet cozy — think low tables, leather chairs, dark wood — wine bar features 350+ wines, mostly from South America. While it doesn’t pretend to be a full-service restaurant, it offers Argentine picadas, or bites, to accompany the wines.

People with hefty appetites or those who feel no meal is complete without a large entree might not make a supper out of picadas. But the $40 Flight Special Tray + vegetable plate was plenty for my friend Dawn and I.

The flight goodies were served on a wooden tray carved with the wine bar’s name and spots for our three, 3-oz. pours of wine (of our choice). Olives, nuts, dried fruit, empanadas, five kinds of cheeses (my favorites were the harder cheeses, but Dawn loved the lush, ripe cambozola) and four types of meat completed the tray. The veggies included hearts of palm, artichoke hearts and roasted peppers. Small, sliced baguettes accompanied, as did live acoustic guitar. An exceedingly pleasant way to spend a mellow evening.

I wrapped up my international food weekend with Sunday dinner at Cantina 18 — same chef/owner as one of my perennial favorites, 18 Seaboard. Cantina 18 is a bit more casual than its sister establishment, and serves inventive, colorful Mexican food.

As always, I opted for tacos. It’s hard not to, when you can mix-and-match from such a fun selection. (But I’ll have to force myself to branch out sooner than later, since the menu features other awesome-sounding entrees.)

Of the three tacos I tried, I had two favorites. The first wouldn’t win any beauty contests (it’s the one at the back of the photo), but the flavors really popped: cornmeal-crusted mahi mahi with tomatillo sauce (love tomatillos) and marinated onions. The mahi chunks were perfectly cooked, with a delicately crunchy exterior. The other favorite (in the photo’s foreground) was the marinated veggies taco. The vegetables were cooked just right — not too crunchy but not too soft — and the flavors melded nicely together.

And you know how lacking the typical Mexican restaurant accompaniments are? Dry, flavorless rice, refried beans cooked and mushed to death. Not so at Cantina 18. The slaw is especially zingy.

I wonder what culinary adventures await next weekend?

About atarheeltastes

I'm a passionate foodie who started this "temporary" blog during a gustatory tour of Tuscany. I decided to continue, since I love to dream about, plan for, prepare, eat and write about food!
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2 Responses to United Nations weekend

  1. Kathy says:

    Terry, We checked out Simply Crepes after reading your post. The crepes were sublime- flavorful but not so much that we couldn’t enjoy the flavor of the actual crepe. They were much better than Coquette’s crepes where they overpower the crepe with sauce and salt (although I love other dishes at Coquette). I had the Chicken Tarragon and the crepettes. Friends at the table had the Turkey and Gouda and the Nutella Crepe. They know what they are doing with Crepes!

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