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Heads Up--Pain Poilane at Gourmet Corner San Mateo

I dropped by Gourmet Corner late this afternoon, and the owners were busy unloading their latest shipment of goodies from France. In addition to some spanking fresh chevres, Langres, Fougerus, beurre de baratte, etc., there were maybe a dozen loaves of Pain Poilane. I couldn't resist walking away with a loaf, which, at $14, was not a cheap treat, but with a slab of French butter as well a crock of that superb Clover Farmstead butter on the side, any chowhound should be happy!

Mrs. de Vernou said that they are testing the waters to see if there's a market for the bread, though she suspects that the few loaves they have will go quite quickly.

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  1. How fresh was the loaf?

    1. $14 for the whole loaf is not bad at all since it is about 8+ Euro in Paris, I believe. Of course, as Stilton asked, freshness/quality is the issue.
      Nothing so special in its own homeland but might be a contender in this town.
      I have seen prices like $-12 for a QUARTER loaf, so this is a bargain by comparison for the experiment.

      3 Replies
      1. re: dietndesire

        Just had some for breakfast--I warmed up a couple of slices and ate one cold, and the bread was pretty fresh. I'd buy it again. Wonderful with just butter!

        1. re: pilinut

          How did you store it and heat it up?
          Some bread will hold a day in certain bags, otherwise, frozen is actually quite preferable besides brand spanking new.
          Also, for heating, sprinkle water on the crust, just some flicks with a wet hand.
          Then the oven, gives the crust the crunch back.
          Good news if the bread was good. Nice find.

          1. re: dietndesire

            The Poilane miche is made exclusively with a wild yeast starter (sourdough). Due to the lower pH and its large size, this bread keeps well for several days. I think that Poilane used to say that it actually was best a few days after baking since the flavor continued to develop.

      2. A friend who worked at Kermit Lynch passed along some a couple of year ago when Kermit bought a big batch for his employees. The bags are delightful, I think we still have it on the fridge. It's fun for a change, but Acme levain is better. Even in Paris I get homesick for Acme.

        Note that Poilâne loaves weigh around 4 lbs., so at $14 they're only slightly more expensive. The dense crumb does make it particularly good for croques.

          1. re: Kim Cooper

            They guys that used to own Le Village opened Gourmet Corner last summer.

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            The Gourmet Corner
            873 N San Mateo Drive, San Mateo, CA 94401

            1. re: larochelle

              The Gourmet Corner owner used to own Made in France/Village Imports Warehouse in Brisbane, he has nothing to do with a "le Village " company.

              The pain Poilane is supposed to be stored at room temperature in the plastic bag it is sold with. It can last for days. You can also wrap it in a linen.

              Slice it and toast it (to make any spreading easier) at the last moment.
              Idealy it should be toasted only one side. How to do it with a regular toaster?
              Insert two slices back to back in the toaster.

              Do not reheat it in full in the oven (except if you eat it all) otherwise your left over will dry and be ruined.

              1. re: Esiole

                What is the rationale for toasting only one side? Which side would then be most ideal for buttering or jamming?

                1. re: stilton

                  Whichever side you like though from what I read, I assume poster meant toasted side so butter spreads more easily.
                  You can heat it in the oven, protect the open sides with alum foil if you don't want them to get the dry/toasted effect and you can sprinkle water on the crust a bit.

                  A plastic bag for storage is never ideal.

                  1. re: dietndesire

                    Plastic bags are perfect and allow the bread not to dry.

                    Check the specialist:
                    http://www.poilane.fr/pages/en/michem...

                    1. re: Esiole

                      Uh, yeah, it is called a bread box. I do not need to check their website for common information.
                      If your point is that their plastic bags are good and not the same as a typical plastic bag, fine, but make it clear.
                      Linen, while a good idea is probably not handy for many people either, does not mean it will not work.
                      Oh my, they say to take air out of the bag when freezing it and to use larger pieces for less surface exposure. Nobody else knows that either.
                      Also, I get the feeling you hold their bread as best in the world or France or what have you but it is not. Not to say it is not very good but "best" is just that.

                      1. re: dietndesire

                        I like Pain Poilâne best in the world. This is an opinion and, obviously, I have not tasted all the bread in the world. I have tried most of the bakeries in the Bay Area and love our local breads.

                        I have never bought a loaf outside France, so I do not know what we can buy in San Mateo. I hope to try it soon to compare today's California reality with my memories of miche, fresh from the wood-fired oven in Paris.

                        1. re: anyhow

                          The loaf was originally sold in a paper bag and you would keep it at home in a regular plastic bag. If it is sold now in a plastic bag, why not use it...

                          Poilane did bring back in fashion the bread that was eaten in France before WW II. Baguettes, batards, pain epis, flutes, ficelles ... to make it short; white breads did not exist in the old days, they appeared after the war in order to forget the dark breads that was eaten during the war.
                          When plastic bags did not exist linen was used. Now that paper towels exist, very few people still have or use linen napkins.

                          Poilane is not the best bread it is a different one than the one sold in any French bakery. You like it or not. Many bakers make bread by their own proven recipes, meaning that even a baguette will be different from one shop to another. It is true in any country, France included.

