On Saturday while traveling to the Hester Street Market to try multiple desserts for my adoring fan(s) of DessertBuzz, I decided I needed some additional calories to make it the three-plus blocks from Delancy Street to Hester. So I stopped in the Essex Street Market and hit the Pain D’Avignon retail store.
This tiny closet of a shop is a fresh bread lovers dream with all kinds of great breads lining the walls, stuffed in drawers and in rolls and baskets. Of course they also had some great looking croissants and pain au chocolat. For a brief moment I considered the fact that I was heading to a street fair to taste desserts and maybe a whole wheat baguette would be a good idea. That thought quickly left my mind because who can turn down a fresh pain au chocolat? I also needed to see how it stacked up to the Ceci Cella standard.
The Pain D’Avignon pain au. was slightly bread-centric, meaning, it didn’t have that much chocolate inside as compared to the Ceci Cela or the FPB. However, it seemed to have the perfect multi-layered crust. It was also slightly less buttery than the others (in a good way) in that it wasn’t dripping butter. If you don’t like your croissants to make everything they touch, like paper bags and your table, shiny with butter, this is a plus! All-in-all it was an excellent pain au. Needless to say their bread rocks too, so make sure you don’t leave without at least one of those.
Another great choice for a downtown pain au chocolat is Francois Payard Bakery (FPB). The chocolate is dark, the dough is flaky and if you go early enough you can get a warm one. The added bonus of going here is that FPB is not a one trick pony–you can get all kinds of other items, like their opera cake, that are best-in-class.
I have to mention another great pain au chocolat that I used to purchase regularly a few years ago from David Bouley. I’m not even sure if you can still get them anywhere since he closed the bakery. If any readers know please shoot me an email.
Ceci Cela Patisserie is located at 55 Spring St. Ceci Cela’s web site is here.
Francois Payard Bakery is located on 116 West Houston St. Their website is here.