Wandering the streets of Paris, I feel fortunate when I stumble across a great boulangerie. In a city with 1263 bakeries (at last count) many of them are good, a few great, and some are disappointingly ordinary.
So when I come one that looks, and smells, like it’s gonna be a great one, I hurry inside.
Located on a plain, fairly-deserted side street in the vast 15th arrondissement, my nose filled with the unmistakable scent of yeast and wheat mingling in the air, tinged with an obligatory bit of butter, which I could smell from the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street.Traversing the street (which is always a dangerous proposition, since no one seems to have told Parisian drivers that when you see a pedestrian, you’re supposed to slow down, not speed up) I joined the line of hungry Parisians queuing up for their daily bread.
While I waited, I craned my neck to look at their beautiful breads on display. In Paris, once it’s you’re turn in line, if you haven’t figured out what you want, you’re messing up the whole system, since indecision is not a Parisian trait. But I honed in immediately on this pain Auvergnate, a dense, dark loaf dusted heavily with flour. Sliced open, the dense mie, or crumb, smelled rich, sour and medieval. I would imagine it going well with a full-flavored mountain cheese, like Comté or Cantal, or a tangy, fresh goat cheese with a dribble of dark chestnut honey.
I also bought several palets Breton, crumbly butter cookies, a specialty of Brittany where butter rules…especially butter flecked with fleur de sel. Unfortunately I made a stop to visit a local chocolatier, who helped himself to my stash. And before I knew it, they were gone and I had nothing but a bag of crumbs (which, by the way, were rather good.)
Luckily, he made up for it in spades, which I’ll write about soon.
Le Quartier du Pain
74, rue St. Charles
Tel: 01 45 78 87 23
270, rue Vaugirard
Tel: 01 48 28 78 42