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Can It Be?! Is Our Beautiful City Finally Getting a Terrific French Bakery?

After today's news in Eater, I am trying to hold in the reins. Oh me, i've been complaining about Boston's sad crappy bakery scene for so long now, it is really hard for me to believe that a new longed-for era may be dawning!
According to Eater, Madeleine should be opening very soon. So many of us would love to end our complaining and finally have a great new ______(Mexican place, Burmese spot, etc etc) and a Pattisserie/Boulangerie as good as SF's Boulangerie on Pine is at the top of my list, so pleeeze, CHs, keep us appraised of this new opening. I am so hopeful that quality and variety will be terrific!!


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  1. Is this measurably different than say Tatte? Or Clear Flour (which I still have not visited but based on the feedback here is well deserving of its praises)?
    A colleague was recently on the Continent and folks there extolled the virtues of the soon to open Paul as well.
    Maybe not quite the desert (dessert?) wasteland (waistband?) you suggest it is?

    3 Replies
    1. re: Bob Dobalina

      The Boston metro area has some decent bakeries and such. I am not a fan of Tatte at all, I find it over-rated and the preciousness of the clientele gives me the shpilkes. I like the High Price, even if the clientele is also unpleasant. But that's Cambridge.

      Boston isn't Paris when it comes to French bakeries, but it isn't that bad.

      1. re: Uncle Yabai

        Shpilkes, such a great word. My Italian SO was commenting on how yiddish is SO onamatopoetic!

        1. re: StriperGuy

          cool word for sure. Is there a good word or expression for 'gives me the creeps'? i bet a bunch of different languages have fun words for that!

    2. I was excited to read that Madeleine is being run by people who worked at PB Boulangerie & Bistro, but I must disagree about the "sad crappy bakery scene."

      I don't know anything about specifically French bakeries, but I have had excellent baked goods at Petsi Pies, Flour, Ula, and probably other places I can't recall right now since it's 4am.

      Oh, and of course 3 Little Figs. I'm not fond of their sandwiches, but their pastries are divine and I would give up an arm (preferably the left one, so I can still grab their fig and pear scone with my dominant hand and stuff it in my mouth) if they only had longer hours.

      1. I do not think that the Boston or surrounding areas are a "sad crappy bakery scene " at all Clear Flour for one will be supplying Madeleine all of their bread. Flour and Iggy's also come to mind right away , hopefully Madeleine will be a great addition to the area. No need to put down what we have in the area already though

        5 Replies
        1. re: Slimshady1261

          Nice post, I agree we have some decent bakeries, which you mention, in our area. Plus, many ethnic bakeries all over.

          1. re: Slimshady1261

            I've REALLY been enjoying Nashoba Brook Bakery's bread, which I get at Wilson Farm. There is good bread around, but you have to look for it.

            1. re: Chris VR

              Iggy's bread is excellent and widely available.

              1. re: Chris VR

                +1 on the Nashoba Brook breads. The favorite at our house is a seeded ficelle that we buy at the main bakery in West Concord. To me, the bagged Nashoba breads sold at some grocery stores don't have the same appeal.

                In West Concord they also carry tasty, individually portioned desserts that we love as a treat. There's an intensely chocolate Hampton (Hamptons?) cake that my husband goes for. Scrumptious, though I love the individual Boston cream pie when they have it -- a great example of this classic dessert both times I've partaken. Very pretty desserts that taste as good as they look.

                The take-home soups are also worth trying. This past winter, we often used one as a quick, light weeknight meal with their seeded ficelle bread.

              2. re: Slimshady1261

                Flour and Iggy's rock but Flour is more about cake-like things and Iggy's is more about bread-like things.

                Thinking about really good pastry-like things is pretty exciting.

              3. I saw the PB Boulangerie mention and I got so excited. I was just in Wellfleet last weekend and was wondering if I was being ridiculous for getting up early and waiting in a 30 minute line for a few pastries for my friends and I (I'm there every summer and always try to go once). I mean, it's just a pastry. Yup, it was worth it. I almost cried over the almond croissant. And dear god, they have it listed on the Madeleine menu that was posted online - if it's the same I might just die.

