Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sweet Memories of Antwerpen

Antwerp, Belgium, is a smaller city, about a thirty minute train ride from Brussels, that was our home base when we visited a few years back. We loved this typically European city with its classic architecture and home to the Peter Paul Rubens House, the Flanders Fashion Institute and, best of all, the elegant paradise for chocolate lovers: Del Rey.

After a busy day of shopping the restaurant supply houses last week we found ourselves in Davis Square, Somerville, looking for lunch. We decided to try Mr. Crepe, which has a history of its own and just happens to be owned and operated by former Antwerpans. The small restaurant was located just down the street a few years ago but was forced to move out of its space when Dave's Fresh Pasta, who owned it, needed to expand. Mr. Crepe had built up quite the following (including me) and had nowhere to go until last year when the Someday Cafe lease was not renewed. This is where the controversy began. The Someday had an extremely loyal following and, in fact, in typical Somerville fashion a protest was formed and petition circulated to try and stop the Someday from leaving. However, it was not to be. Feelings, nonetheless, were vehement and people are still trying to bring it back.

The restaurant itself is a light and airy design with a full view of all the goings-on in Davis. Of course, the mainstay on the menu is the crepe which most Americans think of as a breakfast food or dessert but most Europeans think of as a snack, often with savory fillings. The menu offers incredibly full-flavored goodies many of which we sampled with such fillings as African lamb sausage, smoked chicken and turkey, grilled salmon and chicken tagine. They also offer vegetarian crepes and of course the traditional gourmet sweet crepes with nutella and fresh fruits.

Any resemblance to your mother's crepes, however, ends there. The crepes are large, more like wraps, with a golden crust and a very distinct, slightly crispy texture. That just crispy exterior comes from, as it turns out, the secret ingredient, which is imported direct from Belgium by the hundreds of pounds each year: pearl sugar. The pearl sugar is made predominantly in Germany and Belgium from sugar beets.

Ingrid Heyrman, the manager, and Peter Creyf, the owner, both hail from Antwerp. Mr. Creyf is also the owner of 17 Waffle Haus log cabin stands scattered along the slopes of New England ski resorts and well known to avid skiers. So, despite the controversy and the loss of a Davis institution, we say welcome to Mr. Crepe, a little bit of Antwerpen in our own back yard!

I stand corrected after receiving the following message from Ingrid Heyrman herself:

The pearl sugar is only used in the waffles, the crepes become crisp because of the way we bake them.

The pearl sugar gives the sugar glaze to the waffles, so I guess it was just a mix up.

Secondly, It is both Peter and myself which are the owners of the Waffle Haus/waffle cabin, but Peter is the sole owner of mr.crepe which I manage.

Mr. Crepe
51 Davis Square
Somerville, MA 02144

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