A Reluctant Saturday Night Review, aka La Belle Crepe at Harriet

               I’ve been antsy lately, and last Saturday night didn’t help. It’s been… what, 3 months since I was last able to review a new Truck? And that was just temporary winter pop up version of something already existing. And now, with the snow melting and weather warming, teasing me with urges to go outside with visions of Truck rallies to come, only to be roped away with work and the realities that it’s still winter (well, not technically, but for MN…).

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                Thought I would have had this fixed a couple weeks ago with a great chance off to go to Harriet with a friend when the new Butcher Salt was out… and then work screwed me over. Again a clear ray of hope showed this past week; yet another new truck at Harriet, “La Belle Crepe,” and a friend available to join in a fun night of music, drinking and food.

                Well, there was a $5 cover, I didn’t find out until after I got there that the friend had a double shift, and the “truck” was just a catering table in the back corner. Can’t quite say which part I was most disappointed with, but how ‘bout we just focus on the food aspect?

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                That just really, really sucked… you don’t know how excited I was when I thought La Belle Crepe had started their own mobile operation. I’ve been to their café in downtown Minneapolis (you should too; it’s this tiny little closet-shop, like you’d find in France, just before 9th on Nicolette Ave), and they’re pretty good. We’ve been needing a GOOD, proper Crepe Truck for a long time, something with tasty components and a fun attitude.

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                Let me tell you why they would have fit the bill. Firstly, as one would expect, the crepes are awesome; good thickness, SOFT, really reminiscent of what the proper French pancake should feel and taste like. Add that to a copious variety of homemade fillings in the style of sweets, savories, and breakfast, and we have a delicious bundle of joy perfect for mobile eating. They aren’t all classic fillings either; one can get Caramel Apple, Orange dream, Spicy Chicken and Crab, Gyros, dill & Lox, Benedict, etc.

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                But wait, there’s more. Not only do they offer crepes, Belle also makes other French classic comforts like Gelato and Croque-Monsieur/Madame. Oh, and Vietnamese food, tasty tasty Vietnamese food like Pho and Bahn Mi. Reminded me of the Korean-Crepe truck my friend had found in Texas, only not quite so Fusion; Vietnamese cuisine HAS had a lot of French influence, so it makes sense with the concept.

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                Well, I had already paid the $5 entrance fee, so as much as I didn’t want to spend extra money it would have been a waste to just leave the place as-is. Thus I was able to actually sample one of their sandwiches, the Hoisin Pulled Pork. Oh boy was that good, each side completely slathered in the Hoisin Mayo, all those dressed and pickled veggies just shoved and stuffed in there (you should see them pile it on and push it in with the spatula), and the pork wasn’t too bad either.

                A little bit of sirachi on half with the tart veggies, it went really well with Harriet’s version of Sahti, a Sour Ale brewed with juniper berries and cedar chips instead of hops (tasted a bit like lambic, so I was already in a bit of a happy place).

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                The bread wasn’t the best sadly, being served without feeling the loving embrace of a searing hot grill or oven, but to be fair that was due to the setup. They DO toast it at the café, and I would assume if able to go mobile they would ensure a proper heat source to do it for orders as well. Also, the Cilantro (which there was a ton of, thank you! So good), served in whole bunches, was a bit… sagging. But again, I had ordered a sandwich about 5 hours (at least) after they got there with no proper refrigeration unit besides a cooler.

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                At the end of the day, they offer a fun concept with delicious, portable offerings, and I sorely hope they might get on the streets soon to properly replace a certain Other Truck. As for me, I still sit here, antsy and stuck, ever waiting for my first proper shot at a new truck this year.

               -sigh- At least it’s getting warmer.

Marie Antoinette Crepes

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https://www.facebook.com/pages/Marie-Antoinette-Crepes/165457686860205

https://twitter.com/thatcrepetruck

Main Location: Markets, Events, Etc

            Offering options along both the Savory and Sweet lines, Marie Antoinette’s has become a staple among many as an early morning Crepe stop. Crepe fillings are simple, with sweets pairing sliced fruit alongside chocolate-caramel-peanut butter sauces; nutella of course. Savory stay along the traditional lines of Ham n Cheese, Tomato-Basil, etc. Every once in a while there’s an interesting addition, such as Feta with the Tomatoes, or an herb-flavored sweet crepe.

            Folded into a large triangle and served in a paper basket with a fork, one can sit on an open curb and dig in (it’s what I did).

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Food: 4

           The crepe itself isn’t too bad; a little eggier than the proper traditional, but it’s got a decent fluff to it and gives with the fork. Works well on either side of the Savory-sweet line.

           Fillings are unimaginative and given little real effort in preparation and cooking. Chocolate and other dessert sauces taste pre-made and from a bottle… then again that’s cuz most of them are. Other ingredients are simple, without offering any real extra qualities. This leaves combinations that are simply average in flavor and textures.

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           Of course, one can never really complain when it comes to Nutella.

Holdability: 5.5

          Though easy to carry and walk around with, picking the crepe up with a hand is quite difficult to do easily. This due to heat, limpness, and the habit of fillings trying to fall out. As one is also only given a plastic fork that gives trouble in attempting to use when standing, this traditional French Street Food is best eaten while sitting. Quite the disappointment from the usual standards.

Price: 7

           Costs are okay, but with the quality of the food supporting it I don’t feel like it’s that much of a “deal.”

Speed: 8

           Crepe’s are a really fun street item in that, despite cooking from scratch, they don’t take that long to make. Plus, it’s always a fun show to watch them get spread, cooked and folded.

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The TOE: 7.5

          Despite certain lacks in quality and effort, crepe stands emit that wonderful warm, homey feeling of that special visit to the French Storefront. The sight of the person standing behind the counter, swirling the batter around the hot stone, offering the unique smells and experience that only a creperie can create. I only wish that their ingredients could match the expectations of this long French tradition

                        Tally: 32/50

Final Thoughts

            Still a fun experience, and if you’re at a Farmer’s Market where they happen to be, it wouldn’t be too bad of a stop for lunch or a snack.

            Avoid the simpler items, the only one of any worth being Nutella (if you haven’t had a Nutella crepe, it’s like the French Chocolate Chip Cookie). Anything with special ingredients, in particular the Tomato-Feta could be worth a grab.

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