Boulangerie 140

At last count, there are 1263 bakeries in Paris.

On just about every street, there’s at least one, if not two, or even three bakeries. Some of them are very good, a few are perhaps not so fabulous, and several are excellent. Parisians eat a lot of bread, far more than their American counterparts.

Visitors often wonder, “How come we don’t have bakeries like this is America?”

“Because people won’t eat bread in America anymore. Everyone’s afraid of it.” I respond

Tragically, most nod in agreement.

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Luckily there’s not too much of that nonsense here in Paris. From early in the morning, until the last baguette de levain is handed across the counter for dinner, you’ll find folks en queue, lined up impatiently waiting to get their daily bread.

And for some reason, I’m always in front of the most impatient one, who firmly keeps nudging me forward. My strategy against those Parisian pests is to gently innocently start backing up, which kinda freaks them out and invariably causes a chain reaction, since the person behind them is usually pressed up against them as well, nudging them forward too.

It causes a certain amount of shuffling and mild hysteria, but tant pis.
Anyone who wants to get that close to me better buy me a drink first.

Or at least a loaf of bread.

But when there’s a bakery as good as 140 in town, Parisians have good reason to get pushy about their bread. And neighborhood residents buy stop here once, or even twice daily to get theirs. And like many of them, I’m happy to stand my ground for a crisp, golden baguette de campagne that feels crisp and warm when it’s handed over the counter to me. Or for the buttery-mouthful of a flaky croissant that shatters into a gazillion crackly shards when you bite into it.

These are some of the daily rituals that go on around here, of which I’m frequently guilty of taking part.

(The pushing part I’m still getting used to.)

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Although I don’t live close enough to 140 to go two or three times a day, it’s one of the handful of bakeries here that I’ll happily scamper across the city to visit. Aside from their numeric name, which always gives me a chuckle, they bake some of the best breads in Paris. And recently, I was lucky enough to go behind the scenes of this top-notch boulangerie.


140 was the winner of of both the Best Baguette in Paris in 2001, which made them the exclusive suppliers of baguettes to the Palais Elysée (presidential home) for 2001, as well as taking second place in the Best Croissant in Paris too. In a city crammed with 1263 bakeries, both are quite a feat. But in spite of some of their well-bred clients, 140 is a very neighborhood-oriented place, and most of the clients are locals, who are undoubtedly thrilled to have such a great bakery they can go to within minutes.

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Each morning the head baker Monsieur Demoncy races through the bakery, overseeing the progress of an endless stream of bread being pulled in and out of the wood-fired oven, as well as lots of chocolate-filled pain au chocolat and eggy broiche. In other rooms, the delectable, and more refined cakes and pastries get prepared for their bakery next door, le Pâtisserie de L’Église.

Monsieur Demoncy is the son of the owners, whose mother first started working at the bakery over thirty years ago, then eventually bought it with her husband. But now they leave the day-to-day operations to their son, who moves through the kitchens at breakneck speed. But they also occasionally take the time to share the art of breadmaking, teaching classes too.

The storefront of the bakery is tiny, just a little rustic counter piled with loaves of earthy breads, so I was stunned to see how enormous the kitchens were. And I mean kitchens in the plural since for their pastry shop next door, they also make their own ice cream in one dedicated space, and sweet confections and sugary candies in another. I got to sample some of their very respectable just-dipped dark chocolates and a few abundantly-filled truffles as well as their glistening candied chestnuts, called marrons glaces, which appear every year in Paris just in time for Christmas.

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Since the Demoncy family is from Brittany, naturally there’s a good selection of the hyper-buttery pastries that the region is known for, perhaps the most famous being the rich kouign amann. When confronted with a caramelized slab of kouign amman, most folks (even in France) will look at it, pat their stomachs and say “pas bon pour le regime” (“not good for the diet”).

But within a few seconds, their chins will invariably be littered with flakes and sweet little bits of what is perhaps the most butter-rich pastry in the world.

The version here is slightly more refined than you might find in the countryside, being intended for Parisians, but it’s every bit as good as one of the many (okay…very many) I sampled in Brittany.

