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Patisserie Claude's Croissants-What's Wrong with ME??!!

n
nativeNYer Jan 8, 2007 02:57 AM

Well, this past week, I finally made my way down to Patisserie Claude for the very first time. I happened to be in the nabe and figured I should give it a try instead of returning the following day at an earlier time as planned. It was 5PM when I arrived (yup, I knew it was late) and there was the infamous Claude SMILING! He was happily chatting with a couple sitting at one of his quaint tables. I said a kind hello and proceeded into the store. He looked away from me and continued chatting with them until I arrived at the counter. I politely asked him whether there were any croissants at this late hour and he pleasantly responded with an apology b/c there were none left. I smiled, thanked him and told him I would return the following day as planned. He uttered a kind farewell. I sadly headed back uptown.

Sure enough, the following day, I returned with a friend as we had planned on our vacation day from the office. We made it down by noon (too late for the chocolate ones) and little Claude was not behind the counter. Instead, there was a lady in the shop who handed us our 4 croissants. I could barely make it out of the store and, with full excitement, I took my first bite.

Hmmmm... geez... I gotta calm down b/c I can't taste this... I'm just not feeling this. What's wrong with me? I am still amazed at our reaction to them. They were definitely soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside but I think we found them to be a bit heavy than we would have hoped. But, the more interesting realization was that they didn't taste buttery nor were they light, flaky and multi-layered at all.

We took the remaining ones homes and later nuked them to see if they were better warm. We also warmed another one in the oven. We caught a bit of the butter then but we still weren't feeling them.

Having never been to France, I feel very ignorant about my reaction to these great croissants. Are these truly great and I don't know better? So many chowhound experts have sang their praises. Is it because they are soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside? What makes them great?

Anyway, my favorite croissants in Manhattan are, by far, still at La Baguette Shop on University between 12th and 13th. These are buttery, warm, flaky, light and have dozens of layers. Maybe these are too greasy to those who know better. I hate grease and do not find these greasy but I just don't know. Anyway, they have mini ones, other flavors and are baking them all day. Chances are you'll walk out with a hot one even as late as 5pm. It's also a cute shop for sandwiches.

I haven't been to this shop in a couple of years but I will need to return within the next few weeks. Does anyone with a knowledge of croissants have any opinions on La Baguette Shop? I've only seen a post or two from way back. I will give Claude another try in the future for other items.

  1. e
    eating me Jan 8, 2007 04:46 AM

    I hate to be the one to break the bad news, but... I'm pretty sure La Baguette Shop is no longer.

    Too bad... I loved their croissants and palmiers, and their hot chocolate was among the best in the city.

    1. n
      nativeNYer Jan 8, 2007 05:30 AM

      [sob!!!] i am not surprised... not surprised at all. it was < 3 hours ago that I replied to a post by whining about all the closings lately. [sob!!!] ugghhh... but i'm glad to hear you appreciated those croissants. i am a huge hot chocolate lover who is aways trying to find a good cup. [sob!!!] to think they had great hot chocolate which i never tried... and now they're gone.... [sob; hiccup; hiccup; sob] eatingme: what do you think of claude's?

      1. e
        ekdd Jan 8, 2007 07:56 AM

        la baguette shop closed i think about a year ago; owner said he was looking to stay in the area but i have seen no signs of him.....

        1. n
          nativeNYer Jan 8, 2007 11:39 PM

          ugghhh... okay. thanks. i wonder if it would re-open with the same name. please let us know if you see/hear anything.

          1. guttergourmet Jan 9, 2007 02:37 AM

            it's now a philly slims:(

            2 Replies
            1. re: guttergourmet
              n
              nativeNYer Jan 9, 2007 04:54 AM

              you're killing me over here!

