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Feb 27, 2002 04:06 PM

Authentic French baguette in Seattle

  • j

I'm looking for a decent "French" baguette-resembling what one would get in France, and not our heavy, chewy American rendition. Any suggestions?

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  1. Le Panier in Pike Place Market? I like them, at least. They are crisp on the outside, fluffy inside, and very lightweight. Inexpensive too.

    3 Replies
    1. re: KathyR

      I agree. I also love the Palmiers there...


      1. re: sonja

        Try the baguettes at Dahlia Bakery. Crusty, chewy yet light...perfect with a slathering of brie and fresh tomato!

      2. re: KathyR

        Lightweight baguettes? I think the French term for that is "oi gevalt." Yes, you will find them that way in France, but mainly at the chain bakeries using frozen dough. Not that the Le Panier stuff is bad, it just is not great.

        Le Fournil has absolutely top rate puff pastry - croissants, pains au chocolat, tartes, etc. These are far better than the average Paris bakery. Of course, the average Paris bakery croissant isn't nearly as good as it used to be. Le Fournil baguettes are good but not as outstanding as the pastries.

        The best baguettes I ever had in Seattle were those from Boulangerie in Wallingford, about 10 (=/- a few) years ago. I had a long talk with their French baker early one morning (2 am) about how he selected various flours for bread and croissants. Those were great baguettes and their croissants were outstanding, too. Unfortunately, in recent years their bread and pastries have dropped to just good.

        Maybe I'm spoiled by frequent trips to Paris and my favorite bakeries there. The result is that I rarely buy baguettes in Seattle. Instead I buy breads from Grand Central or Essential or Anjou in Cashmere. They make some wonderful breads, different from French bread but equally good in their own way as the best French breads.

      3. I recently bit into the most delicious bread, a small roll, while dining The Boat Cafe, a very small french cafe located near Portage Bay. I asked our waitress if the cafe baked their own bread, and she said no, their bread was supplied by Le Fournil, a bakery with a french baker located nearby on Eastlake. The entire breakfast was delicious, but since the bread was exceptional, we headed over to the bakery after breakfast for a baguette of our own. I asked the bakery staff person to describe each bread they offered that day, and she obviously knew her wares, describing each loaf's similarities and differences. I wanted to know which loaf had a crisper crust with a lighter loaf, or a softer crust with a more dense bread, etc.
        And the bread is only the beginning of Le Fournil's story...the pastries..oh, tres bien!


        4 Replies
        1. re: Olympia Jane

          Many thanks, Jane, for the Le Fournil reminder. It is a true French bakery with incredible light, buttery pastries.

          1. re: KathyR

            I didn't really care for my croissant from Le Fournil...maybe I had an off batch? I really like the almond croissants from Le Panier and their palmiers are delightful! We also tried Bakery Nouveau in West Seattle...still prefer Panier. I need to try Besalu and Tall grass next. Also, recently, I've been in search of french macaroons in seattle, only two places so far, Le Panier and Bakery Nouveau.

          2. re: Olympia Jane

            Thank you so much for your suggestions! Le Panier is good, I agree, I just don't get to the market as often as I'd like. Eastlake is right down the road, and I'll be beating a path there tomorrow morning for sure.

            1. re: Olympia Jane

              Just as a side note, the Boat Street Cafe makes absolutely wonderful bread puddding! Don't miss it!

            2. Try Admiral Thriftway in West Seattle. They have good baguettes to take home, but test the prepared ones with ham or chicken salad. I think they are crisp, yet light inside and none of the chewy thing you are mentioning.

              1. Tall Grass Bakery is absolutely brilliant, and while it may not have as big a name as some of the others, the baguettes match the breads I enjoyed in Paris. All their breads are superb. A Parisian friend studying in Seattle would only buy her bread here, though it was a bit out of the way. Macrina, and Panzanella also bake wonderful bread. See article:


                6 Replies
                1. re: Bobarino

                  I'm in total agreement about Tall Grass baguettes! My previous favorite had been the Macrina baguette, which we can get at the Morgan Thriftway. My husband still likes them the best. Tall Grass sells at the W. Seattle Farmers' Market, so we tried their baguette. One bite and I was hooked; it tastes much more like a good French baguette than any others I've tried in town. Husband agrees, he just prefers the profile on the Macrina.

                  1. re: Bobarino

                    I too am a huge fan of the Tall Grass baguettes. Simply wonderful. They also sell at the U District Farmer's market.

