I grew up in the town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where the biggest industry was the manufacturing of steel and Bethlehem Steel was the biggest employer in the Valley. My father worked there all his life and retired from the company before they went bankrupt. I have many fond memories of the city and it’s culture, but in my entire life I never encountered a place like the Crêperie.
The Crêperie is is a little French café located in a strip mall right around the corner from the Marriott hotel properties near the airport. When I arrived at the hotel, I inquired about local places to have breakfast that served vegan food and I was directed to the Crêperie. I went for breakfast the following morning and had a great conversation with Kathy (the owner) about how she cooks her food and what brought her into this line of work. She told me her story about leaving corporate America and opening a small restaurant serving food that she enjoyed while growing up. Her grandmother, which she affectionately calls Vava, was a major influence in her life. This is how she came up with the name Vava’s Crêperie Café. We both grew up in a family of six children which gave us the opportunity to exchange stories about our places in the pack. One of her fondest memories is coming home after school to crepes with homemade raspberry jam.
I must admit at this point she almost had me drooling as she described the crepes her grandmother made with great affection. She uses the recipes her grandmother used to make crepes when she was a little girl. Let’s face it folks, don’t we all want to eat the food our grandmothers cooked for us when we were younger. It takes us back to a happy and comfortable time sharing meals with our family in grandma’s kitchen. This is the atmosphere Kathy has tried to create in her café.
As is the case with many people working in corporate America, Kathy became disillusioned with her work and decided to open the Crêperie. Her goal was to create a similar atmosphere to a French café, mimicking the recipes her grandmother had made for her. Much of this information is locked away in her memory of growing up as a child. She went back to visit Mery, France her grandmother’s birthplace, which gave her the inspiration for the Creperie. The personal touches with which Kathy has imbued her café is obvious the moment you walk in the door. I had conversations with several of the patrons, all of whom heartily endorse Kathy’s creations. The café is small and friendly, which lends itself to an atmosphere of interaction. The Crêperie is evidence that the culture of the city of Bethlehem has changed a great deal from what it was when I grew up. The breakfast of choice for the blue-collar workers in Bethlehem was quite different from what Kathy has created in her restaurant.
As you pick up the menu or look at the choices on the wall where the daily offerings are written, your mind starts to spin trying to digest all of the choices available. You can order anything from a Montecristo, to a peanut butter and banana crêpe. The nice thing about this place is that you can also create your own crêpe from a large list of choices available. The categories include a source of protein, cheese, vegetables, and sauce. There are no strictly vegan options at this point since the crepe batter contains eggs and milk. After our discussion, Kathy has agreed to research vegan crepe options and hopes to have them available in the future.
The sauces range from a balsamic glaze to a pesto created by Kathy. She prepares everything from scratch and obtains her produce from local sources. I had a blast ordering my meal and going through all the choices available to create my crêpe. Kathy prepared for me a whole-grain plant-based crêpe which included spinach, mushrooms, caramelized onions, tomatoes, sautéed peppers and a pesto sauce. Needless to say, by the time I received my breakfast, my mouth was watering. The taste was fantastic and took me back to a time when I was having breakfast with my brothers and sisters in my mom’s kitchen.
There are plenty of choices here for carnivores and vegetarians. My bet is that everyone will walk away from here delighted with what they have experienced. The Crêperie has been open a little over a year. If you are like me, when you travel it is fun to experience new and different places to eat. It’s great to have an opportunity to experience food that is prepared with affection and passion. Nowhere is that more evident than at the Crêperie. Bethlehem has finally acquired a little slice of French cuisine. I plan to tell everyone I know about what Kathy is doing here so that she has enough business to allow to continue fueling her passion.
A year ago, Rich and I passed through Carlisle en-route to Central New York for an annual Easter visit with relatives. Carlisle has a dearth of restaurants offering healthy, plant-based options. There is a Tappas bar which claims to offer vegan options but when questioned closely you’ll find the fingerling potatoes are fried in beef tallow, the croutons contain eggs and the olives are just taken from a jar and dunked in a pool of flavored olive oil. The pita bread is obviously store bought. They will remove the cheese and other offending products but offer nothing to compensate the diner for the loss. No thanks, we’ll pass.
There is an excellent Japanese/Vietnamese noodle shop (we reviewed last year) called Essei Noodles and there is a wonderful market (also reviewed last year), Appalachian Whole Foods. So, last year, following our lunch at Essei, we stopped to check out a lovely little vegetarian café on West Pomfret Street called Gaia Fresh Food Café. We spoke with Gaia’s owner, George Catselis. We didn’t try the food at the time since we had already eaten. However, we did get a look at the place and an earful from George on his plans to make this a community meeting place where people who care what goes into their bodies and care about what is happening to our planet can congregate. A year later, and George’s plans are coming to fruition.
En-route to visit Issei Noodle restaurant in Carlisle, PA, we ran across Appalachian Whole Foods Market, right across the side street from Issei Noodles. The market opens onto a corner and you are immediately greeted by its owner, Sandy Zell. The store is larger than it appears from the outside. It is quaint and rustic and a pleasure to peruse.
What is unique about Appalachian Whole Foods Market is that it is entirely vegetarian, though not necessarily vegan. We noted quite a selection of bulk bin items, Sandy says there are over 200 bins of organic dried beans, nuts, grains, flours and spices. There wasn’t a lot in the way of fresh produce, at least at this time of the year. When spring produce is ready to be harvested these items will no doubt appear in greater numbers. I noticed fresh eggs, a large supply of organic onions, some greens and herbs. There was also a wall of refrigerated items. We did note fresh breads, plenty of supplements, body products, essential oils, incense, candles and organic grocery items, including gluten free products. She also carries a selection of books on health, specialized diets and vegetarian cooking. (more…)
Issei Noodle restaurant is a unique merging of cultures, authentic Japanese udon and ramen noodles side by side with Vietnamese Pho. The restaurant comes by it honestly as owners Robert Pham, is Vietnamese and his spouse and partner, Naomi Pham, is Japanese. Their two daughters, Chané and Tash create a perfect fusion of the two. This is a first generation family owned business.
Rich and I ate at Issei Noodle about a year ago when passing through Carlisle, Pennsylvania and have not forgotten the experience. It was reminiscent of our years in Japan where we often took a train to Tokyo just to slurp down a hot bowl of ramen noodles or udon with fresh vegetables. Imagine our delight to find an authentic Asian noodle restaurant right in the heart of Carlisle! This year as we made our annual trip to Central NY to visit family we made it a point to revisit Carlisle and to visit Issei Noodle. It did not disappoint. We even witnessed a young Asian man holding his bowl to his mouth and drinking the broth directly from the bowl in true Japanese fashion and other Asian customers sucking down noodles from heavily laden chopsticks making slurping noises which would have made our parents grimace. It was truly an authentically Asian experience though the restaurant was filled to capacity with western diners as well. Not all dishes are vegan, there are plenty of options for your carnivorous friends as well. (more…)