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Living in France for a number of years, my French has gotten pretty good. As long as I’m talking about food, that is.

Last night I was having dinner at Le Vin au Vert (70, rue de Dunkerque) wine bar with a few friends. One talks really quickly and with the noisy bobo patrons at the surrounding tables, chattering on les smartphones and getting up and down all night to race out into the sub-zero cold for a cigarette (at one point, there were more people outside than inside), it was hard to hear anything. So I really had to pay attention, and my attention wanes in direct proportion to how many bottles of wine have been emptied.

We were talking about a new clothing store that opened in Paris that, like me, is a transplant from a foreign country. I was saying how much I liked the store because it was easy to find (and buy) things, which a friend replied that they didn’t like the store because people were always asking her if she needed any help.

Honestly, it’s a tough point to argue. What does one say? So I changed the subject to food, and turned the conversation to the bakery that moved into the space where they used to make my much-missed “crack” sesame baguette. (Romain stored one in the freezer until we couldn’t stand it any more and finally ate it.)

The fellows that took over the bakery weren’t interested (or never got the formula) for the baguette sesame and although their baguettes and pain bio aren’t bad, it isn’t the same thing. But last week Romain ran out to get a baguette for breakfast and came back with two croissants as well; one for each of us.

I like croissants, but don’t often buy them because they’re best in the morning, when they’re still slightly warm and the buttery shell is still crackly-crisp, the ends slightly burnt. And when pulled apart, a soft whisper of steam comes out and the buttery interior invites a bit of jam or an additional dab of salted butter. I’m not fond of getting dressed in the morning and heading out the door, especially when the temperature is a robust -3º. So I usually have toasted bread and butter with my morning coffee.

When I took my first bite of one of their croissants, it was like eating thin sheets of butter barely bound together with some flour. I swear, I have no idea how they got so much butter into a croissant. Over dinner when we were talking about the bakery, the subject of the butter croissants came up and we were all in d’accord that the croissants were indeed, quite a feat of baking. They’re not the best croissants in Paris, but as a Parisian would say, they’re pas mal. Which actually means something is pretty good.

We didn’t speak of customer service again and finished our sausages, mashed potatoes, and second bottle of red wine before headed out, past the wall of smokers shivering in the cold, clutching their wine glasses and cigarettes, and I admired their fortitude for being able to stand there in the glacial night air, shivering and furiously puffing their cigarettes.

broken croissant

This morning I found myself at the Tati department store, waiting patiently next in line to buy a few rolls of gift wrap. There was a sizable queue behind me and the women in front of me was buying a pair of cordless headphones, presumably as a holiday gift. The woman at the register began questioning her at length on how cordless headsets work— “What powers them?”, “How does the sound transfer to the headset?”, “Is there a special plug they use?”…

The woman buying them didn’t know, she was just trying to get out of there like the rest of us. So with all of us waiting behind her, the cashier opened the box and started reading the instructions aloud, peppering her surveying of the pamphlet with observations about how they worked, then unwrapping the cord and checking the tips of the electrical plugs to see what shape and kind of metal they were.

Meanwhile I had my two rolls of 99 cent paper I wanted to buy, and I could feel the extremely long line of people that had accumulated behind me getting frustrated that the line was not only not advancing, but that the cashier didn’t really have any interest in moving us (or herself) along. After perhaps six or seven minutes of waiting for her to finish reading the booklet, I finally gave up: I put the paper down and headed for the door. I’m not sure if my friend from last night would have enjoyed waiting there in the long line in that stuffy store while the cashier unpacked the headphones for a through inspection of not only the instructions inside, but the packaging, the foam on the earpieces, as well as the base station for the headphones, but I’ll concede that the French have more fortitude than I, and I left.

(Actually my tipping point was when the woman’s credit card didn’t work and she didn’t have the €9.99 in cash to pay for the headphones, so she had to write a cheque. Which prompted a whole new round of discussions and the universally dreaded managerial approval.)

Before I left, I said a curt and faux cheery, “Merci Madame!” to the cashier. I wanted to add a few other choice words but I’ve realized that it doesn’t really matter to them if you’re happy or not. It’s not like they’ll get reprimanded or fired, so I just left and headed over to the bakery for a croissant, where the service was good. I chose the darkest crescent from the basket of warm croissants on the counter. The young man at the counter proudly (and promptly) wrapped up my buttery treat, and I headed home to enjoy it.

