Friday, August 22, 2008

The Taste of Travel: Crepes in Paris

At the intersection of Rue Bonaparte and Boulevard Saint-Germain in Paris is one of the most famous cafes in the city - Les Deux Magots. It also happens to be the site of my favorite crepe stand.

When closed, the stand looks like an oversized transformer housing, its green walls giving no clue as to what’s inside. When it opens, however, the walls become shelves and sun shades, and the aroma of cooking crepes mingles with the scent of popcorn to announce its presence.

The first thing I ever ate in Paris was a crepe from that particular stand after a Eurostar ride from London. I remember being tired and hungry on the way to see Notre Dame on the nearby Ile de la Cité and stopping there.

These days, many places hawking crepes, especially to tourists, are just nuking a few they pulled out of a box that had recently been in the local grocery store. This man working this stand, however, made them fresh.

I chose a Nutella crepe, and the friendly Parisian went to work. First, he poured a pancake-sized puddle of batter on a crepe pan, a flat, black surface heated electrically, and then spread it around with a wooden tool as thin as a ruler with a dowel serving as a handle. After only a few seconds, he flipped it over, and topped it with Nutella, a chocolaty hazelnut spread.

By the time the Nutella was spread, the crepe was done cooking, and he rolled it up and wrapped it in wax paper before handing it to me.

I took my first bite, and it was fantastic. The golden brown hue of the crepe evidenced its perfect cooking, and the warm Nutella oozed out as I ate it. It was almost too sweet, as the crepe was like a thin pancake with too much sugar and the Nutella was like a Hershey bar, but it was still great.

When I’d finished it, my mouth was coated with Nutella, and I needed something to drink. Water just wasn’t going to cut it, so I went to buy one of the sodas the man was selling…and he gave it to me.

A free soda might not sound like a big deal, but it was my first time in France, and I was expecting someone to be rude. Coupled with the fact that sodas are ridiculously expensive over there (I want to say €3 for a can is about average in the touristy areas), I couldn’t believe it.

On that first trip, all myths of the French being rude were debunked as far as I was concerned. The people were friendly to a fault, and being in such a perfect setting, the French capital quickly became my favorite city in the world.

Two years later, I was fortunate enough to return to Paris, and I made sure to pick up another crepe across the street from Les Deux Magots. I found other places, especially in the Rue Cler area, where I could get a crepe made in front of me, but the ones made in the green stand at the intersection of the Boulevard Saint-Germain and Rue Bonaparte are still the best.


Natasha said...

mmm i love crepes! especially the ones from Paris. and yea like you said, all the Parisians i met were very nice and helpful. i love nutella !!! its amazing

NorCal Cazadora said...

Mmmmmmmmm... Nutela! Love that stuff.

Anonymous said...

I had my first crepe there also. It was so sweet I couldn't finish it. You have brought back some nice memories with this post. Thanks.