Winter In Europe Is Not Necessarily That Cold.

Christmas in Europe is different.

For those of us that are sometimes overwhelmed by the Christmas holidays, Europe is a refuge.  The holidays are understated, there is less in your face materialism and perhaps it is closer to the way it was in the past before the world carried it away into the search for bigger, better and more. As this photo of a local restaurant at Ecole Militaire in the 7th in Paris shows, the decorations are different too.  Much more subtle, restrained, refined.

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You have to look to find the christmas trees.  Imagine those in the US.

Chestnuts are everywhere both in the markets and roasting in carts on the streets.

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And they are delicious.

The weather is cooling quickly and its starting to feel like the holidays.

This is also a very good time to travel.

Air fares are ridiculously cheap, I flew round trip from San Francisco to London for under $600 and then on to Paris for under $60 each way.  And here is the best thing of all, this is how aircraft are looking right now, at least mid-week.

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Its pretty comfy even on transatlantic flights.  Plenty of room in coach for your stuff and to sleep.  Both ways.

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When was the last time you saw a check in line like this?  It is pretty nice.

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Does this have you thinking of a last-minute trip to Paris?  Contact us now.

A neighborhood story.

Urban living is sometimes seen as cold and indifferent.  And that is because it often is.  The neighborhood that the Yellow Flat is located in is typically Parisian, baker, butcher and until recently an old man who spent his days in a stairwell next to the grocery store smiling, smoking and panhandling.  But this time when I returned to Paris the space where he sat was empty and instead I saw this:

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A small makeshift memorial and flowers where he had sat and held court every day.  As you can see from the poster he had died.  A mass was held in his memory at the local church.

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And these words in his memory.  Even in Paris, in this most busy urban area, the world stopped for a moment to pay respects to him.

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And the Euro? Wow.

I can’t remember the last time that the Euro was at 1.06 to the dollar making travel to Europe a great value.  Take a look at this meal for two that we enjoyed at the Bistro Balhara or Rue Duvivier about 10 minutes walk from the Yellow Flat:

Start with a fricassee of crispy snails (yes I did it) and wild mushrooms.

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Follow with perfectly prepared wild caught that morning scallops.

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Finish with a soufflé finished with Calvados and flambeed at the table.

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Including a bottle of delicious Gamay from the Loire, this lovely dinner cost us a grand total of 110 euro, 116 dollars.  Perfect neighborhood cure for a cold Paris night.  And next time I am going for the 6 course tasting menu at 52 euro each.

Yum.

The Bistro Balhara is located at 23 Rue Duvivier, Paris 75007.  www.bistrotbelhara.com

We hope to see you soon in Paris at our Yellow Flat.

In Paris, Long Leisurely Lunches Are Sublime. We Enjoy the Artistry of David Toutain.

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Cod with foraged greens and morels

Why do I believe that lunch is the best way to enjoy a gourmet, i.e. michelin starred, meal in Paris?   Consider this.

  • It is easier to get a reservation.
  • You are awake.
  • For those of us that don’t eat as much the courses tend to be smaller.
  • It is a steal.  That’s right, compared to dinner, a steal.

On each trip to France we try to eat at least one outstanding meal and this one featured a visit to David Toutain.  His one star Michelin restaurant, opened in 2014, is located at the border of the 7th and 6th districts.  The chef, who trained under Allain Passard and worked at great restaurants such as L’Arpege, brings the food of his youth, spent in the lush farms of Normandy to your table.  And for our palates this means something that we are now used to but can be lacking in Paris: an ingredient driven tasting menu. The ingredients, fresh and often foraged, are the stars of his show.  Throw in some minimalist sensibility, a fine sense of design and a coastal emphasis and you have a winner.

On arrival around 12:00 we were seated upstairs.  Florence immediately caught the slight, we were steered away from the every day local lunch crowd. Put the tourists out of sight.  I didn’t care, in fact to me it felt like a private dining experience for the two of us tucked away from the noise in the library.

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I am not going to give a detailed review of every plate that we enjoyed. I will let the pictures talk and note that the meal was incredibly balanced, thoughtfully plated, beautifully designed and innovative.  Service was professional if a bit stiff.

