Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Finding France in the Suburbs: Baguette et Chocolat

I should be totally clear here. I have no basis for judging French pastries authentic. I have never been to France. In high school, I opted for Spanish. I’ve only been to Europe once, and I stayed in Italy. I do have some basis for judging them awesome though. And Baguette et Chocolat is nothing if not awesome. Their site is here. It is very loud.

Tucked away next to a brand new strip mall all the way out Bee Caves road near highway 71, Baguette is a little square stone structure. It looks kind of lonely and sterile there in the parking lot, and the outdoor tables seem a little misplaced perched on the narrow sidewalk separating the building from the cars parked out front. Once you get inside and take a deep breath, though, the experience is transformed.

There are about 10 tables scattered inside, white, scrubbed clean and set simply, and far enough apart to create a clear unencumbered path to the pastry case.

But this is not somewhere you visit for the ambience. This is a place you visit for the food.

French pastries are, by definition, pretty. These go beyond that, crafted so delicately and with such attention to detail that they cross the line to from pretty to flat-out stunning. There are rows of brightly colored French macaroons – all the rage everywhere; totally at home here. Meringues, Operas, Chocolate Mousse, and scores of gorgeous tarts share space with croissants and brioche. Above the case are baskets of crusty, flour dusted breads. And above that, an impressive menu board: salads, sandwiches, and crepes. The menu is so extensive that the drinks are listed on the adjacent wall.

Every time I’ve been I’ve tried something different, and I’ve never been disappointed. The croissants are ethereal. A couple of times they were a little overly crisp on the bottom, but it barely detracted from the meltingly tender, buttery layers. The entrée salads are fresh and beautifully arranged, with a tangy white-wine vinaigrette. The crepes are simple and rich: I am especially fond of the Crepe Complete, where eggs, ham and swiss cheese are folded inside a surprisingly rich, impossibly thin crepe. The saltiness of this gets a little overwhelming by the end, but it’s an amazing meal, especially framed next to the tender little salad that shares the plate.

The desserts are no less brilliant: Nothing overly cloying or sweet, everything balanced. We tried the lemon and raspberry macaroons (the raspberry featuring a surprising hint of chocolate), the opera, an apple tart and the chocolate mousse. The macaroons were among the best I’ve ever had, with just enough crisp bite to set off the crème between the layers. The mousse, simply presented, was lovely and light. The opera and the apple tart fared a little less well: the opera could not have been more stunning, but the precisely assembled cake layers were a touch dry; the apple tart, while delicious, lacked the contrast between the soft sweetness of the apple and the crisp of the crust I’d have liked to see.

It should also be noted that Baguette is not a place to visit when you’re in a hurry. Food created this carefully is not created quickly, and when I went in with Tracy and the kids of lunch I was suspicious they had forgotten us before our food arrived.

Baguette is a lovely experience - at the same time a sunny little neighborhood spot and a serious bakery turning out some of the best sweets in Austin. It's not trendy or even particularly high-style, but it is pure pleasure to be there.

More photos of Baguette et Chocolat are up on Grubbus's Facebook Home

Baguette Et Chocolat on Urbanspoon


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