The first thing I did upon arriving in Paris, after hugging my mother and hopping on the metro, was eat a croissant. I wish I could tell you I was joking, but, if you read my blog with even an iota of regularity, you know that I am completely, 100%, serious.
I managed to try four different croissants in my four days in Paris. Two whole ones and two that I shared with my mother. None of them were eaten outside at a cafe. We ate each one at the dining room table in the apartment in which we stayed. They ranged from jaw-droppingly brilliant, to mildly forgettable. They were cheap, at least compared to their New York counter parts, and came from a five-minute radius of our apartment in the Marais.
My trip to Paris began with a croissant from Le Moulin de Rosa. Before even heading back to the apartment my mother was renting with a friend, we went to the boulangerie. Despite the fact that I speak no French and my mother only speaks a bit, we managed to get three croissants and see an adorable French bulldog. It was a good omen for our pastries.
The croissant was fantastic. It was deeply buttery; you need a napkin with this croissant and you may not need moustrizer for a few days afterwards. Unfortunately, this meant that the inside verged on doughy instead of layer-y. The outside didn’t look it, but was crispy and crackly with an astonishingly caramelly flavor.
It feels strange to describe the croissants I ate in Paris. After all, they were the real deal. They were the French pastry to which the oft-middling interpretations I usually eat aspire to be. Yet, I discovered that there are differences amongst French croissants just like there are amongst American and English ones.
The second pastry I had was from Au Levain du Marais, a croissant that was once called the best croissant in Paris. I don’t know if I’d call it the best, but it was good, a solid contender. Unlike the first one I had, it didn’t scream BUTTER. The pastry didn’t fall out of your hands as you ate, but the butter flavor and light, flaky texture was there. I loved the weird, wonky shapes they came in. It wasn’t sweet and had a saltier edge, which I prefer. If you have the chance in Paris, I recommend trying it at least to see what the fuss is about.
I wasn’t planning to eat a croissant on Sunday. Luckily I came to my senses. On a quick morning walk I managed to find not one, but two croissants to share with my mother. The first came from a random boulangerie and was completely forgettable. In fact, I think I may have eaten its friend in England. It was soft in a doughy, underbaked way. The top was lightly flaky, but not even that was enough to save this one from the depths of croissant boredom.
The other croissant was shockingly good. I bought it from a boulangerie/patisserie called Miss Manon. It was deeply crispy and buttery. In fact, it seemed to marry the best qualities first two croissants I ate. It had lovely layers and a distinct butter flavor with just the smallest bit of hand residue (I don’t, for the record, think that getting your fingers buttery is a bad thing with a croissant). The flavor was almost nutty with a browned butter twist to it. My mother and I were astonished at how much we liked this croissant as we eagerly ripped into it.
It’s hard to say anything conclusive about the croissants I ate in Paris. They were good. I’m sure there are plenty more good ones out there. The good ones seem to be close by to where you are staying so you can bring them back and gobble them up sitting down instead fo standing on a street corner (though, as you may remember, I have done that before). One word to the wise that I was unaware of before going: only eat a croissant au beurre. A croissant ordinarie is made with margarine. And, really, who wants that? I think we can all agree that a croissant is simply an excuse to eat copious amounts of butter.
Have you ever had a French croissant in France? What did you think of this ultimate authenticity?