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Is there a truly great baguette to be had in L.A?

Bob Brooks Jul 17, 2006 02:12 AM

When I was a young boy, living in Barcelona, I used to buy bread for the family every day at the local panaderia. It was a medium blonde crust with a relatively light and airy interior that had a nice bite without being the least bit chewey. It was perfect.

I've eaten great baguettes like this in Paris, but I've yet to find one that's even close in L.A.

I remember watching the French film, "Diva," which had a wonderful scene in which the protagonist talks about using a loaf and describes how it must be "fresh, but not too fresh." He then slices it along its length, slathers it with butter and a very generous amount of purloined caviar. It was a perfect shade of gold and had lots of air pockets. I swooned! I've been looking for it here, ever since. Alas, to no avail.

So far, I've tried the following:

La Brea Bakery: Fughettaboutit. Way too dense and chewey;
Bread Bar: Not a fine crust and also too dense:
Lorraine's Baguette: Crust too thin, doughy interior;
Pavillions Artisenal Baguettes: several types, all awful;
La Maison du Pain: Not bad, and their ficelles were pretty good, but I read that their French baker lost his visa, haven't been there since;
Grace Bakery: I think this is a San Francisco bakery that ships to Ralphs, good flavor but pricey and still not the right texture because it is still slightly denser than what I seek;
Rustic Bread from Gelsons: This is actually pretty good but, again, just a bit too dense;
Le Pain Quotidienne: see Bread Bar;
BF Baguette: Also too dense and obscenely over priced!

So, what I'm looking for is a very crisp and somewhat dense golden crust with a light interior with lots of taste and yeasty holes. If anyone has found this somewhere that I have been yet to find, I'd be very grateful for the referral.

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  1. m
    mc michael RE: Bob Brooks Jul 17, 2006 04:40 AM

    I'm wondering if maybe Foix makes something like you are looking for. They do some decent bread. Or, maybe you are relegated to bagels.

    1. Schweinhaxen RE: Bob Brooks Jul 17, 2006 06:10 AM

      Delice on Pico. Check it out.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Schweinhaxen
        m
        Mike Z RE: Schweinhaxen Jul 21, 2006 02:35 AM

        Second this! Also very good croissants.

      2. trolley RE: Bob Brooks Jul 17, 2006 06:51 AM

        i'm sorry bob. there probably isn't. although i heard that cafe tartine on beverly blvd. imports their baguettes from france. but i hear the place got bought out by eat well or something like that and also had very mixed reviews. have you tried acme bakery baguettes from the bay area? i think they're just what you're looking for.

        1 Reply
        1. re: trolley
          Bob Brooks RE: trolley Jul 17, 2006 11:28 PM

          I think that Cafe Tartine didn't have baguettes from Poilane; only their boules, that they sliced for a few of their open-faced sandwiches. Anyway, do you know who sells the Acme baguettes in the L.A. area?

        2. r
          rameniac RE: Bob Brooks Jul 17, 2006 07:08 AM

          it may seem unusual, but if you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. go to mr. baguette (or perhaps some of the other vietnamese sandwich shops around town) and buy 'em straight up!

          2 Replies
          1. re: rameniac
            w
            WBGuy RE: rameniac Jul 17, 2006 08:06 AM

            You can get these vietnamese baguettes in the bakery section of some asian supermarkets such as 99 Ranch. Really good for making sandwiches that won't chip your teeth or send hard shrapnel into the roof of your mouth.

            1. re: WBGuy
              modernist RE: WBGuy Jul 17, 2006 01:49 PM

              definitely the vietnamese bakeries are the closest you'll get to the parisian style baguette. light and airy with a good firm crunchy crust.

              there are several on valley between san gabriel and rosemead
              mr baguette
              lees baguette
              bahn mi che cali
              and a few more. they are all over the place!
              buy one from each and try them out!
              post your findings...

          2. r
            runcmg727 RE: Bob Brooks Jul 17, 2006 07:26 AM

            Try bay cities in santa monica. Its on lincoln. It is closed on mondays fyi. i love their bread and their sandwiches. It's a great little italian deli and market.

            1. Mattapoisett in LA RE: Bob Brooks Jul 17, 2006 08:42 AM

              You might want to try Nomandie French Bakery and Cafe in West Adams While they are not perfect they are a heck of a lot better then the ones mentioned. and since it is their main wholesale bakery it is easy to get them hot and fresh from the oven.

              Normandie Bakery
              3022 S Cochran Ave
              Los Angeles, CA
              At Jefferson Blvd. between La Brea and Hauser
              323-939-5528

              1. m
                mc michael RE: Bob Brooks Jul 17, 2006 01:09 PM

                Now that I think about it, can't you get Pain Poilane at Bristol Farms? Probably not cheap, but....

