Friday, June 25, 2010

Oui, oui, we make our buckwheat crepes in advance

Yes, much has passed since my last post. Lots of life happening--not a lot of blogging. Suffice it to say that, as far as crepes are concerned, we are still learning as we go...

But now, there is burning (or let's say well-done) topic I'd like to get off my griddle:

We make our buckwheat crepes in advance for our events!

OK. Now that I've said it and it's out in the open for all of my seven blog followers to see, let me explain myself.

If you've made it by Crepes Paulette at the Bentonville Farmer's Market on Saturday, and if you've had the time and inclination to watch the action inside the trailer, you most likely noticed me peeling buckwheat crepes off a big pile behind me at the griddle instead of pouring and spreading the batter as I do with the sweet crepes. Now, I have been amazed at how few people bring this up when they pick up their order, but perhaps that's just because they take pity on me and don't want to bother me while I'm in the weeds. At any rate, I'd like to explain our choice to pre-cook our buckwheat crepes.

There are three main reasons for making the buckwheat crepes in advance:

1) Expediency. It was our third event. Ever. May 1, 2010. Up until then, we had been lucky. The early spring season and rain had kept away all but the most die-hard downtown fans, and we had neatly scraped by with our woeful lack of training, turning out crepes at a relatively leisurely pace, etc., etc. But then May 1 rolled around. Beautiful. Balmy. Bathed in the lovely Ozark dusk colors of the season...and everyone came out. Not only were there the normal Downtown Bentonville First Friday hoards, but our faithful French marketer extraordinaire, Stephanie, had strong-armed all her "amigas of Bentonville" friends into attending and patronizing our little stand, too. The rest is history. Great embarassment on our part. People waiting an hour for a crepe, me turning around to see 50 orders awaiting my attention, etc. etc. Let's speak of it no more.

Since then, we've revamped a bit. Orders are taken only when they can be met within a reasonable time frame. Your crepes are prepared to order, but we still want to make your wait as short as possible. So, preparing the buckwheat crepes in advance, thereby cutting out the spreading and cooking time, allows us to speed up the process.

2. Efficacy. Crepes are delicate things. They should be--that's part of their charm. However, for our purposes (they are stuffed and folded into our paper pouch and meant to be portable), there is some virtue in a little crepe-strength. By a happy coincidence, making the crepes a day in advance seems to fortify them without altering their oh-so-thin profile. They seem to shrink a little bit, which may help their durability, but doesn't seem to alter their desirability...

3. Temperature. Buckwheat galettes are cooked at a higher temperature on the griddle than their flour-based counterpart, the sweet crepe. Now, I don't want to put too fine a point on it, but Madame Poupon, our trailer, is a hotbox. We've recently made some heat-exhaust adjustments (thanks, Uncle Hal), but in summer, you'd never call her cool. So, even a few degrees lower on the griddles doesn't hurt.

So, for now, the galette-cooking part of the Crepe Paulette process will probably remain a mystery to our clients, and I will have be content to enjoy it in solitude. Who knows, though. It would be a real pleasure to include that in the made-to-order equation someday.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Madame Poupon and the trail of crepes

As mentioned in the last post, the perfect name for the Crepes Paulette trailer came to me out of the blue, but afterwards I puzzled over why the inspiration took so long to come. It's just so unmistakeably fitting, so apt, so poetically perfect...Here's why:

When Fred (1/2 of the Crepes Paulette team, and my husband) was a young boy, his parents were both teachers. His older siblings were already in school, and options for extended daycare were even slimmer then than now, so he frequently found himself in the company of Madame Poupon, the family's housekeeper. Fred says, " My first memory of Madame Poupon is the day that my mother hired her. I was late for preschool, and I was really mad at her." This initial problem must have worked itself out, though, because 35 years later, Madame Poupon still helps out at Fred's dad's home occasionally. "I've since forgiven her," Fred was heard to say.

Madame Poupon's mother couldn't speak French (only the regional language, Breton), her father was a goemonnier (a seaweed gatherer), and her brother was a small tugboat captain. All this to say that she was a real Bretonne, steeped in the local traditions of Bretagne (or Brittany), the Gaelic part of France. This region stands out in France in many ways, most notably for me in the lack of cheese production, but I digress. They do have several culinary successes though, two of which are the sweet crepe and the buckwheat gallette.

Which brings us back to why we here at Crepes Paulette have bestowed the honored name of Madame Poupon on our humble little trailer. To this day, Madame Poupon makes one GROSS of crepes (that's right, twelve dozen, or 144) EVERY WEEK to distribute to friends and family. I've met Madame Poupon on several occasions, and to me, this is a perfect illustration of her personality. Warm, determined, giving, tireless, and eager to do good. She's one in a million.

So, Madame Poupon, we hope that a little bit of your spirit will inhabit our trailer, and that her crepes can bring a little bit of crepe-happiness to our corner of the world, too. We salute you.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Trial by Tempest

While we can't call it a true test (given the freakish, stormy weather of the day), Crepes Paulette pulled off a very successful soft launch at the April 2nd First Friday Event in Downtown Bentonville (see FB entry: Soft Launch at First Friday). The crepe-faithful, as well as a good number of intrepid music lovers and generally interested parties showed up and ordered about 100 crepes. We consider ourselves lucky to have managed that number--any more might have engendered a crepe-disaster considering to our lack of two-griddle-training! It's really too bad that the weather kept crowds away because Daniel, Andy and the rest of the team at Downtown Bentonville, Inc. had put together a stellar first-of-the-season event. Such is life...

