Vanilla Bean's Mediterranean omelet is food for Greek gods

"I'm a big guy. I like to eat a lot," Richard Rohde said as we made our arrangements over the phone to dine on the Mediterranean omelet at the Vanilla Bean Cafe.

"I'm a big guy. I like to eat a lot," Richard Rohde said as we made our arrangements over the phone to dine on the Mediterranean omelet at the Vanilla Bean Cafe.

Rohde -- call him Dick -- is a big man around town. At 6 foot 4 and 300 pounds, the retired business real estate broker is easy to spot waiting outside the small cafe on the main drag in Two Harbors.


We took a table in the small dining room, about half full at 9 a.m. on a Wednesday, and were greeted as we got ourselves settled.

"Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I'll skip the other two if I have to but I can't ... skip ... breakfast," Rohde said, slowing down and tapping the table three times to emphasize his point.


We placed identical orders -- omelets with a side of English muffins and coffee -- and Rohde proceeded to explain why this omelet is the best he's ever tasted. He doesn't care for the standard restaurant omelet -- crepe-style, with a thin layer of egg wrapped, burrito-style, around a mound of ingredients.

"Anyone can dump some egg mix on a grill and roll it up," he said. "This one is different. ... it's baked and fluffy."

When they're not at the Vanilla Bean, Rohde said he and his wife, Jeanette, enjoy dining at the Pickwick, the New Scenic Cafe and the Boathouse -- "some of the better places," he said.

Our omelets arrived, colorful and trailing swirls of steam. "I've tried all their omelets, but this one is the best," Rohde said, after he took a few bites. "I love feta cheese and I love the spinach. ... this is, hands down, the best omelet I've ever eaten, and I've eaten at a lot of places."


The words "eggceptional" and "eggstra-

ordinary" -- OK, I'll stop -- came to mind. This omelet looked, smelled and tasted heavenly.

Half-moon-shaped and a good nine inches across, it was sunny yellow, with dots of white feta and flecks of golden brown doneness. Whole bright green spinach leaves, mushrooms and kalamata olives (not flavorless canned black olives) were baked into the dish. A few more olives were sprinkled on top.


If you love Greek food, you know the characteristic salty flavors of feta cheese and kalamata olives and you also know that the saltiness can overwhelm other flavors. That didn't happen in this dish. There was just enough feta to make its presence known and just enough spinach and mushrooms to provide variety in texture and taste. As for the egg itself -- the star ingredient -- it had a delicate, fluffy, soft-but-done texture, and it felt rich and creamy in the mouth. I hesitate to use the word "light" with this dish, because although the texture is indeed light, I suspect the caloric intake isn't.

I zipped through this dish, marveling at its nearly airy texture, until I was on my last few bites. Then it hit me. I am full. Really full.

Next time I'll try the Yucatan (including

Mexican chorizo and poblano peppers), the Green Eggs and Ham (including green onions and pesto) or the Popeye, with smoked gouda, bacon and,

of course, spinach.


The Vanilla Bean Cafe considers its oven-baked omelets a house specialty, according to Jan Bergman, who co-owns the restaurant with her husband, Paul. The secret to the fluffy texture is the way it's prepared -- started in the pan and finished in the oven -- and the cream that's in the egg mixture.

The omelets, and many of the other menu items, were created by Scott Graden, who was involved with the restaurant when it started nearly 10 years ago, Bergman said. Graden now owns the New Scenic Cafe.


The Vanilla Bean has plenty of straightforward dishes on its menu -- the Northwoods Traditional breakfast combo and the pan-fried walleye -- but it also has some dishes with a twist, including a wild rice breakfast porridge, Norwegian Crepes and chipotle grilled chicken. "We have folks telling us every day how flavorful the food is," Bergman said.

The Vanilla Bean offers catering and also has an attached pastry bakery next door, which

specializes in wedding cakes.

Tom Wilkowske is a food reviewer for the Wave. Reach him at .

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