So maybe I should just do all my holiday shopping at the bakery. Now if I could only get them to make a few of those sesame baguettes, that would be the best holiday gift of all.

Related Posts

Go Ahead, Have a Croissant

My Birthday Bouillotte

The Best Croissant in Paris


L’enfer de Numéricable


    • Gabe Gonzalez

    What a great post, succinctly capturing three Paris moments. Unfortunately, I cannot run out and get a good croissant here in DC at the end of the story.

    • Robin

    Although I’ve always dreamed of becoming an expatriate, I think that I’m far too Type A to be able to deal with the idiosyncrasies of a new culture – especially when it comes to customer service. After living in an area where one was lucky to even be acknowledged upon walking into a store, I moved to Maryland where the customer service, while not perfect, is leagues ahead of many other states.

    Typically American, I barely have the patience to wait for someone to write a check, let alone read the instructions to a set of headphones. Congrats to you, my friend, for assimilating so well!

    • Cris

    I saw your tweet – so what are the reasons that customer service is a bad thing?

    Love your writing, David!

    • Richard Schillen

    Dear David,
    Love your posts! After reading about the croissant, I had to have one somehow. Then I remembered we have a French Canadian chocolatier/bakery/bistro here in town (Ghyslein). They make their baked items with Canadian flour (I’ll ask them again what it is) and their croissants are as close to the Parisian models that I have devoured in the past! A buttery croissant, with butter and fig jam accompanied by a cafe au lait, what could be better in the morning? I love your anecdotes and your French apple cake recipe was out of this world.

    • my little expat kitchen

    Oh, I can sympathize with you! The Dutch are the same way.

    • Grammar Nazi

    “Living in France for a number of years, my French has gotten pretty good.”

    A participial phrase at the beginning of a sentence must refer to the grammatical subject. Your French has been living in France for a number of years? I wonder where your English has gotten off to.

    (Sorry, that was super harsh. I actually love your blog.)

    • Glenn

    As to the question posed in the title- The obvious answer is there can’t be too much, in croissants or any other food related item!

    Your adventure in the line at the store made me LOL. I’ve been to Paris, live not far from Montreal, and actually am 1/2 French Canadian. Not sure what makes the French behave the way they do, but it is what it is to be sure. I suppose if one was not prepared for their behavior it’s be quite a shock- I just roll with it- as the great Yoda stated so eloquently, “Patience Paduwon.”

    • Mickie

    “terrible” = wonderful, fantastic, etc.

    “pas terrible” = not that great

    ‘Just asked my french husband to be sure.

    • Heather

    I 100% agree…all holiday shopping should be done near a bakery with incredible croissants!

    • ron shapley

    Dave.. You are an absolute treasure !!!

    • janele

    When I was a fearless teenager in the 80s, I made croissants. I’m sure they weren’t authentic French croissants, but they were *good*. I had no problem refrigerating the dough for a few hours after each roll.

    I think I used 3 sticks of butter for about either 8 or 12 large, flaky croissants.

    And then, I topped them off with even more buttery goodness — I decided to use the remaining stick of butter to butter my butter croissants.

    (I was still the skinniest girl in class.)

    A year later, I took French as my required language elective and graduated to making snails and coq au vin.

    As always, love your blog!

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Mickie: Well, more to the point is pas mal (not bad), although I’ve had people say pas terrible for seemingly the same sentiment; much depends on the facial accompaniments that go along with it, I think : )

    Cris: I’m not sure why and when customer service is a bad thing, but I think because it’s not part of the culture, and perhaps some might see it as an infringement on their égalité (equality). Cashiers and salespeople are often not treated well by customers (so much for égalité…) and their assert their power in other ways.

    Also (and this is just an observation so I welcome diverging points of view), the French have a different view of ‘organization’ and like the liberté of not adhering to posted rules, waiting in line, etc…But I know to many of the French, the sometimes less-than-efficient service drives them crazy as well.

    • Jessicah

    Hm, may have to squeeze in a trip to the french bakery on my way home from work now…it’s nothing near a true french croissant, but for Tucson, AZ, it’s not half bad! Mmm, buttery croissants!

    • joe b

    Don’t you love when the grammar police arrive to offer unwanted criticism?

    • Meredith Kelly

    You had me at butter.

    • Sharon

    Yes, croissants. My family met me in Paris this summer and my son ordered two dozen to take back with him. Picked them up warm that morning. Not all of them made it back to the states.

