There’s a surprising amount of room onboard Louise. Chef Michael DeBoer and his wife Lori bought the old and deteriorating truck, which had lived a life as the famed Cheese Louise mobile restaurant. It died of having a hole in the floor underneath the driver’s seat, and truck-grade osteoporosis, which caused its support beams to rust to dust.
But DeBoer, a Culinary Institute of America graduate and three-year apprentice at Flagstaff House (among other experiences), shelled out the dough to resurrect Louise. Two weeks into their venture, called The French Twist, Louise is cooking up crepes on a griddle, croque mesdames and messieurs on the grill and gaufretting potatoes in the fryer.
DeBoer is also serving typical French bistro fare including escargots, frogs legs (when available) and salads.
It’s a small miracle DeBoer can put out quality French food from a truck, but the process begins early in the day in a shared kitchen, where béchamel, ratatouille, batter and more is prepped. The finished product looks like gourmet food on paper plates, a juxtaposition DeBoer delights in.
We order at the window and head inside to Upslope’s Lee Hill taproom in north Boulder, where the truck is parked for the weekend. It’s open mic night at Upslope and some tie-dyed soul is wailing on a harmonica with a recorded acoustic guitar over the top. The beer — first a casked habanero raspberry ale, then a Nitro ESB — is great, but it’s not the point here.
The point comes on a silver tray: a niçoise salad with duck confit; escargots over ratatouille, ham and fresh greens; croque madame with gaufrettes; and a pear-chocolate crepe.
I, too, am delighted by it all on paper plates. It’s the perfect presentation for what DeBoer is doing: making accesible what is typically only available here at a high price without sacrificing quality. Greyed and experienced, he is passionate about his food and his young business, and he wonders why people ever bother with establishments that phone it in with processed garbage or unexciting cuisine. It’s a welcomed approach.
Of course all the passion would be for naught if the food stunk.
The niçoise salad was dressed in a robust balsamic vinaigrette, and loaded with kalamata olives, capers, al dente green beans, two sliced hard-boiled eggs and a net of duck confit. The duck had an intense flavor and a little crunch. When all the ingredients were taken in a plastic fork, it worked wonders. It had the brightness and salinity that makes niçoise salads so refreshing.
Next were the escargots. The snails were imported from Denver (likely imported from somewhere else), and were de-shelled and roasted. They tasted like the beautiful silky earth, and when taken in with the warm ratatouille of tomatoes, squash and eggplant, it was a hearty bite for such a small amount of matter. DeBoer also throws ham in the escargots dish (for American palates), and it’s nice but ultimately unnecessary. Snails are best, for me, piping hot and bathing in garlic, butter and herbs, but this was a pleasant interpretation and just plain exciting to see on the menu.
The croque madame was a heart-busting runaway winner. Two big slabs of sourdough or else some thick white bread, sandwiched around ham and cheese, smothered in an artfully constructed and rich mushroom béchamel sauce and topped with a fried egg. If you try this and you don’t like this, get out.
The gaufrettes were salty little treats, perfect for snacking on at the bar — DeBoer says it’s his top seller so far. The crepe was buttery and rich, and the chocolate inside was of critical importance. The last bite at the bottom of the crepe where the chocolate had pooled was an excellent way to end the meal.
DeBoer says the menu will largely be determined by what’s available going forward, but you’ll be able to find the standards listed above year-round. Following the truck around to get your croque madame fix might be a bit harder.