Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Day Fourteen: Tartelette à la banane et crème brûlée, Bread and Roses

My child-free afternoon was planned to the nanosecond: first, Doisneau exhibit (you know, the guy who took the famous shot of the couple snogging in front of the Hotel De Ville) at the Fondation Cartier-Bresson, then a quick workout, then perhaps coffee with today's pastry and my new New York Magazine. But, yeah, best-laid-plans, yada yada. I got to the HCB Fondation and the line was around the block. I thought about waiting, but about 10 seconds later the heavens opened. I quickly ran in the other direction; after a block I turned around to see if the crowd had scattered, but those wacky, now soaked, photography fans were hanging in there, god bless 'em. Zut, alors!

Started heading toward the gym but my route led me past the Montparnasse shopping center. Somehow though - or perhaps because - I had nothing I needed to buy and saw nothing I wanted to buy, I managed to waste over an hour. By the time I'd finished my workout there was only time to run to a nearby pâtisserie before nursery pickup. I remembered that before we hit Christian Constant last week my friend Mei had also pointed out Bread and Roses, an adorable little place a block from the Jardin du Luxembourg. While we had only quickly peered in the window that morning, I distinctly remembered seeing something about banana and creme brulee - the former of which is my favorite and the latter is my husband's.

Again escaping the rain I ducked into the cozy little shop, which is also a restaurant/cafe - one that clearly does a brisk business all day because there are fewer than a dozen pastries left. Thankfully, one of those is the Tartelette à la banane et crème brûlée (phew!). I place my order and while I wait to pay, I overhear several Americans delivering a business pitch behind me. I had been curious about the name - yet another in English, attributed by Wikipedia to a Massachusetts textile strike - quoi? - but am reminded Americans flock to this area, rich with upscale hotels and shops, not to mention the Gardens.

Hubby is psyched to hear the words Crème and Brûlée (I confess I quickly mumble through the rest) and after the first bite it's an out-and-out war for the remains. The three or four forkfuls I manage to grab are absolutely divine. The crust is crunchy, grahamy, delicious. The custard is rich, creamy, an incredibly authentic vanilla flavor. Given how refined French custards usually are I'm surprised - and pleasantly so - to find chunks of fresh banana. My one criticism would be that the top is not at all crunchy - as the word brûlée implies.

As it turns out, Bread and Roses is a "bio" bakery - and I am forced to once again retract my sweeping condemnation of organic pâtisserie. I think the flavors and the pastry at B/R are terrific. Despite its soggy beginning, this day got its photo finish!

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