                On another note - I don't think the bakeries are all that bad here in Boston either. I really like 3 Little Figs. I also enjoy Flour and Tatte. Although, I guess I don't tear up over them (and they seem overly expensive to me). There is just something really special about PB Boulangerie in Wellfleet. It feels european. There is just something so nice about enjoying a coffee and even just one pastry and just eating it really slowly and savoring every sip and bite. When I go to Flour or Tatte it is usually a shitshow in there and I end up just bringing my pastries back to my desk and eating whilst typing on my computer. Maybe that's the problem...

                12 Replies
                1. re: kdemayo

                  I'll be more than a little surprised if PB in Boston is as mellow as your Wellfleet experience. We don't do "mellow" well here. And I'm with most posters: I'll look forward to this but I do manage with excellent Clear Flour, very good Japonaise croissants, Iggy's, even Athans for some things, as well as ethnic baked goods from Belmont and Watertown and special occasion cakes from Vicki Lee. So it's great to have something new coming, but I'm also grateful for what I can get here.

                  1. re: kdemayo

                    Love PB too, but I have to say that Maison Villatte, in Falmouth, represents PB's "better half." As you may know, Boris, the main baker at PB (and the "B" in the original name) has left PB, and gone to Falmouth to open his own place. It is, IMHO, significantly *better* than PB--it's like PB was when it first opened, only with more seating, and a much, much broader selection of "close your eyes and you could be in Paris" selection of pastries. It's by far the best place I've found East of NYC.

                    1. re: winedude

                      I did not know about this! Damnit! Thanks so much for the tip. I will check it out as soon as I possibly can. :)

                      1. re: winedude

                        I have been to both numerous times and Maison Villatte is significantly better now than PB. I had thought that the baguettes at Maison Villatte were the best I have had on this side of the Atlantic but I have to say that the Ancienne at Clear Flour is just as good as anything I had in Paris.

                        1. re: bakerboyz

                          It is. And yet we have a "sad crappy bakery scene" here. Go figure.

                          1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                            geez, you guys. You KNOW i am not talking about breads. Of COURSE we have an excellent bread scene; and for those who just love to jump on me, you know that i know that.For years I have vociferously praised Iggys, Clearflour, Pigs Fly. I am talking about PATISSERIE. And I am talking very speCIFically about Boulangerie on Pine in SF. So, if you are not familiar w/ it, i suggest you cut the attack. AND i am not talking about patisseries on the Cape, or in Hartford, or in Portland either, but HERE in Boston, my beautiful historically unique home which has so many excellent food places but has never had a Patisserie/Boulangerie to match, or even come close to, the aforementioned in SF. The End.

                            1. re: opinionatedchef

                              I knew exactly what you were talking about when you posted, even though you left a lot of what you just said out,
                              Hey, I'm excited for you and I hope it lives up to your expectations.
                              I'm sure we will hear about it either way.

                              A light shines in the darkness....

                              1. re: opinionatedchef

                                My bad. When I read you were complaining about "Boston's sad crappy bakery scene", I thought you were saying Boston had a sad crappy bakery scene.

                                1. re: opinionatedchef


                                  Not all boulangeries are patisseries. Not all patisseries are boulangeries. The La Boulange chain in SF does appear to be both, but it's in SF, so I honestly don't see why it should be considered pertinent to this discussion at all.

                                  This thread demonstrates that there are MANY fine boulangeries in Boston and the surrounding towns, some of which are also producing some fine Viennoiseries. I agree that the city could use a good French patisserie, particularly since I still vividly remember the days of Delphin's Gourmandise in Coolidge Corner. But even on that front I strongly disagree that we suffer from a "sad crappy bakery scene."

                                  1. re: opinionatedchef

                                    Ditto...I thought the pastries in Boston were just ok. Hit a few patisseries in Toronto and it's night and day....