                    1. re: Bobarino

                      Agreed. I have not had any baguettes from Le Fournil, but have from Le Panier, Panzanella, Macrina, and Tall Grass. Tall Grass is, by far, the best. Maybe too chewy for some, but truly superior in quality and flavor. Very nice people too. Pastries from next door (i don't recall the name of that bakery) were excellent as well.

                      1. re: SeaSybarite

                        Cafe Besalu is the place next door and the pastries are great.

                        1. re: mrnelso

                          thanks! yeah, i LOVE that place. Love the rotating photography too.

                          1. re: SeaSybarite

                            I am a very big fan of Cafe Besalu. Their croissants and pains au chocolat would rate near the top in Paris, and better than any I've ever had in Seattle (see my earlier posts in this thread from several years ago). Equally important, they are consistent. In probably 40+ visits, I've only seen one off day. Consistency is the mark of a really fine baker. You can't do this just by following a recipe. You have to understand your ingredients and how they change with weather, etc.

                            Meanwhile, I confess that I have not yet tried Bakery Nouveau. This will be soon, and I'll post my report.

                    2. Metropolitan Market sells bread that I believe is flown in from Paris. I do not recall whether what they offer includes baguettes. The cost has prevented me from trying any of it, alas.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: PAO

                        They sell Pain Poilane, which is a big circular loaf of sourdough.

                        1. re: dandelion

                          Pain Poilane - a very large, industrial production in Paris of better than average, mass-produced bread. Essential, Tall Grass, Grand Central, Macrina, and several other local bakeries all do a better job with bread. Plus, they are local and fresher.

                        2. re: PAO

                          pain poilane is worth trying if you are walking around Paris and its coming out of the oven at the actual bakery. And I'm sure it would be yummy to haul on the flight home.

                          I can't imagine paying for it in a grocery store in the states--I'm sure you can find very good bread in Seattle that is at least as good as day old mass produced poilanes.

                          1. re: jenn

                            JUST WENT TO BESALU TODAY AND THEY ARE CLOSED TIL JULY 18!!!!'

                            1. re: bighound

                              Tall Grass ranks as my favorite baguette in town. The dough is wonderfully chewy and airy, the crust crisp. Plus I get them hot as I live only a few blocks away! Occasionally they have a day off with a hard-ish batch but I still give them the edge over any other I have had including Essential and Macrina. I also like the whole scene there. It feels like a hippy baking commune. They really love what they do.

                              I meant to post about the Besalu closure. It is right next to Essential Bakery and therefore right in my neighborhood. James closes the shop around all major holidays though this is his longer Summer break.

                              I have posted on TA about Besalu. I have never had a better pain au chocolate ... ever. He also has macaroons which are v.good .... although I find his croissants, danish, ginger biscuit, tarts, galettes, quiche to be the biggest standouts.

                              Oh, there was a great entry in Seattle Bon Vivant blog about Besalu (actually it was about a day in Ballard) from 2005 .

                              Viv asserted that the Besalu pain au chocolate is "comparable in chocolate quality and flake factor to those of Pierre Hermé, Lenôtre, Au Levain du Marais and Be" and in fact had the edge over Il Fornil and Le Panier.

                              1. re: klsalas

                                I have tried all the Paris boulangeries mentioned except the Be group. I give highest honors among those I've tried to au Levain du Marais, a pair of old fashioned (and cheap) neighborhood bakeries. Their baguettes, croissants, and pains au chocolat are just perfect.

                                Besalu comes close on the croissants and pains au chocolat, which would put them in a top group in Paris generally. No one in Seattle has a baguette to match au Levain du Marais, not even close.

                                I agree with kisalas on Tall Grass being Seattle's best, and really quite good. Better than most of the chain bakeries in Paris. I waited to say "best in Seattle" until I tried Bakery Nouveau - just today. I really like the BN baguettes for flavor. But they are too evenly chewy (inside and crust together) to be called "wonderfully chewy and airy, the crust crisp." That's my standard, too, for a French baguette.

                                BN's pain au chocolat this morning was wonderful. Warm, very flakey, lots of chocolate. A worthy competitor for Besalu, with both ahead of Fournil and far ahead of anyone else in Seattle. The croissant was disappointing, which is odd, since it should be exactly the same dough. It had no flakes at all. It also lacked the buttery flavor I expect in a perfect croissant. This is less evident in a pain au chocolat when there's lots of chocolat in it.