Sunday, February 14, 2010
Cafe Du Monde and Croissant D'Or, New Orleans LA
With my circadian rhythm still set to life as a resident I awoke early – really early given the difference in time zone. Lacking a gym in my hotel I got up for a run around Metairie just before 4am and made it back to my room for a shower and some leftover King Cake with my vitamins by 5:30am. Hopping into my car I made my way to another great parking space at Elysian Fields and Royal by 5:45am and decided to start my day’s eating at Café du Monde before the lines got long…little did I know there would already be a line of ~15 people at 6am and the window staff would be busy texting and flirting with one another thus making the seemingly short line take nearly 35 minutes.
Considered by locals and tourists alike to be “an institution” I figured the experience would be worth the wait and stood talking to an elderly gentleman who apparently went to Café Du Monde every Sunday before church and had been doing so for “as long as I can remember” because he loved the coffee – not so much the beignets – and sure enough, he bought a large café au lait and bid me farewell when he finally reached the front of the line. When I reached the small window the server was pleasant and my order of 3 beignets and a medium black coffee was filled rapidly. Paying the modest bill I made my way to the just-unstacked outdoor seating and emptied my bag onto a pile of paper towels.
Beginning first with the coffee – sweetened with artificial sweetener as is my custom, all I can say is “I don’t get it.” Having had a couple of excellent chicory accented coffees the day before at Antoine’s and Brigtsen’s I found CDM’s version to be sour and lacking any semblance of nuance – I actually prefer the Folgers’s in the hospital break room….even when it is lukewarm and left on the burner too long. Perhaps café au lait is the way to go, but that isn’t how I take my coffee – chicory or not.
Setting aside the coffee and moving onto the main event I was happy to find that the beignets were piping hot, minimally greasy, and absolutely loaded with powdered sugar. Crispy outside and relatively light to mastication I have to say I enjoyed the beignets somewhat, but the overall texture was more doughy than I expected – especially compared to the sublime (cheap) versions at Brenda’s French Soulfood in San Francisco and the ethereal (expensive) dessert version at Manresa in Los Gatos. Decent, sure – but nothing I’d wait 5 minutes for in the future, let alone 35 or longer.
Walking away from Café Du Monde after tossing the rest of my coffee and about a cup of powdered sugar in the waste basket I decided to check out another renowned pastry shop before heading to St. Louis Cathedral for mass. Heading north-east I found myself standing inside of Croissant D’Or around 7:00am and was greeted by no line, friendly service, and a wide selection of croissants, cakes, brioche, and even Bavarian cream beignets.
Already regretting my stop at CDM given the plethora of items I wanted to try I opted for a single item – the standard by which I judge a bakery of this sort – the almond croissant. Paying the modest fee I made my way to the street to enjoy and was quite pleased by the crispy and golden exterior with ample notes of butter, vanilla, and almond gracing my palate upon first taste. A solid croissant I must say I was somewhat disappointed by the interior which was less wispy and airy than I’d hoped, almost as though the preferment hadn’t been allowed to rise for long enough. Good enough that I tried to return for further tastes on Lundi Gras only to find them closed, and good enough that I’d definitely come back on a future visit to New Orleans.