    How long have you been there? I moved to Germany the (NORTH – not as friendly as the south) and the first year here – 1993 – I actually watched a sales person at the largest department store downtown YELL at a customer because the customer hadn’t read the sign at the door and had to ask something. Bank tellers were for more interested in talking to each other than me. It has changed!! It’s improved incredibly and – I hate to say it – I think it had something to do with Wal-Mart moving in. They’re gone now, but others took up customer service.

    • Joan Bedard

    David you are the best! I am so thrilled to read your blog and you make my day with every new one.Thank you.

    • Anna-Kristiina Laukkanen

    I’m from Finland and live in Canada now, and I much more prefer the Finnish lack of customer service than the over-joyous north-American customer service. I don’t even need a greeting when I enter a store – just answer my questions if I have any, be polite and get me in and out fast. Not necessary to smile from ear to ear, make small talk about the weather etc. I’m not in the store/restaurant to make friends.

    • Scarletta @ Scarletta Bakes

    Ah, the holiday season… the one time of year when the (universal) truths of long lines, oblivious customer service persons, and surreptitious moments of reprieve with a ridiculously good baked item reign supreme.

    I love your description of the perfect croissant – you captured it!

    • Dmarie

    what a hoot. and this reminds me that it’s time to stop lurking here and add your books to my amazon cart. thanks for the fun read

    • Stephen

    “Now if I could only get them to make a few of those sesame baguettes, that would be the best holiday gift of all.”

    Have you asked them?

    • Nadege Schoenfeld

    I was at the post office of Manhattan Beach (Ca) 2 years ago around Christmas time. The line was remendous. One woman was mailing few boxes. When the clerk found out the woman had baked cookies, she asked her for the recipe, wrote it down and asked questions… NOBODY said anything. I guess some people
    live in the moment and are completely oblivious to what is going on around them.

    • Foodie in Berlin

    I think your post underlines why online sales rise every year. Who can deal with lines of people, slow cashiers, snow. Too painful!
    I think some of the best Croissants can be found at Ottolenghi’s in London.

    • Elise

    Awesome post. Now I want a croissant in Paris. Too bad for me that I’m in Philadelphia.

    • Celia

    Here in Italy I have never had a conversation about customer service with anyone, but oh boy, when the bakery changed hands and they burnt the bread the area was in shock!
    You should have a lot of erudite conversations in Paris. Great writing as always.

    • Dime Store Foodie

    I routinely stop at this French boulangerie here in town very early in the morning to get their first batch of warm croissants, out of this world! It is always a treat to walk in there and eat a wonderful pastry surrounded by the smell of baking bread, sipping your cappuccino. Sometimes I get greedy and take a pain au chocolat with me for a mid morning snack, oh and maybe a quiche for lunch. This is why I am growing by the minute! On rare occasions it is so good to be a morning person! Love the post as always David.

    • Kevin

    Such an interesting story. Customer service in the US is often lacking but I’m glad it can’t compare to what you experienced. On a side note, wouldn’t the Grammar Nazi be a lovely dinner guest?

    • Jill in Atlanta

    Hmm- could I do all my holiday shopping in a bakery? Maybe I could split my efforts between a bakery and a chocolate shop?

    • Sweet Freak

    Am I the only one missing something? The address of this bakery with the magical croissant? I reread the post twice. I am dying.

    • Vicki B

    I cannot stand when checkers at the grocery store comment on my items being scanned. Who cares what I buy? It is embarrassing. I actually had one checker give me a lecture on free range vegan no antibiotic eggs. “They eat bugs don’t they? That mean they really aren’t vegan.” Or worse the occasional magazine I buy. They stop scanning and start reading the cover. Makes me want to scream and I’m sure I’ll blow a vessel sometime in the future. As for those croissants, I now understand why I prefer them exactly as you describe. I didn’t realize, sad as that is, what makes a truly outstanding croissant.

    • nina

    David, I am still waiting to learn How Much Butter Can Be in a Croissant?

    • Renee

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who adds more butter and a bit of jam to my croissants. I always felt I must be mad to add even more butter. But they taste right with some cold butter and jam added to the warm cozy yuminess inside. I live in SF and I’ve only found one place with fabulous croissants and it’s not where everyone thinks. Buttery on the inside, flakes of crustiness falling as they are eaten. I’ve never thought of finding out exactly what time the croissants come out of the oven. I’ve only eaten them after reheating in the oven (don’t even mention microwave.) I might have to rise early but it’ll be worth it. Oh, and by the way, it’s the Chestnut Bakery on Chestnut St. Look for me there early one morning.

    p.s. I just called the bakery and the croissants come out of the oven half an hour before they open the doors. No hot croissants for me. This must not be France. Quelle domage!