Afterwards think about this meal and what you would pay for it including a 1/2 bottle of Saumur red for me and two glasses of Sancerre for Flo.

The menu at lunch offers three tasting options, we chose the least expensive (55 euro) and the middle one (80 euro) and they took it from there.  What followed was a show of flavor, texture and color.

Amuse?  Beet carpaccio

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The most amazing brioche nest.

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The menu started.

Black sesame soup with seaweed roll and juniper.

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Cod without the morels for Flo (don’t worry we shared them).  Even the darn foam was delicious.

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Eel.

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And a savory egg custard in shell.

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Mains.

Lamb two ways.

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Haddock.  Two kinds of carrots.  Eggplant.

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Even the crackers impressed.

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Desserts.  Many.

Coconut mousse.

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Mixed fruits and ice cream over vanilla cream.

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Espressos were needed.

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But they were not done with us. Look carefully at the bowl, those are tea smoke infused macarons. You see them, the light grey circles.

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Two and a half hours later we walked into the 7th and back to the Yellow Flat via Rue Saint Dominque laughing.  The sun was shining and the Eiffel Tower gleamed.   Paris was perfect.

Oh yes, the cost for two including the morel supplement was $216.  That is with tax and tip.

Worth every centime.

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Reservations were relatively easy by email, staff was very responsive.

Address 29 rue Surcouf, 75007 Paris

Phone +33145501110

Email reservations@davidtoutain.com

Website: http://www.davidtoutain.com

Le Bon Marche’ Paris. A Stunning Food Hall In A Historic Department Store In A Great Neighborhood.

The area around Metro Sevres Babylone in the 6th arrondissement  does not always come up on the radar of a trip to Paris.  That is a pity.  It is home to good food, a great hotel which has been under renovation for who knows how long (over 2 years actually) and one of the finest if not the finest food hall in Paris located in the historic department store Le Bon Marche.  You can plan a walk, a visit to a wine bar after your walk or lunch at a number of good restaurants. Or just go shopping.

 

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On exiting the metro station you will see a non descript park, more of a square.  From there walk onto to the intersection of Rue de Sevres and  Boulevard Raspail.  Looking across the street, you will see the Hotel Lutetia.  This famous landmark has been under construction since 2014 and should reopen this year. Now looking the other way down Rue de Sevres, you will see a monument to the world of shopping, Le Bon Marche. Well you won’t exactly see all of it because it too is being renovated.

 

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Le Bon Marche is the world’s first modern department store. It was founded over 100 years ago in 1857 and it too is being completely remodeled to highlight its beautiful stately architecture.  The interior is simply stunning.

 

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But we weren’t there for the architecture.  As I have often written, eating in Paris is about a lot more than the restaurants.   European produce is exceptional in quality and look.  It is a cornucopia of this part of the world,  French salads and chicories, Spanish asparagus and squash, Belgian endive.  And rather than trying to list them, just all look at their beauty and the way they are presented.  We can all learn.  Lighting please American grocery stores?

 

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This food hall has everything you might need to cook a very very good meal including a full service butcher and fish monger.  Or do what we did.  We stayed at the Yellow Flat and enjoyed a simple dinner featuring artisan quality Italian pasta and pesto with shaved parmesan, steamed asparagus with Normandy butter and a salad composed of butter lettuce and chicories.    For Flo a cold Sancerre for me a dry Chinon.  Dessert two pastries from their bakery, a coffee eclair and a strawberry tart.  Why go out?

And all of this from a true temple of food.

If you need a little refreshment or lunch after shopping try these local establishments:

For lunch an old favorite, L’Epi Dupin, Address: 11 Rue Dupin, 75006 Paris, France. Phone:+33 1 42 22 64 56.  Very tourist friendly without sacrificing food quality.

For a glass of wine Le Sauvignon.  You can order light food there as well,  80, Rue des Saints-Pères – 75006.  Just past the Lutetia.  Phone 01.45.48.49.02. An honest simple establishment.

To reach Le Bon Marche from the Yellow Flat take the line 10 direction Gare D’Austerlitz.  Its just 4 stops.

Bon Appetit.

