Though we all wish we could jet off to Paris for a quick croissant and cappuccino, this may be the next best thing. Founded in France over 125 years ago, Paul Bakeries can now be found all over the globe, including their latest shops at Assembly Row in Somerville, the Natick Mall, Boston’s Downtown Crossing, and 3rd Ave in Burlington.
While the recipes have been passed down through generations, the decor is an elegant blend of old and new, featuring paneled walls, checkered floors and faux bookshelves. Chances are you’ll only be able to notice one thing – the massive display full of fresh sandwiches, quiches and homemade pastries, all of it made on-site under the watchful eye of Laetitia Steinier.
“We take a lot of pride in what we do, and we try to do it well every single day,” she said.
Like Laetitia, many of the staff members at Paul are French themselves, so you can trust they hold their bread to a very high standard. A single batch of baguettes takes over seven hours to prepare and undergoes thorough inspection before it can be sold.
“One big thing, we smell all the bread,” Laetitia explained. “The smell is part of the test. Smelling the bread itself is like getting the identity of your bread. Usually, when people put additive, you can smell it inside. And this one is pure and very simple.”
Another French favorite, the croissant, is given the star treatment to make sure it, too, comes out pure and simply delicious. Other classics include ripe berry tarts and rich chocolate eclairs, made using high quality milk and fresh-cracked eggs.
“When you go get a pastry, you want to pamper yourself. Let’s get the pleasure of eating something good and made with the real ingredients. That’s what makes the big difference,” said Laetitia.
While we’ve all heard of eclairs and baguettes, you may not be familiar with some of the other traditional items here at Paul… but you certainly should be! Take the Croque Monsieur, for example – a fancy take on a grilled cheese sandwich, boasting housemade bread, Swiss cheese and thinly sliced ham.
“I would qualify it as comfort food,” said Laetitia. “When you bite into it, you’re transported.”
For a less homey flavor, try the croque made with shredded salmon and chopped leeks. However, Laetitia’s personal favorite is the Croque Madame served with a side salad.
“You take the Croque Monsieur, you add the fried egg on top, and you turn it into a Croque Madame. You have the yellow of the egg soaking a little bit into it, making it even better,” Laetitia explained.
Paul also offers plenty of quiche, like the Quiche Lorraine featuring a flaky puff pastry shell packed with ham, Swiss and pancetta. There are crepes for every occasion, from sweet treats stuffed with Nutella, to more savory options, including the mozzarella and spinach topped with prosciutto and artichoke hearts.
“That particular crepe, you want a good sandwich but you don’t want the bread. And you would substitute the bread with the crepe. That’s what it would taste like.”
When it comes to bread this good, though, you really shouldn’t pass it up, especially when it’s loaded with your favorite meats and veggies. For sandwiches, the simple Mixte is the standard.
“From great bread, you’re making great sandwiches. Bread. Butter. Ham. Cheese,” described Laetitia.
But you can also get a little more adventurous with the chicken avocado sandwich served on poppy seed bread. It isn’t just a baguette rolled in poppy seeds; the loaf has candied lemon peels baked right into the dough.
While the poppy seed bread may be inventive, nothing will spark your interest more than Paul’s macarons served three different ways. You can get mini macarons served by the dozen, or you can order up a true mouthful with one of Paul’s mega-sized macarons.
“Sometimes I hear kids say, ‘Oh, that’s a big, sweet burger,’” Laetitia said. “No, no, no. It’s a big macaron!”
You can even get your macarons made into a frappe bursting with whipped cream.
Plenty of options for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert, all of them simple and, as Laetitia will warn you, downright addictive.
“I met with a guest and she says, ‘Oh I’ve become addicted to that place.’ And I said, ‘You know, there are some addictions that you can be proud of.’ And I think that being addicted with Paul is a great addiction.”
You can find Paul Bakeries in Somerville, Natick, Boston and Burlington. Their website is paul-usa.com.
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