As my Huffington Post readers know well by now, I am given to grandiose statements of excessive enthusiasm... the best fried chicken in the world (at Ad Hoc/Bouchon Bistro), the best bouillaibasse outside of France (Marché Moderne at the South Coast Plaza), the best steak in L.A. (the Wagyu Ribeye at Wolfgang Puck's Cut), the most delicious pastrami in the entire world (Langer's), the best movies I have seen this year (Woody Allen's Midnight In Paris and the new Planet of the Apes film), the best pizza in the world (Stella Rossa in Santa Monica), and ad infinitum. So here goes another... the best piece of pastry I have eaten in years. Only available at one place in this country... the new BOUCHON BAKERY in Beverly Hills (235 N. Canon Drive, 310-271-9910, with public parking under the building, next to the small Bar Bouchon and underneath the 2nd floor restaurant).
The pastry has an unpronounceable name... kouign amann (pronounced Queen-a-man; it means butter cake). Pastry Chef Roy Shvartzapel told me that he first experienced it while working at Pierre Hermé in Paris many years ago. A product of Brittany, bakers there told him it takes them at least 20 years to learn to do it right. He has obviously learned his lesson, for it is absolutely astonishing.... Chef describes it as a 'love child' of a croissant and a palmier; croissant dough but with yeast. It is a laminated pastry, for it is 97 (!) layers of thin dough layered with butter and sugar, then baked in a pan with butter and sugar on top so the outside and corners carmelize to a nice flaky crunch. Chefs Keller, Rory Herrmann and Roy consulted with me and said that it bakes for 30 minutes at 350 degrees, and then rests before it is unmolded and sold at the bakery for $4.00 apiece. I ate one, then took another home, ate it when I got there and went back the next morning for two more. Dreamed about it last night... and will go back this weekend for another. Obsessive, yes... but wait 'til you taste it. You will then understand what I mean.
The bakery is the fifth that Keller has opened, with two in New York (at the Time Warner building and in Rockefeller Plaza), one in Las Vegas and the original in Yountville. Based at the bottom of the staircase leading up to the second floor Bouchon Bistro, the Adam Tihaney-designed small shop is serving both sweet and savory delights to a clientele of Beverly Hills aficianados who either take the delights home or carry them out to a table in the sunlight beside the lovely park which separates the building from the Montage Hotel next door. In addition to the legendary Chocolate Bouchons ($2 each, the word means 'cork'), lemon tarts ($6), cookies ($2.75, including the TKO, Thomas Keller Oreo), baguettes ($2.50), muffins ($2.75) and sticky buns ($3.25), they will be offering their version of various breads shortly (Brioche Braid, Cranberry Currant or Walnut)... all baked in the fierce ovens upstairs. But Chef de Cuisine Rory Hermann has added some savory treats which I find irresistable... a Parisian ham-and-Emmental cheese baguette with sweet butter and Dijon mustard ($7.50)... a Tuna Nicoise sandwich ($8.50) on Ciabatta bread, Oven-Roasted Turkey on Whole Wheat Pecan Bread, with Hook's five-year cheddar ($9.50), or my favorite, Smoked Salmon on a Black Sesame Kaiser Roll ($8.50). Three salads (Bibb lettuce or Cobb's) ..and a dozen varieties of Equator coffee and tea drinks, more and better than any Starbucks. There are a few packaged items to take home to friends and family -- think caramel popcorn ($7), their delicious granola ($8), a box of six mini-Macarons ($15), and for that ultimate gourmet gift or picnic, a Terrine of Foie Gras ($55).
How nice to find a classic French boulangerie/patisserie some 6,000 miles from Paris... and the service is so much more friendly than the usual Gallic attitude... and wait until you have your first bite of that unpronounceable pastry. Life-altering. Enjoy!
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