Off the Griddle with Ihopapotamus at…Las Vetas Lounge

(Editor’s Note: just in case anyone is curious, this is your original guest Ihopapotamus posting, T.K.)

Greetings, faithful readers.  This month found me back in Fairfield, CT at the Las Vetas Lounge at 27 Unquowa Rd, about half a block from the Fairfield train station.

Las Vetas is more of a coffee shop than a diner, but they have a respectable, albeit limited, breakfast menu.  On the owner’s advice, I tried their blueberry pancakes.  (He said he makes himself the blueberry pancakes when he “wants to treat himself.”).

It is a good thing I like blueberries, since there were more blueberries than pancake mix in my pancakes.  I was obviously a little surprised by that.  Since taking on the mantle of the Ihoppotamus, I’ve had more than my fair share of blueberry pancakes but I can honestly say I’ve never had such a high concentration of blueberries in my pancakes.  I like blueberries (that would be the whole reason I order blueberry pancakes), but I also want to eat pancakes when I order blueberry pancakes.  I don’t really remember eating pancakes; I only remember the taste of blueberries.  The liberal application of maple syrup failed to bring out the pancake-ish nature of the meal.  It just made for syrupy berries.

(image from Home Place Blogger)

It’s a shame the pancakes were subpar, since Las Vetas is actually a nice coffee shop.  A hodgepodge of furniture gives it a slightly Bohemian feel, more frequently found in Manhattan than in Connecticut.  The music is good, eclectic, and loud enough to be heard without interfering with your conversation.  Las Vetas also houses a fairly large collection of vinyl records the staff will play upon request.  The cappuccino I ordered came in a real mug, which I thought was a nice touch.  Maybe it’s my own eccentric tic, but I prefer not to drink out of a cardboard or Styrofoam cup.  I tolerate the plastic lids on hot beverages when I’m traveling, but only because I don’t have the alternative.  I never understood why Starbucks defaults to that as the norm, but the Starbucks people seem to be getting along just fine without my input.

(image from the Stamford Advocate)

The owner and the rest of the staff are very friendly.  The owner knew several of his customers by name.  He asked one or two of them if they had time to stay and chat or if they were in a rush.  I cannot remember the last time I saw a server ask a customer that (unless they were asking if there order was to stay or go…not quite the same thing).  I mentioned Las Vetas’ proximity to the train station; right next to the cash register is a monitor displaying the latest arrivals and departures from the train.  As someone who has spent a lot of time taking public transportation, I cannot stress how much I would have loved to have had more stores around my stop have that.  I frequently had to face a morning commute with caffeine due to uncertainty as to whether or not my train or bus would be running on time or five minutes late.  Kudos to Las Vetas for taking care of its customers that way.

(photo from the long thread)

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that my cappuccino was excellent.  I’m generally not a coffee drinker, but everyone that I spoke to really seemed to enjoy the Las Vetas coffee.   I feel bad giving its pancakes one Paul Bunyan only, but the Chief holds me to a high journalistic standard on these sorts of things.  If you find yourself in Fairfield by the train station, I’d recommend swinging by Las Vetas for some coffee.  If you’re in the mood for breakfast food, see if the Christophe’s Crepes is parked around the corner.

1 out of 5 Paul Bunyans: 

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French Toast Pancakes

Major disclaimer, these sound way better than they actually turned out.  If you’re still interested, read on, check out the original, and see what I did over at my recipe box.

I have to admit, I was instantly smitten with the idea.  Pancakes turned into French toast? I love both, sign me up!  Plus, this recipe also makes a pretty awesome apple-cinnamon-maple syrup.

I’ll start with the positive parts of the review.  Even though it seems like there’s a lot going on with the recipe, it’s actually pretty simple, just take things step by step.  

Also, like I mentioned before, the apple cinnamon syrup is GOOD. Apple-y and cinnamon-y and definitely worth saving.

And now for the not so great parts.  Frankly, it was the pancakes.  I tasted them on their own and they were not so bad, but definitely chewy.  Add the additional cooktime from the French toast part, and they came out really gummy.  I blame it on the banana. 

I spent some time discussing the execution of these pancakes with my brother-in-law.  I think that a fluffier base pancake, maybe like the ricotta pancakes, left out over night and then French toasted would have worked out better.  My BIL thought that the pancake flop was due to the inherent structural differences between French toast and bread…perhaps.  He suggested barely cooking the pancakes the first time (so over really high heat, but for a very short period of time), French toasting them, and then cooking them more thoroughly the second time so that the pancakes spent less time just sitting in the pan.  Another possibility.   Oh well, let me know if you try these pancakes or any of my hypotheses!

2.5 out of 5 stackies: 

I’ll have the….Chipper Chicken

If you don’t know what the chipper chicken is, then you definitely have a hole in your movie-viewing experience.  Here’s the scene it’s from, and if you don’t want to watch the whole clip, the relevant line is around 3:34.  

So these are Corn Crepes filled with bbq chicken.  They’re modeled off of this recipe for Michael Symon‘s famous corn crepes with homemade bbq duck confit…but I was feeling lazy and cheap so bottled bbq sauce and chicken for the SYTYCP household.

Overall, the flavor was excellent (and I’m sure with the bbq duck confit, it would’ve been even more amazing).  You could really taste the corn, bell peppers, and scallions and they made for pretty interesting crepes, all on their own.

WIth the bbq chicken, this was definitely a satisfying meal.  I will say that the crepes were very soft and I couldn’t get them very thin, I maybe should’ve made the batter a little thinner, but as I confessed earlier, I was being lazy.

I’m not sure what would’ve made these pancakes better besides following Symon’s recipe even closer, I may have to try remaking these because I really thought they would be AMAZING, whereas they turned out just, “good.”

3.5 out of 5 stackies: 

“Coffee, the favorite drink of the civilized world.” – Thomas Jefferson*

If you’re anything like me, you have to have a cup of coffee everyday.  In fact, I have a mildly-OCD coffee schedule which I won’t give you the details of, but suffice it to say, I gets my caffeine.

(image from declaud dot com)

So, when I saw this recipe for coffee pancakes from A Cozy Kitchen, I knew I had to try it. (Get my version here)  Armed with (but of course) a cup of coffee.

Overall, I was a little underwhelmed.  The consistency of the pancakes was okay, but were a little soggy.  Also, the coffee flavor actually tasted more bitter and a little burnt than anything else.  I’ve also realized that while I can tolerate drinking instant coffee, eating it in pancakes is just not my thing.

If I had to reimagine these, I think I’d try to make a hazelnut latte pancake, or maybe even pumpkin spice.  Bear with me, you’re witnessing a pancake creation happening at this moment, but I’m thinking a very fluffy pancake (maybe the vegan ones?), stacked with layers of a lightly sweetened freshly whipped cream, and chopped hazelnuts, or cocoa nibs.  Mmmm, that may have to happen IMMINENTLY.

2.5 out of 5 stackies:

 *Not so punny, I know, but I went to UVA, and if I graduated with nothing else, it’s an uncontrollable urge to slap quotes from TJ on anything and everything.