    • Design Wine and Dine

    I felt like I was there with you through this entire post! I enjoy your writing very much!

    This croissant does indeed look buttery and delicious!

    I am all for Christmas gifts from the bakery!

    • Louisa

    hello hi,

    would you know of any good bredel recipes? or books wherin you might find them? i remember falling in love with them in strasbourg and would like to recreate them at home.

    • hanmeng

    I would direct Grammar Nazi to Does it really matter if it dangles? and the many other posts on the subject at Language Log.

    As for buttering a butter croissant, what sybarites! When I was able to visit Paris, a simple freshly-baked croissant ordinaire was fine. Now all I have access to is supermarket croissants baked who-knows-when.

    • Whitney

    Lovely post. Seriously made me smile at the end of a long week David :)

    • Sally Pasley Vargas

    Ah David, you have a disproportionate number of these kind of experiences. Maybe it’s just life in France,? but glad it’s you and not me. You do make me laugh.

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Vicki B: I had a cashier laugh at me for buying hallal chicken. I still don’t understand what was so funny about that…

    SPV: A lot of people have these kinds of experiences—I just find them interesting and write about them. I still don’t understand what goes through someone’s head when there is a huge line of people and they’re unpacking a customer’s purchase and reading the instructions.

    Foodie in Berlin: Yes, that’s happening here. People are realizing that they can buy things online for less and not have to hassle with salespeople (there is an emerging business for getting groceries delivered). I’ve spent days looking for things, and finally just came home and bought it online out of exhaustion. (And I’m happy to pay more and buy from a local shop. But I often don’t want to spend days looking for a coffee filter.) I do love going to the cheese or chocolate shop, or similar kind of place and interacting with folks. And as mentioned in the post, I like going in to bakeries, too!

    Stephen: When they opened, I asked and they weren’t all that interested. Often bakeries sell their recipes with the premises, but that might not happen here in France. Or maybe they didn’t want them. A few readers said they were going to try to track it down but never heard what happened..

    • Andy

    Glad to see that France hasn’t changed a bit, except for the people going outside to smoke.
    Let’s not forget the glutenous stretchability of the croissant as it is being pulled apart and wafting that steamy buttery interior. Uncoiling like roll of paper being unfurled from the center.

    • Larry

    How much butter in a croisant? Two to three teaspoons in each of the ones I make. I was so disappointed with the last croissant I had in a local hotel that I came home, dragged out “Baking with Julia” and made my own. Took them to the office, and you would have thought that I had given everyone a plane ticket to Paris.

    • Caitlin

    I’ve only been back from France for a few weeks and I’d just come to grips with not having a good croissant until I go back and then you had to remind me. The bakeries were the most efficient and nicest service people (maybe because pastries make everyone happy). They were almost always open too, more so than any other store. I like where French priorities are.

    • Gina

    I see you appreciate a nice dark crust! I keep wondering why everything seems uncooked here: why is the bread so pale? Also the potato chips, the soda crackers, etc. It can only be to save on fuel.

    • S Lloyd

    It’s a question of technique: a good baker will manage to cook a flavorful butter croissant without forcing too much on the butter itself

    • Jennifer

    Oh David – I can feel your frustration! Having moved back to the States from Paris this summer I have to say how amazed I was with the standard (wonderful) customer service. I had gotten used to the slow, inefficient aloofness in Paris. The only thing that comes close to the Paris experience here is going to the post office

    • Stacy

    250g and worth every bite.

    • Ted DRAKE

    I’m not sure if you are brave, patient, or really cheap to visit Tati for two rolls of wrapping paper. It would take a lot more for me to fight those crowds instead of simply visiting BHV or MonoPrix.

    Now that I’ve moved back to the states I fantasize about the croissants at Pierre Herme.

    • Susan


    You made my day with this post…I”m not in East Tennessee, I’m in Paris. How do I know? I can feel and taste it. Thank you.

