Review: Des Gateaux et du Pain (a.k.a., “The House of Pain”)

Ed. note: I’m starting a series of posts on our recent trip to France and Germany!  Enjoy.  Don’t worry– there will be tons of Cincinnati content interspersed.

(Guest post by The Boyfriend)

You gotta love the French.

Anybody who can give the world Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche, Brigitte Bardot (see a pattern emerging here?), crepes, Marcel Marceau (though I’m still trying to figure out the whole mime thing), the beret, a true appreciation for the comic genius of Jerry Lewis, escargot, and the guillotine is aces with me.

I’m certainly not a seasoned world traveler, but I’ve been lucky enough to have visited Paris several times during my adult life, including three visits in the past six years.  Julie and I spent Christmas vacation there last year and decided to go back again this year as part of a Paris/Munich trip.

Whenever I travel, I want foods that I can’t get at home.  Or better yet, foods that I can get at home but that my taste buds and/or personal prejudices tell me are done far better by people in other locales.  You know…leave it to the experts.  (My personal Southern snobbery about barbecue has been discussed previously here on wine me, dine me.)  And when I think of the many gastronomic delights of Paris, two things immediately come to mind: croissants and pastries.

des Gateaux et du Pain

During last year’s trip, I stumbled upon Des Gateaux et du Pain, a mere five-minute walk from our hotel.  It was there that I found The World’s Best Croissants.

(Aside: No.  Really.  I know what you’re thinking, and I agree with you.  Most of us toss out superlatives in conversation like beads at a Mardi Gras parade. As in, “You know, that IHOP has the slowest service I’ve ever seen.” Or, “That new hamburger joint down the street has the best fries ever.”  I get it, and as I said, I agree.  With all of that’s having been said, however, I repeat: The World’s Best Croissants.)

DSCN1882
Remember the episode of M*A*S*H where Hawkeye puts himself through hell to arrange for take-out spare ribs from his favorite rib joint in Chicago to be delivered to him in Korea?  Remember the “Soup Nazi” episode from Seinfeld? Remember, more recently, the perfect-hamburger episode of How I Met Your Mother? These croissants are that good.  During the past twelve months, I’ve dreamed of these croissants.  I’ve written poems about these croissants (unpublished to date, but I’m shopping them around).  Julie tires of hearing me talk about them and of seeing my condescending sneers anytime I’m within eyesight of obviously-inferior croissants (read that as “any other croissants on the planet”).

(Ed. note:  Greenup Cafe’s are the closest, but still not the same. And he says that every time we go.)

Julie very smartly booked us into the same hotel as last year.  Every morning on both trips , I would get up, make the brief stroll to Des Gateaux et du Pain (a.k.a., “The House of Pain”…more on this in a minute), get croissants and another pastry or two, and take them back to the hotel for consumption with tea while Julie was getting ready for the day’s sightseeing and other touristy stuff.  I did occasionally share the bag of goodies with Julie. (Ed. note: I think he ate most of it while I was in the shower, noted by the suspicious crumbs on the duvet.)
DSCN1879

(Aside #2: I don’t speak French [other than “Bonjour, Mademoiselle.  Trois croissants, s’il vous plait.”], so “Des Gateaux et du Pain” is both clumsy and pretentious-sounding when drawling out of the mouth of a native Alabamian. I like to refer to the place as “The House of Pain.”  While I consider this bit of original phrase-coinage to be cute, clever, and quite endearing on my own part, it provokes no end of sighs and eye-rolls from Julie.) (Ed. note: Not true.  OK, maybe just sighs. No eye-rolls, though.)

Baked to a deep, darker-than-usual, glossy golden brown, these croissants establish, then proceed to defy the laws of flakiness.  Each bite produces the most delicate momentary crunch that collapses into a mouthful of light and airy buttery-ness that never fails to leave me speechless, save for a predictable sequence of borderline-obscene moans and groans (here, think of Meg Ryan’s foodgasm scene from When Harry Met Sally).  It’s embarrassing, actually. (Ed. note: He goes on and on about them being the “epitome of flake”.  Just ask him.)

DSCN1880

The House of Pain (I never get tired of saying that) also offers no end of pastries, and I haven’t eaten one yet that wasn’t delicious.  My favorites are their sweet rolls with raisins and their raspberry pastries. Each has a hoity-toity French name that I’m sure Julie will add when she edits this piece. (Ed. Note: pain au raisin and gallette feuilletee a la confiture framboise. I think they sound better in French.  I also love their chausson pommes and croissants amande.  Oh, and their pain au chocolate.  And…).  I also picked up a mini-baguette most days…you know…just for general munching with cheese throughout the day. (Ed. note: Also good as a weapon when a day or two old.)

We’ve already started talking about Christmas Vacation ’09.  I’m thinking that Paris might just be in the running again this year.  One can live only so long without the World’s Best Croissants.



