SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – The croissant, despite its origins in Austria, is purely a French innovation.
While the Italians have pasta, the Brits have fish and chips or bangers and mash and the Spanish have their paella, the French have perfected a truly memorable pastry.
As part of the year-out celebration for the 42nd Ryder Cup, which begins Friday at Le Golf National in the suburbs west of Paris, I spent two wonderful days traveling back and forth over the Seine looking for the best chocolate croissant – pain au chocolat – in the City of Light.
My method was to seek bakeries north and south of the Seine and grade each bite based on the pastry’s look, flavor and texture. It was amazing how different each croissant tasted from bakery to bakery.
Because I conducted this experiment exclusively using the Paris Metro rail system, access is easy for anyone visiting the French capital during Ryder Cup week to sample one or more of the bakeries and enjoy an extraordinary gastronomic experience.
One of the by-products of using the Metro is not only experiencing what Parisians encounter daily but seeing, upon exiting the underground network, how the city introduces itself in so many different and exciting ways.
Although my palate certainly is different than yours, I’m sure that the journey would be worth it for you. The winners in my non-scientific poll were Liberté north of the Seine and Des Gâteaux et du Pain south of the river.
The Liberté croissant had consistent 10s for look, taste and texture. Its toasty brown appearance was consistent over the top of the croissant. The flavor of the croissant and its chocolate, which is imported from Belgium, made the difference.
MORNING READ/ALEX MICELI
Liberté, located at 39 Rue des Vinaigrier in Paris, makes some of the best pain au chocolat in the city, and at a bargain price.
Des Gâteaux et du Pain was the first bakery I tried on my informal research, and its memory endured as I visited more bakeries. It wasn’t until I visited Liberté on the second day that I found a better pain au chocolat.
Like the croissant at Liberté, the Des Gâteaux et du Pain received all 10s as well, but just got inched out.
The biggest difference between the two was not the taste but the cost. The Des Gâteaux et du Pain croissant was €1.80 (about $2.12), but the Liberté was only €1.30 (about $1.53).
One thing is for sure: If you attend the Ryder Cup and don’t consume a pain au chocolat, you’re missing out.
North of the Seine bakeries, with name, address and closest Metro stop:
Du Pain et des Idées (34 Rue Yves Toudic) Jacques Bonsergent
Boulangerie Terroir d’Avenir (3 Rue du Nil) Sentier
Gontran Cherrier (22 Rue Caulaincourt ) Damremont
Le Grenier à Pain des Abbesses (38 Rue des Abbesses) Blanche
143 RDT (134 Rue de Turenne) Republic
Maison Gregoire (24 Rue Lacépède) Place Monge
Stoher (51 Rue Montorgueil) Etienne Marcel
Pain Pain (88 Rue des Martyrs) Anvers
Tout Autour du Pain (134 Rue de Turenne) Republique
Blé Sucré (7 Rue Antoine Vollon) Faidherbe-Chaligny
Sébastien Gaudard (2 Rue des Martyrs) Saint-Georges
Gosselin (123-125 Rue Saint Honoré) Louvre- Rivoli
Liberté (39 Rue des Vinaigrier) Jacques Bonsergent
Results, with rating, price and comments:
Stoher – Look 9.5, taste 9.5, texture 9.0 (€1.40) Arrived at 7:45; smell was heavenly, a little doughy
Boulangerie Terroir d’Avenir – Look 10, taste 8.5, texture 8.5 (€1.35) Small bakery in a great street of food; starts baking at 3 a.m.
Du Pain et des Idées – Look 10, taste 9, texture 9 (€1.90) Flakey to the touch and a little doughy
Liberté – Look 10, Taste 10, texture 10, (€1.30) Brown look throughout
134 – Look 10, taste 9, texture 8.5 (1.30) Not flakey, good color, a little doughy
Sébastien Gaudard – Look 10, taste 9, Texture 9 (€1.70) Two pieces of chocolate
South of the Seine bakeries, with name, address and closest Metro stop:
Des Gâteaux et du Pain (63 Boulevard Pasteur) Volontaires
Pichard (88 Rue Cambronne) Volontaires
Laurent Duchêne (2 Rue Wurtz) Corvisart
Dominique Saibron (77 Avenue du Général Leclerc) Mouton-Duvernet
Gérard Mulot (93 Rue de la Glacière) Glaciere
LeMarie (16 Rue Mouffetard) Jessieu
Rollet Pradier (6 Rue de Bourgogne) Assemble-Nationale
Boulangerie Pichard (88 Rue Cambronne) Volontaires
Results, with rating, price and comments:
Des Gâteaux et du Pain – Look 10 (Unbelievable), Flavor 10, Texture 10 (€1.80)
Pichard – Look 10, Flavor 8, texture 8 (€1.10) Smaller than others
Laurent Duchêne – Look 8, Flavor 8, Texture 7 (€1.30) Not the brown look on top and doughy
Gérard Mulot – Look 9, Flavor 9, Texture 9.5 (€1.10)
Dominique Saibron – Look 10, Flavor 9.5, Texture 10 (€1.30)
Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: email@example.com; Twitter: @AlexMiceli