Friday, June 13, 2008

Les boulangeries et patisseries...

... ne sont pas tous égals.

After my initial success with Pierre Hermé and Angelina, as well as good bread from Du Pain et Des Idées (and I will also grant them an excellent chauson a la pomme), I was so thrilled with my little patisserie guide. But let's just say, it's hard to do a bad baguette (although I have certainly had some bad ones). But now I must say, I trust Isabelle a great deal more than Jamie Cahill. Yesterday I visited Boulangerie Julien in the 1e (our class went for a visit to the passages, the original halls built in the 19th century for shopping and eating and meeting together for discussion.) Julien was near where we were meeting, so I was excited to get to taste the specialty, the "Jurassien," a cookie with a fruit topping... But I didn't see it on display anywhere, so I went for a pain sucré aux fruits rouges et chocolat (essentially, what looks like a croissant, but square and with red fruit (strawberry and/or raspberry) and chocolate inside) - a good choice, right? WRONG. It was hard, it was dry, it was absolutely the antithesis of light and flaky as a "pain sucré" should be. It was hard just to bite through! Poor form, Boulangerie Julien.

I got off work early today, and walking home (I have realised it is only a 15-20 minute walk!) I stopped at another recommended bakery, La Maison Brocco which is convenient because it is directly on my way. My guide recommended the royale as the shop's specialty, which is a chocolate pastry. It said they also do a version that is non chocolate, but hazelnut, which is just as good. Ok, perfect, I'll get one of each and see which is better - and what a perfect snack before heading to the Louvre (as I am off early, and it is open until 10 PM on fridays, what a perfect way to begin to tackle its massive collections! I say begin as I intend to return - I know I can't cover it all in one visit.) Anyway, back to the bakery - I go in and ask for "2 royales: un chocolat, et une noisette (hazlenut)." Simple enough, right? Apparently not. The non-chocolate version must have some other name, because somehow I ended up with 2 chocolate royales, a hot chocolate, and an espresso which must have had a shot of noisette added or something. I did just eat one of the royales... Very rich (enough so that I don't feel comfortable getting ready to get up and go to the Louvre until I have sat a while!), also a little too bitter due to the excess of cocoa powder on top, and just as my mother predicted, dry. Honestly, I would have been better off with baguette dipped in nutella!
Very lame, Maison Brocco, very very lame. And I'm gonna have to put some of the blame on you also, Jamie Cahill, for that recommendation.

So the lesson is evidently, trust Isabelle and take Jamie's word with a grain of salt.

And yes, for all of my myriad family members who have thus insisted, I will certainly make my way to Berthillon soon, and you can always count on me to let you know what I think. :)

I must say, two of my favorite bakeries are just the ones that are nearest to where I live, without being the big, fancy shops that the Guide tends to prefer. There is a little bakery on the corner ("Poires aux Normades"?) that does an excellent fondant au chocolat (literally, chocolate melt, but really I think it is brioche with some kind of pastry cream in the middle, as well as what are essentially chocolate chips). They also do an excellent brioche aux framboises (brioche with raspberries). And some of my favorite baguettes have come from a little shop for which I don't know the name, in the same block. Actually I think one of my biggest problems with the guide is that, on a day to day basis, it is not really pastries that I want, but bread or viennoises - essentially, sweet bread like with chocolate or croissants or the like. Granted, she does cover a number of these as well, but she focuses more on the sweet aspect. Which, when I say it aloud, sounds exactly like what I would want, but let's face it, you can only have so much dessert (I can't believe I just said that...)

Here is one real dilemma... Isabelle recommended a restaurant as absolutely the best for French cuisine. You can go for lunch, and order a set meal with choice of appetizer, main course, cheese, and dessert, with the appropriate courses accompanied with a glass of corresponding wines... And it is all cooked by one of the "top 5" chefs in Paris. (however that is decided). But for said lunch, it is 55E. That seems a little rich for me........ I want to do one expensive meal, but I don't think I'll find a friend to accompany me for that one..... Unfortunately I think that is just a little beyond my means. Ah well. C'est la vie. A former French prof of mine recommended a different restaurant for "la vraie cuisine francaise" that is about 40E for dinner, and I think I could find a few people who would go out just one night to somewhere like that, which is all I want to do, so I think that will be what will happen.

So anyway, those are my recent culinary ramblings... I still have another royale (I don't think I can eat that today!! It's just too much - one was too much!) perhaps I will take a picture of it - it is pretty - but then, it is not something I especially need to remember, so perhaps I will not.

A bientot,


Jennifer said...

Have you gone to Sacre-Coeur yet? Heck, all of Montmartre is beautiful. Tons of little paintings by vendors on the streets.

Just beware of the bracelet sellers on the steps... they'll make you pay 8 euro for them. Eric Liao kicked one of them senior year... I just emphatically told them no.

Enjoy the amazing pastries!!! As you've discovered, Paris has amazing ones. :-) We'll have to make a trip to europe in the future (10 years sound good? haha) and eat the delicious pastries and go down to Italy and enjoy some fantastic wine.

I need orange said...

Sometimes you wonder if reviewers are paid off to recommend things that are ... mediocre.

On the other hand, I suppose, given the amount of time between writing and publication, many things could change............

I'm glad you have a good source of tips in Isabelle!

Celine Marie said...

you are making me hungry. humph