This boulangerie (bakery) serves possibly the best croissants in Paris
On a recent vacation to Paris, I sat on a sunny patio and wrote lots of notes about all of the great Parisian food bits I had discovered, because I knew I’d want to share them with you once I got home. Here’s part 1:
typical weekend breakfast at my house includes the best in comfort foods: eggs, toast, coffee, something sweet (jam), something salty (bacon). Add the occasional filled omelette. Decorate with sliced potatoes fried in onion and rosemary. Impress your friends with a baked apple pancake that puffs up to heights never-before-seen.
Now, take that breakfast show on the road. In Canada, you can almost always find a diner open to serve you two eggs sunny side up. In the United States, you can even find scrambled tofu served with salsa. And there’s always Denny’s serving a reasonable facsimile of breakfast in the middle of the night.
But breakfast in Paris is tricky. It’s just not a Parisian thing. The coffee is fabulous, plentiful, hot, and strong. Croissants are fresher than you can imagine, flaky, and often sold out by 1 pm.
So there we are the first morning of our vacation. It’s 8:30 am, Sunday morning, and we are wandering around a sunny neighbourhood after an overnight flight, trying to find anything to eat, before sleeping all day in our hotel room. Many restaurants aren’t open on Sundays, or don’t open until 10:30.
After an hour of searching, we settle for the very traditional Parisian breakfast of coffee and bread products. (This turns out to be one of the best breakfasts of our entire vacation, but we don’t know it yet.) Café crème (espresso with extra water, and a bit of whole milk), an untoasted baguette split open spread with half an inch of butter, and croissants. Note the definite lack of protein.
Eggs in Paris are really out of the question, and any breakfast (petit dejeuner) advertised as “American style” is just plain old disappointing. Imagine some poor French cook in his tiny kitchen, trying to make scrambled eggs, something he’s never eaten before. And then some tourist like me walks in, takes one look at those eggs, and thinks “these are too scary to eat.”
After that first morning, we scout neighbourhoods, we ask for breakfast recommendations. We even eat at the American-style breakfast buffet in our hotel.
There was even one bistro that promised a “Week-End Brunch.” One hot drink (coffee or tea perhaps), one freshly squeezed orange juice, croissants, scrambled eggs, bacon, salmon, cheddar, baked potato, coleslaw, and dessert. This can be yours for only 21 Euros ($34 Cdn) per person. We declined.
A small note re prices: at our favourite dinner place, an entire bottle of wine is 13.85 Euros. Therefore, it seems only sensible, while in Paris, to sleep late, skip breakfast, and start drinking at noon.
By about day 4, we had given up on the great breakfast crusade, and we started eating like the locals which is coffee + bread products. Sometimes there is butter and jam, or orange juice. There are surprisingly few crêpes or waffles. My favourite breakfast at home is one egg, two bacons, one toast. Not really possible here. But the pain au chocolate is great, if not exactly healthy.
If you are diabetic, or on an Atkins diet, or trying to save your calories for mid-afternoon wine (like me), you’d be hard pressed to eat breakfast in a restaurant in Paris.
And forget about green vegetables. While the outdoor markets are full of produce, your husband’s steak will be served with whipped potatoes that are so good he will wonder out loud if they are instant from a box. There will be no side of asparagus, no leafy green salad. Your chicken will be served with the same whipped potatoes, and a dish of homemade mango chutney. The rest of the plate will be empty. No carrots in a glaze. No greenie-beanies.
Here are some possible work-around solutions for those of us who are die-hard breakfast eaters:
- Accept that you’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy, and eat what the locals are eating.
- Give up on eggs. Buy yogurt and fruit at the corner fruit stand, and have a picnic.
- For your next vacation, rent an apartment instead of a hotel, so you can make breakfast (for less than 21 Euros) before beginning your daily adventures out in the big wide world.
And solution #3 is exactly what we plan to do on our next visit.
As always, I’d love to hear your feedback. You can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks and bon appetit!
Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu, Owner & Head Chef