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Finding real French croissants in Tampa

RandyB Mar 22, 2011 01:16 PM

I am always in search of really good, French croissants, and my standards are high. (See http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/762135 for my detailed list of criteria.) I always try the plain croissants first and pain au chocolat second. Filled croissants, etc., do not really show the quality of the pastry itself.

My main searches have been in Paris, Seattle, Manhattan, and San Francisco, but a recent trip to Tampa gave me a chance to visit two local bakeries. I tried both in the AM, to be sure of getting fresh products.

The first was Amelie's French Bakery & Cafe, 1633 W Snow Ave. (The webite links on Yelp, etc., all point to a similarly named bakery in Charlotte, and I don't have a correct link for the one in Tampa.) The croissant was enjoyable in its own way, though not much like a really good French croissant. Too light and with too little to bite on in the middle. It did not leave me interested in trying a regular pain au chocolat. I did try a twice-baked chocolate croissant. It was very nice, with lots of chocolate, but that left the pastry a bit heavy.

My second try was at l'Eden Restaurant and Bar, also opening early as a cafe and bakery. Both the plain croissant and the pain au chocolat were very good. They had the flakyiness I expect, with a good texture in the middle. They were better than most in the US cities I've visited, and would both be quite respectable in Paris. This latter comment is actually high praise, considering the mediocrity of the average Parisian croissant these days. My one criticism is that they could use a more flavorful butter, although the butter taste was still pretty good.

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L'Eden
500 N Tampa St, Tampa, FL 33602

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  1. sunshine842 RE: RandyB Mar 22, 2011 01:33 PM

    Try Au Rendezvous, at 200 E. Madison, right downtown. The owner is from Marseille and does as good a croissant as you're going to find with US flour (which I've heard him apologize for...)

    4 Replies
    1. re: sunshine842
      RandyB RE: sunshine842 Mar 22, 2011 01:50 PM

      I'm not sure why he is apologizing for using US flour. There was a period when some of the best bakers in France used American flours because the French ones were either not as good or not consistent in milling, gluten content, storage, etc.

      The best croissants I've found in the US would be among the top few in Paris, and are made with US flours. King Arthur Galahad is excellent, for example. (That's the commercial version; the home version is just KAF All Purpose in the red bag.)

      More problematic is the yeast and butter, but there are American ones that work well. The bottom line is that it's the skill of the baker and how they select ingredients, French or American, that matters.

      Meanwhile, I am back in Seattle, so no chance to try Au Rendezvous. But I do get to enjoy (hah!) the cold weather.

      By the way, the owner of l"Eden is also from Marseille.

      1. re: RandyB
        sunshine842 RE: RandyB Mar 22, 2011 03:00 PM

        I haven't been there in a couple of years (I'm in HIS native land!) -- most folks aren't aware of the difference in flours, but there are a few who are, and at that time he was still eyeball deep in startup costs, so he had to use US pastry flour.

        Damned good croissants, though...I imagine by now he's up to using the KF or a similar European style flour, and I'll bet they're even better.

        The rest of his food is really good, too -- the only time it's ever been questionable was the day I made the stupid mistake of going there for lunch when Les Bleus were playing in the World Cup, and they had the satellite TV going in the kitchen (and none of the kitchen folk were paying much attention to the kitchen!) The next day was the famous Zidane head butt, and it was back to business as usually. It was still good -- it just wasn't up to their usual standard, and I shoulda known better.

        1. re: sunshine842
          j
          jfischer27 RE: sunshine842 Mar 23, 2011 05:15 AM

          Well, since I hadven't had the chance to try Au Rendezvous I decided to check around, and according to Yelp its been closed for several years. The good news though is that the man that owned Au Rendezvous is the same person that opened L'Eden. That might explain the quality of the croissants at both.

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          L'Eden
          500 N Tampa St, Tampa, FL 33602

          1. re: jfischer27
            sunshine842 RE: jfischer27 Mar 23, 2011 05:20 AM

            heh.

            while I'm sorry the first go-round didn't work, I'm glad to see that he's bounced back.

            (just for the record, I DID google, and found current listings on several sites, so figured he was still there!)

    2. askdrtodd RE: RandyB Mar 22, 2011 03:02 PM

      I'm with you on L'Eden, I thought that was one of the better ones I've had in the bay if not the best.

      1. m
        Miss E RE: RandyB Mar 22, 2011 08:15 PM

        I agree with you that Amelie's croissant is not very impressive. The twice-baked chocolate croissant is tasty but rich and heavy. If they make a real pain au chocolat, I did not see it. The almond twice-baked croissant is too sweet for me, moist and sticky, not a croissant at all. However: I think this place is a great addition to Hyde Park, I hope it succeeds, and I plan to be a regular customer even if the croissants are a bit weird. Has anyone tried the baguettes?

        Btw, I like Pane Rustica's croissants for flakiness and buttery flavor.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Miss E
          askdrtodd RE: Miss E Mar 23, 2011 06:17 AM

          Miss E- not sure how the hell I forgot about Pane, they're also excellent

          1. re: askdrtodd
            o
            Old E. RE: askdrtodd Mar 23, 2011 06:38 AM

            Todd, you are slipping. :)

            PR does make good croissants. Amelie's is a nice addition to Hyde park, but their selection is very limited at this time. Huge space, tiny "menu."

            1. re: Old E.
              j
              jfischer27 RE: Old E. Mar 23, 2011 06:51 AM

              Hopefully the "menu" expands then. One of the article's online led me to believe that they are at least sort of related to the Amelie's in Charlotte - which is actually a nice place to hang out, with an enjoyably large selection of menu items. (That were tasty, too!)

              1. re: Old E.
                m
                Miss E RE: Old E. Mar 23, 2011 07:22 AM

                I think I read the same article, and I think it said that they plan to expand the menu slowly to include tartines and soups and salads and the like. Their space is huge! I never noticed how big it is when BT was in there. Amelie's did a good job creating little seating areas with couches and cafe tables; they need more outdoor seating, and perhaps some umbrellas or an awning for shade.

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