                5 Replies
                1. re: mc michael
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                  Nicole RE: mc michael Jul 17, 2006 05:46 PM

                  I'm not sure what kind they are, but I buy my baguettes at Bristol Farms. They are the best I've had in L.A. That said, I still wouldn't describe them as "truly great" or "light and airy" as the poster requested. Outside crust is pretty good, but definitely too chewy. Inside is nice and soft. Good overall flavor. So in sum--a decent baguette, but not a great baguette by any means. I think it is $3.

                  1. re: Nicole
                    m
                    mc michael RE: Nicole Jul 17, 2006 06:17 PM

                    I'm not talking about their regular baguettes. These are special. They probably keep em behind the counter or something.

                    1. re: mc michael
                      George RE: mc michael Jul 17, 2006 08:01 PM

                      Do you know how much they charge for Pain Poilane? I didn't know you could get it at Bristol. But of course, this is not a baguette.

                      1. re: George
                        m
                        mc michael RE: George Jul 17, 2006 08:27 PM

                        Don't know the price.

                  2. re: mc michael
                    j
                    JudiAU RE: mc michael Jul 18, 2006 02:06 AM

                    Pain Poilane is famous for their boule, not baguette. Other end of the spectrum...

                  3. c
                    carter RE: Bob Brooks Jul 17, 2006 02:55 PM

                    You might also try Michel Richard on Robertson around 3rd St.

                    Restaurants worthy of looking into might include La Conversation on Doheny just north of Santa Monica Blvd., weho with BH across the street, as they have been doing their thing for around 18 years or so. Good French goodies there.

                    1. b
                      Burger Boy RE: Bob Brooks Jul 17, 2006 03:05 PM

                      Try Jons Market on Vermont & Hollywood in the Barnsdall Plaza. Get there about 8 or 9 in the morning, it is fresh, has a good crust and very light inside. I get a loaf and make sandwiches for co workers on friday. By the end of the day the bread is not worth anything.

                      1. p
                        petradish RE: Bob Brooks Jul 17, 2006 03:06 PM

                        Le Pain du Jour
                        828 Pico Blvd., Suite 2,
                        Santa Monica
                        (310) 399-4870

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: petradish
                          j
                          Joe Knows RE: petradish Jul 17, 2006 08:23 PM

                          Agreed! Best bread in Los Angeles!

                        2. George RE: Bob Brooks Jul 17, 2006 03:26 PM

                          I remember a jovial chef who befriended me and my wife on our flight to France ten years ago when we were moving there for a time. He said you will know a truly great baguette when it tastes just like ... rice krispies.

                          I'm not sure I ever did agree with him, but there is that taste and mouth feel that is unmistakable.

                          I'm surprised no one has mentioned farmers markets yet at all. I can only speak for those in my area. In WeHo, on Monday morning, the farmer's market in Plummer Park features a French baker named Thierry who makes baguettes that for me are identical to my daily dose from France. I've noticed sometimes he makes two kinds of baguettes, one definitely more chewy and less authentic perhaps as a concession to his customers. However he never hands me one of those. I usually buy 5 baguettes, bien cuit s'il vous plait, and freeze several to make it through the week. He also makes ficelles. He makes large brioches. Sometimes pain de mie. And even ... campaillou! Which is a bread from the south of France. I begged and begged and finally he also began to make several loaves of raisin walnut bread each week -- the perfect accompaniment to cheese, which you can pick up from his neighbor in the market who is from the Savoie (but that is for another post...)
                          I'm sure he must make the rounds of other markets on other days--anyone else know Thierry and where else he sells his bread?

                          1. Das Ubergeek RE: Bob Brooks Jul 17, 2006 06:18 PM

                            Get the baguettes from Banh Mi Che Cali... they're something ridiculous like 70 cents each, so even if they don't meet your requirements (because, to be honest, I don't recall whether the crust was chewy -- I don't think so), you're only out the price of a can of Coke.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Das Ubergeek
                              Bob Brooks RE: Das Ubergeek Jul 17, 2006 11:36 PM

                              I have had their baguettes and they are, indeed, very good for a sandwich. I also bought a couple extra that were put in an oddly textured plastic bag that I ultimately froze them in for over two months. They thawed and reheated beautifully!

                              As the ideal baguette, however, the crust isn't quite crisp enough.

                            2. George RE: Bob Brooks Jul 17, 2006 07:57 PM

                              On Thierry of the French Boulangerie from the farmers market in Plummers Park on Monday mornings:
                              I've just been, purchased several exquisite, crusty, airy baguettes despite the heat/humidity.
                              He told me that he participates in the markets in Hermosa Beach, Culver City, Larchmont Village, Manhattan Beach, in addition to WeHo/Plummers Park. His bread is baked in downtown LA.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: George
                                Bob Brooks RE: George Jul 17, 2006 11:07 PM

                                Could you tell me the hours for the Monday Plummers Park farmers market. Also, is Plummers park on north Robertson, just south of Santa Monica, or am I confused?

                                1. re: Bob Brooks
                                  George RE: Bob Brooks Jul 17, 2006 11:44 PM

                                  9 to 1 pm, Mondays. It is a rather small FM, but not where you describe: on the corner of Fountain and Vista. There is a different WeHo FM near the pool on San Vicente south of Santa Monica that I don't go to, so can't recommend.

