I had high hopes for my New York City baguette search. Armed with Internet research and recommendations from seasoned New Yorkers I hoped to test a solid half-dozen or so loaves in an attempt to find an acceptable stateside version of France's daily bread. But as so often happens when I move to a new city, I thought I had all the time in the world to explore everything, only to remember, much too late, that time flies. Especially when you’re having fun. Before I knew it, moving had begun and my exploring had come to an end. I did, however, manage to sneak in a taste-test of two baguettes.
Baguette # 1 - The Greenmarket Baguette
Who says France has all the best outdoor markets? New York City’s Greenmarket organization has put together an impressive multi-borough schedule of farm fresh produce, humanely-raised meat, and all manner of locally-sourced/crafted/raised products. The best Greenmarket of all is at Union Square, where the Saturday morning selection (and crowd) is impressive. One stand promised “French-style baguettes,” so I swung by to make a purchase. But the minute I felt that dense-yet-soft stick of bread I knew they were imposters. Sure enough, a tasting back at home revealed a total lack of flavor, an overly chewy interior, and absolutely none of that satisfying crunch you find with a true French baguette. I didn’t eat more than a couple of bites before tossing this faux French bread into the trash where it belonged. Beurk!
Baguette #2 - The Murray's Cheese Shop Baguette
Murray’s Cheese Shop is a swanky fromagerie located in the heart of the West Village. I headed over there after work one evening with a mad craving for a simple dinner of charcuterie and cheese on a baguette. It didn’t disappoint: The salami and Cremeux de Bourgogne were expensive but delicious. The baguette? It was good. Not airy-and-light good, but rather airy-and-heavy (yes, that’s possible) good. In fact, I wouldn’t call this “baguette” a baguette at all. It’s more like a “tradition,” which is one of the many varieties of long sticks of bread one finds in a French boulangerie. A “ficelle” is another example. When I lived in Paris I used to order “une tradi” on a regular basis to go with dinner, so I enjoyed sampling a version of this bread in New York City. But I wasn’t able to find a true French baguette in the Big Apple. Any suggestions for next time?
If you go:
Union Square Greenmarket
Runs Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday
Union Square West, New York City
Subway: Union Square 14th Street
254 Bleecker St., second location at 43rd and Lexington
Blissfully un-French in that it's open seven days a week!