Most of the students on Yale’s campus have noticed Crêpes Choupette, the cart that appeared this year, first on Broadway and York, and now on College and Wall. The cart has been whipping up crêpes for students, professors and New Haven residents with great popularity ever since. We notice it on our way to class when we smell the distinctive sweetness that could only be a perfect golden-brown crêpe in the making, when we see the vintage umbrella and yellow signage or when we hear a favorite French tune (Edith Piaf, perhaps) being played from an iPhone.
But when you actually approach the cart, you notice even more of the little details–the flowers in the basket of the bicycle that literally carries the crêperie, the wrought-iron stands that carry the menus and the friendly faces of the two chef-owners of the cart, Adil and Aurelia, who were born and raised in France (Adil is from Paris and has been here for eight years, Aurelia is from Eastern France and will be celebrating her one-year anniversary of moving to the states in mid-March). Even while covered in dunes of dirty snow, the corner of College and Wall streets, which has hosted the cart for the past few months, is transformed into a Parisian outdoor café. Adil and Aurelia will make you feel so at home, you’ll swear you must have some French blood in you. And when you’re French, crêpes come with the territory. Aurelia grew up making and eating crêpes. “I think I grew up in the batter,” she says. “We have a special day in France just for crêpes. It’s French tradition. I grew up [making them] with my mother and grandmother, and it’s the same for [Adil]. It’s the same for every French person. It’s like here, [where you have] pancakes on Sunday mornings.”
Only, crêpes may just be better than pancakes. Our Sunday morning pancakes certainly did not pack the flavorful punch that crêpes do. The cart serves a diverse menu of sweet and savory crêpes with a number of combinations that Adil and Aurelia have thought up, as well as the option for students to create their own mix of ingredients. They are constantly updating their menu, which is another excuse to keep going back. Aurelia is always experimenting with different flavors, and so are customers. “We love people’s creativity. People order and we think ‘wow, that’s smart,’ so we try to improve the menu as we go,” says Adil. What does that mean for the future? Some incredible-sounding salty and sweet varieties. “The Canadians put maple syrup and ham [together]. I tried it once and I thought it was really, really good, so that might be the next [item on the menu]. In the short term, we are thinking of bacon soaked in Nutella.” Hold the phone. Let’s just have that sink in for a bit: Bacon. Soaked. In. Nutella. Hello, yes and thank you.
These crêpes can definitely constitute a meal. The most popular savory varieties, according to Aurelia and Adil, are the Siene–turkey, brie and fig spread–and the Choupette–prosciutto, arugula, goat cheese and fig spread. The ingredients used and combinations made are for foodies. “We belong to this movement called ‘street gastronomy’ where we try to offer high-end ingredients and serve good dishes on the street,” says Adil.
Obviously, this had to be tested. I bought two savory crêpes, the Choupette and the Chatalet, consisting of ham and gruyere cheese with added pesto, as was recommended by Aurelia, in addition to the Piaf, Aurelia’s favorite sweet crêpe, which consists of white chocolate and raspberry jam.
They did not disappoint. The crêpes themselves were surprisingly light, with no greasy aftertaste whatsoever. Ingredient quality was evident in taste. The Choupette had the perfect balance of fresh green and peppery flavor from the arugula, sweetness from the fig spread and tangy sharpness in the goat cheese. The prosciutto grounded all these flavors with its salty, fatty tenor.
The Chatalet was much more classically hearty. Ham is a heavier meat than thinly sliced and delicately cured prosciutto, but it’s just as delicious. Ham and gruyere, a Swiss hard cheese commonly found in fondue, is such a dynamic duo because it gives a warm, fuzzy, comfort-food feeling while still being upscale. The sweetness of the ham and the nuttiness of the gruyere paired perfectly with the pesto sauce that Aurelia added.
And then there was the Piaf, so simple yet polished in color and flavor-profile that it reminded me of a perfect tea cake in crêpe form. The white chocolate used was obviously of high quality because it melted between the crêpe’s layers to a buttery consistency that allowed it to seamlessly mix with the raspberry jam, which tasted like real raspberries. With each crêpe costing between five and eight dollars, the quality felt like a steal.
Crêpes Choupette also sells drinks dripping with class–aka the water is Perrier and drinking it makes you feel like you should be on a yacht somewhere on the French Riviera.
Importantly, Adil and Aurelia understand the value of serving food on a campus. “The students, the feedback, the people telling us that they love us, that they love what we do, that’s whats driving Aurelia and me to do this every day, even when we have tough circumstances like snow or rain. Passion is definitely there,” says Adil, who has been seen biking the cart up College Street in blizzard conditions. During the first snow day-bringing storm, they even started serving the “blizzard special,” a student favorite that includes marshmallows, bananas and chocolate sauce. Students loved it so much that it is now part of their permanent menu.
Aurelia loves that the cart does business with a lot of regulars. During our chat, the two were interrupted when a passing student said hi. They greeted her with hugs and asked about her wellbeing and plans for spring break. “[Having regulars] is really fun, it’s why I like to do it. I get to talk to people my age and build relationships with them.”
Adil wants their story to be an inspiration to these students that he sees everyday, “When you are a student, that means you are dreaming, you are thinking about a career, a degree, and then after… what’s going to happen after you get that degree? Follow your passion. That’s the big thing. It’s cliché, everybody says it, but its true. I was in the banking industry for seven years, thinking that I liked it, but I found that I didn’t like it. So I’ve gone back to the street, doing this, and I love it. I am a lot happier. I work more hours, but it doesn’t seem like hours; it’s a completely different rhythm.”
And what a tasty rhythm it is.
The cart is open on the corner of College Street and Wall St. Monday through Friday, 11am-4pm. Follow them on Facebook for more information.