The heck with Groundhog Day. We are hungry and would rather celebrate the refined and delicate crepe on Feb. 2 rather than the dirty groundhog (sorry, Phil).
Like many food traditions, National Crepe Day in France (La Chandeleur) has its roots in religion. La Chandeleur celebrates the end of Christmas (40 days after) — also known as Candlemas. (The tradition also says if you can flip a crepe while holding a coin in your other hand you won't have to worry about finances.)
Any self-respecting French restaurant serves crepes, and Raclettes (537 Main St.) is no exception. The French bistro will celebrate its one-year anniversary on March 21 with an all-day party, but will first host a crepe fest on Feb. 2 with a special menu.
We asked Sandra Wilkins, who owns Raclettes with her husband Paul, about the delectable crepes Raclettes serves, starting with the recipe.
“My brother-in-law is a French chef — actually French, residing in the UK. We got many of our recipes, including our crepe recipe, from him,” said Wilkins.
The restaurant’s crepe batter is a combination of regular and buckwheat flours. An all-buckwheat, gluten-free version is available.
“A lot of people don’t realize that buckwheat is actually related to the rhubarb plant and not wheat. It’s entirely gluten-free. A buckwheat crepe is a light, gluten-free option to bread or tortillas,” said Wilkins, who notes Raclettes makes its batter fresh every night for the next day. The key to a nice light crepe, including if you make them at home, is to letting the batter rest, preferably overnight.
“We make our crepes the old-fashioned way in crepe skillets over gas flame burners on our stove,” she said.
While there are no organic options yet, Wilkins said they are working toward it this summer.
[RELATED: Dining review of Raclettes]
Raclettes serves a variety of crepes from sweet to savory.
“Our dessert crepes are filled with either chocolate, Nutella or strawberries and blueberries. We have a very light dessert crepe simply topped with fresh lemon juice and sugar. They are wonderful,” said Wilkins.
Savory crepes include classic ham and/or cheese along with non-traditional fillings like spinach and caramelized onions with fontina cheese or a prosciutto and broccoli crepe with fontina and fontinella cheeses. A classic crepes Suzette (a luscious crepe with a buttery orange sauce made with Grand Marnier, then flamed) is in the works.
“Creperies are as common throughout France as pizzerias in America. Crepes are light, delicious and easily prepared. You can actually buy crepes from street vendors, much like our food trucks,” said Wilkins.
[RELATED: From crepes to souvlaki, breakfast specials from across WNY]
In addition to crepes, Raclettes serves French bistro cuisine including its namesake raclette, both a type of cheese and a French tradition that melts the raclette cheese which is then served with items like potatoes, cured meats and breads.
Here are other places to get your crepe fix on:
Breakin’ Eggs Creperie (5235 Main St., Williamsville, breakneggs-creperie.com) is usually busy at peak times, so be prepared to wait. Open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday, you can make an entire meal of crepes, starting with a savory version, like chicken, asparagus, roasted red peppers and cheesy mornay sauce or an eggs benedict crepe, then move right to the sweet with strawberries, honey butter, whipped cream and strawberry coulis.
Eggsperience Vasilis (2878 Delaware Ave., vasilisbuffalo.com) serves an avalanche of crepes, including one called “avalanche” that’s filled with “a cascade of fresh fruits and generous dollop of whipped cream.” A simple custard filled crepe sprinkled with sugar, cinnamon is topped with whipped cream too. For a heartier crepe, the ham, asparagus and Swiss or spinach and cheddar crepes work.
At Orazio’s Italian Crepes and Gelato (oraziositaliancrepesandgelato.com) in the Walden Galleria food court, you’ll see the crepes made right in front of you on one of those scary flat crepe griddles with no edges. Here you can choose from both sweet and savory versions, or create your own. For a couple of extra bucks you can take your sweet crepe over the top with a scoop of gelato or spumoni.
We know you love the Dutch Baby at the Original Pancake House (locations in Amherst, Orchard Park and Williamsville, originalpancakehouse.com). But next visit, try living on the wild side with exotic crepes, like the Tahitian maiden’s dream filled with bananas in sour cream mixed with triple sec, sherry and brandy or the cherry kijafa crepes, a Danish version with Montmorency cherries (a sour cherry) simmered in kijafa (boozy) sauce.
To give your experience a little more je ne sais quoi, visit these restaurants that offer the ambiance of a French bistro:
Webster’s Bistro Bar (102 Webster S., North Tonawanda, webstersbistro.com) serves chicken or vegetable crepes, in addition to French classics like escargot and “boeuf Bourgogne.” On occasion the restaurant serves sweet crepes like strawberry and creme, or strawberry and Nutella. Visit the Facebook page for details for National Crepe Day.
Finally, at the darling Paris Crepes Café (4613 Queen St., Niagara Falls, Canada, pariscrepescafe.com) have some fun pronouncing the names of its buckwheat crepes, like basquaise, made with Swiss cheese, chicken, peppers, tomatoes and onion or “sud oust” with duck confit, onion jam and a sunny side up egg.
For dessert we would go for the crepes with names we would use for twin girls if we had them — Lisette (praline spread, Chantilly cream and Grand Marnier) and Suzette (orange lemon reduction flambéed with triple sec and brandy).