Brian and I have enjoyed crêpes since we began travelling to Europe. I remember hiking up a Montmartre hill while on our first trip, following Rick Steves’ instructions to eat a crêpe in Montmartre while in Paris. We’ve since filled up on delicious and cheap savory filled pancakes at Kompressor in Tallin, Estonia, dined on Ukranian pancakes in a vegetarian restaurant in Krakow, Poland, and tried the bigger-in-circumference-than-I-am loaded pancakes at My Old Dutch Pancake House in London. It seems every food culture offers a variation of the thin goodie-filled pancake.
In the fall of 2006 while in Normandy we sampled crêpes near their French birthplace of Brittany. Crêperies abound in this western region of France and they offer a reasonably-priced and tasty lunch or dinner option.
As much as we’ve enjoyed crêpes over the years, we never thought about making them at home. Until Tom and Pat, a British expatriate couple living in Provence, invited us to their home for lunch last summer after befriending us at the village restaurant. The final course of this beautiful hours-long summer lunch was homemade crepes filled with fruit and topped with ice cream. We were fascinated that she’d made them with such apparent ease, and vowed to learn how when we came home.
As is our usual way, when we take something on we do it with a vengeance. We ordered a Tibos crêpe griddle from Amazon and set about teaching ourselves the art of crêpe-making.
First, it’s a lot harder than it looks when the guys at the street crêpe stands in Paris do it. (We finally learned the magic combination of white and wheat flour that gives the hot batter enough substance to let you easily spin it into a nice circle.) Second, you can eat a lot of crêpes before growing tired of them. All summer last year we flipped and filled crêpes and enjoyed the fruits of our labors (and gained a few pounds).
We started to think and talk about taking the show on the road — serving crêpes at events, maybe. A trial run with my co-workers proved people would eat our cooking and spurred us on to practice more.
Fast forward to the new year, and my co-worker Bryce Hudson completed work on his new art space in a renovated old medical building. Bryce wanted something unique for his private opening and asked us to serve crêpes. That made it official — we’d be cooking for strangers, people who didn’t have to politely say, “yes, it’s delicious.”
I labored over my notes and calculations on ingredients and shopping lists for weeks leading up to Friday night. I bought Brian a chef’s jacket and donned a beret. I named the crêpes for Parisian neighborhoods — Le Rue Cler: Caramelized pear + blue cheese; Le Marais: Fig preserve + brie; and Le Belleville: Classic Nutella + banana. Bryce designed a delicious menu.
Friday, Feb 1 arrived and despite my fears that the griddle may die halfway through the night or we’d run out of ingredients too soon, the night was brilliant. My friend Holly took photos all night.
It was such fun to talk to the guests about crêpes — some missed them from their travels and others had never tried one. We especially enjoyed those that came back for seconds and thirds, trying everything on the menu. We cooked nearly non-stop from 7:00 to 11:00 making, we estimate, between 80 and 100 crêpes. People queued up several at a time at points in the night for our crêpes, which gave me a little thrill.
What a fantastic experience! Sharing a food we love with people who are excited to eat it — and getting paid in the process — is a dream. We gave out tiny cute photo business cards and chatted with some local journalists. We hope (and think) Louisville may be intrigued by the idea of a crêpe station at parties and that we’ll get to do this again.
If we do launch a little business out of this we’ll name it “Let Them Eat Crêpes.” My mother-in-law, who bless her heart wouldn’t know Marie Antoinette from Marie Osmond, asks us at every Sunday phone call how we’re coming with “Let There Be Crêpes” Today we can tell her that then there were crêpes. :)