Compass

Daily Destination: Paris, France

Compass

(Photo: Leon Brocard / Flickr)

(Photo: Leon Brocard / Flickr)

Earlier this year, a jury declared the Paradis du Gourmand bakery the winner in its annual quest for the best baguettes in Paris. The prize is a big deal for the winning baker, Ridha Khadher: He becomes the official baguette purveyor for the presidential Elysée Palace for the next year. The contest demonstrates the status these long, slender loaves carry as a staple of French cuisine and culture.

More than 200 bread purveyors submitted samples to the judges, who immediately disqualified a quarter of the entries because they didn’t meet standards. In this competition, the perfect baguette is not only soft and white on the inside, crisp and golden on the outside and delectable throughout; it must be a certain length and weight, too.

More recently, bread hit the news in France for a less positive reason: Surveys show that the French are eating less bread. “The average Frenchman these days eats only half a baguette a day compared with almost a whole baguette in 1970 and more than three in 1900,” according to a New York Times story this week.

This has so worried breadmakers that they’ve come up with a new campaign to get bread back into shoppers’ baskets. It asks, “Coucou, tu as pris le pain?” (“Hi there, have you picked up the bread?”)

For tourists, who tend to walk many miles while they explore Paris, a loaf of fresh bread and a chunk of cheese will always be a tasty grab-and-go option. Paradis du Gourmand is in the 14th arrondissement, conveniently near the Gare de Montparnasse train station, but many of the annual baguette contest’s recent winners have come from the 18th arrondissement. That makes the 18th an ideal part of town to find your own favorite.

View Comments