I enjoy food that comes hidden behind some gluten filled pleasure pocket. Man that sounds strange. Oh well, I’m leaving it in. Calzones, Stromboli, tacos, burritos, enchiladas, and any other Spanish word with delicious Mexican ingredients are a staple in my weekly diet. Beyond the above, along with various derivations of pizza, pasta and sandwiches, my ultimate ingredient stuffed pouch of carbohydrates lies with the French, in a crepe. Adding to the list of influences in my upbringing is my honorary father’s (I love that word over step-father, clearly it’s his honor to step in and be my father when I’m with my Mom. Being a step parent sounds fun for no one, but he did it well, and that’s why he’s my honorary father, my Daddy Don, Dad) French blood. At various times during my childhood, our Dad would spend hours in the kitchen preparing a very French, gourmet meal. Being a big breakfast person, he soon channeled his culinary discipline into making crepes, and boy were we happy for it. Our quarterly treat sparked a passion in me, and at times, I get tunnel vision and must have crepes.
When living overseas I’d grab a crepe, mostly sweet, wherever I could, and upon traveling to France and at another time to Greece, my love affair grew as I discovered crepes of the savory variety, and branched out on the sweet as well. Why am I rambling incessantly about one specific genre of food? Because when done well, there’s almost nothing better. Since returning home to the States, I’ve had excellent crepes in NYC, Florida and now Chicago, but none thus far have amounted to the greatness available at La Creperie.
I’d ridden and walked by La Creperie hundreds of times since our move to Lakeview. Each time I’d pass, I’d think, damn, I need that in my life. For whatever reason, through exploration of several other restaurants in every neighborhood in Chicago, I’d continually overlooked and bypassed what was sure to be a favorite. Last week, while contemplating and commemorating freedom, I thought of freedom fries, and how stupid that expression is, and so I set my sights on La Creperie, finally.
Two bikes and a skateboard road a little over a mile on a cool summer day. We walked into the very Parisian looking cafe, walked down the narrow hallway lit only by the sun, out to a beautiful patio to sit under an umbrella. I was immediately overwhelmed by the incredible descriptions and ingredients composing each crepe. The three of us were hungry so we each opted for our own savory crepe, leaving the potential to share a sweet one open. I ordered chicken with a creamy herb sauce and mushrooms. The men folk ordered ratatouille, and a tomato with onion and garlic, each also wrapped in the thin, buttery, salty envelope.
All I can say is you should see the faces we were making and the sounds emitting from our throats. I love how, similar to a piece of music, a flavor, an herb, a bite, can fill you with nostalgia, bring you back to a memory, a place, an emotion. Those crepes were unique, made with love, prepared with quality ingredients and expertise, and even though I hadn’t tasted the likes of them before, they felt familiar, they filled me up, in belly and heart. We were full, satisfied, high off of taste, ready for a nap. I wasn’t quite finished yet. It’s a sacrilege to eat crepes and deliberately ignore the dessert options. This isn’t about need or not being full, it’s about giving your taste buds a well-rounded meal, a rainbow of flavors, and making room in that second stomach to squeeze in just a little bit more.
And so we did, of course. We opted for the creme caramel, a crepe topped with flan (a dessert my grandmother makes expertly), home-made whipped cream, a clear, vanilla drizzle, and some fresh blueberries. Each component, individually, was top-notch and a satisfying treat in and of themselves. But like most successful entrees, the whole is better than the sum of their parts. Crepe, blueberries, flan and the corresponding sweet condiments was something resembling a religious experience. I cannot wait to go back.
For a slew of complicated and simple reasons, many Americans have misconceived notions about the French, France and probably French food, claiming they only eat frog legs and other bizarre ingredients. Let me say now that frog legs are delicious and so is almost every bite of food I was lucky enough to eat in that beautiful country. The people were friendly, sarcastic, artistic and interesting, nothing like the stereotypes perpetuated in the last 10 years. And before you über patriots get up in arms over this being a two-way street, I recognize the judgements and stereotypes involving Americans are not always right either. I respect their history, people, food and way of life, and I’m proud to have French influences adding to the fabric of who I am.
Explore your ancestry, and others. Food is love, knowledge, and community. Enjoy.