What do you do if you’re a recent immigrant from Poland and are unable to continue a career in law? You open a restaurant, of course, like legions of immigrants before you, and if you are Magdalena Theisen, you create a sensation in the historic Fairhaven district of Bellingham, WA. She wraps a myriad of creative fillings in ethereal crepes, and customers flock to Magdalena’s Creperie.
Love tore Magda away from her native Poland. Settling into one of Washington State’s prettiest coastal cities, Bellingham, WA, with new husband, Greg, was at least consolation for the loss of a successful career as a tax lawyer. According to Greg, with time on her hands, Magda’s natural talent for cooking was expressed in terrific meals. The idea of opening a restaurant was a risky business in 2009, yet three years later Magdalena’s Creperie is a fixture in historic Fairhaven.
Poland, crepes, or even exciting food, are not connections that normally come to mind. The hearty food of the Polish countryside, brought by 19th century immigrants, has dominated America’s concept of the cuisine, and decades behind the Iron Curtain made the nation an enigma. Since the 1990s, with the emergence of a new Poland, a culinary revival is gaining international attention. Following the Slow Food and farm to table movements, and favored by a robust economy, a new generation of Polish professionals are rewriting the cook books.
It was from this milieu that Magda’s culinary style emerged. The first menu for Magdalen’a Creperie centered heavily on traditional dishes such as farmer cheese stuffed pan-fried pierogis with caramelized onions, and both savory and dessert crepes from Poland and Eastern Europe. Yet both the lore of the Pacific Northwest’s food abundance, and Magda’s own imagination, had her creating fusion dishes such as a soup combining local sorrel with traditional ingredients of sausage, dill, hard boiled egg and cream.
Not satisfied with her own traditions and creativity, Magda traveled in the spring of 2012 to France and the birthplace of the crepe, Brittany, to study with acclaimed chef Bernadette Petillon. Returning to Bellingham, she extensively changed the menu of Magdalena’s Creperie to reflect the lighter Breton style of crepe with creative fillings taking full advantage of local ingredients. It’s not just that the large platter-sized French crepes are lighter than air, they’re also presented in both traditional folds and fanciful flower petal-like designs.
Light and flavorful pierogis are still on the menu but so are buckwheat breakfast crepes with eggs, smoked salmon, spinach and mozzarella. A savory whole wheat entree crepe encloses sauteed scallops and leeks. A baked crepe with grilled asparagus, prosciutto and goat cheese was topped with a bubbling béchamel.
Desserts include deceptively simple free form crepes bursting with lemon juice and zest, or tangy lemon curd, as well as fanciful creations with ice cream, fresh local berries and whipped cream. Gluten-free items are offered including a rich chocolate poppy seed torte with mocha cream, and any crepe can be made with gluten-free buckwheat flour. The extensive menu offers salads, sandwiches, locally sourced coffee, juices and a small selection of wines. Even without the romantic story behind Magdalena’s Creperie, you’ll enjoy the discovery of exciting flavor combinations enfolded in familiar, but tasty, packaging.
Magdalena’s Creperie, 1200 10th Street, Bellingham, WA 98225 360-483-856