Friday, November 4, 2011

Boulangerie-Patisserie Banette

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You can be some things to all people, or all things to some people, or even just some things to some people, but you can never be all things to all people. No wonder the French had a revolution, and perhaps it started when lines started blurring between boulangeries and patisseries. Even Marie Antoinette was confused suggesting that cake was a suitable substitute for daily bread. A boulangerie is a bread bakery while a patisserie is a pastry and cake bakery, but more and more you see hybrids on the streets of Paris and we're not talking automobiles. Some of us need more consistency in life, clearly defined parameters, but we won't find them in Parisian bakeries. Boulangerie Patisserie Banette is a good example of the new hybrid bakeries. Located on the Contrescarpe it is where I picked up croissants an pain du chocolat while staying at Hotel Des Grandes Ecoles.

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Banette goes one step further to blur the lines because it offers sandwiches and salads, clearly the realm of the cafe in Parisian culture. Is it the European Union that is responsible for this blurring of definition? As one who has traveled quite a bit over the years, I have noticed a big change in individual European countries since the Union began. You can find macarons in Italian bakeries, pizza in French bakeries and Guinness just about everywhere. There is no longer a bargain country, because as soon as the currency converted, inflation in the lesser expensive countries filled in the gap.

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No matter what you call it Banette does have some strong points, croissants and pain au chocolat are two of them. Their pain au chocolate were so good and so low in price, that I made a point to buy a plastic container, so they could be transported home on our last day in Paris. It worked out beautifully and co-workers at the office were delighted with the surprise. During our return to Paris this year, my plastic container will be in tow. I admit, the 6 euro lunches where you select a sandwich, a drink and a dessert looked like a real bargain too.

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The pastry can't be faulted, but the Banette selection was not as extensive as in many other shops. In all honesty, the shop wasn't large enough for a bigger selection. Maybe they're not trying to be all things to all people, but with a small chain bakery such as this one, they may be attempting to reach all people. There is a big controversy about the use of industrialized frozen bread in France and Banette is a part of it because their brand is associated with the frozen bread and what some consider the beginning of the end for the classic baguette. The frozen product is much cheaper to make and sells at lower prices. Unfair competition, yes.

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Speaking of blurred lines, do you see doughnuts? I've seen a few Italian doughnuts in my day, but didn't realize the French made them.  And cookies like those in the photo below, are they French? The financier and cannele  are definitely traditional French pastries, but somehow the brownies look out of place, even though the Coca Cola on the signboards does not. It's definitely a crazy mixed up world.

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French Bread Information from About-France 

Banette Website

Rue Mouffetard at Rue Thouin
75005 Paris France