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Flavors: Crepe Diem - Seizing the Crepe

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Stella Fong
In the YPR studio with Kate and Mo Bain, owners of Crepe Diem. Since 2010 they have served up sweet and savory crepes from their mobile kitchen. Credit Stella Fong.

The owners of Crepe Diem, Mo and Kate Bain, want their customers to seize their crepes. Since 2010, lines of people at the Yellowstone Valley Farmers Market, Strawberry Festival and Summer Fair have snatched a bite of the French pancakes the Bains make out of their mobile kitchen.

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Stella Fong
Crepe Diem’s blackboard in front of their stall with playful and fun names for their sweet and savory crepes.

“Making food brings so much energy and life into a group, and you’re able to share something. It’s a piece of love you can share with anybody, and have them feel special. That’s the number one thing I love about our crepes. You can’t be sad when you are eating a crepe,” Kate said of cooking for friends and customers.

Fourteen years ago, the couple relocated to Billings from Denver. “We came to town, and we’re going to enjoy a smaller community than Denver, and with a smaller community comes a better economy, and a better market to start a business,” Mo shared of falling in love with Billings.

They both knew they wanted to work for themselves but did not know what they were going to do. “We saw a hole in the market for crepes,” Kate shared. “We went to Strawberry Festival and we loved the magic behind the festival. There was something there, and we knew we needed to be a part of it.”

After a year and a half perfecting their crepe recipe, they finally felt confident they had recreated the crepes they enjoyed eating in Denver. One night after “laughing on our friend’s couch,” Mo shared, they came up with the name for their business along with fun names for their crepes.

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Stella Fong
From top left to right: Kate and Mo Bain show off their “A Slice of Heaven” crepe made with sliced bananas, strawberries, special cream cheese and Nutella. Mo shows off how he finesses the crepe spatula to smooth out a round, thin crepe. Bottom left to right: Nutella is drizzled on top of a crepe folded into the shape of a pizza slice. Special cream cheese “made with love” according to Kate is the secret ingredient for their “A Slice of Heaven” crepe made with bananas and strawberries sliced with a handheld slicing tool.

Their crepes take on names such as: A Slice of Heaven – strawberries and bananas with Nutella and their signature cream cheese, Curious George – bananas and Nutella, Flying Turtle – chocolate with candied pecans, caramel sauce and their signature cream cheese, and Blue Yonder – lemon and blueberries, cream cheese and almonds. They also offer savory crepes: Monte Cristo – ham, turkey and Swiss topped with raspberry preserve and powdered sugar and Gobble Gobble – turkey and pesto.

According to Kate, “The proper crepe is one you can read a newspaper through it.” Using Kampouz propane powered commercial griddles from Belgium, Mo, who usually does the cooking cooks up paper-thin, browned edged, cratered crepes in about 45 seconds. After pouring four ounces of batter onto the griddle, he spreads out a round with a sweep of a spatula that looks like a squeegee.

A basic crepe recipe consists of flour, butter, eggs, milk and water. Mo said that most people make the mistake of making thick batter so they can it more easily. Aside from the crepe being too thick, “The problem with that is it doesn’t allow for the flavors to be absorbed from the top and bottom.”

Making “crepes are the most humbling food I ever made. You can’t come in with a lot of pride as it will teach you,” Kate said.

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Stella Fong
Bowen Brown and Kate Bain take customer orders at the Yellowstone Valley Farmers Market on this Saturday morning.

The batter must have the right thickness while the griddle must be at the right temperature. Mo admitted he needs to adjust to the wind and varying temperatures. The one key tip he did reveal, “Whatever oil you use, whether it is butter or whatever oil or coconut oil,” he suggested warming the oil and then adding it to the crepe batter. “If you mix it in first, it absorbs into the flour.” When the oil cools in the mixture, it forms globules. The fat melts when the crepe cooks and forms craters. The holes give the crepe lightness, but also allows for the transfer of flavors.

Crepe Diem attempts to accommodate all dietary needs. Kate said they now have a gluten free crepe made from oat flour grown in Belgrade. They make the effort to adjust to people’s dietary issues because, “We just want them (the customers) to be happy.”

The Bains like their mobile business out of their Sprinter van, and do not have plans to find a permanent brick and mortar location. “We are part of a new movement that is developing in our country, in the Western culture,” Mo said of their life of minimalism. “We work hard in the summer and we play with our kids a lot in the off season.”

“It’s been really fun to go to Bozeman, Livingston and Big Timber, and be a part of these communities,” Kay said. “It is nice to be able to serve so many people and see how life is going over there, and how we can help, and be a part of it.”

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Stella Fong
Nine-year-old Fin is at a table next to the Crepe Diem stall selling cherries and garlic grown by Farmer Mike.

As a married couple who are in business together, “We’re a growth in progress. Our kids are working with us and they’re traveling with us, and they get to see us fight and bicker, but I think they can see how problems are solved.” Mo shared. Their three children, age nine, seven and five, also set up their own tables at some of the farmers markets. “I love that because they can see how harvest is created, how much preparation goes into an event.” They also, “go to these events and they have fun walking around, and seeing all these vendors.”

Stella Fong shares her personal love of food and wine through her cooking classes and wine seminars as well as through her contributions to Yellowstone Valley Woman, and Last Best News and The Last Best Plates blogs. Her first book, Historic Restaurants of Billings hit the shelves in November of 2015 with Billings Food available in the summer of 2016. After receiving her Certified Wine Professional certification from the Culinary Institute of America with the assistance of a Robert Parker Scholarship for continuing studies, she has taught the Wine Studies programs for Montana State University Billings Wine and Food Festival since 2008. She has instructed on the West Coast for cooking schools such as Sur La Table, Williams-Sonoma, Macy’s Cellars, and Gelsons, and in Billings, at the Billings Depot, Copper Colander, Wellness Center, the YMCA and the YWCA. Locally she has collaborated with Raghavan Iyer and Christy Rost in teaching classes.