By Hildy Maxwell | The Cavalier Daily
When you think of Parisian delicacies, the crepe immediately comes to mind. The classic paper-thin pancake can be layered with endless options — from sweet, tangy strawberry jam to savory, melt-in-your-mouth ham and egg. Hungry yet? This iconic French cuisine is something for dessert lovers to enjoy, even here in Charlottesville. To satisfy all your crepe cravings, The Crêpe Society, currently located in the iLab at Darden, is coming to Centrals Grounds this coming August.
The Crêpe Society, founded by Class of 2018 alumna Solène de Clippeleir, is a small cafe space that offers handmade crepes. Thin and crisp, sweet or savory, de Clippeleir recreates the crepes she ate every Saturday as a child.
After growing up in Paris, de Clippeleir noticed a gap in the University’s food market where her childhood love for crepes would fit perfectly. As an undergraduate, she relied heavily on the on-Grounds food trucks for meals between classes but found that there were not many healthy and portable options. So when post-grad life came around, she could not stop thinking about starting her own French food truck.
“The idea was just eating me,” de Clippeleir said. “There’s no way I can leave C-ville without starting this because I know it would work.”
In preparation for the September opening of The Crêpe Society in the iLab at Darden — whose incubator program helped invest in her venture — de Clippeleir spent three weeks studying under a chef in Brittany, France — the birthplace of the crepe.
“[It was] my best decision,” de Clippeleir said. “I’ve learned a lot about the batters, how to take care of the crepe makers and all that good stuff. I just needed to do the class to gain confidence, to really feel like I know what I’m doing.”
Authenticity is the name of the game for de Clippeleir because as any francophile will tell you, finding a true French crepe in this country is just about as easy as finding a seat at your favorite coffee shop during finals. The Crêpe Society offers both sweet and savory crêpes, using different types of batter for each. Her sweet crepes are made from a flour-based batter, while her savory galette batter uses buckwheat flour, which creates a crispier texture and is gluten-free. Both recipes were developed by de Clippeleir herself — an effort to remain as true to authentic French cooking as possible while also appealing to the American palate.
The Crêpe Society’s menu offers seven sweet and four savory filling options — sweet crêpes all for under $5.50 and savory crêpes priced between $7.25 and $8.50. In addition to best-selling toppings like Nutella and local jam, de Clippeleir recommends the lemon sugar crepe for its mouth-watering simplicity.
Her savory fillings are all made in-house, including a provencal-style veggie ragout and a smoked salmon and cream cheese duo. The star, however, is her mushroom bacon crepe. A complex blend of mushrooms, port-stewed bacon, shallots and lots of butter creates the perfect combo with a holey, crunchy buckwheat galette.
Needless to say, all of de Clippeleir’s crepes pack a serious punch of flavor between their layers. Not to mention these are perfect for any time of day — breakfast, lunch or even dessert.
“The [breakfast sandwich crepe] was the best ham, egg and cheese ever,” said Annie Moshyedi, first-time customer and fourth-year Commerce student. “I’m actually going to come back tomorrow.”
De Clippeleir describes her idea of a perfect crepe, mentioning her disapproval of the thick, sandwich-style American pancakes. At The Crêpe Society, her authentic crepes are just thin enough to hold together without falling apart.
“[It’s a] thin crepe that’s crunchy on the outside with imperfections,” de Clippeleir said. “I don’t want it to be a uniform all white crêpe. Crêpes are supposed to be thin, like lace. Here, everyone wants to make it like a sandwich. I don’t understand it.”
Fourth-year College student Addie Patrick called The Crêpe Society a “hidden gem at U.Va.” after her first visit to The Crêpe Society.
“When I studied abroad in Lyon, my favorite part about eating crepes was getting to watch their creation process. Although the iLab is a bit of a hike from Central Grounds, it is 100 percent worth it,” she said.
The Crêpe Society is located at 621 Nash Drive inside the University iLab Commons and is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.