Care for crepes?
- Lynette Lee Corporal () - March 25, 2004 - 12:00am
For a nation brought up on thick pancakes (some refer to them as hotcakes), drowning in butter and maple syrup, crepes seem to be viewed with much suspicion. Blame it on its name (we’ve actually overheard someone mistake it for that perennial art material crepe paper) or its French origin, which seems to intimidate a lot of Filipinos. If the number of creperies around the metropolis is any indication, crepes haven’t really penetrated the pancake-infused taste buds of the average Pinoy diner.

Nevertheless, a gang of young entrepreneurs has seen the potential of this favorite French treat and put up Melange, a creperie with a twist. Nestled in a quiet lot of The Courtyard Bldg. on 26 Sgt. Esguerra Ave. in Quezon City, with tel. no. 426-5541, just a stone’s throw away from the ABS-CBN compound, Melange is a crepe and pasta place that has been enjoying a steady stream of crepe fans for the past year now.

Perhaps wanting to share their French crepe experience when some of them tried authentic crepes in the sidewalks of France, the team of Edna Jeng, Nats Go and siblings Christian, Christopher and Lorraine Ruste went ahead and opened the creperie. Crepes, after all, are a versatile dish which can be taken as a snack or as a full meal.

French novelist Jacques Anatole Francois Thibault described the crepes as an exquisite dish that has "...a golden hue that’s tempting to eat...thin and transparent like muslin, their edges are trimmed to resemble fine lace.."

It is said that in France (especially in Brittany where crepes are said to have originated), there are two types of crepes – crepes and galettes. The former is made from white flour while the latter has buckwheat as main ingredient. According to some cookbooks, crepes are a tad sweeter than galettes and are usually used in dessert items filled with fruits and other sweet fillings or dusted simply with sugar. Galettes, on the other hand, are more hefty and are filled usually with meat and cheese.

In Melange, crepes can either be of the savory or dessert type. The good thing about crepes is that one is not limited as to the kinds of filling one can put into these paper-thin pancake – a far cry from its original filling of just salted butter. Savory crepes can be filled with ham, bacon, chicken, mushrooms, veal, sausages, vegetables, seafood, cheeses, herbs, beef, or any other ingredients you fancy. Dessert crepes, predictably the more popular choice for the sweet-toothed Filipino diners, have countless variations as well. Banana, strawberry, cherry, mangoes, Nutella, peanut butter, nuts, peaches, apples, pears, honey... anything at all, as long as it can be folded into the crepe.

"You can do almost anything with your crepe although we’ve noticed that some customers find savory crepes a little weird for their tastes," says Lorraine Ruste, Melange’s operations manager. They do encourage customers to make their own crepes, that is, if they want to add other ingredients to the basic crepe, they are welcome to do so. Case in point, one regular customer even has his crepes done pizza style. Instead of having the filling inside, he prefers that it be placed on top of the folded crepe.

So far, Melange’s La Filipina and Melange Special dessert crepes are the crowd favorites. La Filipina’s main attraction? The sweetest slices of mangoes this part of the world. Melange Special, meanwhile, is a potential comfort food what with the mellow flavor of bananas sweetened by a generous spread of Nutella and topped with almonds and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. A depression-buster, we dare say.

One of the more popular savory crepes on the menu is the Nautilus, which is best eaten piping hot. A creamy concoction of shrimps and mushrooms, this crepe dish is a tempting treat perfect for the Lenten season.

Ruste takes pride in Melange’s staff, who has been trained in the art of crepe-making by a French chef in Boracay. They could whip up perfect crepes – not too thin and not too thick – at a moment’s notice in front of customers without missing a beat. A flick of the wrist is all it takes to make or break that crepe, says Maritess Parenas, as she demonstrated to us how crepes are made. She poured the crepe mixture on a hot crepe machine – a flat, round iron griddle – and flattened the batter out with a roselle, a wooden tool with handle and a flat head on the other end. Too much pressure on the batter could break the crepe, too light a pressure and the crepe would end up like the usual pancake. Flipping the crepe and putting the filling come next after which the crepes are folded and plated. In less than five minutes, the crepe is done.

For a bit of variety since the owners have noticed that customers would almost always look for other items apart from the crepes, Melange also offers pasta dishes including a creamy yet light, sweetish tomato-based pasta with shrimp, squid, and mussel – the Del Mare. Very filling and very tasty indeed.

Apart from risotto dishes, Melange has recently added a choice of popular Filipino staples like Seriously Pork Adobo, Red Hot Beef Caldereta (a bestseller), Southern Fried Chicken, as well as pork and chicken barbecue. Now, you know why it’s called Melange.

Coffee, according to Ruste, is still the most popular choice when it comes to dessert crepes. Somehow, Pinoy diners haven’t caught on the idea of taking dessert crepes with dessert wines (or even Calvados, distilled from either apples or pears, which goes really well with dessert crepes), or whites and reds with savory crepes. It is said that the traditional drink that goes with crepes is the cider especially in the Tourraine region in France.

Melange is open daily from 11 a.m. to 12 midnight with clients coming from nearby offices and residential areas. Don’t be surprised if you see a laptop-toting customer savoring his crepes and coffee while typing in his report or corresponding with clients abroad online. The restaurant has WiFi, which enables people to go online even without a phone line. All you need is a land card to gain access and presto, you’re online.

If you think about it, crepes are not much different from – and are, in fact, cousins of – American-style pancakes, Mexican tortillas, Indian chapatis, Dutch pannekoeken, or even our very own lumpia for all of these are eaten best with all kinds of fillings and toppings. Crepes, after all, are great at filling a grumbling stomach and a famished soul.
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Melange is at The Courtyard Bldg., 26 Sgt. Esguerra Ave. in Quezon City. For inquiries, call 426-5541. Visit its website

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