Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Novel Take on Crêpes: Astra Modern Market

In his correspondence with editors and autographs to fans, the great American writer John Steinbeck often drew a mythological winged pig dubbed the Pigasus. Accompanying the doodle was the Latin phrase “Ad astra per alas porci.”

Steinbeck’s personal interpretation of the phrase focused on Pigasus being “earthbound but aspiring...not enough wingspread but plenty of intention.” The literal translation of the text is “To the stars on the wings of a pig.” It gives hope, dashes doubt and fears and gives confidence about achieving the impossible. The dream of running a restaurant that pays homage to family recipes was Chef Jackson Nevitt’s Pigasus and Astra Modern Market is its name. In a culture of discouragement, it is pleasing to know that pigs truly CAN fly.

Astra Modern Market is just that; modern. What used to serve as a mechanic shop in Downtown Lafayette has been transformed into a great space offering local artwork, music, paper goods and food items.

The building is rustic but still fresh and contemporary in design. The original red brickwork peeks through the now white painted walls and the high wooden slat ceilings boast two huge skylights. It feels as though you are in an art gallery, specialty shop and restaurant all at the same time.

​You can sense the passion that Owner/Chef Nevitt and Co-Owner Lindsey Tharpe share for local fare and flavors. For the last seven months, Astra Modern Market has been producing classic French crêpes and pastries from their 200 Jefferson Street location. Although his initial idea was to have a food truck, Chef Nevitt drew from his line experience at Social Southern and Cochon to focus on a brick and mortar setup.

When asked what he likes to cook the most, Nevitt will tell you that he has only focused on crêpes for the last seven months and is wanting to take something that is otherwise known as simple or plain and elevate it. An example of that is the Ham and Cheese crêpe.

The ham is brined and smoked to ensure it has the perfect flavor profile to accent the warm, buttered crêpe. The crêpe is filled with the perfect amount of Tillamook cheddar cheese and the ham is crisp on the edges. It is filling enough for a lunch and you can even add an egg to the mix.

The newest crêpe on the menu, Korean BBQ Beef, is quickly becoming their best seller. The fusion of a buttery French crêpe and marinated beef, roasted onions, house-made kimchi and *ssamjang sauce is an unexpectedly delicious combination. Replacing their former best seller, a Vietnamese crêpe, the Korean BBQ crêpe will no doubt be my go to crêpe at Astra.

*Ssamjang is a thick, spicy paste used with food wrapped in a leaf in Korean cuisine. The sauce is made of doenjang (bean paste), gochujang (fermented red chili, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans and salt), sesame oil, onion, garlic, green onions, and optionally brown sugar.

“We always have a chicken based crêpe and a veggie crêpe on the savory menu.”
-Lindsey Tharpe

​Along with the savory crêpes, Astra offers sweet selections and pastries. The “New-tella” is the crêpe of choice for all you lovers of that popular spread. I found the chocolate hazelnut spread made by Astra to be less sweet than the original, and that is a good thing. It made the crêpe more enjoyable, tasting homemade and far less processed.

My wife’s favorite was the Maison, a lemon and sugar crêpe. Using his Grandmother’s recipe, Chef Nevitt opens your senses with this simple, yet complex crêpe. The fresh zest, the slightly gritty texture of the sugar and the buttery crêpe almost taste like a thin melt in your mouth lemon square. It is unbelievably good and I was ready to go back for another one later that day.

Don’t forget to pick up a pastry or two and a cup of coffee while you are in the area. Try a kouign-amann or Breton cake; think of it as a flat, spiraled croissant with brûléed sugar on top.

If you want something creamier, try the berry cream brioche; similar to a cheese danish but on brioche with fresh berries. Of course, you can visit their Facebook page to view specials and keep up with the rotating pastries.

​With its hip and clean atmosphere, Astra Modern Market is a gem in the newly redeveloped Downtown area.

If you find yourself looking for local gifts, art work or delicious food and treats, Astra Modern Market is an “Eat This Lafayette” spot.

Follow Astra Modern Market on Facebook.

Astra Modern Market
200 Jefferson St

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