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Le Pain Quotidien

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Walk into Le Pain Quotidien Georgetown -- now in its second day of service -- and it's easy to get annoyed fast. The front room looks like it was designed by a relatively talented college drama club for a play set in a French bakery, in conjunction with Whole Foods marketing department: all exposed wood and marble and overpriced condiments on a faux-quaint breakfront and little notes on the shopping bag (hate that logo) about how they "Support Sustainable Farming for Future Generations."

Gag me.

The only saving grace is the racks of boules rising up against the back wall, boules that suggest the possibility of rising above the ordinary, the familiar...the quotidian. More in a moment.

There's an upstairs, which I declined to tour, and a back room, which looks a lot like what I remember of the back room of the previous tenant -- Pied Bistro -- on the one unmemorable time I dropped in. The room has the now-obligatory common table -- still bearing stacks of job applications and largely populated by what seemed to be veteran employees mashing together the restaurant's finishing touches. There's also a patio, which will surely be charming once the humidity drops, but which is now not populated at all, not even with furniture. LPQ will offer table service and -- someday -- Belgian beer and wine by the glass. Employees are enthusiastic, if not yet universally competent. But even a crank like myself can't fault the sweet young things behind the counter for not having the routine down by the second day.

I started with dessert: a $4.25 lemon tart that was fine, if not as good as my wife's. Then onto the boules, which are available whole (2 lb.), halved or by the quarter. And I came away a bit disappointed. First, let's dispense with the spelt. I admit I'm prejudiced, but when I dream of France I dream of a place where the authorities would lock you away for calling something made with spelt "bread." It was a little bland and spongy but, I suppose, serviceable. Likewise the walnut bread had a very fine mie, and seemed to lack a certain "je ne sais quoi" in both taste and texture while, admittedly, retaining a commendable credibility about itself. And I think sourdough is wasted on whole wheat ($5.75/half loaf) -- I would have preferred a nice peasant white or a blend that allowed a little more ferment and crannying, but it has a certain charm. And I suspect that on a day with lower humidity that its crust would be a force to be reckoned with.

And the $2.95 baguette -- baguette a la ancienne (French for "old school"). The baguette is a fuckin' keeper, as they say on Boul Mich. Matter of fact, it may be the best baguette I've ever bough within the circulation area of the Washington Post. Or the Denver Post. Or the New York Times. The crust (again, correcting for the humiditiy) could fend off an RPG while the mie withing is yeasty feast of creamy goodness. It reminds me of the Palladin back when Bread Line was firing on all cylinders. It's a little denser than many baguettes -- seems to be a theme here -- but lighter than the other breads and addictive from the first bite.

I am told that bakers need time to get used to new ovens and new climates. It will be interesting to see how the breads evolve -- or don't -- over the coming weeks. In the mean time, it looks like another errand has been added to the Saturday morning bagel-and-market run.


I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Wow Charles. With the lead in I thought you must have needed a caffeine infusion to overcome your grumpiness, but your finish makes it sound like it might actually be good. Thanks for the review. Now, next visit, take the camera...and not for the pretty young things...I want bread and pastries!

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Le Pain Quotidien's baguettes are my favorites in the New York market as well. Alain Coumont is, in my opinion, one of the world's greatest bakers, and those baguettes are a standard item on our table. I don't care that it's a chain -- there aren't any standalone bakeries anywhere near me making a competitive product.

I agree with your other assessments save for the whole wheat sourdough boule. It may be that your sample wasn't up to standard, however I've found this loaf to be one of the great examples of the sourdough art. Try living with a whole loaf for several days, starting by eating it fresh and then moving on to toast, then croutons, then breadcrumbs. The flavors are remarkable, and my friends who are more serious about bread than I am report that the technical aspects of the bread (crumb, etc.) are first rate.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Oooh Le Pain Quotidien is supposed to be opening up in T.O. soon. It looks like there may be a saving grace for a decent baguette in this city.

(Yes, I'm very much into bread, and have probably tried all that is available in any city I visit. However I'm picky with my breads. If everyone here is rooting for the baguettes then I really can't wait until they open! How does it compare to ACME though?)

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Holy Shit. I've been wondering when this joint was going to open.

My GF and I love the praline spread...I've been nursing this one jar we picked up in NYC.

I'm going to be down for the baguettes and praline.

Yeah Baby!

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The baguette flavor is excellent, but mine was marred by pockets of unincorporated flour. Not a fatal flaw, and I'd definitely go back for another. The croissant, pain au chocolat, and couque suisse, however, are not going to erase anyone's dreams of Paris.

Unlike Mr. Cranky upthread, I found the interior charming, but then it's designed to appeal to middle-aged housewives with pretensions of sophistication. :wink:


Edited by hjshorter (log)

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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I, too, found the interior to be charming and really enjoyed my tartine (as well as a nibble of the one ordered by my SO).

As for the apple almond tart we ordered...eh. Wasn't impressed.

But I enjoyed the rest, including the acacia honey I bought to take home with me. I say give the place a chance. It's only been open a few days and probably still needs to work out a few kinks.

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I, too, found the interior to be charming and really enjoyed my tartine (as well as a nibble of the one ordered by my SO). 

As for the apple almond tart we ordered...eh.  Wasn't impressed. 

But I enjoyed the rest, including the acacia honey I bought to take home with me.  I say give the place a chance.  It's only been open a few days and probably still needs to work out a few kinks.

I discovered that "tartine" is French for "really skimpy sandwich". You learn something new everyday!


Mark

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Skipped in for a couple of baguettes Saturday morning and while I maintain that the entry room has all the sincerity of a Potbelly Sandwich Works the patio was open and the upstairs was a warmth of oak flooring and exposed brick an chiaroscuro lighting. Baguettes rocked, too.


I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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