Bread is my crack! If you were to remove bread from my diet, there would be tantrums. So versatile, so varied, so delicious. How lucky was I then, to move to a country where good bread is revered as much as good wine?
Did you know that a lack of good bread was one of the catalysts that kick started the French Revolution? No? Me neither (I recommend reading Hilary Mantel’s – very long – book, A Place of Greater Safety, to gain further insight) but I understand why the people took to the streets when their bread was inedible. I would have done the same thing!
It’s no secret that the French love their bread…and it’s a given that there will be bread served with your meal. Oh, and usually it’s just that, served with your meal rather than as a ‘starter’ to your meal. As an avid reader of online restaurant reviews, I always scan reader’s comments…and I can’t count the number of times where I have read complaints because the waiter did not bring their bread as soon as they sat down, or the waiter failed to come back and fill up their water/wine glass. People – this is a cultural thing! Bread is meant to be eaten with the meal, not as a snack to tide you over until you’ve received your food (haha, although I do confess to being guilty of stuffing it down pre-meal when I’m starving!) As for the lack of wine refills, Clotilde Dusoulier said it best in her book, Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris, “…the French like to be of service to their customers, but not at their service.” Once you get your head around this, it’s going to make your French restaurant experience a whole lot better!!
Back to bread…boulangeries are everywhere in Paris. Our local is approx 2 minutes walk from home. In addition, we are perfectly positioned around the corner from Poilane, which is the bread of choice for my breakfast staple, toast (ahhh…don’t get me started on toast! I think it’s a kiwi thing – or at least my husband thinks it is.) During August, when all of Paris exits for their vacance d’ete, the boulangeries in each neighbourhood will work out a rota so that there is always one boulangerie open for those poor people who don’t get to go away for the entire month (me being one of them!)
To help you with the daunting task of choosing which boulangeries to try while visiting Paris, there’s an annual competition to find the best baguette in town. Below is 2011’s top 10:
1. Au Levain d’Antan, 6, rue des Abbesses, 75018
2. Gaétan Romp, 14 rue de la Michodière, 75002
3. Les Saveurs du 20ème (Pascal Jamin), 120 rue de Bagnolet, 75020
4. Gontran Cherrier, 22 rue Caulaincourt, 75018
5. Le Fournil du Village (M. Risser), 12 place JB Clément, 75018
6. Les Gourmandises d’Eiffel (Gilles Levaslot), 187 rue de Grenelle, 75007
7. Julien, 75 Rue Saint-Honoré, 75001
8. Philippe Marache, 92 av de la République, 75011
9. Philippe Bogner, 204 rue des Pyrénées, 75020
10. Le Grenier à Pain Saint-Amand, 64 Avenue Félix Faure, 75015
And no, I haven’t tried any yet…but I’m off to Montmarte tomorrow so I’m going to hunt down #1 on the list. I’ll let you know what I think!