Seattle's best croissants - Besalu vs. Fournil
- Randy Brook
I just made my first visit to the Cafe Besalu in Ballard (24th Ave NW at 59th St). A friend who just returned from Paris told me that Besalu was as good as she had in Paris. I'm in Paris twice a year and have a pretty good idea of what great croissants are like.
She was right. Besalu's croissants would be better than average in Paris, in fact just below the top bakers. Very light and flaky with just enough butter and the right flavor.
On a good day Le Fournil (Eastlake near University Bridge) is the equal of Besalu. I have also found them unpredictable. Some days there is little flakiness. In fairness, I only visited Besalu once, so it's only from my friend's recommendation that I can imagine they are more consistent.
Don't go late to Besalu or Fournil. By noon or 1 pm they'll be out.
Hiroki, a new bakery on N56th St across from Luau and Eva, makes the best croissant I've had in Seattle. Hiroki also produces an incredible bread pudding out of croissants.
I've experienced both on many, many an occasion (how could I resist?) and I must say that Besalu has the best puff pastries by far. They always seduce with the perfect buttery-crisp heaven of a pastry. At Christmas they make Basil Brunsli cookies- a bit brownie but chewier and more cookie than confection, spiked with fragrant cinnamon. These could quite possibly be the best cookies ever- I'm serious. To the credit of Fournil, they are open longer hours and more days and do a higher volume of baking- they bake for a number of local grocery chains. For the amount they are producing, their quality is impressive. Fournil is amazing when it comes to traditional french tarts or Opera cake/Mille Feuille, and one of a small few who even go that route in the city.
They both are great, depending on what you're after. For an early morning breakfast or late brunch, go to Besalu. Get some quiche, the large size of iced chai- the best ever, a pastry and a cookie- whatever you can't eat take home. For a grab and go lunch (they have sweet lunch specials) or a fancy party (their tarts and cakes are consistently flawless) for to Fournil. :)
I've always been fond of the croissants at the Boulangerie on 45th in Wallingford. The almond ones especially (rather than the almond cream) are delicious.
There is a tiny little coffee shop/pastry shop in Mount Baker (on 31st near Massachusetts...right across the street from That's Amore), it's called Sweet and Savory. I believe the owner went to Pastry Chef School in Paris. The croissants are just like the ones I've had in France.