How To Buy a Good Baguette In Paris
You’re in Paris and you want to do what Parisians do every day – buy a baguette. That’s easy, non? They seem to sell them on every street corner. Not so fast…
You might think that all Parisian baguettes are wonderful. After all, Paris, right? But unfortunately, like the rest of the world, Paris has its share of “factory food”, including baguettes, made in bulk from frozen dough, more for looks than taste.
Why settle for that, when for the same price you could have the best baguettes in Paris, hand made by artisans with love?
On a recent trip to Paris, we learned the difference when we took a food tour with the wonderful Wendy Lyn of Paris Is My Kitchen.
The Secret Phrase is “Artisan Boulanger”
As Wendy pointed out, the first thing to look for when you’re buying bread are the words “Artisan Boulanger” on the front of the store with a first and last name. An artisan boulangerie is a bakery, but more importantly, by French law it’s a bakery where the bread is baked on the premises. So if you don’t see that anywhere on the front, it’s likely just a grocery store selling industrially-made bread.
Lucky for us, one of Paris’ finest, Eric Kayser, Artisan Boulanger, was just up the street from our apartment. We went in and ordered two “baguettes natur”.
Back on the sidewalk, Wendy tore the end off a baguette and pointed out the big air bubbles inside and the crispy crust outside. That’s the sign of a baguette made fresh in an oven set to high temperatures. Delicious! In contrast, in a baguette made from frozen dough, you’ll see more even, small holes and the crust won’t have the same crack to it.
BTW, that’s why you buy two baguettes at a time in Paris – one to eat on the way home!
As we stood there chewing, we noticed cars pulling up, guys jumping out and returning with big brown bags, each with dozens of baguettes. They were picking up for local restaurants. Hence the need for the 27 ovens at that location. Those bakers are busy!
Judge a Bistro By Its Baguette
Here’s a bistro tip from those in the know – if you’re walking by a patio, before you go in, have a look at the bread on someone’s table. Small holes or big bubbles? The Parisian thinking is, if they scrimp on the bread, what about the rest of the meal?
Prize-Winning Baguettes Only at Artisan Boulangeries
If you really want to sample the best, why not find an artisan boulangerie that finished in the Top 10 of the Le Meilleur Baguette de Paris competition? Every year, a panel of experts including the Meilleur Ouvrier de France, the head chef of the Élysée Palace, along with the winner of the previous year’s competition, determine Paris’ best baguette.
The grand prize is €4000, the privilege of being the provider to the Élysée Palace for a year and a dramatic increase in sales. You see, Parisians take their baguettes seriously!
A note on finding artisan boulangeries: I assume you know that the last two numbers of the zip code are the arrondisement. So, choose the one nearest you. Note how few of them are in the central 1 – 10 arrondisements (rents are more expensive there), and how many are in 11 – 20. But if there isn’t one nearby, it’s worth going for a little walk to get the best.
Paris’ Winning Baguettes in 2016
- La Parisienne, 48 rue Madame, 75006
- Fournil de Lourmel, 121 Avenue Felix Faure, 75015
- Le Grenier à Pain Saint-Amand, 33 bis Rue Saint-Amand, 75015
- Boulangerie Alexine, 40 rue Lepic 75018
- Boulangerie l’Essentiel Blanqui, 73 boulevard Auguste Blanqui 75013
- Doucers et Traditions, 85 Rue Saint-Dominique, 75007
- La Flûte Enchantée, 104 rue du Faubourg St-Antoine, 75012
- Sami Bouattour, 193 rue de Tolbiac 75013
- Le Grenier à Pain Italie, 52 avenue d’Italie, 75013
- L’Académie du Pain, 30 Rue d’Alésia, 75014
Paris’ Winning Baguettes in 2015
- Le Grenier à Pain Abbesses, 38 rue des Abbesses, 75018
- Sami Bouattour, 193 rue de Tolbiac Paris, 75013
- Huré, 150 avenue Victor Hugo, 75016
- L’Académie du Pain, 30 rue d’Alésia, 75014
- Le Puits d’Amour, 249 boulevard Voltaire, 75011
- Le Moulin du 16ième, 152 avenue de Versailles, 75016
- Charles Tchouassi, 63 rue de Turbigo, 75003
- Tie: Aux Pains Garnis, 25 avenue Saint Ouen, 75017 and Gourmandises d’Eiffel, 187 rue De Grenelle, 75007
- Douceurs et Traditions, 85 rue Saint Dominique, 75007
- Maison Delcourt, 100 Rue Boileau, 75016
A Few Words On Shopping Etiquette in a Boulangerie
Good boulangeries are busy, often with line-ups. Before you get in line, take a quick look around so you know what you want. No hemming and hawing when it’s your turn. Have your money ready – as close to correct change as possible – before you get to the counter. Then start with the obligatory, “bonjour madam” or “bonjour monsieur” before you order, pay and leave with a friendly “au revoir”.
Those are the simple unspoken rules. If you know them, you get friendly service. If you don’t, you may wonder what went wrong.
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