It would be a full time job, visiting and documenting all of the pastry shops in Paris. And I am just the person to do it, so if you know anyone who is hiring, let me know.
In the meantime, here is a recap of the two bakeries I frequented the most on my last trek to the City of Lights:
Poilane - I average a total of 6-7 patisserie visits every time I visit Paris, but nothing tops this 80 year-old bakery. First, there is the remarkable story about how the owners tragically died in a plane crash in 2001 and how their brilliant and resilient-minded daughter Apollonia (a student at Harvard at the time) and loyal staff carried on the legacy of Lionel and Irene Poilane.
There are now newer outposts, but I always pop into Poilane’s original store in the St. Germain (6th district). You will most likely be welcomed with a fresh-out-of-the-oven shortbread cookie as you peruse the loaves of bread and pastries scattered throughout the store.
If you get a chance, sneak a peak into their back room and the downstairs cellar where the bakers bust out the same style and technique used by their 1932 predecessors to create their iconic sourdough.
Don’t leave without trying a pomme (apple) tartin, and make room in your luggage to take back one of their signature country sourdough loaves. They stay fresh for up to a week.
Local’s alternative: If your suitcase is already filled to the brim with contraband pate, meat, and wine, you can pick up a hunk of Poilane’s sourdough loaf at Seattle’s Metropolitan Market. It is not quite the same as scoring a fresh loaf, but smear it with some Christine Ferber jam, and you will find it almost just as satisfying.
Gaetan Romp: When you see hoards of local business people B-lining it to Gatean ROMP when there are competing bakeries within a few block radius, you know there is something special going down.
In fact, dare I say you will find one of the best croissants in the city?
Rated the second best baguette in the city, their baguette sandwiches rule. In particular, I fancy the rendition with pate and cornichons so much I make a deliberate pit stop every time I make my annual pilgrimage to the extraordinary multi-leveled department stores in the Opera district: Lafayette and Printemps.
Not planning a trip to Paris anytime soon? Head over to Ballard and let Cafe Besalu’s plain croissant with housemade jam and pain au chocolat fill the void.