              1. re: nativeNYer
                guttergourmet Jan 9, 2007 11:10 AM

                I liked Le Baguette too especially their ham croissants. You have to give Claude another chance-pain au chocolat by 8am-unbelievable. I also found a new place for great ham croissants-falai panatteria on Clinton

            2. c
              chocokitty Jan 9, 2007 02:32 PM

              You have got to give Claude another try. The chocolate croissant is really decadent. I've eaten too many croissants the past year (from many places) and I have to say Claude's one of the best. I know it's outside of Manhattan but I also like Almondine in Dumbo.

              For hot chocolate, I would suggest City Bakery (if you like the thick, ganache-like hot chocolate).

              Tina
              http://wanderingeater.blogspot.com

              1. c
                claire de lunacy Jan 9, 2007 04:25 PM

                Ceci Cela on Spring street and Lafayette is great for croissants. I am addicted to their almond croissants...
                I think they also opened a branch in Tribeca, around Chambers St.

                2 Replies
                1. re: claire de lunacy
                  taraxstar Apr 17, 2007 06:25 PM

                  Ceci Cela's almond croissants are the ugliest but most delicious!! They do have a location on chambers street in Tribeca but I think they only bake on Spring street so it's worth going to the original.

                  1. re: taraxstar
                    n
                    nativeNYer Apr 17, 2007 11:02 PM

                    thnx for the inside info. spring st is far more convenient for me than chambers.

                2. p
                  polimorfos Jan 9, 2007 04:42 PM

                  I have to say that I agree with your assesment of Patisserie Claude's croissants. They are too dense and heavy compared to a good croissant like you would find in France (harder to come by these days, admittedly).

                  In France, with good croissants, I can easily eat 2 for breakfast. Not so with Claude's.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: polimorfos
                    NAtiveNewYorker Jan 9, 2007 07:57 PM

                    In France they sell two types of croissants: the dryer Croissant and the heavier Croissant Au Beurre. Maybe Claude, whom I do feel is overrated, is shooting for the Au Beurre variety.

                  2. n
                    nativeNYer Jan 9, 2007 11:07 PM

                    thanks, hounds, for mentioning the other recommendations (which i will try). Ceci Cela was next on my list. oh, and i've spent many early friday evenings in city bakery sipping on their hot chocolate.YUM!

                    i am looking forward to giving claude another try (it's such a cute shop) but it is unlikely i'll ever get down there as early as is needed to nab one of those chocolate [sinfully-great] croissants.

                    glad to hear one or two of you agree with my assessment. since i've never been to france, i can't offer any strong opinions on the characteristics of a great croissant. i know my favorites were at La Baguette Shop which is now gone - buttery (but not greasy), flaky, light and airy. I loved biting into them - crunchy with pockets of air on the inside - and watching the entire croissant slowly rise back to it's original shape after each bite. ok, i'll stop now. [sigh].

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: nativeNYer
                      r
                      RCC Jan 9, 2007 11:17 PM

                      Now I know what's wrong with you - finding Claude's shop being as being "cute". Are you sure you were at Claude's? I'm just kidding.

                      However, imho, for what it simply is, unadorned square very drab ambiance, a few very simple tables and chairs, baked goods in the most generic display glass cases that I've seen and a place that could definitely use some tidying up all over, it's definitely not what I would refer to as cute.

                      But the croissants and the tartes are the best in New York !

                    2. nyufoodie Jan 9, 2007 11:45 PM

                      ...and don't forget the palmiers and the eclairs!

                      1. n
                        nychowgirl Feb 3, 2007 11:24 AM

                        OK, I was about to make a very similar post after my first trip to Claude's this a.m. but then I did a quick search and discovered nativeNYer shared my opinion and had already posted on it. I lived in France for a year and must disagree with the people out there who say this is the best croissant outside of France. I live on the UWS and think Soutine's are significantly better, though neither come close to what you get in France. The Claude croissant was only crispy at the very edges and not very flaky at all. Didn't taste much butter after the first bite, though it improved a bit as I ate the rest of it. Claude seemed friendly enough and $2.50 for a coffee and a decent croissant is an excellent find, but I was really hoping to find a stellar croissant that would take me back to my days in France, and sadly, I didn't find it chez Claude :(

