Local Bites: Caroline's Crepery / Jeff Schlesinger
Updated 2:49 pm, Monday, November 28, 2011
Early fall was a memorable time in New Canaan. The first Annual New Canaan Restaurant Week celebrated its inaugural debut, residents recovered from the devastation of Tropical Storm Irene, many returned from summer vacations and the school year commenced. In the midst of all of this activity, Caroline Kaplan and her business partners Deda Sandor and Emma Villavicencio opened Caroline's Crepery on Elm Street in the space formerly occupied by Lemongrass. Some may call this poor timing and others may call it a stroke of genius, but with so many people without power and looking for a good meal, I would characterize this as fortuitous for both the restaurant and the residents. Two months after the opening, I visited this newest edition to the ever-expanding local culinary scene to sample what has been described as a little bit of Paris in New Canaan.
Kaplan and Sandor shaped the decor, the cuisine and the menu into a Parisian joie de vivre. From the inviting blue awning to the "Daily Specials" handwritten on the chalkboard and the aroma of the Illy coffee, Caroline's Crepery offers a bistro alternative to the mid-day meals at other restaurants in town. The front dining area seats twenty and the kitchen is fully visible for customers to watch Caroline oversee her crepe pan. After a slight pour of house made crepe batter and a smoothing with her crepe spreader, Kaplan expertly flips the crepe and subsequently fills each with one of numerous combinations of either savory or sweet additions.
Soups and quiches are all freshly prepared on the premises by Sandor on a daily basis. The soups may include chicken noodle, beef barley, onion or vegetable; the quiches may comprise several different savory choices. On one of my visits I ordered a large bowl of the beef barley as I was curious when I saw the "Beef Barley with Filet Mignon" listing on the chalkboard. The soup was delivered in a very large bowl, an ample size for lunch with a few slices of Kaplan's bread. The flavors were enhanced by the addition of potatoes, yams and turnips, plus fresh herbs and the barley was perfectly cooked. After a few spoonfuls, my curiosity was rewarded with a bite of the filet, which added both a wonderful texture as well as light, mild flavor. I agree that the use of the filet was a great choice and the soup was delicious.
Two choices of quiche are offered daily and I ordered a piece of the bacon, mushroom and onion quiche served with a small salad of baby greens dressed with a delightful balsamic vinaigrette. The crust of the quiche was good and the filling was very flavorful. The caramelized onions were delicious, the sliced mushrooms brought an earthy quality to the quiche and the bacon was a great addition. I wish that the quiche was created in a deeper dish so I could have enjoyed more of the wonderful filling.
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The brie, bacon, and pear crepe is one of Kaplan's best-selling savory crepes and is also served with the salad greens topped with the balsamic dressing. This combination, while delicious, would benefit from a brie with a little more pungency to better complement the sweetness of the pear and the saltiness of the bacon. Kaplan mentioned that they are considering alternatives to increase the deep, natural flavors inherent in the brie and these changes should be evident in the next few weeks.
The sweet crepe I ordered included bananas, chocolate sauce, vanilla ice cream and whipped cream and was the highlight of my visits. I loved the flavors of the bananas and chocolate in combination with the taste and texture of the crepe and ice cream; they created a wonderful and absolutely perfect sweet crepe. For anyone who savors the combination of chocolate and bananas this is a must-have selection.
The Croque Monsieur is a traditional French bistro sandwich that includes thinly sliced ham and gruyere encased within bread and covered with a lovely and crusted bechamel sauce. Kaplan's Croque Monsieur was perfectly cooked; the bechamel sauce was flavorful and balanced the saltiness of the ham and the deep flavor of the gruyere.
Desserts are also made on-site and may include crème brulee, pumpkin pie, pumpkin flan or a vanilla cake with a chocolate ganache.
Kaplan and Sandor are extremely pleased with the reception in town and overwhelmed with the positive response to their menu. They continue to develop the menu and the ingredients and Caroline's Crepery is a delicious addition to the mid-day restaurant scene in New Canaan. I look forward to many return visits to Caroline's Crepery to enjoy more of their other offerings.
155 Elm Street, New Canaan. Call 203-966-9891 or visit carolinescreperie.com. Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.