The morning of 01/02/10 I made an assumption and a miscalculation – having heard great things about Locanda Verde’s breakfast and their early opening hours I showed up bright and early, around 8am only to find out they’d not be opening until 11:00 for brunch. Bummed but already with 11:30 reservations with a friend at A Voce Columbus before the afternoon Rangers game I decided to head north up 6th Avenue and grab something to tide me over along the way. Browsing my trusty map I noted Patisserie Claude was close by and set out walking. Arriving shortly after 8:15 there were about 8 people inside and a surly man with a French accent (Claude perhaps?) behind the counter. Browsing the goods he was sort of Seinfeld-Soup-Naziesque in asking if he could help me – to the point where I nearly walked out. Having heard good things I gave up browsing and simply said “one almond croissant.” “$2.25” said the man as he grabbed the pastry and dropped it into a waxed paper bag. “Next Please” and I was off walking.
That exchange out of the way I unwrapped the pastry to note it really didn’t look like an almond croissant – more like a Danish with some odd jelly in it – taking a bite the flavor was distinctly almond, however. Good, but rather flat and not at all shaped like a croissant the pastry had a flakey exterior and moist interior, but the jam just seemed strange – like a different sort of almond paste. Finishing the croissant in 3 bites I stopped by Dunkin for a coffee and then continued north. The young lady at Dunkin was much more friendly than the guy at Claude and, for what it is worth.
Continuing North I’d planned to swing by Café Macaron – they too were closed, opening at 10:00 – c’est la vie. Venturing a few streets over and happening past Carnegie Deli I stopped in to see the place – neat atmosphere but nothing looked too enthralling. Proceeding further and stopping at a newsstand to pick up a copy of the Times I checked my map and decided to head up toward to Petrossian to see what they had to offer – I’d only previously seen the Vegas Caviar Bar. Confusingly located (I originally tried the main restaurant which was closed,) when I finally did find the store/patisserie the place was actually full of customers – most of whom were speaking fluent French. Browsing the outlandish caviar service sets, packages of foie gras and bottles Baba au Rhum I will admit I was impressed – we have nothing like this in Ohio.
Turning my attention to the pastries and breads I was greeted by a tall young lady who asked me if I was looking for anything in particular – answering that I was just looking she went back to talking to her friend but was readily available and helpful when I was ready – the exact kind of service I like. Selecting yet another Almond croissant and a canele (for which I was complimented for pronouncing correctly, oddly.)
Making way to the street en route for Central Park and some people-watching I unwrapped the canele first – less dark than previous versions, but it smelled excellent. Taking a bite I have to admit I was disappointed from the start – the shell didn’t crack and really wasn’t hard at all. Digging further I will say the flavor was good – buttery and eggy like a good custard, but the texture wasn’t quite as spongy as would be expected – it was almost as though the whole pastry had been undercooked by a few moments or had just a bit too much moisture.
Moving on to the Croissant – sigh. Admittedly I’ve not been to Paris since I was 18 years old and I really didn’t know much about food back then, but I’d like to think I’ve had some great examples here in North America – particularly Payard, La Boulange, Nadege, Bouley, Bouchon, and the table bread version at L20. That noted, this Almond Croissant was absolutely phenomenal – crispy and buttery shell, perfectly airy and “pull apart” soft, no paste – just the very air and essence of almond – light yet substantial, dissolving in the mouth.
Three light pastries after a long walk to the train and from the LES up to Central Park was a perfect primer for brunch with my pal at A Voce Columbus before my first visit to MSG and while Claude was definitely a disappointment given the hype I’d heard, Petrossian’s service, scenery, and food definitely made up for it. As I assume few people would want to make the trek in a single day, just stay North and skip Claude’s.