                              2. re: winedude

                                Totally agreed on Maison Villatte. I would even venture to say that it's better than anything I've found in NYC. The viennoiserie is all superb, especially the pain au chocolat aux amandes. My favorites among the desserts are the apricot-pistachio tart and the Royale, a chocolate mousse-hazelnut-praline creation that I nearly dragged my family all the way to Falmouth for on my birthday.

                                Perhaps the most endearing part is that the baker (from the Loire Valley) seems not to have figured out that the "brownie au chocolat" doesn't get baked in a petit four pan.

                              3. Add When Pigs Fly to the list of excellent bread.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: StriperGuy

                                  also to add Bricco Paneterria in the North End some of the best bread in the North End now

                                  1. re: Slimshady1261

                                    totes. i stop there almost weekly now.

                                2. There is another new French bakery in town.
                                  Seigle D'or in Brighton which has just been open a few months.


                                  1. I see that Paul is going into One Boston Place downtown - do you think it's a contender on the pastry front? I enjoyed what I had from the one in South Beach, but it was mostly croissanty things (and the coffee was a real letdown!).

                                    I agree that we don't have a great supply of high end pastry shops at all, BTW (and that our bread options are a totally different matter, as you noted).

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: rlh

                                      rlh, sorry but " I know nawthink" about Paul !

                                      1. re: rlh

                                        Paul is a chain bakery. I enjoy it when I am in places that have ones but I don't consider it fine dining or fine patisserie or boulangerie any more than I do Au Bon Pain, especially if they change their menu for "American tastes".

                                        I actually do think Boston has a relatively crappy bakery/boulangerie/patisserie scene. It's not a wasteland but it has lots of room for improvement.

                                        1. re: rlh

                                          There are several Pauls in the neighborhood where I stay in London. It is a step up from Au Bon Pain; the pastry is flakier and what they serve is fresh and more French-ish. They have some individual quiches that I am partial to, and a good apricot pastry. But it is a chain, and it's not going to shake up the local bakery scene.

                                          1. re: fantundo

                                            Agreed on both points- it is a step up from ABP and also a completely different style of bakery. I actually like it rather a lot. I just don't want people to equate a shop which sells sandwiches in airports to a fine bakery.

                                            1. re: Scruffy The Cat

                                              this thread is reminding me of the breathless anticipation surrounding the opening of rosa mexicana, which turned out to be utterly meh.

                                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                I'm personally a big fan of my Paul experiences in Paris, though I know others are split. I did want to share though - I peeked in the window about two weeks ago and it looked like they'd made almost no progress at all. I'd be shocked if they pulled off their "Summer 2014" opening.

                                        2. I've been reading "any day now" for awhile. Plse someone, tell us when they open!

                                          13 Replies
                                            1. re: gracenote

                                              Nothing too exciting, nothing jumps out at me, can't understand the hype.

                                              1. re: treb

                                                Really? A proper tart aux pomme or pain au chocolate available routinely would be a delight to me! Time will tell....

                                                1. re: Science Chick

                                                  Clear Flour has excellent pain au chocolat and pain aux raisins as regular morning items.

                                                  Speaking of, I was amused to see this note about the sandwiches: "Fresh Baked Artisanal Breads from Clear Flour Bakery: French Baguette, Rustic Italian, Pain de Mie." Guess no one thought to warn the owners of this place that Clear Flour is part of "Boston's sad crappy bakery scene." A less-than-thrilling-looking lineup of all the usual suspects -- I cannot wait for the macaron to go the way of the fancy-ass cupcake -- does not inspire confidence, unless these are univerally out-of-this-world examples of same.

                                                  1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                    I think the OP was clear to point out that she has the highest regard for Clear Flour. But a great city can have more than ONE place to get quality baked goods, right? They aren't going to be a bread bakery...patisserie.....

                                              2. re: gracenote

                                                Just heard that they are opening tomorrow morning, August 25th.

