In those days a French restaurant was new for Cincinnati. Crepes were exotic, and escargot was just nasty.
We've become a bit more continental over the years and regularly dine on everything from sweetbreads to squid-ink soup, so when my husband and I stopped in for lunch it was more like reminiscing with an old friend than embarking on a foreign culinary adventure. As we sipped our coffee (me) and espresso (him) and munched on a warm yeast roll, we pointed at old photographs and the other objects littering the dining room as we chatted about earlier visits.
The Grand Finale's claim to fame is dessert, of course, and the Sunday brunch buffet includes not only desserts but also crepes and quiches, fried chicken livers, Belgian waffles and biscuits and gravy. Because the buffet is so excellent, the restaurant's lunch menu often gets shoved out of the limelight, so we were glad to have an opportunity to sample the variety of items on this menu. A few of the lunch specialties include Quiche ($8.50), Chicken Breast Pot Pie ($8.95), Steak and Potatoes ($13.95) and the Grand Spaghetti Toss ($8.50). There's also a gaggle of salads and, of course, crepes ($6.95-$13.95).
We started with Spunk's Famous Crab Cakes ($11.95) and the Classic Mixed-Up Cobb salad ($8.95). The crab cakes (named for the chef) came with a wonderfully tangy chilled mustard sauce and the cakes were meaty and flecked with chunks of red pepper. As a side, I ordered a mushroom crepe and immediately fell in love with the dish all over again. Crepes are often poorly made -- poured much too thick and doughy. This one was paper-thin, browned on top and filled with an array of mushrooms and melted cheeses. The Cobb salad was topped with hard-boiled egg, fresh chicken breast, perfectly ripe avocados, perfectly cooked bacon, tomato and blue cheese.
After a filling entrée we moved on to the best part -- the grand finale! Picking dessert at the Grand Finale is one of the toughest choices you'll ever make. Should I have the chocolate cordial Pie ($4.95), described as a "mountainous wedge of chocolate mousse in a pecan crust," or the Apple cinnamon cheesecake ($5.25)? I think not -- for us it was the Caramel Custard ($4.95) and the Strawberry Raspberry Crepe ($4.95), which also is available sugar-free.
The crepe, filled with a nonfat blackberry yogurt and topped with fresh raspberries and strawberries, balanced out the sugar in the nutmeg-laced custard that came with a small pitcher of thick, wonderful caramel.
Ah, what a sweet ending for a trip down memory lane.
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