Jules and Flo.

Don’t be scared, it’s only French cheese.

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Going to Paris and not enjoying French cheese is a sin. There are hundreds and hundreds of kinds to choose from, a cornucopia of taste, texture and color. But finding the right one is often confusing as they vary by age, % of butter fat, region and the animal that produces the milk to start with.

Cheese lovers traveling to France can be divided into the aficionados, the scared and the curious.   This article is for the latter two groups. Hard core cheese lovers have plenty of books and blogs to enjoy (for example, look at: (chezlouloufrance.blogspot.com).

For the rest of us, French cheese is often a daunting subject.  Just look at this one ooze out of its skin.

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Now I have a confession to make.  I like mild cheese.  White cheese.  Mozzarella.  Jack. Queso Fresco. Always have and will.    And I am here to tell you there are plenty of French cheeses even the timid amongst you to enjoy.  Cheeses that are flavorful, delicious and very accessible.  And better yet, unpasteurized.  No soap box here, those cheeses taste better.  Period.

Still scared? Look at these little squares of fresh goat cheese covered in finely chopped chives.  How could anything so cute hurt you?

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Better yet, with the current exchange rate, cheese in France is a good deal.  Remember, you are buying in grams, so 200 grams (about 7 ounces so almost half a pound) is a good portion and what seems like an expensive price of say 25 Euros a kilo is only $12.80 a pound).

There is really only one place to buy cheese in Paris and that is the local cheese shop.  Take the time to find one close to where you are staying as every neighborhood has one.  Some have special owners that have passed the strict French regulations and been awarded the title of  ‘affineur’.  Affineurs are a part of the process of finding and creating great cheeses as they play a roll in the aging process as well.

In the 7th district there are two affineurs that we enjoy:

Marie Cantin (www.cantin.fr).  Marie and her husband Antoine’s shop has sold fine French cheeses since 1950.  They offer cheese classes as well.  The shop is located at 12 Rue Champ De Mars, metro Ecole Militaire.  Tel: 33 (0)1 45 50 43 94.

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On the other side of the Champ De Mars is Fromagerie Laurent DuBois.  (www.fromageslaurentdubois.fr)  There are three shops, the one we go to is located at 2 Rue De Lourmel, Metro Dupleix.

To get a sense of how an affineur views cheese, here is a quote from the Laurent DuBois website:

“The quality of a cheese depends on a complex series of steps. First, the search for good producers with whom we need to create a lasting partnership, and the selection of the cheeses. Then comes the aging in our cellars, keeping in the mind that the talent of the ripener lies in bringing the product to the point of excellent flavor. This precise moment also defines my taste for cheese, the particular time at which I think the cheese has the reached its peak of flavor. Then you need to know how to sell the cheese at the right moment, and thus advise clients who share our curiosity and our pleasure in the taste of good cheese.”

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Here are some basic vocabulary that you will need to know to select cheese.

Goat:  Chèvre.  Cow:  Vache

Sheep:  Brebis.  Made on a farm: Fermier

Made by a coop. Cooperative.

Artisanal is artisanal.  No surprise there.

Soft.  Doux. Aged: Gardes

Fresh: Frais

Which brings us to a list of five choices for you to try:

Goat cheese is chèvre.  Look for chèvre that is soft and fresh and when in doubt in a restaurant it is always good on a salad. Unless you know what you are getting into stay away from the ones called crotin, they are aged and strong.

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Tomme de Savoie.  Mild semi soft cheese from the French Alps.

Ossau-Itray  Semi soft sheep’s cheese from the Basque Country.

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Comte.  Unpasteurized cows cheese from Eastern France.  Slightly sweet nutty taste.

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Brie. Brie has a reputation for gummy soulless cheese that lack character.  But if you can find an unpasteurized versions of this creamy cows milk cheese in Paris, it will change your mind.

And last but not least, stay away from the Epoisse.  Avoid this stinker at all costs.

To my way of thinking, if you take the time to make a meal out of 30 euros of cheese a baguette and a good bottle of wine you can’t go wrong. It has always worked for us.

Jules and Flo. www.yellowflat.com.

