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jul 23 2009

Paris bakery buzz: Du Pain et des Idees

Pain des Idées (Paris) (Courtesy Meg Zimbeck)

A few steps from the Canal Saint-Martin, the handsome hundred year-old bakery Du Pain et des Idées has been revived by the passion of Christophe Vasseur. A late-blooming baker, Vasseur hung up his corporate suit at age 30 and dedicated himself to becoming the best in the city. His wish came true—after only six years in business, Vasseur was recognized by the gourmet magazine Gault & Millaut as the city's best baker "Meilleur Boulanger de Paris."

The menu

Vasseur insists on time-consuming methods and fresh ingredients. His chausson à la pomme fraîche is simply bursting with juicy apples and unlike any turnover you've ever had. Pair it with a pain chocolat banane, and grab a sack of niflettes (puff pastry tartlets filled with pastry cream, photo here) for the road. These little pastry squares are dotted with orange scented cream and perfect for nibbling along the banks of the nearby Canal Saint-Martin.

For something savory, try one of the mini-pavés—small breads stuffed with combinations like spinach-chèvre or tomato-feta. His wildly popular pain des amis (friendship bread) makes me want to move to the neighborhood. Light but chewy, with a nutty fragrance and deliciously charred bottom—it's one of the best I've ever tried.

The bill

Most pastries, like the chausson and the pain chocolat cost around €1.80 ($2.50). A sack of ten niflettes is €3.30 ($4.60). A 250 gram hunk of the outstanding pain des amis is €2 ($2.80). The mini-pavés are only €1.30 ($1.80)—grab two of these plus a pastry and you've got a sweet little lunch for under €5.

The buzz

Who doesn't love this place? Pastry chef and author David Lebovitz has raved about the whole grain loaf. French magazine L'Express wrote that Vasseur makes "one of the best chaussons in the city." And three-star chef Alain Passard told the (London) Times last year that the pain des amis is "the best he had ever eaten." TimeOut Paris named it as a "Critic's Choice" and cooed about the artisanal croissants.

The coordinates

34 rue Yves Toudic, 10th arrondissement, 011-33/1-42-40-44-52. Métros Jacques Bonsergent, République. Closed Saturday and Sunday, dupainetdesidees.com.

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