    • Bill

    Made a batch of croissant here in early November. They were pretty good and I managed a pretty fair shape . The aroma in the house at 6 in the morning was worth the long effort . I spent the early morning delivering them to several friends. . God they are good No city of lights here but then no rude Parisian

    • Norine

    You’ve brought tears to my eyes (probably self-pity). Here in Modesto there is not a bakery product that is edible. So now I’ll have to attempt making croissants, and maybe share them :-). I’ve baked every other item, but it seems like they must be made similarly to Danish pastries, and that is, indeed, an exercise in patience, and when one wants a croissant, buttering, turning and resting are almost impossible. I love your posts. Thanks for taking us along.

    • Anna Johnston

    Now that’s a wonderful and priceless little story of life in Paris…, and yet I’d kill for a really good croissant, I’d even line up for one….. for ages :)

    • the urban baker

    too much…but isn’t that what makes it so darn good! there is nothing more satisfying than a perfectly, flakey croissant!

    • Trish

    Now I’m craving a sesame baguette. I’ve often wondered how much butter goes into a croissant as I’ve never made them at home – quite a bit I assume. I suggest staying close to the bakery – this time of year brings out a lot of stressors & irrational behavior.

    • Rebecca

    I buy my croissants from my local Sam’s Club. I pick the box with the “blondest” ones I see. As soon as I get home, I freeze them in ziplock bags. I bake them for five minutes at 350 degrees in the toaster oven and yes, I smear them up good with cold butter. Heaven and my daily moment “in Paris”. They go down good with a piping hot cup of Dammann Freres The Mysterieux (I can’t remember the Alt # for the accent on the “e” in The. That’s French for tea.)

    • NYC Girl

    I love Croissants in France, better in Paris, but I know you might smug me for this.. but my very first Croissant was at au bon pain in NYC at a wee young age, and I loved every bit of it.

    • Pat Kogan

    As an ex-new yorker- 4th years in paris-expat, I read your blog regularly…for recipes and also when I am homesick. I can count on you to summarize (with humor) all of the little frustrating aspects of living here, from an American POV. We are more products of our upbringing than we would like to believe. This description was perfect!

    • parisbreakfast

    There is something about a line in Paris that is not like a line anywhere else.
    You have to be in the right frame of mind or be plugged into an audio book. I prefer to get on a line that has some good fashion going like for a new art expo say the Basquiat show – there you’re sure to be visually entertained.
    At Tati I think not…
    Your old ‘sesame’ boulangerie looks perfect to paint. Thanks for the link!

    • Ana

    I hope that you are still going to write about the joys of Paris during Christmas. I heard some interesting stories about how le Parisien never goes out for dinner on Christmas day and because of that everything is closed during 24-26 December. It would be great to know that this may have now changed and there will be plenty of nice and cosy places (with working fireplaces preferable! ;) to enjoy in town.

    Love your blog!

    • Cyndy

    @ Grammar Nazi:

    “Your French has been living in France for a number of years? I wonder where your English has gotten off to.”

    Tsk tsk… ending a sentence with a preposition…

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Gina: Am not sure where or how the trend toward ‘undercooked’ came about. But at the bakeries, folks order bagettes pas trop cuite (not too cooked) and French fries here are generally not cooked enough to be crisp. When I asked a restaurant cook why they do that, they said customers complain if the French fries are crispy. Unfortunately many bakeries are now systematically undercooking baguettes to give them a softer crust. The only value of them that I can see is less crumbs to vacuum up!

    Anna: Fortunately the lines at the bakeries move pretty quickly. The people who work the counters are really good at getting people in and out.

    Andy: What’s interesting is that even more people smoke in France since the ban on smoking took effect.

    • Ruth, new yorker in la spezia/vernazza

    David, as always, you are the best.

    • Dee

    Wonderful! I really enjoy your writing.

    • Stefan Winter

    I don’t think a croissant can have enough butter or sour cherry preserves on it. I’m convinced I’d be as large as a house if I lived in Paris… not that I’d let that stand in my way.
    Being in retail in the states, it’s unimaginable that a shopkeeper/owner wouldn’t offer good customer service. Especially with all the competition and the many businesses which do not survive. I’m interested in how many businesses in France will fold once more people shop online or elsewhere when treated badly? Economics may help change the culture.

    • Marlene

    Hey! @ Grammar Nazi:
    You wrote: “I wonder where your English has gotten off to.”

    What gives with a maven such as yourself ending a sentence with NOT just one, but two prepositions! Yikes!

    • The Food Hound

    I agree, the croissant cannot have too much butter. You can always warm it in your oven when you get home, though the French may consider this gauche :) But in my opinion, that piping hot pastry was worth the long wait in line :)

    • Julie M.