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Pots, pans and pigs. A walk around Les Halles to enjoy the remnants of this ever changing neighborhood.

Pots, pans and pigs. A walk around Les Halles to enjoy the remnants of this ever changing neighborhood.


DSC_0792Les Halles was once the great produce market of Paris, a thriving early morning cacophony of noises, smells and sights that supplied this grand city with vegetables, meats and fruit.  As well documented in print and in the photography found in the great Robert Doisneau’s book on the same subject, the stalls and life that surrounded it were redeveloped into a soulless mall in the 1960’s.  Over the past few years the City has tried it’s best to correct these mistakes with yet another redevelopment of the mall and the jury is still out on the last efforts.  So instead of mourning the past, this short walk focuses on elements of the old neighborhood that remain.

The walk starts at metro Etienne Marcel. On exiting head towards Les Halles down Rue Turbigo.  In two blocks you will reach the entry of one of the largest gothic churches in Paris, Saint Eustache.  Take time to walk through the church to view its imposing structure, massive organ, stained glass and the sculptures that honor the prior habitants of the area pictured above.

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On exiting the church turn left unto Rue Montmartre, the right onto Rue Du Jour and then left onto rue Coquilliere.

DSC_0759At 18-20 you will find E. Dehlerrin, one of the most eclectic, well-stocked cooking and restaurant supply stores in the world, two stores of toys for chefs and the rest of us.

Need a soup pot to boil your enemies in?  I think this one would fit some of my smaller ones.

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The shop is full of copper goodies and yes, they ship outside of France.

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From gigantic ricers to scales it is all there.

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If you time it right, you it might just be time for lunch or an early dinner.  Here are some options:

Continuing on Rue Coquillere at number 6 you will find one of the most beautiful brasseries in Paris, Au Pied de Cochon.

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Even if you aren’t hungry go in for a drink sit at the bar and enjoy the interior deco driven furnishings.

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And if you do go to eat let me know how the pied du cochon, the pig’s foot, tasted. I didn’t have the stomach for it.  The brasserie is known for being the first place where Julia Child enjoyed sole meunier, and you should stick to the classics.  Have some oysters and wash it down with a cold glass of dry Muscadet as you watch workers at the French Stock exchange, the bourse, which is located just blocks away enjoy theirs.

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You can finish your walk on one of my favorite streets in Paris, Rue Montorgueil or head towards the Seine via Rue Du Louvre.

And if you are really lucky, you are finishing the afternoon with a drink at Frenchie Wine Bar on Rue Du Nil.  It’s a hassle to get in but awfully good.  Reservations are hard to find so go at off hours.

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Enjoy this vision of the past (well except for Frenchie at least) tucked in the modern changing city that is Paris.

jules

Eglise Paroise Saint Eustache

2 Impasse Saint-Eustache, 75001 Paris, France
+33 1 42 36 31 05

E. Dehlerrin

 18-20 Rue Coquillière, 75001 Paris, France
6 Rue Coquillière, 75001 Paris, France

RESTAURANT FRENCHIE


5-6, RUE DU NIL 75002 PARIS
+33 (0)1.40.39.96.19

 

Cakes, Desserts And Lots More. Paris Bakeries Part 3: Enjoying The Patisserie.

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The Patissier

Exploring and Enjoying Parisian Bakeries Part 3.

Sweets, Desserts and Much Much More.

There is truly no way to do justice to the depth and variety of delectable goodies available at a good Parisian Patisserie in one article.  You will find an often overwhelming selection of tarts, chocolates, pastries, cookies and macarons (which seem to be everywhere these days).  Some will be familiar to you, others will be new and they are worth seeking out.   Think variety and you will not be disappointed.

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Classic Bakery Counter

Tarte Aux Fruit or Fruit tarts are commonly found in both individual and large. The quality is very reliable even in less than great bakeries. Choices include mure (blackberry), citron (lemon), fraise (strawberry), framboise (raspberry) and poire (pear).  Many tarts will mix fruits for design and color.  Fillings range from simple glazes to rich creams.  The best ones run simple like this:

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Perfect glaze and crispiness

Eclairs. I confidently wager that Paris has the best eclairs on earth with a variety of fillings including chocolate, coffee and vanilla creams.  Take a moment to read my review of Patiserrie Stohrer and then consider going there.  It was that good, the bakery is a throwback to Paris in the 1700’s and Rue Montorgeuil and the area around it are worth the trip.

