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Fluff 'n stuff

Downtown's third crêpe spot deftly defies the traditional



In mid-July, we acknowledged the local French fascination that's spawned four new crêperies inside of a year. Having now tried all of them, I'm pleased to report that each bears a distinct personality and flavor.

The newest, Paris Crepe, boldly opened a block down from Crêpes Française and seven doors away from La Creperie Bistro. Owners Wahid and Stacy Hafsaoui wished to model the bright space after a French café serving up fast, simple food. It generally is fast, and the prices suggest simplicity, with crêpes ranging from $1.95 to $6.95.

But Stacy, a Springs native with fine dining experience, has added her own creative flair. In came some organic items, a few gluten-free batters, and quality imported ingredients, as well as some eco-friendly service products.

Purists be warned: She's not going traditional. Save for the smoked salmon crêpe borrowed from a French cookbook — which is delightful with a chive and red onion bite, but could use a touch more cream cheese to offset the buckwheat batter's dryness — the other seven savory crêpes offer international taste tributes, including a Philly cheese steak salute to the USA. Though its sautéed bell peppers and onions and tender, well-seasoned steak meet Asiago cheese nicely, my dining partner said it best: "It's good, but if I was craving a Philly cheese steak, I think I'd just get one."

The Thai beef and Asian crêpes use a rice-flour batter that yields a fluffier pancake. The Thai, my favorite, sports steak again with peanut crumbles, unique pickled pear, cilantro and a peanut sauce. The Asian missteps a bit with a carrot-ginger sesame rice; it's tasty, but sucks moisture from the soft chicken chunks and sautéed red onion. I've yet to try a crêpe that convinces me rice fully belongs in it.

The Algerian crêpe succeeds with heavily cumin-spiced ground beef mixed with a fresh-cracked fried egg, olives, potato pieces, onion, cilantro and slightly sweet South African Peppadew peppers. The Mediterranean comes on a fun chickpea-flour crêpe (indigenous to Southern France) and fuses feta, Kalamata olives, tahini, cucumber and tomato with a baba ghanoush. Far moister than its cohorts, it capitalizes on classic, complementary regional flavors.

Paris Crepe's sweet offerings overall eclipse the savories, thanks to well-made usual suspects (hello, Nutella); clever oddballs (a Fluffernutter crêpe); and total rock stars ("S'more" and cheesecake crêpes). Both the chocolate-crêpe-bearing S'more and cheesecake options brilliantly incorporate graham cracker crumbles for taste and texture.

The outfit also serves a four-cheese plate ($6 small/$12 large), which currently sports French, Italian and Swiss offerings next to a unique quince fruit paste, figs, a cinnamon-apricot purée and delightful house-made flat bread. The menu also offers a few salads ($3 to $7) and daily soups ($3.50), which we didn't drag ourselves from the crêpes to try.

Because after all, the crêpes are what have launched all these new ventures. While some emulate Brittany, others remain resolute to test the boundaries of what works inside a thin pancake. Paris Crepe obviously falls in the latter category, and though it's not perfect, Peppadews, quince paste and fluff help it make a mark.

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