24 thoughts on “Review: Des Gateaux et du Pain (a.k.a., “The House of Pain”)”

  • The Boyfriend gets two big thumbs up from me for his excellent contribution today! I’m sure, though, that his column can’t hold a candle to The Best Croissants in the World. 🙂

  • Paris isn’t really on my list of destinations… been there, got the Tshirt… blah blah blah. But reading about your passion of these sublime sounding artistry-with-butter-and-flour croissants, I just might reconsider my self induced ban on The City of Lights (which incidently is an interesting nickname for a city serving up anything but light food).

  • Stepf– it is on Boulevard de Pasteur, 14e. It’s about half a block from the Pasteur Metro stop, or about three blocks from Gare Montparnasse.

    They don’t have a website. 🙁

  • ok, so i was rolling my eyes and sighing right along w/ julie… until i got to the photo of the croissant. my heart skipped a beat and a tear came to my eye. i have never seen a more perfect pastry. now i am in the house of pain since my bank account won’t give me a trip to paris for approximately the next 47 years.

  • i just looked at the photo again and i swear i had the same feeling that an adoptive parent gets when they see a picture of their baby for the first time.

  • Liz — The poems I mentioned in the post are love sonnets. Is it so wrong to love a pastry? There is room in my life for the perfect woman (Julie) and the perfect croissant. So why do I feel like a polygamist?

    Kate — You could do worse than Paris.

  • I lived in Paris for a time, and I don’t know this place. Where is it? I personally love the croissants at Boulangerie Kayser, where everything is a dream….but it’s hard to find a bad croissant in Paris.
    I used to know the owners of Le Cezanne, the French pastry shop in Wyoming and Hyde Park, (where the pastry chef from Greenup started in the US). They told me that the hard part about making croissants and baguette in the U.S. is the flour. Our flour is different, and it’s hard to get the perfect croissant consistency….

  • Oh, I see where it is in an earlier post…

    By the way, if you want a good croissant , and I kid you not, try the frozen ones at Trader Joe’s. They are FABULOUS. I know croissants, I lived in the land of croissants for many a year, and these TJ’s croissants are pretty great. So are the pain au chocolat. Just really good. And cheap (3.99 for 4)

  • Lesley — Thanks for the tip on the Trader Joe croissants. I’m due for a big TJ excursion soon. I’ll just add the croissants to the list. Anything that even gets into the ballpark with The House of Pain will be money well spent.

    Your information about American flour is interesting and, actually, not surprising. Wouldn’t you think that, with all the things we import into this country, it wouldn’t be difficult for bakers to get their hands on the right kind of flour?

  • Lesley and Julie, Le Cezanne curried chicken salad was the best, I loved it! I had a client in Wyoming and it we always hit their for lunch.

    Friends who bake confirm the best flour generally available is King Arthur.
    http://www.kingarthurflour.com

    For those who enjoy great bread, try Blue Ovens breads available at Findlay.

    http://www.blueovenbakery.com

    BF, Some Googling uncovered these croissant links, enjoy!

    http://www.lefigaro.fr/culture/20061128.WWW000000301_quel_est_le_meilleur_croissant_de_paris.html

    http://www.chezpim.com/blogs/2008/07/the-best-croiss.html

  • i think julie will understand your love for the croissant. however you may have to fight me for it. croissant, be mine!

    re: king arthur flour, i love it.

  • I think the thing with the King Arthur is that it’s good, but it’s not the same as the stuff you get in France– probably a different wheat varietal? I know I have some pastry people who read who could enlighten us…

  • It has to do with gluten. I think their flour has less ?? Ugh, I can’t remember, but it’s a gluten issue.

    That’s why ours tend to be heavy, almost like a dinner roll, and in France they are so light…

    And at Trader Joe’s, be sure to get the frozen ones, not the already-baked ones…those are baaaad.
    I actually think the frozen ones they sell are the same ones that Williams-Sonoma sells, but don’t quote me!!

  • Interesting! Trader Joe’s often has “name brand” stuff under their own label.

    I’ve been reading up on flour in Twinkie, Deconstructed, and there tend to be standard varietals that we use vs. what the rest of the world uses.

    Here’s an interesting discussion: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/4628/european-flour-types-german-550-french-t-55-italian-00-flours

    From Wikipedia: # French flour type numbers (type de farine) are a factor 10 smaller than those used in Germany, because they indicate the ash content (in milligrams) per 10 g flour. Type 55 is the standard, hard-wheat white flour for baking, including puff pastries (“pâte feuilletée”). Type 45 is often called pastry flour, but is generally from a softer wheat. Types 65, 80, and 110 are strong bread flours of increasing darkness, and type 150 is a wholemeal flour

  • Hi there,
    I know this is an old post but I just came across it….hilarious!
    Ok, here’s the thing: I worked at Des gâteaux et du pain for my stage while in Paris after finishing pastry school at Le Cordon Bleu!

    Let’s just it def. is the house of pain!!! lol…BUT they do make yummy croissants! 😉

  • ChezAsima,

    You worked at the House of Pain? Tell me more!

    And since you trained at Le Cordon Bleu, could you address the debate (look at the earlier comments) over why we don’t/can’t get really good croissants here in the states? Is it because, as one commenter said, they have a different type of flour in France that simply isn’t available here?

    The Boyfriend

Leave a Reply