                        1. n
                          nativeNYer Feb 3, 2007 01:07 PM

                          Thanks, nycchowgirl. I really thought I was crazy but you have described them exactly as I had experienced them. Glad to hear that your experience of a croissant in France (where I've never been) is different from this, as I had expected.... and hoped!! As a fellow upper west-sider, I agree that the croissants are better at Soutine's. The best place of all was on University near W13th but I've been told the place is gone, with a rumor they were relocating.
                          I hope someone will tell us if they resurface.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: nativeNYer
                            c
                            Clem Feb 4, 2007 10:57 AM

                            My favorite croissants are from a bakery on 9th Ave, between 24th and 25th, east side of the street. And alert for next time: they were open during the last blackout -- due to private generating of electricity -- with lines around the block

                            1. re: Clem
                              b
                              beecon1 Apr 17, 2007 12:57 PM

                              I agree with you Clem. But have never had them in the shop. A friend of mine brought them to me and it was love at first bite. I asked her where the bakery was and she gave the location as 9th ave between 24th and 25th, but I never asked the name.

                              1. re: beecon1
                                n
                                nativeNYer Apr 17, 2007 03:49 PM

                                I will be in the nabe early thursday evening. gotta try this place. i've been craving a good croissant. i think i passed right by ceci cela this weekend without even realizing it. been wanting to try their croissants for months.

                          2. p
                            Peter Wells Feb 4, 2007 12:19 PM

                            We also spent a year in Paris, and we agree. Burke and I found Claude's croissants heavy and bready. Perfectly fine, really, but not croissants. The greatest plain croissant we've ever had was at Boulangerie Madame in the 6th in Paris. We stood on the corner and wept while we ate them. That's not figurative language, we actually wept. Claude isn't in the same league.

                            I hope to find a great croissant on these shores, and since we now live on the same block as Almondine here in DUMBO, I have high hopes!

                            --Peter Wells

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Peter Wells
                              n
                              nativeNYer Feb 4, 2007 03:37 PM

                              The ones on Univ Place almost had me weeping. I know just what you mean as I wept in Sorrento when I tasted the gelato even though I am not an ice cream lover. So, have you tasted the croissants at Almondine?

                              1. re: nativeNYer
                                p
                                Peter Wells Feb 4, 2007 04:19 PM

                                Well, I had one, but it was at 4:30 in the afternoon, it was the last one, sitting there forlornly. It was only okay, but hey, what 10-hour-old croissant can carry a standard? I ate it out of its misery, but I won't judge Almondine's mettle by it.

                                So...no! I have not had a REAL Almondine's croissant yet. When I do, I'll report back.

                                --Peter

                            2. n
                              nokitsch Apr 18, 2007 07:57 AM

                              You will never get a crossaint here like you do in Europe (not just Paris) simply because the flour here is different (read, infused with chemicals) - end of story. Any baker who has baked in Europe will tell you that. I just came back from London and the crossaints we had at TESCO (that's right - a supermarket) were better than anything I've tried in New York. Having said that, I find the poor substitutes at Financier and Lessen & Hennings (sp?) in Brooklyn Heights as adequate substitutes.

                              1. b
                                baltovet Mar 9, 2008 10:33 PM

                                I live in Baltimore, but my wife and I frequently take day and weekend trips to NYC. We discovered Patisserie Claude about 5 years ago, and have been back there on over a dozen occasions since. What we have discovered is that there is some variability in the quality of the croissants from time to time, although when at their worst, they are still orders of magnitude better than anything we can get at home. I've found that the most consistently wonderful croissants are found early in the day-----before 10 AM. If you get lucky and get them coming right out of the oven, they're heavenly. However, if they've been sitting a while, they seem heavier and chewier. As for buttery.......I simply cannot agree with your assessment. I feel like I'm consuming a whole stick of it in every bite.

                                As an aside....we skip the Claude coffee (which isn't really bad at all) and walk around the corner to Waverly St where you can find the most amazing lattes this side of Seattle....at "Joe" If you're not a coffee lover, you will still marvel at the artistic appearance of these lattes........while you order your bottle of water.