    That croissant sounds right up my alley. The more butter the better imo. If anyone can replicate the sesame baguette, it’s you! You need to take it on and see what you come up with!

    • Jean Marie

    Thanks David. Now I really really want a warm buttery croissant. I’d like to tell Gabe Gonzalez that he can get a very good croissant in the D.C. area at Praline bakery which is where I’m going in the morning!

    • Joanne

    David…my 15 year old daughter was soooo disappointed that she did not find out how much butter was actually in a croissant! She is a wonderful cook and baker and loves your Great Book of Chocolate. Wish we had known about your blog when we lived in Paris. We can only hope you come to Geneva one of these days!

    • Lorie

    Love reading your posts. Having lived as an expat in the Netherlands several years ago, I encountered a number of “customer service” situations like the one you described. However, I have to say that the ones I experienced in Paris take the cake (or perhaps, the croissant) for most memorable. And yet, I’d return in a split second if given the chance. Fun read.

    • Katherine @ Dexter & Dinah

    I HATE when I come across a bakery in the U.S. which sells croissants, and in my hurry to get through the line I order one, only to discover upon getting them home that the bakers have used too much flour, and the croissant is not buttery and flaky but shiny and springy like a roll. The more butter, the better. This is perhaps what I miss most about France – the French understand this concept, while the Americans do not.

    • Nadine

    Love the post and I miss France. However if you are ever in Santa Cruz California (great food and some good restaurants), Kelly’s Bakery has the best croissants and coffee. Bonne Nouvelle Annee

    • Toby Martin

    Great post David. On a trip to Paris in September, I brought back 4 baguettes and 3 are still in my freezer. I had half the other night with a piece of blackened salmon. I’ll now refer to these frozen treasures as my ‘crack baguettes’.

    • Trevor

    How much butter in a croissant? Never enough.

    • Renee

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    • Renee

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    • Christine

    Ah croissant. Remind me of my friend in college who ate 3 croissants for lunch for a year. Why, because she said she wanted to lose weight and croissant is so light, it mustn’t be fattening. She didn’t believe me when I told her how much butter goes into a batch of croissant.

    • Tags

    Elise from Philly, you’re in luck. A mile from City Ave (locals call it City Line Ave) and Wynnewood Rd is Le Petit Mitron, where Patrick Rurange wakes up at 3 AM and makes the best croissants on the Eastern seaboard. Also, chocolate, almond, chocolate-almond, and cheese.

    Here is their menu.

    • Tabitha

    Wish I could taste a real French croissant, let alone one made in a Parisian bakery. I was so desperate for a tasty pastry of this category that I started making them in my own kitchen. I’m sure mine can’t compare with the one you pictured here, but they’re still damn good and MUCH better than almost any I can buy in my city.

    David, I wish you would make croissants and give us all some of your wonderful tips!

    • Polly-Vous Francais

    You were buying wrapping paper?

    I never, ever, used any in Paris because every shop made a free paquet-cadeau: “c’est pour offrir?”

    Maybe the Tati ordeal happened because you unwittingly displeased the French gift-wrap gods!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Ha! I’ve only seen ‘gift wrap’ at chocolate shops and florists, and rarely at department stores (if ever.) Some places have temporary stands but they charge a considerable amount for gift wrap and, as you know, the lines are pretty long there too!

    • askaspoon

    Is this a rhetorical question? The worst thing is seeing the butter run out during the bake. We were always fighting water content. We blamed the cows (grass) but could never proof it.

    • KJ

    For a while I hadn’t eaten any croissants – my only experience with them were the extremely soggy ones from Costco and other major bulk sellers. Then a while back I stumbled into a local cafe to avoid the freezing weather for just a couple of minutes. Since they had a special on baked goods that day, I opted for a croissant.

    What ought to have been a quick rest turned into some of the most glorious minutes of my life as I took my first bite of that croissant. Rich, buttery, flaky, with a bit of crispness at the ends, it beckoned me to eat it up (how could I deny that request?). Sadly, that was the last one the cafe had, so I contented myself with a cinnamon roll.

    But that wasn’t even a Parisian croissant. I wonder how infinitely awesome one of those would be…?

    What do you think differentiates an American croissant from a Parisian one? Is it just the different ingredients? Different technique?

    • ruby.rowe

    Grammer Nazi (And everyone else) – Listen to this Stephen Fry Kinetic Typography – Language (

    On another note, David! Thankyou! As usually your atmospheric post superseded expectations! Thankyou!

