Will and Julie's Montreal Festival of Croissants
The French phrase raison d'etre usually refers to the reason for one's existence, reason for being--literally, "reason for to be." Well, this weekend, Will and I have discovered our raison d'être for our Montreal trip!
It all started out with one of our long walks around our neighborhood in "Little Italy," an up-and-coming, gentrifying, young (and somewhat "hipper"-than-us) neighborhood of Montreal. I was taking pictures of places we frequent for a future post on our neighborhood, and I had just snapped a picture of our favorite boulangerie, less than a quarter mile walk from our VRBO rental. Sure, there are actually five or so bakeries all closer to our unit--literally, around the corner, across the street, etc.--but Automne Boulangerie has risen to the top of our list for their truly amazing baguette traditionelle.
In any case, after I snapped a picture, I noticed that a sign on the window advertised something called "La Fete du Croissant" (yes, indeed, the Festival of Croissant) for Saturday, May 6. "Wait a second, that's this weekend," I exclaimed! No less excited--and, really, more so, if possible--Will scanned the poster. He didn't even need his three days of French classes (just started on Monday!), to be able to translate "1 Croissant = 1 Dollar" to be a great deal for us. (As a side note, the Canadian dollar is now worth about 73 US cents, so it's an extra beneficial time for American travelers to be here.)
As soon as we got back "home," we looked up the list of participating artisan bakeries near us. There are hundreds of bakeries in Montreal, but only the "artisan" ones were part of the festival. Luckily, living in a city that reveres croissants at least as much as they do in Paris, there were 5 artisan businesses within .7 mile of our place which were participating. Woo-hoo!
When Will wasn't practicing his French by yelling into his "Duolingo" app "Un chat est un animal," he was at his desk mapping out his Saturday morning route. (Yes, baked goods are that important to us!) It turned out that of the 5 closest to us, one opened at 6am, two opened at 7am, and two more didn't open until 8am on a Saturday (?!?).
Forget about wine or beer tastings--we had a Croissant Tasting morning on Saturday! At the top of the post, you can see two croissants each from the three bakeries that opened by 7am.
It feels wrong to say that any of these was the worst croissant. After all, even the one we least preferred was much better than one we would normally pay $4 for in a coffee shop back home! But we had to start somewhere...
The croissant from Miche Doree was the softest of the three. It was lighter in texture and color, a bit more egg-y, a bit more brioche-like and sweeter than the others, something we might associate more with Danish pastries. This is definitely a popular style of croissant, and it was very good, but not the style we most preferred.
Will thought the one from Joe La Croute was going to be his favorite. I have to agree that the large (almost beefy in appearance) croissant had a terrific butteriness going for it. Despite the crusty exterior, it also had nice flaky inner layers. Definitely a contender.
Ultimately, our morning tastings resulted in a close win for the croissant from Le Pain dans les Voiles de Castelnau. It had a slight yeasty flavor, great crunch in the corners, lovely layers (as you can see from the side view), and was very pretty.
We decided that even if we could not get our last two croissants, we were immensely satisfied with our morning experiment.
Then, during our usual market run to Jean Talon Market, we stopped at another bakery. Gascogne, we decided, took the crown away from Castelnau. Their croissants were beautiful in both shape and color. These boasted possibly the best combination of buttery, yeasty, slightly sweet dough, with tender flaky layers inside as well as crusty, but not hard, outer layers.
In an odd twist of fate, the bakery closest to us, Automne Boulangerie, the one from which we found out about "La Fete du Croissant," was one we were not able to get a croissant from. After Will made multiple visits and returned because the line was too long and moving too slowly, he finally came back and announced that croissants were sold out.
No matter. For about 73 US cents each, we consumed 4 amazing croissants, and put 4 more in the freezer for a rainy day. Yes, I know, it seems sacrilegious, but we find croissants do freeze, defrost, and reheat rather nicely! We're all set for another 2 days of pigging out on croissants!