CAPE ELIZABETH — There’s a robin’s-egg blue shed being towed around greater Portland – from “curbside to parkside to seaside,” its owners say – leaving the aroma of buttery batter and fresh produce in its wake.
Crepe Elizabeth is a mobile kitchen serving sweet and savory crepes, launched in the spring by Brandi Haaf and Lonnie Stinson, who said they are focusing on “doing one thing and doing it well.”
The duo moved to Cape Elizabeth from Kansas City with their twin daughters, Alberta and Beatrice, a year ago. They worked corporate jobs before deciding to start their own business, centered around something they could both be passionate about – good food.
“We’ve both owned businesses before, so we thought, why not start (one) together?” Stinson said while prepping the truck for business at Thompson’s Point in Portland prior to last week’s Summer Sunsets on the Point.
From festivals to breweries, private parties, corporate events and even weddings, the Stinsons said running the operation is a full-time job that keeps them busy six days a week.
“We’re all in,” Haaf said. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s our work.”
Haaf has a background in sales, advertising and marketing that she utilizes for the business side of the operation, constantly looking for locations and collaborations.
What she doesn’t have is professional training in the kitchen, or even a recipe for her crepes.
“She is a phenomenal cook,” said Stinson, who has previous experience in restaurant management.
From German to Korean cuisine and everything in between, Stinson said Haaf can cook it all, but crepes became her specialty while working at a family owned restaurant in Kansas City.
The restaurant served grab-and-go sandwiches and salads with a catering business on the side. The crepe recipe had been in the family for generations, but none of the chefs, all of whom were brothers, could cook them correctly. But Haaf could.
“She taught me how to make crepes. It probably took 200 to 300 crepes to get it down,” Stinson said. “… She just had a knack for it.”
And she still does. Haaf never wrote down a recipe, but can spot what the batter might need more or less of just by looking at it, whether it’s butter, flour, sugar, sea salt, milk, eggs or water. Any of the crepes can be made gluten free with buckwheat flour upon request.
Haaf and Stinson’s approach to their cooking and menu is a simple: eight crepe dishes, four sweet and four savory, ranging from $5-10.
Stinson said their most popular crepe is La Classique, which is topped with nutella, strawberries and bananas. One of their more hearty dishes is La Complete; a traditional crepe with cage-free egg, uncured ham and cheese.
“It’s personal, but it’s always artistic. You’re always expressing yourself,” Haaf said of her cooking. “Sometimes, just super simple, yet well-executed (dishes) are the best thing ever.”
That’s what their trailer is, too. So minimalistic, as Stinson described it, that they don’t even need a vent because there is no fryer or griddle, just a crepe pan.
Haaf said she and Stinson have bought a larger truck they’re converting to expand their operation. But for now they’re just focusing on hauling their small, blue trailer to scheduled gigs, which are booked through December.
“We want to keep it mobile and expand our crepe empire,” Stinson said. “We like not being married to a spot. It’s been fun.”
Lonnie Stinson and Brandi Haaf, who own Crepe Elizabeth, prep for a crowd of hungry customers before last week’s Summer Sunsets at the Point in Portland.
Lonnie Stinson and Brandi Haaf’s daughter, Alberta, with one of Crepe Elizabeth’s sweet options, the S’more crepe.
For those not craving dessert, Crepe Elizabeth offers savory items like Le Jardin: with fresh diced tomatoes, baby spinach and a cheese blend wrapped in a traditional crepe.