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Sunday
Aug152010

Cakewalk: A Sweet Tour of Levallois, France from Cake Gumshoe Robert

CakeSpy Note: The best part about being a professional cake gumshoe? Meeting other pastry enthusiasts and learning about their bakery adventures. What follows is a Gumshoe report of Levallois, which is just outside of Paris and dubbed "honorary 21st arrondissement", contributed by Robert N. Mayer of Salt Lake City. Who is this fella? "As a professor of Family and Consumer Studies at the University of Utah, I take my consumption seriously and believe that my findings should be validated by others.” 

This past April, CakeSpy reported having visited over the course of seven days a bakery (or other sugar‐oriented place) in each of Paris’ 20 districts (arrondissements). My first thought was that I should don my running shoes and try to perform the same feat in one day. But that would only attest to my envy.

Instead, I broke some new ground, literally. Just outside the Paris Périphérique Highway but still on the Metro line lies the city of Levallois‐Perret. Although it occupies less than one square mile, Levallois is full of street names that evoke French history (Danton, Voltaire, Victor Hugo), and, more important to me, is more densely packed with pâtisseries and boulangeries than any arrondissement in Paris proper. It also has a lively covered market on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, a pedestrian‐only street, and a quaint city hall.

It is ironic that rue Louise Michel (1830‐1905) is named after a French anarchist who sentenced to prison for leading a Paris mob in pillaging a baker's shop. That’s because rue Louise Michel is home to four fine bakeries:

Fougeret Henry, 16 rue Louise Michel

This is the archetype of a traditional, neighborhood bakery, down to the baby blue paint and paintings that surround the front door.

L’Atelier des Pains, 32 rue Louise Michel

With its original location in Courbevoie, this new bakery has taken Levallois by storm. From the front window, you can see their pastries and breads coming out of a huge, shiny over. The fruit tarts are especially good, but the lunch crowd lines up for their baguette sandwiches.

Maison Baillon, 57 rue Louise Michel

Baker Philippe Baillon has won the award for the best baguette in the Haut de Seine region three times in the last eight years. This shop in Levallois is his second, the original being in nearby Neuilly. I particularly like the well‐browned palmier.

Festival des Pains, 85 rue Louise Michel

The wide smile of the baker is almost as good as the pastries in this new shop; I zeroed in on the items with pistachios.

Of course, if you manage to escape rue Louise Michel with your sweet tooth intact, you are within two blocks of:

Boulangerie Alain Bernard, 6 place Henri Barbusse

Alain recently took over a bakery that used to attract me with its pear tart. Alain is partial to brioche dough. You practically need sunglasses to look at the brioche with its bright pink pralines.

G Jusseaume, 16, rue Henri Barbusse

OK, this is technically a traiteur rather than a patisserie, but the shop (located on the pedestrians‐only block) makes its pastries on site. I enjoyed the fruit tart shaped like a bird’s nest.

Eric Kayser, 19 rue Trébois

True, this is one of 19 locations in the Paris area, but even its chocolate chip cookie was worth trying.

Le Grenier à Pain, 53 rue du Président Wilson

Most bakeries occupy corner lots, but this one is tucked into the middle of the block. The breads are notable and change every day. I opted for a chocolate item that resembled a bouchon with its gooey middle.

If you get back on the metro at the Anatole France stop, you might stop at William Galland, 73 rue Carnot, where I learned to love the almond croissant, and Jeanne, 63 rue Voltaire.

You won’t find web sites for these (mostly) family‐owned bakeries. Nor will you hear a lot of English spoken in Levallois. It’s the real France. But the people will take the time to communicate with you if you’re willing to use whatever French you have and let them take it from there. 

CakeSpy Note: and it's a sure bet that if you try to communicate, the rewards will be sweet.

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