                          Anyway, Poilane's bread is a loaf, meaning you get slices of an off-white dough with little crust, it is rustic in shape and in taste and being a sourdough bread it has more taste than a neutral white bread.
                          When parisians started to rush in his store, wine bars and bistrot started to offer "tartines Poilane" slices of his bread with cheese, pates or prosciutto served with a salad.

                          It is because the bread is tasteful that you toast it only on one side in orderr to have more bread flavor than toast one.

                          Pain Poilane is one kind of bread done by one baker.
                          I did eat it for 20 years in France among other type of bread I appreciate too. I am a bread lover, specially a baguette lover (I eat 2 per day) as I prefer crust than dough. Wherever I live or travel there is always a baker who has an interesting bread recipe i enjoy. It is a question of personal taste and bread is like any other ingredient; you have different breads for different menus or dishes and it also depends of who your guests are.

                          To end my too long monologue, here is a little story about Poilane success:

                          When Poilane started to become popular in Paris, in the 70's, there were such a waiting line outside his bakery on Sundays' mornings that the eastern propaganda did spread out pictures taken from outside his bakery pretending that the French had to wait in line too in order to get their daily bread!

                      2. re: Esiole

                        I dont know what kinds of bags Poilane uses; in good US bread bakeries, bread has always been put into paper bags.

                        In modern times, some bakeries switched to plastic, probably because in their ignoreance customers requested it and it was also probably a lot cheaper.

                        As a longtime home-baker (including having made several variations of Poilane's levain, which is what I'm guessing this conversation is about), I always store bread that I'm not freezing in brown paper bags in a bread drawer (which is like a bread box). I also wrap bread tight when freezing--used to use heavy-duty plastic wrap, but for ecological reasons switched to heavy duty foil, which I tape closed.

                        1. re: Esiole

                          We pack store-bought bread in a paper bag and then in a plastic bag. This balances the Keep-it-moist and the keep-it-dry.
                          Bread I make at home we wrap in paper towels and then put in a plastic bag.

                    2. re: Esiole

                      Le Village is Village Imports' house brand and Web site. http://www.levillage.com

                      I think toasting both sides is better.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        Le Village is NOT related to the Village Imports. Le Village is not even in the Bay Area and only sells on line. The name only tried to trick the consumers thinking they are still buying their products from Made in France/Village Imports (Brisbane).
                        Compare the prices and you will see that it is not the same owners or the same type of business!

                        1. re: Esiole

                          levillage.com was the Web site of Made in France / Village Imports, as you can see from the old email below. It is now owned by Foodiva Corp. of Cheyenne, Wyoming, so maybe European Imports sold the Web site and kept the Brisbane wholesale facility? It still has many of the same products, such as Fabrique Delices sausages.

                          Dear Robert,

                          Buy specialty food treats and wines for Independance Day at:

                          MADE IN FRANCE / VILLAGE IMPORTS
                          European Gourmet Food Warehouse Sale

                          211 South Hill Drive
                          Brisbane, CA 94005
                          415-562-1120

                          Friday June 29th
                          (2:00pm - 6:00pm)
                          &
                          Saturday June 30th
                          (8:30am - 1:30pm)

                          Open warehouse updates now available at:
                          http://www.levillage.com/Page.bok?tem...

                2. I suggest to all you Poilane fans out there to give Trader Joe's Pain Pascal a try. They sell a half boule for about $5. Start off very fresh - almost too fresh. We wrap it in a kitchen towel and eat it for a week. It get's better wit a few days on it, until it starts to turn hard. But we almost never let it get to that state.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: moejurray

                    Second on that. I came across it for the first time yesterday. Similar to Poilâne, but I like it better. Half a loaf (1.5 lbs.) was $3.69. Sealed in a plastic bag, so no crunchy crust, pretty much needs to be toasted. 100% whole wheat, only other ingredients are flour and water. If it's not made by Acme, somebody's slavishly imitating their style.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Hasn't Acme made breads for TJ's before?

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                          the vendors for Bay Bread at one of the farmers' markets were selling loaves that looked identical to T-J's (at a higher price of course), and they said they were the source for the T-J's P.Pascal. i.m.o. it's the best decently-distributed artisan bread in oaktown, with a little more chew and complexity in the crumb than the typical Acme loaf. the wrapper is not the general purpose plastic bread bag and has a composition closer to the bags in which fresh pasta is sometimes sold.

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                          Bay Bread
                          2325 Pine St, San Francisco, CA 94115

                          1. re: moto

                            I can confirm that this loaf comes from Bay Bread, as they sent me one recently. I should also note, given my recent interaction with them, that Bay Bread care a great deal about quality control. I had a really exemplary customer service experience with them.

                            1. re: moto

                              I'm not surprised, the crumb is denser than anything I've ever had from Acme and the Pain Pascal is not very similar to Acme's whole-wheat levain.

                              Bay Bread is the wholesale operation affiliated with Pascal Rigo's La Boulange chain.

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                              Bay Bread
                              2325 Pine St, San Francisco, CA 94115