Croissants revisited (SOHO)
My last report started a long thread here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/714016
This week I happened to be staying on Canal St and Broadway. This put two French bakeries in easy walking distance. One was Payard at 116 W Houston St. Their website says that's Greenwich Village. I visited them at around 10 am this morning, a time I'd expect croissants to be freshly baked.
Payard was closed (out of business, I think) when I started the old thread linked above. They are back, and the croissants are excellent. I give them a rare (for me) "A", where an even rarer A+ goes to Pierre Hermé in Paris and Cafe Besalu in Seattle. Payard's A gets them above most Paris bakeries on my scale. My standards for grading are back in that old thread.
Then I went on to Dominique Ansel, around the corner at 189 Spring St. They are (in)famous for the Cronut. I might have tried one, although they sound awful. Admittedly, I'm just not a fan of overly sweetened croissants. Anyway, the line was ridiculous. Even the line for croissants and other pastries, though short, took more than 10 minutes of waiting before my order was taken.
The DA croissants are excellent for flavor and outside flakiness. My problem is their size. They are big and the middle, while looking airy and wholly, is a tad bit too bready for me. A-. This means almost anyone, including me, would be happy with a DA croissant. But I'd go first to Payard, and also get served a lot faster.
A coffee digression:
In France, one of the most common coffee drinks people order is a café allongé. This is an extended pull of a regular French expresso (French spelling), the French version of an Americano (or vice versa). A regular double espresso may have a 22-24 second pour. An allongé or Long Black (Ozzie name for it) goes 42-44 seconds. An Americano is an espresso with hot water added, not run through the grinds.
I won't debate the merits of the café allongé. It's a taste acquired in the cafés of France. My point here is just that a French bakery any where should know what a café allongé is. Neither of the ones above had a clue.
I explained it to the servers at Payard and they graciously made me one. The server at Dominique Ansel just said she couldn't make anything that didn't have a button on the espresso machine.
As you will see in the OP in that 2010 thread linked above, back then the D&D croissants were flat and totally unappealing. It sounds like that may have changed dramatically.
Next time I'm in NY, I'll see if I can get there. Thanks for mentioning it.
Meanwhile, on my plane from NY I bit into the lemon tartelette from Payard I had not tasted when I made my first post in this thread. This is the fine Payard of old that I remember.
That crust is a perfect shortbread -style and the lemon custard lemony and delicious. Ok, it is a bit thicker in the crust and heavier in the custard than is de rigeur in Paris. The little meringue bits on top do nothing for me - too sweet, but just flick them off. This is just a fine lemon tart.
Next time I'd like to try their Opéra. A classic Opéra has 7 or 8 layers (depending on how you count) but is no more than 1" high. The main fillings are coffee buttercream and chocolate ganache. It take me 2+ days to create one at home. The real skill is getting each layer perfectly even. That is difficult enough that national pastry competitions may in some years include the Opéra in a near final round.
A good place to try them in Paris is Dalloyau (who invented it) or Lenôtre (who finally acknowledged a couple of years ago that they were not the inventor(.
I'm looking forward to see how Payard does with it. It certainly looked good. I just couldn't eat it then and, particularly with the warm weather there, it wouldn't have stood up long without refrigeration.