Thursday, May 13, 2010

A real croissant in Wellesley? Mai oui!

I am glad I am not a food critic. If I was, I would probably be dead by now. Not because of all the butter and cream I would consume -- occupational hazard of this dangerous profession. But because the restaurant association of Boston (if there is such a thing) would probably hire someone to assassinate me (or at least to send me very threatening letters). Since I like being alive more than dead, I stay away from posting restaurant reviews on my blog. But for a change, I have something positive to say, and it's about the most unlikely place of all -- Wellesley Bakery and Cafe.

They have no charm, no good coffee or tea, and mediocre lunch offerings, but they make truly fabulous croissants! They are not just good enough for the culinary wasteland known as Boston's Metro West. They are just good. Period. Shatteringly crisp on the outside, tender and buttery inside, and perfectly sized to produce the ultimate mix of crispness and tenderness in each bite. They are as close as it gets to a croissant in France.

"Well," you say. "Have you tried Clear Flour croissants?" Yes.
"Iggy's?" Yes.

And these are better?! Yes.

Iggy's are too huge and puffy. Once you eat the crispy curved edges, you end up with a big soft puff. It's a buttery puff, but still a doughy puff.

Clear Flour are better, but still not a perfect balance between crispness and tenderness. Until I tried Wellesley bakery, I thought Clear Flour was the best in Boston. They are really very good, even excellent, just still not quite the croissant that transports me to France.

I believe most people will disagree with my croissant evaluation. On a recent trip to San Francisco, we stayed a mere 5 minute walk from La Tartine Bakery. The line out the door for their croissants spoke for itself. They were huge (bigger than Iggy's), perfectly shaped (unlike somewhat uneven ones in Wellesley bakery), and served piping hot. They couldn't get them out of the ovens fast enough for the hungry hordes. I thought they were terrible. The inside was still soggy, the outside a bit burnt on the bottom, and in spite of the buttery flavor, the thing had no balance in textures, but that doesn't stop people from enjoying them. I saw a young woman dunking hers in a cup of hot chocolate, pulling out the poor soggy mess and biting into it with eyes closed in bliss. It felt like a highway car accident -- you know it's horrible, you know there is nothing you can do to help, yet you can't look away. A croissant is not a biscotti; it's not meant to be dunked. Its beauty likes in its structure and balance of textures, but for most people in the US, that's probably not what a croissant is all about.

So, I make no guarantees that you'll like Wellesley bakery croissants. I just think they are a rarity and worth trying if you want to get a feel for what croissants taste like in France. The cookies are excellent too.

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