The year is 1895 at the height of the Belle Epoche, a time filled with great optimism in France. Paris boasts of its newest acquirement, the Eiffel Tower, lighting the blue touch paper in this “beautiful era”, where science and the arts are seeing a period of development and innovation. The rich and famous celebrate this age buoyantly, traveling in their fancy cars and rejoicing with good food, wine and champagne.
Edward, Prince of Wales, the future King Edward, enters the Café de Paris in Monte Carlo with a party of friends, including Suzette, the daughter of one of the gentlemen in the group. A young nervous 15 year old waiter finds himself tasked with serving dessert to the Prince and his friends on this night. The waiter, the ambitious Henri Charpentier, prepares the specialty of the house, pancakes drenched in a citrus sauce, as always at tableside in a chafing pan. On this night of all nights, however Charpentier makes a royal faux pas. The crêpes go up in flames, but as Charpentier tastes the pancakes he realizes this is the magic the dish needs.
Years later he recounts:
“It was quite by accident as I worked in front of a chafing dish that the cordials caught fire. I thought I was ruined. The Prince and his friends were waiting. How could I begin all over? I tasted it. It was, I thought, the most delicious melody of sweet flavors I had ever tasted. I still think so. That accident of the flame was precisely what was needed to bring all those various instruments into one harmony of taste . . . He ate the pancakes with a fork; but he used a spoon to capture the remaining syrup. He asked me the name of that which he had eaten with so much relish. I told him it was to be called Crêpes Princesse. He recognized that the pancake controlled the gender and that this was a compliment designed for him; but he protested with mock ferocity that there was a lady present. She was alert and rose to her feet and holding her little shirt wide with her hands she made him a curtsey. ‘Will you,’ said His Majesty, ‘change Crêpes Princesse to Crêpes Suzette?’ Thus was born and baptized this confection, one taste of which, I really believe, would reform a cannibal into a civilized gentleman. The next day I received a present from the Prince, a jeweled ring, a panama hat and a cane.”
Life A La Henri - Being The Memories of Henri Charpentier, by Henri Charpentier and Boyden Sparkes, The Modern Library, New York, 2001 Paperback Edition. Originally published in 1934.
Henri Charpentier goes on to build up quite a reputation for himself and his cooking. He moves to the United States and opens a restaurant in Long Island whose guests include Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. Crêpes Suzette has become the most popular dessert on the menu. He then moves to London where he works at the Savoy and the Café Royal and for a short time under the wing of the great Auguste Escoffier, who incidentally was the first person to record a recipe for the Crêpes Suzette in his Guide Culinaire.
Although this story sounds very believable it is only accounted by Charpentier himself in his memoirs “Life à la Henri” published in 1934. Highly regarded publications have often questioned the story, which plausibly point out that he was far too junior to be given charge of serving the Prince with anything let alone making his dessert tableside.
1897 in Paris.
Actress Suzanne Reichenberg stars at the famous theatre, La Comédie Francaise in a role of a parlor maid. In the story she serves pancakes to some of the other characters of the show. To make the pancakes more visible to the audience, the actress flambés the pancakes live on stage. Monsieur Joseph whose restaurant Le Marivaux is responsible for making the pancakes for the actress, decides to honor the dessert in her name and thus Crêpes Suzette were created. Monsieur Joseph also worked at the Savoy in London and reputedly served the pancakes there … all under the watchful eyes of Auguste Escoffier. An intriguing layer to the story, wouldn’t you say?
I presume we will never know for certain which story is true and how the legendary dessert were actually created. In the end it just does not matter – these delicate pancakes soaked in a sweet, citrus and boozy sauce is a fine way to elevate the humble pancake into a classic French dessert.
Some call this a retro dish but I’ve always had a mad love affair with these crêpes. Growing up as an hotelier’s daughter I found it incredibly exciting watching the drama of colorful flames burst as gasps of admiration echo throughout the room. This glowing, enticing buttery sauce caramelized with sugary perfection which is then poured over thin pancakes still awakes a passion in me.
In my version I add a small spritzer of Kirsch … just for a little more drama. What can I say? It adds to the drama of this dessert.
From stunning French desserts to stunning locations of the Veneto in the heart of of the Prosecco DOCG region:
Venice Food Photography & Styling Workshop
Join Jeanne Horak-Druiff and me in the gorgeous prosecco region just outside of Venice.
We've put together a pretty fantastic schedule, which comprises an interactive, stimulating and enjoyable programme, during which participants will learn the fundamental elements of food photography as well as the principles food styling. You will find all the details of the Venice Food Photography and Styling Workshop on the announcement page with a preliminary programme and what the workshop includes.
Dates for the workshop: 2-3 May 2014
Registrations can be made via the registration form here.
This classic and elegant dish will be a stunner of a surprise for Valentine's Day. Forget the over-crowded restaurants and the dilemma of what to buy your sweetheart. Start with dessert - not just any dessert but the queen of desserts, 2 forks and the sofa ... and maybe an extra shot or two of brandy, kirsch or liqueur. Oh and do not forget the spoons "to capture the remaining syrup!"
In this section of the post I share bits and pieces, finds and interesting things I come across as I surf the web. It might be a quote, a picture a moving post, interesting news and announcements, whatever makes me connect with you.
- The National Geographic Traveller article by Tarquinn Hall The King's Feast grasped me from the first paragraph. A colorful insight to a Kashmiri wedding with vivid images. You'll love it!
- As we are talking French food you will enjoy HuffPost Taste's 30 French Foods that are better than a burger listing some classic French recipes. It also includes my Bouillabaisse with Red Pepper Rouille
- My food hero Yottam Ottolenghi has put together a couple of recipes for Valentine's day in The Food of Love
- I am always looking for ideas for a quick weeknight meal that are fun and healthy. I really like Heidi Larsen of FoodieCrush's idea with these Pizza Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
- A great gift idea - How to make Willy Wonka's lickable wallpaper.
- Dearest Ilva has a seductive treat for chocolate lovers. This Chocolate and Matcha Tea Cake looks so enticing and as always Ilva's gorgeous images will entice you into baking it straight away.
- Visiting Regula Ysewijn aka Miss Foodwise on her lovely blog is always such a treat. Right now she spoils us with her Cardamom and Yogurt Spelt Cake
- I have one more cake for you ... it is Valentine's Day soon - my friend Ken over at the Hungry Rabbit has a heavenly passionfruit mousse cake and tells us where love is.
- Looking for a last minute Valentine Day gift idea? Sibylle of Funkytime has these mine & yours soap wrapper to print.
Hope you all have a great week ahead. Of course I wish you a love filled and blessed Valentine Day with your loved ones. Enjoy!
You might like these French treats from What's For Lunch, Honey?:
|French Strawberry Hazelnut and Creme Patissiere Tart||Raspberry and Coconut Macarons||Croquembouche with a Pistachio Rosewater Pastry Cream|
All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2013 Meeta Khurana Wolff unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First