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Yes, since 1730.

Macarons.   These small almond based cookies or cakes with creme fillings have conquered Paris and apparently the world.  But honestly, is it worth waiting hours in line for one at La Duree? Better to pick some up at their stand at CDG airport on the way home and wow your friends. Macarons come in a cacophony of flavors and colors and are not in any way to be confused with coconut Macaroons.

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Praline

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Pistachio

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Raspberry

Creampuffs are called Choux. The name means “little cabbage”.  If you can find them, try a Chouquette: small puff pastries without filling covered in sugar. Sort of a French donut hole.

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Les Chouquettes

Opera.   An intense rectangular chocolate mousse cake covered in dark chocolate and often decorated lushly even featuring gold flake on occasion.

Canele.  This Bordeaux specialty has a distinctive caramel burnt sugar flavor and unique shape.  They are dense almost chewy perfect along side a shot of espresso.

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Canele, pride of Bordeaux.

Chocolates.  Many bakeries will feature a display of chocolates to add to the party.

Bakery Chocolates

Bakery Chocolates

Recommendations in the neighborhood:

There are two pastry shops worth seeking out close to the Yellow Flat.  First is La Patisserie De Reves located across the Champ De Mars on Rue De Bac.  A visually engaging combination of classics and innovation that is really quite spectacular.  About 20 mins walk. 93 rue du Bac, 7th, +33 1 42 84 00 82. Métro: Rue du Bac. lapatisseriedesreves.com

The second is Desgateauxetdupain, an easier walk and again a lighter and innovative take on traditional cakes.  63 boulevard Pasteur, 15th, +33 1 45 38 94 16, desgateauxetdupain.com. Métro: Pasteur. Open Mon, Wed-Sun 8am-8pm

Though not in the neighborhood, Bontemps Patisserie, a young and dynamic new bakery in the Marais is turning out heavenly cookies called sable’, a cross between shortbread and sugar cookies with a crumbly nutty texture. Small drops of intense flavor made with a fine delicate hand.

Patisserie with amazing cookies in the Marais

Patisserie with amazing cookies in the Marais

bonempspatisserie  57 rue de Bretagne in the Marais+33 1 42 74 10 68  Metro Arts et Metiers.

For a completely different experience try these two patisseries, unusual in terms of both flavors and experiences with very different lineage.

While you many not think of Algeria as home to baked goods, consider visiting La Bague De Kenza. Think dates, almonds, baklava, rosewater and honey.  Order an assortment. 233 rue de la Convention, 15th, +33 1 42 50 02 97. Métro: Convention. labaguedekenza.com

Sadaharu Aoki As obvious by the name, this Japanese owned patisserie turns out exquisite chocolates that must be seen to be appreciated.  Located at the border of the 6th, 7th and 15th districts. 35 rue de Vaugirard 75006   +33 01 45 44 48 90 www.sadaharuaoki.com

exquisite candy

To learn more about how to enjoy Paris bakeries go to the first two blogs in this series.  You can read more about how to find the best Breads and get an overview of how to choose a great bakery here.

As always enjoy!

Jules

Parisian Bakeries Part 2: Breads And Lots Of Breakfast Deliciousness.

Paris Bakeries Part 2.  Breads, breakfast pastries and a plan of attack.

That baguette in the window.

That baguette in the window.

My previous post focused on suggestions on how to find quality Parisian bakeries.  And now you have found that adorable artisan establishment and walked inside.  What do you do?  Before you make a move, check the time and be forewarned, Parisian bakeries are not for the meek in the morning.  People (read that as locals) are there to grab and then get on with their days.  Lines are often long and the servers don’t have time to be helpful.  They have a job to do, don’t take their impatience personally.

Many bakeries will have small tables where you eat your baked goods on premises.  If you want to order it this way ask for your order “sur place” as opposed as to go which is “a emporter”.

