Paris is one of my favorite places. I see in my mind’s eye, the Eiffel tower rising up to the sky and the Champs-Élysées, tree lined and stretching out before me. One can never forget the très chic French women elegantly dressed, their heels tapping smartly on their way to some imagined soirée. And of course, those heavenly French perfumes, the stash of which never lasts until the next visit. There is nothing better than sitting at a sidewalk café, with a coffee and almond croissant, people watching. Except perhaps lunching on one of those famous baguettes, crunchy on the outside and filled with fluffy melt in your mouth goodness. With a chaser of fine cheese, salty olives and the fresh goodness of tomatoes, I can spend hours reading the newspaper and nibbling.
Luckily, in Vancouver, we don’t have to make the trip to get the experience. For breads and the old world savoir-faire, you will find no better than Bâtard boulangerie & café moderne, a French style bakery, café and grocer on Fraser Street. Where else can you buy yeasted and natural leavened breads by the kilo? No need to buy one loaf, you can leave with chunks of them all. The staff are delightful and full of recommendations.
They will toast your favorite, served with a side of their cherry jam. What a way to jump start your morning. They have a wonderful menu if you are looking for more and their carrot soup is a taste of heaven. Their grocery section is comprised of unique food and kitchen items just as charming as their food offerings.
There are big tables with a comfy bench running along the wall. With a choice of newspapers hanging on paddles you can be forgiven for thinking you are in France.
Traveling the other direction, nestled at the base of the hill on Fir Street you will find Beaucoup Bakery and Café. They have the most amazing almond croissants. The first thing that strikes you is their size. Tucking two into a box is a feat. It is the delicate crispness of the pastry, followed by the sweet silky almond filling that makes it such a taste extravaganza.
Their pastry case is full of tempting wares, all prize worthy. My staff always look forward to Beaucoup’s pastries at our staff meetings. The outside tables and chairs get the midday sun and the lullaby of traffic is perfect for whiling away the afternoon chatting with friends. Beaucoup Bakery also is home to a wonderful initiative called Acts of Kindness. It is based on the principals Be Kind To Yourself, Pass It On and Pay It Forward. The latter goes to supporting a lunch program for girls in Liberia. Such an At Forty Five worthy cause!
Or you can head south to 41st street and Arbutus in Kerrisdale where you hit the modern and glamorous Parisian setting of Faubourg Paris.
Their pain au chocolat and colorful, delicate macarons are my two of my favorite. If you are tempted to try your hand at making these meringue cookies , consider their macaron class held every Tuesday. Breakfast AND lunch, a box of macarons and the kit to make another batch is the perfect gift for yourself. Of course, twice the fun if you invite a friend. Consider this place when you have a special event that is in need of an elegant cake. Faubourg make the most wonderful lattes. I don’t know the coffee bean they use but there is a hint of smokiness and the concoction goes so well with their sweet treats. They now have three locations in the lower mainland so you can find one close.
The fascinating stories behind the proprietors and chefs of these gems are for another day. They brought their love of French cuisine to Vancouver. Thanks to them, we can have Paris without packing our bags. Bon appétit!