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|October 30-November 5, 2008
• Far East promise
China’s potential lures adventurous winemakers
by Evan Osnos
Crêpes À La Carte’s embodies the essence of Parisian pancakes
by Clay Fong
Emulating a second-rate Camus-meets-Sartre at a Left Bank brasserie, I entered Boulder’s Crêpes À La Cart, where colleague Juanito awaited. On this cool, rainy night, the restaurant’s casual yet bistro-influenced interior provided comforting shelter. Juanito was already busy examining the eyestrain-inducing menu, which features approximately 70 different varieties of crêpes prepared to order. The traditionalist can savor a Grand Marnier-infused Crêpes Suzette, while the vegetarian can tuck into thin pancakes stuffed with ingredients such as mushrooms, asparagus and spinach. Seafood aficionados might enjoy the Atlantic, filled with smoked salmon, onions, spinach and Hollandaise sauce.
The meal began with $3 side salads. These simple, well-executed affairs consisted of mesclun greens and grape tomatoes drizzled with surprisingly good olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The salad’s cool crispness and tart dressing helped balance our crêpes’ heft and richness.
Juanito happily dubbed his voluminous $8.50 Breck Rib Eye crêpe (the moniker is a nod to the restaurant’s Breckenridge origins), “a French burrito.” Along with the surprisingly tender and flavorful beef, this crêpe was brimming with mushrooms and onions. The kitchen had run out of the prescribed Swiss cheese and substituted a mozzarella and cheddar blend. Consequently, this dish elicited favorable comparison to a Philly cheesesteak, which is another crêpe option. The only downside was that the mushrooms required additional cooking to draw out their full flavor. A side of horseradish sauce was creamy and pleasantly piquant without being aggressively nostril-clearing.
Culinary purists may take exception to the crêpe batter, which is of the smooth variety commonly found in America, as opposed to the original rustic buckwheat version found in Brittany. Nevertheless, this restaurant’s pancakes stand up well on their own merits, possessing just the right amount of crispness, feathery texture and subtly nutty, flavor.
Without question, this batter nicely complemented my $6.50 Parisian crêpe, a classic blending thinly sliced ham, brie and Dijon mustard. As the restaurant welcomes substitutions, I swapped out the mustard for Hollandaise, a decision I didn’t regret. An overabundance of sauce would have diminished my enjoyment, but this crêpe had just a hint of Hollandaise, which helped to emphasize the remarkable flavor of the warm brie. Although I enjoyed this crêpe, the ham was the weak link, more closely resembling lunchmeat than a European air-dried ham that would have elevated this dish to the sublime.
Comfort, rather than sophistication, governed our choice of a dessert crêpe. Juanito’s one-track mind honed in something with chocolate, and so we ordered the $7.75 Chocolate Dream, which also included pecans, coconut and banana. It didn’t have the oozy filling often found in dessert crêpes, which isn’t a bad thing. My first bite took me back to misspent Halloweens, as it tasted like an Almond Joy candy bar, one of my all-time favorites. This was a choice to be savored, both for quality chocolate flavor and forgotten memories.
Although Crêpes À La Cart won’t be mistaken for a genuine French crêperie, it successfully captures the essence of a crêpe as a satisfying repast that may be enjoyed at any time. The atmosphere takes some cues from its European counterparts, although a blaring Phil Collins CD may have detracted from the ambience. After all, one never hears cheesy pop in France — on second thought, maybe this soundtrack did contribute a certain Continental quality.
Crêpes À La Cart
Clay’s obscurity corner
Crêpes Suzette is the best known of crêpe preparations, and it’s said to have originated during a Parisian dinner enjoyed by Edward, Prince of Wales in 1895. On this August occasion, the restaurant staff proposed naming this confection of liqueur, sugar and orange in his honor. Roguish Edward instead insisted the dish be named for his dining companion, Suzette (not his wife). History records that the future King Edward VII was indiscreetly involved in dalliances with a string of mistresses. Edward’s most famous mistress was British socialite Alice Keppel, and Keppel’s great-granddaughter is the current Duchess of Wales, Camilla Parker-Bowles.
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