Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Paris Boulanger - Christophe Vasseur's Du Pain et des Idées

Pain des amis

It's fitting that Christophe Vasseur's signature bread is his pain des amis as the welcome at this remarkable bakery must be the friendliest in Paris.  Two happy ladies preside over wooden racks supporting these moist, nutty, (and to me dark treacle flavoured), crusty square-cut breads along with soft sugared and unsugared North African brioche la mouna perfumed with orange blossom water, crusty boules aux céréales and pain pagnol.  Mini-pavés filled with, maybe, spinach and goat cheese or green olives sit alongside large, decorated, earthenware dishes of various catherine-wheel shaped viennoiserietarte fine aux pommes, tiny chouquettes (creamy filled choux buns) and my favourite apple turnovers, chaussons aux pommes.  This is a celebration of what can be achieved with flour, yeast, salt, water and a little alchemy.

Christophe Vasseur turned from businessman to boulanger nine years ago, learning on the job rather than paying for formal training.  In doing so he has learned the old ways and married them with his own ideas to come up with the pefect boulangerie.  So good is the pain des amis that these days even the chef Alain Ducasse sends a car daily  for supplies to serve in his restaurant at the Plaza Athénée.

The aroma of great baking hits you from several doors away.  Sacks of flour are piled in a corner contrasting with the opulence of the painted ceilings, large gilded mirrors and gold paint, celebrating its 1889 origins.  The shop is so perfectly over the top and the smell is so divine you don't want to leave.  I can't resist lingering at the communal table, set up outside, with my little apple turnover watching the steady stream of regulars arriving for their daily bread. 

The shop is located at the corner of rue Yves Toudic and rue de Marseille in the 10th arrondisement.  It's very close to the Canal St Martin, the fantastic Picasso Museum is nearby, as is  l'Hôtel Carnavalet where you can find the full history of Paris.  The now infamous La Perle bar is hereabouts too!

I first found this boulangerie over three years ago thanks to a Jamie Cahill's beautiful little pistachio-coloured book "Pâtisseries of Paris".  A gorgeous handy-sized tome broken down into arrondissements so that wherever you find yourself in Paris it will guide you to the best boulangerie or pâtisserie.

Du Pains et des Idées
34 rue Yves Toudic
Paris (10th)
Nearest Metro: Jacques Bonsergent
Open: Monday-Friday 06.45-20.00