I have always enjoyed Croissants, yet I was never in love with them until Paris. Perhaps it was the influence Paris has on me in general. A tried and true NYer, I have stated with many others that our city is truly the best in the world.
While I will still stand behind New York, I had to give it to Paris. There is truly something magical about the City of Lights.
Like New York, it can be overwhelming, chaotic, crowded and there are parts of Paris like the Champs Elysées that are similar to Times Square. Unoriginal shops, hordes of tourists and high traffic which is downright unpleasant. I found myself crossing the street on the walk to the Arc de Triomphe in a pointless attempt to get out of the mass wall of people milling around, bumping into each other.
More on that later. For now, back to the Croissant.
The Best Croissants Are Made In Paris
We had started our trip with four mornings in Paris, each with a different yet equally perfect Croissant. This particular morning’s breakfast plate came with a crêpe, which I politely nibbled and a slice of baguette, which I wrapped in a napkin and pocketed for later.
In Paris, unless you are actually walking along the Champs Elysées, you are hard pressed NOT to see a Parisian either carrying a baguette. Yet while sitting, and luxuriating in my slow relaxing morning, I was able to revel in the simply decadent perfection of the Parisian Croissant.
What Makes Croissants So Good
Even while understanding the basics of how a Croissant is made, folded layers of leavened dough, rich with butter and baked to a golden rise of airy perfection, I still marvel at the memory of the bites that were both crispy on the outside and slightly chewy on the inside.
On the same trip my Husband and we traveled through Belgium and the Netherlands. In only a few hours drive, the experience of a Croissant changed dramatically. We could find them sure, but they were darker, flat, heavier. Still decadent in their buttery nature, but no longer snowing their flakey crumbs all over the table.
Even in Brussels a fantastic culinary capital, just three hours drive from Paris, the Croissants just didn’t rise to the breakfast occasion. What sat before me was a beautiful spread artfully arranged with ample attention to detail, yet the Croissants were not genuine after Paris.
They were good, don’t get me wrong and our breakfast overall was splendid. Helped in part by the addition of a glass of Champagne to toast my Husband’s morning news that another of his artworks had sold. Yet even a fancy Brussels Breakfast just was not up to Par with Paris neighborhood spot.
As we traveled that week through Northern Europe, it became clear my hopes for a Croissant as good as what we started with in Paris, were to be dashed.
Perhaps it was the area we stayed in, Montmartre, where there remains a smaller neighborhood feel with the ghostlike yet tangible tingle derived from knowing some of my favorite artists of all time lived there. Monet, Picasso, Dali, van Gogh, would they have sat, sipping a strong café, delicately tearing at the layers of the morning’s Croissant. Would they have engaged in friendly banter with their neighbors as they sat in the sunlight, facing the street to watch the days fashions pass by at their favorite bistro table?
I like to think they did. In fact I like to think, if history and today could fold over onto itself, I was sitting beside van Gogh, both sipping a strong black brew observing Montmartre in contemplative, silence. Taking that first bite of buttery, light, crispy perfection simultaneously.
As I travel, there are simple things, tastes, sights, smells, sounds, moments that make me think, I could live here. Life just would not be complete if I don’t give myself the opportunity to live here! For Paris, among the art, architecture, history and more seasonal/regional food culture, it’s the Croissant that lands this beautiful city on my growing list of places I simple must live.
There is a place I call Brandyland, it lives only in my head. A mesh of utopian experiences I crave and recall at will to delight my soul. Part driven from experience, part from fantasy.
In Brandyland, there is a bistro table beside the Arc de Triomphe, set just for myself and my Husband on a day where Paris has no tourist to crowd the early morning view. We sit in each others company, sipping café, tearing into the buttery layers of our Croissants, gazing at each of the twelve streets before us. The only hard decision… to select which way to wander next in life.