It isn’t difficult to find French things in New York City. Raw milk Camembert may remain an elusive contraband dream, but La Grande Pomme is home to plenty of French people, French speaking people who aren’t necessarily French, French restaurants that painstakingly copy Parisian bistro interiors, French wines, and French films.
There are even replicas of great French landmarks:
Thé Adoré, a 20 year old tea salon and bakery/sandwich shop near Union Square serves more than a dozen varieties of Mariage Frères tea. I have nothing polite to say about their croissants or tarts, but a late-afternoon pot of the delicate Queen Victoria goes very well with some last minute cramming for Monday French class.
My local coffee shop gets their viennoisserie from the bakery Ceci-Cela. If I wake up hungry I’ll walk over to Charles street for an almond croissant to have with my morning latte.
But for a real Parisian pastry fix, I go to La Bergamote in Chelsea.
One look at the shiny glazed fruit tarts, tall dark chocolate cakes, glittering pâtes de fruits, piles of crisp meringue clouds, plump religieuses and golden brioches, and I am transported.
It can’t really be called “homesickness,” how I’ve been feeling about Paris lately; I don’t live there, after all. But I’d certainly rather be there than here at the moment, and visiting La Bergamote both placates and accentuates this sentiment.
The room is light and airy thanks to a corner location, but I actually like to sit in the back with a view into the kitchen, where I can see the pots and pans neatly stacked, the dough hook and paddle hanging, and fantasize briefly about turning out such a fine assortment of sweets. I try and tune out the English, to really imagine for a few moments that I am in Paris while eating my eclair with a knife and fork (Parisians even eat burgers this way. I do not.)
Then I exit onto the street, where the buzzing of scooters in my head is erased by the honking of yellow taxis, the corner cafés are turned back into bodegas, the preserved grandeur is replaced by interminable renovation, and where I am, reluctantly, home.
For now, anyway.
La Bergamote, 169 9th Ave., Manhattan, (212) 627-9010
Thé Adoré, 17 E. 13th St., Manhattan, (212) 243-8742
Ceci-Cela, 55 Spring St., Manhattan, (212) 274-9179 website