    • Judith in Umbria

    Now I am starving, but in complete accord with your frustration. I sometimes just want to kick the help.

    • Margaret

    David, I’ve seen your new cookbook, Ready for Dessert, on many of the 2010 best lists — congrats!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Thanks! Am happy so many people are enjoying it : )

    • Kristin

    Ah, French customer service. Nothing like it.

    • Aunt Snow

    What a happy coincidence!! I am attempting to make croissants this very morning, and was searching online for more pictorial tutorials on how to roll in the butter!

    We spent a holiday at an in where the proprietor served homemade croissants each morning.

    I visit your blog weekly, and enjoy it. The story of the cashier’s curiosity is hilarious! I should record some of the conversations that happen at checkoutstands when the usual routine is breached for something else!

    • Anna

    Hmm, proper croissants… Really hard to get in the UK. I’ve finally started baking my own!

    I’m a Canadian living in the UK for the fifth year now and I must say that I miss the North American over-the-top customer service. I still can’t get used to slow cashiers, crazy-short shopping hours and the inefficiency of the store workers! There’s a reason why I’m a big fan of grocery deliveries and Amazon!

    • john

    I made croissants once where the recipe called for so much butter, that they became soggy after cooling. While they were hot, the excessively buttered croissants were heaven.

    I hope they misspell the grammar Nazi’s headstone.

    • Cris

    David – your answer (liberté and égalité)to my customer service question jogged something in my memory. When a teenager (oh so many years ago now) I read and reread “The Scarlet Pimpernel” by Baroness Orczy. She seems to blame the Revolution for poor customer service.

    At one point the heroine is sheltered in a terribly dirty inn and tries to question the innkeeper: “Brogard had evidently had enough of these questionings. He did not think it was fitting for a citizen – who was the equal of anybody – to be thus catechised… It was distinctly more fitting to his newborn dignity to be as rude as possible; it was a sure sign of servility to meekly reply to civil questions.”

    I think I shall hunt up some croissants and settle in for a long awaited reread. Thank you!

    • hanmeng

    David, thanks for the inspiration. I baked my own baguettes (based on a modification of the NYTimes No-Knead Bread recipe), and made one sesame & one poppy seed. Photo here.

    • The Knitting Archaeologist

    What a wonderfully evocative anecdote of Parisian life. I lived in Aix-en-Provence for a year, and I have to say that, although I now miss the city and the energy of the place, I do NOT miss the customer “service.” I can’t wait to visit Paris for the first time and compare my experiences to those in I had in the South. I’ll have to stop by this bakery too! I have never met a croissant I didn’t love :)

    • Margaret

    David, you’ve said before that you don’t bake baguettes because they are so readily available where you live. Do you feel the same about croissants? I live in San Antonio, TX and Central Market and one of the chefs there is teaching a croissant class soon — wondering if I am wasting my time. Can you recommend a cookbook that has a good recipe? thank you.

    • Lien

    My favorite croissant place (Anisette brasserie) in Los Angeles was recently closed :-(. The chef, Alain Giraud, used butter from France and i think that made a big difference in taste.

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Margaret: I’ve not made croissants because every bakery in Paris has them and they cost around €1. Plus my kitchen counter isn’t large enough to roll out sheets of pastry!
    The recipes in Flour as well as in the Tartine baking book are supposed to be quite good, although I’ve not tested them out myself.

    Cris: That’s interesting-thanks for providing that. And yes, it often is a ‘class’ issue, I’m afraid. Someone who feels in a subservient position can really assert some power by castigating customers. Perhaps that’s why the service in bakeries, butcher shops and fromageries is so good; because they’re generally artisans who are proud of their work and the clients treat them accordingly?

    Anna: When I go to the states, I spend as much time as I can returning things and calling 1-800 numbers just to get my fill of customer service. It was funny because just ordered something from the states and in the package was a piece of paper explaining how to return something, which included a self-addresses and post-paid return form. I keep forgetting how easy it is to return something in America.

    Usually here I just give something away (or toss it, unfortunately) because of the inevitable battle when trying to make a return. It’s just too stressful.

    • Grammar Nazi

    I am surprised at the hostility that my gentle nudge engendered. I will respond only once, for fear of further derailing a lovely discussion.

    hanmeng: Thank you, I already read Language Log, and I understand enough to know the difference between defending a construction that begins with a semi-conventionalized participial adjunct and defending errors that can be easily avoided. Please re-read the last three points of the post to which you referred, and ask yourself whether it actually refutes my point. I believe you will find that it does not. For your reference:

    “Living in France for a number of years, my French has gotten pretty good.”