                                                  1. re: calisson

                                                    I just took a walk over and got a couple of their version of the Bike Trail Cookies (oatmeal with lots of dried fruit), two croissants, and a lemon tart.

                                                    Ed and I were both very happy with the croissant which we enjoyed immediately upon arriving home. The rest will be afternoon tea and after dinner treats.

                                                    I'll do a page of first look photos this week.


                                                      1. re: BostonZest

                                                        Here is my first look in photos.


                                                        In Chowhound shorthand this is on the corner of Greenwich Park and Columbus across from Jay's Cafe.

                                                          1. re: BostonZest

                                                            "any pastry chef can make something look good, but it takes real talent to make it look good and taste wonderful."

                                                            Truer words were never spoken. Penny, you are one smart cookie!

                                                        1. re: calisson

                                                          Had our first visit to Café Madeleine yesterday around 1:00 PM. Space is very pretty, but disappointingly small. There are exactly 4 stools on which to sit, not a problem if you live nearby, or while the weather is nice, but otherwise it's strictly take-out. I think it will take them a little while to get their act together--the pain au chocolat was very good, but overcooked, as was the Cape Cod Oatmeal Raisin cookie that we had. The pastries were beautiful, but we didn't get to try them.

                                                          We'll try again, but I'll wait a bit until they get their oven skills moderated.

                                                    1. We finally made it in today and picked up a number of things. As Penny mentioned, Café Madeleine is a very classy professional production. When we got home with the booty, I tried a few bites of each thing.
                                                      The first big winner for me was the Signature Chocolate Cake, which has the brilliant addition of a layer of crunchy feuillete between the cake and the mousse. As with all the pastries I saw, it is sleekly decorated
                                                      and displayed, a bit Paris and Manhattan, in the South End.
                                                      The fraissier was pretty, but less successful. The white chocolate mousse and strawberry layers were fine but the cake was decidedly dry.

                                                      I had been very intrigued by the Tropezienne description,('Light, fluffy brioche, hints of candied orange peel, topped with almond streusel and filled with vanilla pastry cream") but it turned out to be pretty much a big, somewhat dry ,yellow muffin with bits of candied orange peel and a tasty butter crumb topping. Almond steusel? Vanilla pastry cream?? I didn't see them.

                                                      Ham and Cheese Croissants had potential( good structure, quality filling and parmesan topping) but were underbaked so the 1000 layers of whisper thin crunchy -was doughy and soft instead. But the basics were all there; nothing that couldn't be fixed by a bit more time in the oven.

                                                      Without intention, I apparently saved the biggest WOW! for the end. And what a Wow it is. It makes me think that one of the things we experience when a food dish becomes commonplace in our world- is to lose touch with the original, sometimes extraordinary version of that dish. Well, I would propose that after eating the Quiche Lorraine from Café Madeleine, you may never again think of Quiche Lorraine the same way you had before. Rubbery, bland, lifeless, raw crusted- none of that is evident here. What you do have is a 2" deep sturdy, buttery and flaky crust that holds together a rich creamy cheese custard with caramelized onions and ham and the perfect touch of nutmeg-- that has never seen the abuse of an oven too hot and for too long. No, it could only be LOVE that made this quiche!! Confidence, pride and the patience of love. Just remember- this is ethereal stuff: Don't nuke it! (But do oven- warm it til the custard begins to wobble and smell divine.)

                                                      I know some of you are rolling your eyes and howling by now, but hey, we all have our pleasures. I don't knock it when posters wax poetic over burgers and sausages and dogs and Q. Each to their own nirvana :-}

                                                      1. Based on one visit:

                                                        Meh: the signature madeleines. Not sure if the issue is that these aren't great specimens of the type, or I'm just not thrilled with even a good version.

                                                        Very good: brioche, pain aux raisins.

                                                        Excellent: pain au chocolat.

                                                        Awesome: almond croissant.

                                                        Didn't try anything outside the viennoiserie case. Not cheap, but at the low frequency with which I eat this kind of stuff, I'm happy to pay more. Nice addition to the South End.