Who doesn’t love crepes? The popular flats can be served flambéed or with fromage, in a corner cafe or on the go, with Nutella or with nothing but butter. America should just throw in the towel (or spatula), because the French clearly know the best way to make a pancake.
At least that is what I thought, until I had a Breton crepe.
No, I didn’t misspell Britain. Breton refers to Brittany, a cultural and geographic region in Northwestern France. Never heard of it? Most people haven’t. But once you find yourself at Cafe Triskell, you will never forget it.
Café Triskell is a cute and unobtrusive gem nestled on a quiet corner in Astoria. Flowers on the table outside, script on the window, and a relaxed, inviting ambience. I remarked to my friend Thomas that it felt very French, and my comment was met with a stare.
“It’s not French, it’s Breton.”
“What’s the difference?”
“Oh, you’ll see.”
As you may have guessed, Thomas is from Brittany. The accents sound the same, but the identity is very different. I soon learned that the crepes are different too. Upon getting the menu from a smiling waitress, my heart was set on Scottish salmon. Yep, this too was met with a stare. So I decided to do as the French, or Breton, do, and order a ham, egg, and Swiss cheese crepe. The egg had to be sunny-side up.
I had finished my white peach sangria before the crepe came, but I learned this was not an accident or an issue of bad service. The food for thought is just as important as the food itself. I loved the conversation, but my true glee came with the crepe. In two words, it was yolk porn.
As the plate was set in front of me, I saw nothing but the yolk in the crepe’s center. Bright as a sunset, perfectly round and glistening. As I gained control of my fascination, I widened my view, and noticed that the whites were tucked under the crispy edges of crepe browner than I’d ever known. My stomach greedily grumbled as I took an obligatory picture of the simple beauty.
I looked to Thomas, the expert, as he punctured the perfectly yellow orb, folded over one side of the crepe, and flattened the center to spread the eggy deliciousness. I followed suit, and that first bite was heaven. The ham’s salt, the crepe’s crisp, the egg’s softness, the cheese’s melt. Just. Unf.
Thomas’s eyes filled with pride over my growing satisfaction with the Breton bounty.
After savoring every last bite and stopping just short of licking the plate clean, I asked once more, What made them so special? As the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding--or in this case, the flour. Breton crepes are made from a coarser buckwheat flour, making for a crispier, more savory crepe.
I also learned that while few people know of Brittany, it is the very place where crepes first originated. This bite of knowledge came from Philippe, the smiling chef and owner of the beautiful bistro. He spoke with us on his smoke break, chatting as if we’d been friends for years and commenting on the proud Celtic heritage of Brittany.
Philippe’s easy conversation was almost as good as the chocolate-hazelnut spread (which he makes himself) on the dessert crepes that came next. The contrast of the savory crepe against the sweet, just-ripe bananas, the chilled whipped cream, and the artsy chocolate-hazelnut drizzle made for yet another mouthwatering experience.
This time, I used my finger to catch the last smudges of sugar, and I have no shame whatsoever.
I left the Café with a satisfied stomach and a widened mind. If great conversation, a good atmosphere, and the best crepes ever sound like your cup of tea, take a trip to Brittany without leaving the city at Café Triskell. Tell Philippe I said hello.
Find Café Triskell at:
33-04 36th Avenue, Astoria, NY 11106