“How do you tell how good bread is without tasting it? Not the smell, not the look, but the sound of the crust. Symphony of crackle!”
Americans have an odd heritage with bread. Most of us grew up surrounded by a world of Wonder Bread, Twinkies and packaged meats with a six month shelf life. When we were little, bread normally came from the supermarket wrapped in plastic stamped with an expiration date of 2025. Hey, not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s economical, all-American, and we’ll need something edible when the end of the world arrives. Luckily in the meantime, the culinary evolution has brought back the old ways of bread making, and we can enjoy some beautifully packaged perishable baguettes alongside the nuclear safe ones.
In France, bread is serious business – to the point of religion. In fact, we hear they still send people to the guillotine for baking sub par baguettes. The annual Grand Prix de la Baguette de la Ville de Paris is a serious affair. (See behind the scenes from last year.) The great thing about such deep rooted traditions is that mortals such as ourselves get to enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labor. Win-win really.
Wandering around France you can find beautiful baguettes practically raining from the skies, but in New York it’s a little bit more of a mission. The local supermarket faux baguettes are basically just big lumps of warmed dough, and must be avoided at all costs. If you really want to savor the good stuff, it’s worth waiting in the proverbial communion line at the following bread shops. The key is to go when the bread is being freshly baked, and you’ll usually see a line of people waiting patiently with Saturday morning’s Le Monde.
Here’s a short list of decent baguettes attainable here in New York. Warm it up in the oven for about 5 mins at 325 degrees and tear like a savage, or cut properly with a bread knife. Oh, and always have proper butter on hand – left out at room temperature for easy spreading. Enjoy with coffee in the morning, or wine and cheese in the evening.
Top Pick: Maison Kayser – expensive, chic, and the beautiful pastries and cakes are also an expensive must. Our French friends flock to this place for baguettes and croissants.
Second best: Amy’s Bread – their baguettes have that perfect crust and lightness inside. Reminded us of France.
Third: Balthazar – their baguettes are available throughout the city in various cheese and specialty shops, convenient if you can’t get to the original location.
Honorable mention: Le Pain Quotidien – the baguettes here are too doughy for our liking, but their mini baguette is perfect with an organic chai latte after you’ve killed it at SoulCycle.
Check out a more serious review of New York City baguettes here.