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: baltovet
                                  n
                                  nativeNYer Mar 9, 2008 11:29 PM

                                  yup, i did arrive well past 10am. i think my expectations were also way too high. i've never returned but perhaps i well one day. problem is, i don't think i'll ever be in that nabe around 10am.

                                  1. re: nativeNYer
                                    h
                                    HLing Mar 10, 2008 01:22 AM

                                    also check out Madeleine on 23rd across the street from Tek Serv for the ham and cheese croissant and alomd croissant. last i tried they were better than ceci cela's.

                                    i've had delicious plain croissant from the Grandaisy bakery on 72nd next to Gray's Papaya. it was light, not too grotequely big, many layered, and held together as a whole, which is saying it had resilience, not spineless floppy-ish, The 2nd time it wasn't as spectacular, but is still quite admirable.

                                    *edit: has anyone tried Zabar's croissant from France? Seems to be similar to Grandaisy's.

                                    1. re: HLing
                                      MMRuth Mar 10, 2008 04:51 AM

                                      At Madeleine, I'd try their pistachio pain au chocolat - loved it.

                                      1. re: HLing
                                        Peter Cuce Mar 10, 2008 11:42 AM

                                        I thought Grandaisy got their croissants from Ceci Cela?

                                        1. re: Peter Cuce
                                          h
                                          HLing Mar 11, 2008 10:45 PM

                                          i've only had ceci cela's almond croissants, which i didn't see at Grandaisy's. Come to think of it, i don''t remember having tried the plain at Ceci Cela, either, so, no cross reference for me.

                                        2. re: HLing
                                          n
                                          nativeNYer Mar 14, 2008 11:55 PM

                                          the croissants at GD never wowed me but i haven't tried them at the 72nd St. location... even though i practically live in that place. will try them again as well as at Madeleine. thanks!
                                          -NNY

                                      2. re: baltovet
                                        JoanN Mar 10, 2008 07:49 AM

                                        "What we have discovered is that there is some variability in the quality of the croissants from time to time"

                                        I think that must be true. I was there a few weeks ago with friends who were visiting from France and wanted to see how a NYC croissant compared with those from home. They were very favorably impressed. The ones we had were most definitely not heavy and chewy, and the outside was crispy all around, not just at the edges. I'll have to try Soutine, though. It's right near me and I've never had them from there.

                                      3. p
                                        peachtart Mar 10, 2008 03:46 AM

                                        Try Petrossian to fill the void.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: peachtart
                                          s
                                          shivohum Mar 12, 2008 08:05 AM

                                          Yeah, Petrossian's Cafe is the best I've found so far, and quite good on an absolute scale. Actually, the (admittedly heavily coated and filled) chocolate/aomond croissant at Tisserie was pretty good, too. And, if you need a chain store fix for a croissant -- try Pret a Manger.

                                          1. re: shivohum
                                            Ora Mar 17, 2008 09:15 AM

                                            I like the baked goods at Petrossian as well. But I have to say I gave up on going there as the service is highly variable. Too hard to swing from excellent to terrible at the same place only days apart...Sad.

                                            1. re: Ora
                                              Peter Cuce Mar 18, 2008 12:36 PM

                                              If you're downtown you can get Petrossian's pain au chocolat and croissants from La Colombe on Lispenard. Super friendly service there.

                                        2. c
                                          cam Mar 10, 2008 11:11 AM

                                          By chance, I also happened to stumble in to Claude's this weekend (Sat AM) based on Hounds recs. Got a chocolate and a plain croissant. Chocolate was tasty but the plain could have come from any grocery store.

                                          1. vanessanyc Mar 14, 2008 06:30 PM

                                            I love the plain or chocolate croissants at Max Brenner's Chocolate by the Bald Man.

                                            1. Nick F. Mar 15, 2008 09:30 AM

                                              Alright!

                                              Enough of this madness!

