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Oct 11, 2008 04:20 PM

Le Pain Quotidien: my first encounter with the boulangerie

I live just outside of downtown Toronto, and when i got back from my travels in september, what do I find under my building? A BOULANGERIE! Le Pain Quotidien. Awesome, I thought. How I had dreamt of having a near by boulangerie just like my days in Paris, where I can buy fresh bread and baguette everyday. I'm not very very fond of ace bakery, and when I buy their products (their baguette specifically), it's from a large chain store. Doesn't feel half as good as buying from a boulangerie. This must've been the answer to my prayers. Oh thank you, god of capitalism and good taste!

So i enter the store and look at their baguettes and breads. Not bad at all. THe store is clean and it's actually a huge coffee shop/restaurant (relatively speaking). So I ask for a baguette. And then comes that fateful moment: "That'll be $4.50 people," or something around that price.

$4.50? FOUR FIFTY for a baguette? Are you kidding me? I know my hood is a bit expensive, but FOUR FIFTY FOR A BAGUETTE? And that's how all the joy that had rushed through me minutes ago vanished and i died a little bit inside.

I mean, I don't think there's anywhere in Europe where you can find a baguette for CAD4.50. To me, the term 'boulangerie' brings with it certain traditions and practices: availability, affordability, friendly, etc. Le Pain Quotidien clearly failed the affordability part.

ANd that's it. Just had to give my rant. I'm back to square 1.

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  1. Le Pain Quotidien is a chain/franchise/non-independent...(you get the idea).

    You can search this board for a huuuuge thread.

    1. But did it taste good?

      1. They are an airport terminal place. They charge airport terminal prices. Lucky thing you're not a captive audience. Vote with your feet.

        1. While Ace baguettes may not be the finest on earth, they are damn good. Yes, they are a big commercial bakery now. But the product people raved about when they were a little shop on King St somehow isn't good enough any more. Rubbish. The new owners may very well downgrade the product, but I haven't noticed this yet.

          Ace baguettes taste fine when fresh from a supermarket bake off. The frozen, partially baked ones taste fine when fresh from my oven. And Ace baguettes still taste pretty good when reheated if you freeze them before they stale.

          Two independent shops in my neighbourhood make baguettes (Brick St; Bonjour Brioche). Both baguettes are very good. Neither, to my palate, is as good as Ace.

          The "French flour" baguettes at some Loblaw's are better than those from many "boulangeries".

          People rave about Premiere Moisson breads. I don't think their baguettes are as good as Ace (though I do love their olive breads) and they are also sold via bake off at supermarkets. They ain't no neighbourhood baker either.

          People rave about Fred's breads, but Fred's is no little boulangerie either. Indeed, Loblaw's now sells these breads too. Loblaw's also charges much more than you pay for Fred's breads at many smaller stores.

          Big doesn't necessarily equate to bad or small to good. Think of Dufflet, most of whose factory made pastries are still delicious after about 30 years. If you come from Brooklyn and are of a certain age, I'll bet you've never forgotten, and still miss, baking from the large chain called Ebinger's (defunct for almost four decades).

          I eagerly awaited Le Pain Quotidien after long hearing their hype, but I never got a chance to go there when they first opened. After hearing several consistent themes again and again, I decided not to bother. The major themes seemed to be: (1) unlike the baking in Europe; (2) mediocre at best: (3) ripoff. And, as pinprimp noted, it's also a multinational chain, and apparently doesn't even enforce a uniform high standard.

          Might an ordinary baguette be worth $4.50? Perhaps. But there's no need to pay that much to be satisfied. Poilane (not a baguette) is hyped as the best bread in the world. Well, maybe it is. I've never been to their original boulangerie in Paris. The Poilane bread sold, at great cost, in Toronto is NEVER fresh. It is not worth the price charged. And the "boulangerie" makes tens of thousands of loaves every day.

          Sometimes image exceeds taste. Sometimes image is everything.

          2 Replies
          1. re: embee

            I *think* what embee is saying is that big isn't necessarily bad and btw here's a few that aren't. While what embee says is true that doesn't pertain to airport terminal food which is universally terrible it seems. Believe me, Europe's is as bad as ours.

            Since there are 3 LPQ's in Toronto, why don't you let us know where you're searching for the elusive baguette at the right price? Perhaps one of us can help.

            1. re: Googs

              AH, well, I live @ yorkville and Yonge St. LPQ is right underneath me, literally!
              When I said I don't like ACE's products, I didn't actually mean the product itself. I just miss the experience of having 5 bakeries within a 1km vicinity, where I know the people working behind the counter, I can ask for a saltless baguette if need be, or a baguette 'bien cuire', etc. The whole experience is missing here. I thought I'd get it back when I saw LPQ open, but boy was I wrong.

          2. I've bought their overpriced breads and agree that they're nothing special. Their "Brunette" spread, however, is addictive as sin [and only available at LPQ I believe].

            6 Replies
            1. re: Smorgasbord

              If you don't mind me asking, what is the Brunette (and what makes it so tasty)?

                  1. re: OnDaGo

                    whatever... the baguettes are expensive :P

                  2. re: kerwintoronto

                    Oh. That doesn't sound promising (my mind went direct to nutella too).