In Paris, there’s really no need to travel far for bread. Almost every neighborhood has at least one decent bakery. But that doesn’t mean there’s not bread that’s worth a trip.
Du Pain et Des Idées makes beautiful breads. The corner location has been a bakery since 1889 and you might think that owner Christophe Vasseur comes from line of bakers that stretches back at least that long. But he actually came to bread relatively late in life, deciding at age 32 to hang up “définitivement mon costume cravate” (he worked in fashion) and learn the art of baking. He seems to have made the right choice: In 2008, Gault & Millau named him the best boulanger in Paris.
Formed by hand and given a slow rise, these are loaves with character. The popular “Pain des Amis” is a barely-kneaded slab of thick, toasty crust encasing a bubbly mie that is both airy and substantial. It’s toothsome and satisfying.
On the other end of the spectrum is the “Mouna“, a sugar crusted brioche, delicately flavored with fleur d’orange, with a crumb so fine and tender that it’s practically cake.
There are rustic fruit tarts, too, and viennoiserie including croissants and a playful range of escargots filled with pistachio, praline, or lemon and nougat, as well as traditional raisin. The chausson aux pommes is superb.
I don’t live quite close enough to make Du Pain et Des Idées my every day bakery. Every other day? Maybe.