                                              As the great defender (self-appointed) of Claude on this board, I must intervene!

                                              Look. The guys a nutter. And he's old. The best story I have about him is that my pops went in there to get a croissant at around 6am while jogging and presented Claude with a 20 for two pain au chocolat.

                                              Claude crumpled up the 20 and threw it in my dad's face.

                                              The guy's obviously got character. His mannerisms and eccentricities are a natural intersections of French and New york grumpiness (frumpiness?) that I find quite delightful.

                                              But the guy's been here twice as long as I've been alive! Maybe his croissants were better in the day. If you ask me, they're still delicious when gotten FRESH (I do not believe in microwaving croissants). But, having been to Paris, I could only conclude that Claude's Pain au Chocolat was the best I'd ever had.

                                              Now look, you can call me spoiled. I certainly had Claude's first. But still, his croissants are fantastic in terms of price, quality and therefore value. The other places you would find croissants that you are mentioning (Balthazar, Ceci-Cela) would charge twice as much and usually deliver, if you would ask me, a lesser to almost-as-good quality.

                                              While I am not denying the validity of a disappointment with Claude's, being a film student, I would like to compare your experience to a recent film: Charlie Wilson's War. Now, those who saw that movie might have been disappointed. They know it was made by a master who has done great work (Nichols). They know it's got the best people (Hanks, Roberts, Hoffman). However, it wasn't as good as The Graduate (Nichols' best work) or other films they could hold it up to. However, if you were just to experience the movie for what it was, for the work of an aging master, for its quality and performances, you might enjoy it more as opposed to being disappointed.

                                              For me, the worst thing that could happen from this thread is people turn off to Claude's or think that they're some overhyped dinosaur. The truth is though, Claude's is a damn good pain-au-chocolat and a Village landmark. I think even in its twilight when lessened, the work of a master should be appreciated for what it is: still damn good.

                                              Addendum- The fact that Max Brenner is being compared to Claude's is my point. God. What has this world come to.

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: Nick F.
                                                n
                                                nativeNYer Mar 15, 2008 10:13 AM

                                                Although I was the op who was disappointed with the croissants the day I tried them, I completely agree with your post. The place is clearly an institution and, based on what others have said as well as my own observations of the place, I definitely regard Claude as a unique 'aging master' who should be held in very high regard. I appreciate your film analogy. I think my expectations were way too high, walking in there that day and after reading the reviews here, that they were bound to fall short. i really wanted to love this place. how could you not? we need more places like this and i am in awe of his ability to keep his business alive for countless years by selling...simply croissants! that must say a whole lot about him. if only i could get down there before 11am!!!!!

                                                1. re: Nick F.
                                                  guttergourmet Mar 16, 2008 05:39 AM

                                                  Amen-Hail Claude.

                                                  1. re: guttergourmet
                                                    MMRuth Mar 16, 2008 05:49 AM

                                                    You've inspired me - I have to go return something to the Gourmet Garage down there and am going to stop in again!! And, FWIW, and I've posted this before, he's never been anything but incredibly sweet to me, and it's not as if I'm a regular, by any means.

                                                    1. re: MMRuth
                                                      MMRuth Mar 16, 2008 07:15 AM

                                                      I just finished half a croissant and half a pain au chocolate, and they were delicious. Claude did look a little grumpy, but I didn't have any interaction with him. I did notice that quite a few of the croissants verged on looking burnt, but luckily I didn't get one of those. Off to pick up the crumbs!

                                                      1. re: MMRuth
                                                        MMRuth Mar 17, 2008 04:59 AM

                                                        As a follow up, I just had the other half of the pain au chocolat, heated up on top of the toaster and, aside from the taste of butter and good chocolate, it bore absolutely no resemblance to the half I ate yesterday morning.

                                                        1. re: MMRuth
                                                          n
                                                          nativeNYer Mar 17, 2008 08:28 AM

                                                          the key really does seem to get there right after they are made. I still miss Le Baguette Shop that moved from univ and 12th. They had the best croissants even as late at 8pm!

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