                                2. re: George
                                  a
                                  ayana RE: George Jul 21, 2006 03:17 AM

                                  I love his stuff! Not just the bread, but also the pastries. He makes an apricot-custard puff pastry and he poaches the apricots himself in the summer. And he has the best cinnamon rolls ever.

                                3. j
                                  jenn RE: Bob Brooks Jul 17, 2006 09:09 PM

                                  okay, I have to giggle at the notion that Breadbar doesn't have a Parisan baguette---we all do understand that Breadbar originates in Paris, maybe 1/2 a mile from Notre Dame, right? Not sure about the crust comment and suspect my husband--who gets stuck vaccuming the bits of crust out of the car when the 'pups and I have consumed the baguette on the drive home--would disagree about the Breadbar crust not being fine enough.

                                  I find this conversation interesting on a number of levels. I recall reading something by Patricia Wells that was, um well, rather derogatory about the airy style of baguette that was overwhelming Paris. Might have been her Food Guide to Paris. Anyrate, per her, those baguettes are mass produced and not the real thing. Per her, a Real Baguette is more dense and more chewy and had more taste/flavor. And she loves Eric Kayser aka the Breadbar guy as well as Poilane because, per Wells, they make real baguettes as made pre-mass production.

                                  That said, there was a great french baker in the Valley who used to sell at the Westwood Farmer's Market and at the Mid Wilshire FM and at the WeHo Sunday market but I think they went back to France. I believe they sold out to another French baker but though he claimed to be doing the same thing with the bread, there was something different that wasn't as good. Perhaps less salt in the mix.

                                  Good luck! Perhaps you need to do field research in Paris. . . .

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: jenn
                                    Bob Brooks RE: jenn Jul 17, 2006 11:11 PM

                                    I don't recall anyone suggesting that Bread Bar doesn't make a Parisian baguette. We all know he's from Paris and that he made baguettes there that some experts ranked in the top five of all baguettes. The point is, it's not the baguette I was after. And, btw, the last thing I'm after is a cottony interior; I want lots of yeasty holes, but I don't want them to be tough. And I want the exterior to be very crisp; maybe the result of an egg wash.

                                    1. re: jenn
                                      j
                                      JudiAU RE: jenn Jul 18, 2006 02:11 AM

                                      Good memory. Wells is not kind to this type of baguette, which is less fashionable in Paris than heavier, more complex baguettes and boules. Most of the French bakeries are trying to come up something more earthy than the cotton wool style. (Not my favorite either...)

                                      However, if that is what you want try out baguette sold at Du Vin. I don't know where Renee gets them but I do know they are vegan. Bristol Farms carries a very similiar baguette.

                                      1. re: JudiAU
                                        George RE: JudiAU Jul 18, 2006 02:54 AM

                                        I think Renee gets them from the Maison du Pain.

                                    2. George RE: Bob Brooks Jul 17, 2006 11:00 PM

                                      In Paris, what you are describing is basically what most boulangeries now market as a "baguette à l'ancienne." These however are made en masse too. Poilane has become a boutique. A good baguette is a good baguette, and surely the ones I have been discussing from the farmer's market are not mass produced. In fact, each is rather original--all variations of crust, burn or lack thereof, variations in shape, etc.

                                      But from reading this thread, a good baguette is obviously in the mouth of the eater--one has one's preferences.

                                      1. Kris P Pata RE: Bob Brooks Jul 17, 2006 11:18 PM

                                        So you haven't been back to LA MAISON DU PAIN based on a rumour that its French baker is gone? Seems harsh, man.

                                        I'm a huge fan of the special baguette @ LA MAISON as are, apparently, a good number of French expats, Consulate folks among them.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Kris P Pata
                                          Bob Brooks RE: Kris P Pata Jul 17, 2006 11:22 PM

                                          It wasn't a rumour, it was in the L.A. Times article about the place. His visa expired. Please do tell, what are the baguettes there currently like. And, just curious, are the sisters making them or do they now have a new baker (not that it matters; it's the end result that counts).

                                          1. re: Bob Brooks
                                            b
                                            bad nono RE: Bob Brooks Jul 18, 2006 09:04 PM

                                            Charles, the French baker at La Maison du pain, has been back since February 06 and IMHO (and as a French person) I think his pastries are out of this world. His bread is OK, and he told me the reason why it was so hard to make French-style bread in the States is because the flours are different from home.
                                            If you want a truly great B-Day cake, try ordering a Roayl from him.

                                            1. re: bad nono
                                              westsidegal RE: bad nono Jul 21, 2006 05:45 AM

                                              i like the opera cake and the lemon tarts too

                                        2. The Chowhound Team RE: Bob Brooks Jul 18, 2006 03:01 AM

                                          An off topic tangent claiming you can't make good bread with L.A. water has been moved to the General Topics board. If you're wondering where that discussion went, please click here and continue on General Topics:

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