Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Pleasures of Paris in a Flat World

Thanks to talented pastry chefs and bakers in the U.S. who are infatuated with French sweets and baked treats, it is not necessary to travel to Paris to enjoy them....well, at least, you can get by without doing so.
The display at La Pâtisserie des Rêves--tranlates to "the pastry of dreams." Amen.
For example, In San Francisco you can get killer bread, croissant, muesli and meringues at Tartine; canelé, if you get there early enough, at Boulette's Larder.
Macaroons displayed at a bakery in the sweet 'hood of Saint Germain.
In Palo Alto you can get a buttery, flaky croissant and satisfying pain au chocolate without searching too hard.
Rich yet pure: French strawberry planted in a jar of crème fraîche. 
Californian farmers markets can--unequivocally--match the quality of produce I saw at Raspail Market if not the selections (animal brains) and varietals (gariguette strawberries).
Raspail Market on a rainy Tuesday morning.

There was a food truck at Raspail Market!  Apparently more to come!
In the category of dairy, we have St. Benoît Creamery in Sonoma with Euro roots, whose sumptuous yogurts can easily compete with the delicious whole-milk ones I tasted in France.

And in the area of coffee, there is simply no competition. The U.S. does it better.
Never to-go. Café Crème (café au lait) from Coutume.  
So it is possible to get a taste of France without going far, at least living in the Bay Area.
Chocolat chaud at Coutume.
But I will have to go to Paris for everything else: to hear the melodic sounds of French being spoken in the Metro; to sip local café crème--even if Blue Bottle could prepare it better--, to admire a market's endless rows of butter and yogurt in pristine glass have a chat with the owner of a little, white dog in a neighborhood park.
Named for a cycling race from Paris to Best, le Paris-Brest is a wheel of small puff pastries filled with praline buttercream.  These, from LPâtisserie des Rêves, are absolutely deadly--among the best tasting pastries I have ever had.  

Yogurt anyone?  From Bon Marché before I was told to put away my camera.
Bottom line: though bits of Paris can be experienced here, Paris is still distinctly Paris, even if it is being invaded by food trucks at the moment.