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I was most captivated by this Omellette Norvegian, a multi-layered ‘cake’ of ice cream, rum-marinated raisins, and….well, actually, the bakery is kind enough to post little signs letting you know what’s inside, underneath those dramatic swoops of sweet, caramelized meringue.

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140 is also a glacier, churning out house made ice creams and sorbets non-stop throughout the year, which I’m happy to wait patiently in line for as well.

No matter who’s rubbing up behind me.

Boulangerie 140
140, rue de Belleville (20th)
Métro: Jourdain
T:01 46 36 92 47

http://www.caradou.com/“>Pâtisserie de L’Église
11, rue du Jourdain
T: 01 46 36 66 08


12 comments

  • Something else you can do to exasperate the person inches behind you in line is when the line moves forward, just stand there, and don’t move with the line. Just stand there and watch the person behind you get red in the face, start breathing faster, and maybe even start crying. Good times. But don’t stand there too long or the line will revolt and you will lose your place.
    140 sounds wonderful, I hope a have a chance to visit someday.

  • One of my real joys when I lived in the West Village in NYC many years ago was stopping by Zito’s on Bleecker Street twice a day for their still-warm mini-loaves of bread, the perfect size for a couple. (I’m happy that it’s still there.) It meant waiting with a lot of locals — Italian mamas with expensive prams, old women who knew how to elbow, kids buying the bread for family dinner. It was all a part of daily life.

    Your bakery described today is light years more upmarket and sophisticated but the expectation of quality and freshness is the same!

  • If I had a blog, I would post the weather of the city i’m writing about in the middle of the page too. That way when the reader is lost in the moment imagining the deliciousness that 140 offers daily to the romance of Paris, they can smile just like me when they know what it feels like there right then – nice touch.

  • Have you thought about putting together a google map with your recommendations like this bakery? It would be nice to have a map with places like this marked for my trip to Paris next Summer. I would not like to go to the wrong one of the 1263 bakeries. I use a map like that on my site to show the location of podcast episodes and would gladly send you the source code if that would help.

  • David, you continue to make me long for Paris! AAAGGGGHHH. Here are a couple of my musings. One: when I stayed with a friend in her apt. in the 14th last April, I totally saw what Erielle refers to!!! The possessiveness of space,inching forward whenever possible and breathing down one’s neck — all for that delicious baguette. Two: Mr. and I have stayed twice in the same place in the 6th and by day 2, the lady at the boulangerie with no English and my average French, always anticipated my order of a couple of strawberry macarons and one baguette. And greeted with a smile, was I. I loved her.

    See? Now I am depressed again….

  • David, I do the same as you in a queue, I move slightly backwards…or say something, but then I’m French, and I’d do that…

    Funnily, over a year ago, I stayed at a friend’s who lived around the corner from 140 and I got to buy bread there for my family Sunday lunch. Very “authentic” shop:)

  • So American are eating less bread? Bof! Not this one. I waited for what seemed like hours in a tiny bakery in the Lot and it was well worth it. Every bite.

  • Ha! Very funny, David! One thing I used to ‘love’ was standing in the grocery store 12 – 18 inches from the shelf perusing the items when the stock boy would come and edge directly in front of me to stock the shelf. Whoa! I found that if you stand your ground, or begin to breathe down his neck, it kinda freaks ‘em out a bit! Quelle rigolade! :-)

  • Don’t know why Americans are afraid of bread. They aren’t afraid of McDonalds! What they are afraid of is cooking, and creativity. Bread requires creativity. Sandwiches are for lunch! White and soft, yummmm. If it is dark and crunchy and grainy and smelly they turn their noses. I’d say Americans like their bread the way they like their war, uncomplicated, and non-challenging. ;-) Otherwise they lose interest. Hopeless. Argh.

  • UGH!!! David, you are killing me! Unlike most Americans, I adore bread. I could sit with a loaf of french bread and a wedge of brie, eating until it is all gone. YUM! Now that I have Celiac and am on a gluten free diet there are no more good loaves of french bread for me. It was a dark day in my world when I was told I could not eat bread anymore. Well, good gluten filled bread (the best kind.)

  • Oh- I’m drooling. Thank you for this post and reminding me why I love to visit Paris and wish I could live there.

  • i am envious and very hungry! :P i wish i could be in paris too.