    “Living in France for a number of years, I have gotten pretty good at French.”

    joeb: Yes, I do.

    Kevin: I am frequently invited to dinner engagements (and yes, frequently by people who have had me as a guest before). I cannot be sure that this is due to my being lovely, however. Perhaps my hosts fear me and wish to appease me? If so, I would like to announce that David can appease me by inviting me to dinner and serving that French apple cake for dessert.

    Cyndy, Marlene: Regarding the matter of ending a sentence with a preposition, I would like to note that it is both entirely acceptable and a handy trap, useful for catching amateur grammatical vigilantes such as yourselves. I refer you to this passage, via the aforementioned Language Log (

    The Wall Street Journal, 30 Sep 1942 (“Pepper and Salt”): When a memorandum passed round a certain Government department, one young pedant scribbled a postscript drawing attention to the fact that the sentence ended with a preposition, which caused the original writer to circulate another memorandum complaining that the anonymous postscript was “offensive impertinence, up with which I will not put.” —The Strand Magazine.

    Will the both of you please now report to reëducation camp? I did not rise to the rank of Grammar Nazi by merely being a terror. To truly be a Grammar Nazi, one must be intimately familiar with the most arcane details of grammar, usage, and style. Anything less, and one might allow a minor transgression to pass without being commented upon.

    john: Thank you for your kind words. While I imagine that you might find it ironic if my headstone were misspelled, I beg you to understand that there is a difference between a Spelling Nazi and a Grammar Nazi. Specifically, the Spelling Nazi is my brother. I claim no competence in spelling. It would be much more entertaining if my headstone were grammatically incorrect: “Here lays Grammar Nazi.”

    • Jack

    David, you’ve made me hungry…again. We’ve got approximations of croissants here, but it’s not the same. This is going to cost me money. And time. Oh, well.

    • danielle

    Customer service in North America? Only if you can find a clerk who are now few and far between. I spent more time looking for someone to help me in a department store in America than I did in deciding what to buy.

    • class factotum

    I lived in Chile for two years. To buy an ice cream cone, aspirin, envelopes, socks or pens, I had to 1. stand in line, 2. give my order to the clerk, who 3. wrote out an order slip that I 4. gave to the cashier who 5. charged me and 6. I paid and then 7. got a receipt that I 8. gave to the item fetcher who 9. retrieved my items, which resided behind the counter.

    The two times I wanted to return a defective product, the clerk had to call the manager because nobody had ever returned anything before as far as the clerk knew, which might be part of the reason that consumer goods were so crappy in that country. If you accept bad product, you keep getting bad product.

    A Chilean friend went to Atlanta for a meeting. He went shopping with the list his wife had given him and was disgusted at the customer service at Target. “I had to get everything myself!” was his observation.

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    class factorum: Ha! Love your Chilean friend’s reaction to Target. I think Americans just like to be left alone to do what we do best—shop!

    • Illy

    There is a very nice boulangerie at rue d’orsel corner with rue des martyrs and they have an extraordinary baguette aux cereales.

    • gina

    My neighborhood bakery , La Boulange on Pine Street in San Francisco, has whole wheat sesame croissants. They are wonderful!!!

    • Swan

    But! How much butter is in a croissant? Did I miss it? I really want to know.

    You know these line ups are perhaps the last of the “old world” and I kind of enjoy them. For example, I used to hate how in New York you would get to a restaurant already ready to faint and then have to crawl the walls waiting forever to sit down. But sometimes they would offer you a drink. And that was nice. But often you just waited as the tension, tempers and hunger mounted. And then boom! A seat, and soon… food! I eventually realized that the wait often made it better.

    I know waiting can be horrible, like waiting in a Fido cell phone store makes you want to kill yourself. But I try to remember the charm in the inefficiency of humans. I mean check out your maniacal friends smoking cigarettes in the freezing cold. it’s ridiculous and it’s great.

    • Dee

    There is nothing like the smell of a Parisian boulangerie. The scent of freshly baked croissants, pains au raisins, pains au chocolat etc. is vividly etched in my memory of my trips to Paris. I would never buy a croissant in the U.S. Even in the bakeries here that claim to follow Parisian recipes, the experience can never come close.


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