Philippe Colasse would like you to know that the crepes you eat at his new restaurant, Creperie Chez Solange in Larkfield, are as healthy as they are crispy and delicious.
Naturally, this is reassuring news, as the last bite of a dreamy crepe Suzette, slathered with sticky orange caramel and flaming Grand Marnier, balances on my fork. Take that, kale! I’m a health nut!
But before you go on an all-crepe cleanse, it’s actually the organic Giusto buckwheat flour in Colasse’s hearty savory crepes that may have some redeeming nutritional value — a gluten-free(ish) powerhouse of ancient seeds full of manganese, copper, fiber and protein. Add some vegetables, onions, goat cheese and herbs, and you’re a certified clean eater. Pair with quinoa and grilled chicken salad and you’re practically a food saint.
For the hedonists among us, however, there are too many other delicious diversions at the Creperie to remain true to our already-failed New Year’s goals. Fillings like leek fondue, Jarlsberg cheese, sour cream or bacon lardons beckon to us. Sweet crepes made with chocolate ganache or caramel sauce, paired with a tempting lineup of ice creams, sing their siren calls to our hungry bellies. There’s also the traditional pairing with dry or off-dry cider, which Colasse encourages diners to try.
“Cider goes so perfectly with crepes, and in France that’s the way it’s done. You don’t eat crepes with beer or wine. Here in Sonoma County, there were apples here before grapes, so I’m bringing back the old ways,” said Colasse.
Colasse, who learned to cook in his homeland of France, is so passionate about making truly authentic crepes because he simply couldn’t find any he liked in Sonoma County. Here, they tend to be a bit rubbery or overly sweet, or, mon dieu, filled with something like peanut butter.
Authentic to Colasse, means there is no Nutella (clearly not peanut butter) in a savory, earthy buckwheat crepe or ham in a sweet, white flour crepe.
“I cannot imagine that,” Colasse said, rolling his eyes. The compact Frenchman has lived in Sonoma County for 14 years and bustles through the slender restaurant kitchen. As he expertly flambees a crepe Suzette with a quick flick of the wrist, a ball of fire and heat explode toward the large vented hood and he steps back.
“That is why I have no hair,” he laughed.
Colasse worked for years in French restaurants, then opened several notable Las Vegas restaurants and was the opening chef at Walter Hansel Wine Bistro. After spending several years raising his young daughter, Solange, he’s opened a snug, seven-table cafe in the Larkfield shopping center that’s become something of an international eating destination hosting Fililpino, American, French and Thai restaurants.
It’s a perfect fit, and Colasse makes the crispiest crepes around — which is appropriate since the word “crepe” is actually from the Latin Crispus (or crispy).
Crepe-making is also theater, and diners get a front-row seat to the large “billigs,” or cast iron griddles where batter is poured onto the sizzling surface and gently formed with a T-shaped spatula. The dark buckwheat crepes are formed into loose squares with the toppings peeking through, while sweet crepes are folded into a triangle and topped with chocolate or stuffed with fruit.
Fortunately for all of us, Feb. 2 is “Jour des Crepes” in France, a day (or really a concept for any day) where eating crepes is a national obligation. Viva les crepes, and consider yourself an honorary Gaul.
Nicoise Salad, $9: “This tastes like summer,” said my friend, diving into a salad filled with black olives, haricot verts, bell pepper, preserved tuna, anchovies and hard-boiled eggs and drizzled with plenty of lemon olive oil. A favorite summer dish in Southern France, this version is salty and refreshing and absolutely beautiful.
Parma Salad, $9: Required. Pears, prosciutto, shaved Parmesan and toasted pine nuts.
Savory Crepes, or “galettes,” are made with buckwheat flour, salt and water. The stronger, earthier flavor of buckwheat is unusual, but the crispy corners and slightly soft center make for a truly unique taste. We loved the Nordic ($13), with smoked salmon, mild Swiss-like Jarlsberg, leek fondue, capers and lemon; Complete ($11) with ham, Swiss and a sunny-side up egg or the new Linguica ($13) with Portuguese sausage, Jarlsberg, butternut squash, caramelized onions and cranberries.
Sweet Crepes are made with white flour, eggs and sugar. Even with sticky sweet toppings and chocolate, they’re not overly saccharine. There’s no bad choice here, but for something more authentic, try the Peche Melba ($8), with preserved peach, berry jam, toasted almonds and fresh whipped cream or the absolutely perfect Poire Belle Helene ($8) with preserved pear, chocolate ganache, almonds and whipped cream. We also love the Suzette ($9), that 1970s phenom with orange caramel and Grand Marnier.
Glaces: Basically ice cream, which is another common pairing at French creperies. You can get your crepes a la mode or come in for a sundae with crepe toppings like caramelized apples and caramel sauce (Tatin, $7) or Chocolate Liegeois ($7) with Valrhona chocolate ice cream, ganache, toasted almonds and whipped cream. Our fave: The Vacherin ($7), made with raspberry Fiorello Gelato sorbet, meringue, berry jam, almonds and whipped cream.
The restaurant is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. for dine in or take out. Evening specials are at the chef’s whim and recently included braised beef and Peruvian chicken.
“It depends what looks good at the market,” Colasse said.
Creperie Chez Solange is located at 462 Larkfield Center, Santa Rosa, 707-791-7633. Open for lunch and dinner.