Saturday, April 26, 2008

Eric Kayser

Listed as having "The Best Croissants" in Jeffrey Steingartens It Must've Been Something I ate and noted in David Lebovitz's "10 Insanely Delicious Things You Shouldn't Miss in Paris" for its pain aux cereales, visiting Eric Kayser had priority on our list of things to do while in Paris.

After a brief visit to Le Pantheon, we went in search of Kayser, which turned out to be located very close to the apartment we were renting. Although the store looks empty in the above photo, it was full as I waited patiently in line, allowing me the opportunity to gaze at the plethora of breads, pastries, and chocolates around me. The chocolate rooster looked tantalizing, but I was here for the bread.

Taking a cue from the woman ahead of me in line, I asked for "une baguette" and was handed a long, beautifully golden baguette. This being my first true French baguette, I was surprised that when I tore a piece off of the tip, the crust was thick instead of thin and crisp and the interior of the baguette was dense with a substantial chew. Although I ate this baguette plain, the firm dough could stand up to a heavy-handed slathering of butter or soft cheese, unlike the soft and fluffy baguettes used in banh-mi that collapse with each bite. The taste and the artistically cut lines in this baguette set a high standard as my first baguette during our stay in Paris.

I also ordered a pain aux cereales per David Lebovitz's recommendation that "this is perhaps the best bread in the world". This was a hefty and slightly dense loaf, studded with crunchy sesame and sunflower seeds. I thoroughly enjoyed the addition of the seeds because they seemed to pop in my mouth as I chewed and they added a toasted aroma and flavor. Just as the baguette above, this loaf was not delicate; with each piece I tore off, whether with my hands or my teeth, I could feel the dough pulling back against my need to ingest more bread.

Kayser's croissant was unlike any other croissant that I've eaten. Instead of the soggy, flat concoctions I have previously eaten, this croissant had height and a crackly shell. The inside was soft and incredibly buttery, solely from the layers and layers of butter folded into the dough. Compared to the many other croissants that I ate while in Paris and definitely among all the croissants I have ever eaten in my life, I would agree with Steingartens' appraisal as Kayser's croissants being one of the "Best Croissants."

Because we were staying at an apartment very close to Kayser, we stopped there on a second night to grab a another baguette and some madaleines. After another long day of walking through the city in the cold and rain, it was comforting to collapse in our rental apartment and munch on the hearty baguettes from Kayser.

The madeleines were soft and buttery with a slight lemon flavor. They were very delicate, with a crumb similar to pound cake. A great accompaniment to tea or, as I ate them, eaten plain as a light dessert.

8 Rue Monge
Paris, France

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