Since then, the wheels have continued to turn on Crepes Paulette. Some training (never enough!) has taken place, accounting has (finally!) been put in place, and....we have developed our savory crepe batter recipe. It's a marvel, made with only War Eagle Mill buckwheat flour, water, a little butter, salt and honey. We can't wait to try it out this coming Saturday at the first Downtown Bentonville Farmer's Market of the season. Hope you can make it and give us your thoughts.

Oh, and by the way, as promised in the last post, I'd like to reveal the name of our creaky, lovable old trailer: Madame Poupon! It was meant to be--I'll explain why and reveal the story of this perfect moniker in the next post...

Sunday, March 21, 2010


The devil is in the details. Whoever said that must have bought a used, abused Oklahoma-health dept.-certified concession trailer in the middle of a snow-laden winter and tried to bring said trailer up to Arkansas health dept. standards in time for an early spring event. I'm here to say they got it right.

Sitting here in the midst of our third major snowstorm this season, we have a week of electrical, plumbing and installation chores to do before our scheduled inspection in three days, and not to belabor the point, but it's been some struggle to get here. If all goes well with the inspection we will turn our undivided attention to the "finish line" (read: opening date), optimistically located less than two weeks from now at the International First Friday event in Downtown Bentonville on April 2. Many things left to do on that front, too, including business card and banner printing, final decisions about opening day menu items and how to package them, etc, etc, etc.

However, it is decidedly within the realm of possibility that we make it. We intend to do our level best to be cranking out some crepes come early April. Stay posted...

Oh, and by the way, above-mentioned trailer now has a name. Will reveal in next blog....

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Crepes Require Patience

Cardinal in snow,
Red splash on monotone,
How you recall the keen contrast
Of ephemeral, delectable, incomparable crepes
In a continuum of ho-hum consumption

A little poem in celebration of the eight inches of snow still carpeting our little tree-cave world. The same snow, which, combined with the previous Christmas holiday snows, has kept the wheels of Crepes Paulette moving along at a snail's pace. To be sure, these days of sledding, stoking fires, board games and panorama-gazing are a little slice of heaven, but enough already! We've got work to do!

A quick update: Trailer (must name her soon) has been toothbrush-disinfected and work has begun (and been interrupted) on the flooring repairs necessary to start off on the right foot. :)
Much discussion and deliberation has been devoted to the "to paint or not to paint" dilemma: Current color is truly ugly and not at all what we had in mind, but painting may require more time than we have before target date opening, we design logo that will work with current color, or hold out to have the preferred??? Decisions, decisions.

Meanwhile, I am chomping at the bit to start training on the brand-spanking new commercial crepe griddles ("biligs" in French), found (unbelievably) locally while searching on ebay. Great price, but in terms of training possibilities, won't work in our house without major rewiring. (Don't ask me about the three likely house fires I narrowly avoided in my attempts to find a solution.) So, we must wait out the extreme weather, get the trailer (really must name her) running on generator power, and wire her for the biligs before we can even season them, let alone crack out our first full-size crepe. For now, we're stuck with our now-ridiculous looking family griddle, and it's failing non-stick surface. I'm feeling a little uninspired to train on "last year's model"...

To finish up my ramblings: We've got far too many things on our plates, with the notable exception of crepes. Send snow-melting thoughts our way.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A long road to get to the beginning

What is a crepe?

Une Crepe: Fine galette faite a base de lait, de farine de ble, ou de sarrasin et d'oeufs.

Translation: A thin cake made from milk, wheat or buckwheat flour and eggs.

Simple. No mystery there. I could make a regular old pancake with those ingredients, slather on some butter and maple syrup and be done with it.

But, oh, what I'd be missing!

The crispy edges, the delicate flavor, the golden color and the altogether ephemeral nature of a freshly made crepe can be a revelation. Milk, flour and eggs? Something magical must happen in the spreading out of this simple batter that truly transforms it into so much more than a simple pancake. Don't ask too many questions. Just eat.

Perhaps this all sounds like a pretty flimsy basis for the long journey that my husband and I embarked upon about two years ago when we first hatched a plan to open a small crepes restaurant in NW Arkansas. Maybe that's why we could never make it fly. Money (or rather lack thereof) always stopped us in our tracks. Until now...

December 18, 2009: A momentous occasion in the history of crepes in the Ozarks. We signed the paperwork on our home equity line of credit, took a deep breath and wired a good chunk of that money to a woman in Oklahoma City for a big, leaky, creaky, but altogether adorable concession trailer that will become the home of "Crepes Paulette," the slightly deflated version of our "crepevision." If all goes well, we will spend a good part of our lives in this 8' x 16' box in the coming years, and hopefully it will be the catalyst for introducing NW Arkansas to the joys of this French delicacy. Stay tuned...

Here's what future home looks like now. Think we have a little work to do?