Food of the Gods 

Made for mere mortals at Ambrosia Café

People who don't stay at home to raise their children will never know how much juice really gets spilled (dropped/ thrown) in the course of a day, whether or not a 4-year-old can really lift a gallon of milk (no), how many black olive slices fit up the nose of a 2-year-old, or what a godsend that jabbering purple dinosaur really is.

Because I know the answers to these questions, and more, I snuck out of the house one Saturday morning to have breakfast all by myself at Ambrosia Caf. No one wanted bites of my toast, no one threw themselves sobbing into my lap, there were no cats demanding to be let in or out, and as far as I could see they don't even have a washing machine, much less an out-of-balance one spewing suds.

On top of that, the food was delicious. I had the Ranchero breakfast crepe ($4.95), stuffed with green chiles, fluffy and moist scrambled eggs, Monterey jack cheese and ranchero sauce, topped with more of the sauce and a squiggle of sour cream. Me, I'm not a fan of those places that drop a huge mound of cold sour cream on your hot dish for a garnish. But I did appreciate the long squiggle of the stuff here, because it nicely combatted the growing heat in my mouth. The ranchero sauce is addictive, since the first bite is so flavorful, zingy and tangy, that you're about three bites in before you realize there's some heat here.

Fortunately Ambrosia's smoothies are gigantic, and I had a Berry Blast by my side. All the smoothies are fat-free and (three cheers!) lactose-free, and they taste like tall, cold essence of fresh fruit. The Extremely Peach is just that, so fresh-tasting I expected to find peach fuzz, and the Mango Colada had just the right touch of coconut to taste a little tropical. Smoothies are all $3.40, and for a buck each you can add stuff like bee pollen, ginkgo biloba, ginseng, soy protein and more. If you must, you must, but why mess with perfection?

Besides the breakfast crepes, in the morning you can choose from a variety of pastries, or Cinnamon Roll French Toast, and the cinnamon rolls, made in-house, are meltingly tender and divine. Dipped in egg and grilled they must be true manna.

Or you could get a French Toast Dunk (my next choice), which is bacon sandwiched in French toast with syrup for dunking.

The rest of the day's menu is simple but delicious. There are two entree crepes ($6.50), and the chicken enchilada is substantial but light. This entree would stand on it's own against any Mexican fare, but it is lighter by virtue of being wrapped in a light, delicate crepe instead of a heavier and breadier tortilla. Again, spiced to be flavorful but not overbearing, with the same squiggle of sour cream. The panini sandwiches ($5.95 to $6.25) are gigantic, hot square sandwiches made from impeccably fresh ingredients. The chicken combines chunks of fresh, tender chicken (not deli slices) with fresh basil, melted mozzarella and huge slabs of juicy roasted red pepper. The Cheese Melt combines cheddar, Swiss and provolone with a bit of fresh basil and tomatoes, simple enough for kids to enjoy while being sophisticated enough for adults.

You can also choose one of two Boards, each served with a bread basket. The Garden ($6.95) comes with cheeses, seasonal fruits and berries, nuts and veggies. The Deli ($7.95) was my choice, and it was more food than I could eat alone. The platter was covered with thinly sliced salami and thick fingers of moist, flavorful turkey and medium-rare (not bloody) roast beef. There were carrot and celery sticks, pickles, four kinds of olives and two enormous wedges of cheese (along the lines of Gouda and cheddar, so don't expect any Velveeta here, folks). Oh, yes, and there were cherry tomatoes and a creamy, pungent horseradish sauce that I couldn't stop eating. On the bread plate were homemade cheese biscuits, a long piece of crackery, oniony flatbread, and some round, extremely crispy water crackers. I can't help thinking that ordering these two boards together, to go, would make for the perfect picnic lunch (or dinner), perhaps for listening to some jazz in the parks on a Wednesday evening.

I'm not a person who likes fruit in her tossed salad, generally, but I may have been converted by the salads at Ambrosia. The Field of Dreams is mixed greens with berries, almonds, blue cheese crumbles and raspberry vinaigrette. Even more sumptuous, in my opinion, is the Cleopatra, which combines romaine, spinach, halved red and green grapes, walnuts, matchstick slivers of apple, flakes of Parmesan cheese and cleo dressing (a tangy vinaigrette, not as heavily spiced as Italian dressing, very light and not too oily). You can get a small salad for $3 to $3.50, and a meal-sized for $5.75 to $6.25, and you can add chicken to any salad for an additional $1.50.

I simply haven't had the time (or the room) to try any of the dessert crepes ($4.50), but they intrigue me, with names like Very Berry and Chocolate Bliss. They also carry Theobroma confections, dubbed "Chocolate of the Gods," plus a variety of coffee drinks. Trust me, next time I can ditch the kids, I'm headed to Ambrosia for a Funky Monkey smoothie and one of those dessert crepes, neither of which I'll have to share.


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