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Le Panier

There’s a little French bakery in Pike Place Market called Le Panier that has a sign dangling in the front calling itself a “very French bakery.” That sign has been responsible for nudging me along for the past few years, but mostly it’s that when I’m looking for cookies, I don’t look to the French for the good stuff. What does that mean, anyway, a very French bakery. I’m guessing if I asked the girl behind the counter, she’d tell me that it mostly means butter and their macarons don’t come from a mix.

What finally caused me to darken the LP doorstep last month was that visit to DeLaurenti, where the cookie sales lady explained, tres proudly, that LP is the 0riginal french bakery in Seattle in response to my question regarding the origin of the almond croissant on their counter.

It’s only fair to disclose my complete bias about bakeries in Seattle now. Bakery Nouveau is not only my favorite bakery, but it is the standard by which I compare all baked goods. Not just in Seattle, I mean all.baked.goods. I believe Tall Grass makes a better baguette, Dahlia Bakery makes a better chocolate chocolate chip cookie, and the macaroons at Besalu are top drawer. But the real point is, I eat these things and compare them to Bakery Nouveau’s goods. I’m open about my preferences, and in fact told the LP sales lady that I wanted to try that almond croissant because I was going to compare it to Bakery Nouveau. She told me it would be better and this is where she couldn’t resist a little dig.

“Oh, the almond croissant will be better. But really, you’ve got to try our macarons. We make ours from scratch. Not from a mix.”

I didn’t want to find myself a casualty of the bakery war, so I kept the “I couldn’t care less about a poofy pile of egg whites mascarading around as a cookie, lady” response to myself.

Checking out the counter, we ordered a variety of stuff to try. The chocolate sable, almond croissant, and a trio of macarons. That’s a raspberry, pistachio, and chocolate sandwich cookie. The taste was ok, the textures were fun, and if you’re into this kind of thing, I heard a lot of people in the joint saying they were awesome. James called them “tasty” and found the texture interesting. Ok then.

The almond croissant. As much as I wanted to say “Ha! Nowhere near the remarkableness that is the twice-baked at Bakery Nouveau!” I have to admit that this was almost as good as BN. In fact, I can’t say if I could tell the difference in a blindfold taste test, but I know I like the darker, more caramelized texture of the BN, and BN does seem to have more almond, but I have to admit it. This was one delicious croissant and definitely my favorite item we ordered from the menu. If you can never seem to make it over to West Seattle because your friends want to head to Tourist Town every time you’re in the city, get the almond croissant at Le Panier and you can call yourself almost there.

Chocolate sable ($1.75), or shortbread with chocolate chips and hazlenuts. The butter overwhelmed any other flavor, so while it was ok, I can’t say I’d order it again.

Charlotte framboise ($3.5). I think it’s raspberry mousse on top of an angel cake type crust with a schmere of raspberry jam in the middle and a gloss of glossy stuff on top. It was tart and mostly mousse’ish, which I don’t like, but the flavor was nice.

The coffee man doing that voodoo he do with a couple of hotties.

I enjoyed the goods from Le Panier, and the ladies serving them were exceptionally friendly and very proud of their products. They took the time to describe what’s good, suggested their favorites, and explained to me why they were better than Bakery Nouveau.

I’ll visit them again to try other items and would recommend them to folks who were visiting Pike Place, but BN is still my BFF so far.

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