(Petit déjeuner @ Dominique Saibron in Paris)
Last year the boyfriend and I went on a fantastic road trip through Germany, France and Italy - I drank at a brauhaus, drove on the Nurburgring, pretended to be a gladiator at the Coliseum and saw a lot of skeletons. Out of all the things we saw and did the one thing I remember the most is waking up in Paris and going for our daily petit déjeuner at Dominique Saibron's boulangerie. I always ordered a cappuccino and pain au chocolat while Dima would order a chocolat chaud and cycle through the pastry selection. My cappuccino was always strong and covered with a thick layer of cinnamon while my pain au chocolat had a buttery crispness to the exterior and a soft, chocolately inside. We would enjoy our pastries sitting, facing the streets of Paris watching the citizens start their day and contemplating how we would start ours. Back in Ottawa I continued my love of cappuccinos and pain au chocolat but struggled finding something that resembeled the pain au chocolat I so loved in Paris.
Croissants and pain au chocolats can be found in grocery store's or at the local coffee and donut chain but they aren't like the ones found in France - they look pale, meak in comparison to their buttery, flakier, rich cousins in Europe. For my comparison I chose only two bakeries where I knew their pastries and bread were of high quality and expected nothing but the best from their pain au chocolats. The first was the original location of The French Baker located at 119 Murray Street, the second Art-is-in Bakery at 250 City Center Ave, the only place I go to for my bread.
Comparing the pain au chocolats side by side, Art-is-in Bakery's looks larger and darker whereas The French Baker's is on the lighter side and smaller. Biting into it The French Baker's has a nice crunch on top but the interior feels too bready and slightly stale which takes away from the taste. Art-is-in's pain au chocolat has a much flakier, crisper exterior and you get a richer, moister buttery taste when you hit the inside. With both bakeries pricing their pastry at $2.50, Art-is-in offers you more bang and butter for your buck with their larger, more flavourful pain au chocolat.
Several years ago I remember visiting The French Baker for a weekend treat with Dima and being delighted by beautiful, delicious French pastries. Lately however, I find that all of the pastries (croissants, apple turnovers, almond croissants) seem to be too bready or stale - a real disappointment. I already go to Art-is-in bakery for my bread and I will now add a pain au chocolat to my order. It's just too bad their patio at City Center isn't as picturesque as the Parisian streets.