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Here is a guide to the various breads and pastries that you will enjoy in Paris. This is not a simple subject, you will be well served to decide on what you wantin advance.  Have a plan of attack that requires you to go several times and try lots of goodies.  That should not be too hard.

Lets start with breads.

Pain De Mie

Pain De Mie

Baguette. Your baguette should be golden brown, crispy with a bit of flake, with a hint of salt and a soft inside.  As befitting their importance in French culture, there are lots of shapes and tastes:

Baguette Parisienne. The basic baguette, sometimes called ‘ordinaire‘ or ‘normale‘,  An amazing deal at 1euro40 or less. As with the bakeries, quality varies widely.  If you see a lattice like pattern on the bottom side it was baked in a form pan and likely has an industrial source.  But even those aren’t always bad.

Half baguette, at less than 1 euro it will be just enough for a snack and no one will look down on you if you buy one.

Tradition.   Signifies the efforts of an artisan baker that takes the time to create a hand-made baguette.  Also called Baguette A L’Ancienne or De Campange (country). They will be irregular in shape and a bit more expensive.

Batard.  About half the length of a baguette and wider.

Flute.  A long and very thin baguette.

Couronne.  Ring shaped baguette.

Aux Cereales.  Contains whole grain flour and other grains.

Ficelle. This means string.  A very very thin baguette.

Breads are also available by loaf, consider:

Pain Au Levain.  Akin to sourdough.

Complet. Whole wheat or multigrain breads.

Pain De Mie. The closest thing to white bread, but calling it white bread is just unfair. It is so much better. The best sandwich bread in France.  Maybe it is all the butter but white bread does not like the bread you see pictured above. Period.

Aux Noix.  Walnut bread.

Siegle.  Rye bread.

Good Morning.

Good Morning.

On to another happy subject, morning pastries. I always search out breakfast pastries in Paris. They are the perfect for the on the run moment before you head out to see the sights meal along with a cup of coffee. Again, there are so many to choose from and by no means should you be limited to eating them in the morning.

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The Pastry Counter At Poilane.

Croissant. Try one, please. What passes for a croissant outside of France is often a joke.  A good croissant should reek of baked butter and stain the paper that holds it with fat.  The outer crust should be firm and the inside airy and light.

Pain au chocolate.  Look for ones that are flaky  and stuffed with practically melted chocolate.  Make a mess.

The Pain Au Choc.

The Pain Au Chocolat

Pain au raisin. Snail shaped pastry with raisins and custard.  Personal favorite.

Croissant amande.  Almond croissant usually dusted with powdered sugar.

Venoisse. A rich sweet morning pastry often with chocolate bits. It should shine from the egg wash.

Vienoisse

Vienoisse

Tartlette de pomme.  An apple mini tart and cousin to the Chausson Aux Pommes, apple turnovers.

Brioche.  A sweet bread made with eggs.  Must eat with jam and more butter.

Beignet.   Surprise, you can find doughnuts in Paris, typically plain dough rolled in sugar.

For more information about baked good consider these articles.

Paris has an annual best baguette competition, some winners are near the Yellow Flat. Award winning baguettes near the Yellow Flat include Boulangerie Frederic Pichard at 88 Rue Cambronne or Les Gourmandises d’Eiffel at 187 Rue De Grenelle across the Champ De Mars next to the Eiffel Tower.  Read more at

http://parisbymouth.com/paris-top-baguettes-for-2014/

There are plenty of quality croissants near the Yellow Flat.  Try Boulangerie Pichard at 88 Rue Cambronne, L’artisan Des Gourmands at 60 Rue de la Convetion or Le Quartier Du Pain.  74 Rue Saint Charles.  Be forewarned that the baker at L’artisan is not cheery.  You are not there for friendship.

Read more at http://parisbymouth.com/the-best-butter-croissants-in-paris/

Learn about the ongoing baguette crisis in Paris here:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/10143339/French-turning-away-from-the-baguette.html

Want to practice your French and read more?  Check out painrisien.  Very detailed bakery reviews but only in French.

As always enjoy the journey and if one pastry doesn’t excite you order another, you are on vacation!

Next up: Patissiers for cookies, desserts and more.

jules