Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Parisian Eats Highlight Reel: Crêpes and Galettes

by EP

Gardens at Versailles

While we were in Paris, we ate.  A lot.  (And managed to walk most of it off - win!)  I won't lie to you, Dear Reader, and say that every morsel of food we ate was spectacular - there were definitely highlights and lowlights.  But for the most part, we had some great bites, and I will try not to drool all over my computer as I recount them for you over the next few posts.

First up: Crêpes and Galettes:



Before I went to France, I was not into crêpes.  I thought they were just boring pancake wannabes.  I felt they were trendy but without having any real merit.  Like...Ke$ha, for example.  But when I went to Paris, Rachel informed me that having crêpes was on her list, and who am I to deprive a dear friend of a requested foodstuff on vacation?  While Rachel and I were in Versailles (with another WU friend, Danielle), after a wonderful tour of the palace and self-guided tour of the expansive gardens, we stopped for lunch at a non-descript crêperie on a darling little street. 






We'll be moving in soon...

The restaurant had a deal: 1 galette (buckwheat pancake with savory filling) and 1 crêpe for 10 euro.  We thought it was a pretty good deal considering most crêpes or galettes were 6+ euro each.  And you know I love a bargain!  We all the ordered the combo deal (and booze, of course).

I ordered a galette with mushrooms, gruyere, and an egg, with a pile of greens on top, and a crêpe with apricot jam filling and apricot brandy.  The galette was so fantastic, I was almost in shock at how good and comforting it was.  Maybe it was the 4 hours of walking we had just done, but this thing really hit the spot.



The thin buckwheat pancake was nicely caramelized with crispy edges, folded to reveal the wonderful fillings.  I don't think I need to tell you that cheese + mushrooms + runny egg yolk = amazing.  The lightly dressed salad on top was a nice touch, a good way to fill in the corners, as they say.

My apricot crêpe was also really good and again, tasted like comfort food.  The sweet crêpe was a little fluffier than the galette, and was folded up differently, as it hid the apricot filling inside.  When the waiter brought it over, he poured on the apricot brandy and set it aflame!  I couldn't believe that at such a little informal place, we were having a table-side flambé experience.

Hard to tell but it's on fire!
Caramel + apples + crepe = so nom

Of course, we shared and tried each others' crêpes.  Danielle ordered one with peaches and apples, and Rachel got one with caramelized apples and caramel (a common combo we saw throughout the trip).  I think Rachel's crêpe was the best...as evidenced by our second meal of galettes and crêpes...

A day and a half later, we made our way to the 3rd arrondisement specifically for a meal of galettes and crêpes.  I did a lot of restaurant research prior to the trip (no one should be shocked by this), and Dave Lebovitz's blog was a great help.  He recommended crêpes at Breizh Cafe, a restaurant serving traditional Brittany-style crêpes, and he was right on the money.



We arrived at Breizh Cafe around lunchtime and were asked if we had a reservation, which we did not.  The friendly host told us to come back in about an hour and a half, so we strolled down to a bar on the corner, ordered an espresso (or beer, if you're Rachel) and journaled/read while we watched the fashion statements go by.  As Dave L says, "this sparsely-finished restaurant is in the heart of ‘bobo’ (bourgeois bohemians) land, so there’s no shortage of strollers or hipsters hanging out in this part of the Marais..."


Trying, unsuccessfully, to be "bobo" with my journal and espresso


Once it was time, we headed back up the block to Breizh Cafe, and chatted with the host once more while  we watched the chef prepare crêpes and galettes in the front of the restaurant (which had a sparse, Japanese feel to the decor, very different).  We were seated and ordered beverages while we perused the extensive menu and chalkboard specials (also plentiful). 




We took the same approach as before: galettes first, crêpes second, all shared between the 2 of us.  I loved that :)  The first galette we ordered was one of the specials for Spring and had egg, white asparagus, and duck confit as fillings.  The second was off the regular menu and was filled with mushroom, bacon, cream, and gruyere.  Both were excellent and perfectly executed, but the one with bacon won in my book.  These galettes seemed more upscale than the ones we had 2 days earlier, but I think that was more a result of the ambiance (and price) rather than a reflection of the quality of the food.

Galette with mushrooms, cream, bacon

Galette with egg, white asparagus, duck confit

As for dessert, we ordered one crêpe with pears, dark chocolate, almonds, and vanilla ice cream on top, and the other was filled with caramelized apples and topped with caramel and Chantilly cream (sound familiar?).

Crepe with pears, almonds, vanilla ice cream

The pear crêpe was fabulous -- how can you argue with ice cream in the middle of the day? -- but the apple-caramel-cream crêpe was by far my favorite.  Interestingly, on any crêpe, the chef offered the caramel in one of three ways: (1) regular, (2) with ginger, and (3) with buckwheat seeds.  We ordered the caramel with buckwheat seeds on a recommendation from the waiter, who said it was one of the chef's signature moves and added a nice crunch to the dish.  He was so right -- the contrast in texture to the crêpe, apples, and Chantilly cream , which were all soft/mushy, totally made this dish for me!

See the seeds??

Our only other crêpe experience was a late-night, post-dancing crêpe in the Bastille area.  No pics of that one, but it was filled with Nutella and bananas, and it was damn good too.  I think this kind of street food-style crêpe is more representative of the genre, but I'm glad we tried all different kinds throughout the trip.

Now that I'm back, I feel conflicted: will I like American crêpes as much as Parisian?  Or am I forever spoiled such that no domestic crêpe will do?  In any case, if American crêpes are popular without merit (e.g., Ke$ha), Parisian ones are popular because they represent fantastic, soul-satisfying goodness (e.g., Adele).

Bon appétit!

EP

3 comments:

  1. I fell in love with savory galletes from time in France as well but I never found anything in the US that really compared. Sadly OH does not like them so we rarely get them...

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  2. I have always associated crepes with the street food experience...many, many during my student year in France...and love the basic crepe au beurre sucre. I've never been able to quite get up for the gussied up crepes plus in the sit down restaurant.

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