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Fauchon:  A Piece of Paris on Park Avenue

As early as 7:30 in the morning, you can pick up croissants at Fauchon on Park and 56th . Tightly curled, flaky, and buttery, they seem so close to the real thing, you close your eyes and it’s Paris. Small wonder. French flour, French mineral water, butter from cows who graze on Normandy grass all get shipped from France several times a week to the Fauchon patisserie on this side of the Atlantic. These croissants are the real thing.

Fauchon - Click to Enlarge Fauchon - Click to Enlarge

It may not be as big as the 117-year-old legendary food market on the Place de la Madeleine, but this three-year-old namesake has pastries and chocolates, coffees and teas, mustards and honeys, preserves and quiches, foie gras and caviars enough to enchant the most discriminating Francophile.

On a gleaming glass counter that runs along the side of the rosy-hued, emporium/cum cafe are déjà vu-inspiring madeleines, mesmerizing marron glacé and pumpkin-filled macaroons, the fabulous and tall chocolate curl-covered cake (served at many a wedding) that layers vanilla meringue with chocolate mousse, and the sublime kouignaman (the name comes from the Celtic-based dialogue spoken in Brittany) -- croissant dough folded over, filled with cream, covered with sugar and baked in a very hot oven so it caramelizes. It is labor-intensive, not to be found anyplace else in New York, and magnificent.

Free-standing consoles display non perishables in pretty pink and gold boxes, glittering jars, and stoneware urns. The Fauchon café discretely sits behind the tallest of these, light-filled, elegant yet comfortable with arm chairs trimmed in blonde wood and covered in a fabric of cool raspberry. Here is a welcome alternative to the bustle of midtown luncheonettes both in ambience and offering of soups, salads, sandwiches, platters of smoked salmon, and quiches.

The salad Nicoise is one outstanding selection made with raw tuna in lieu of canned, sun-dried tomatoes in lieu of fresh, and a cold poached egg in lieu of hard-boiled, all surrounded by sliced boiled potatoes rimmed in yellow– a consequence, we were told, of saffron being added to the cooking water.

After the luncheon hour, the café transforms into a salon de thé. Sorry, no scones and clotted cream at this Afternoon Tea, but an array of French pastries created under the supervision of Executive Chef Florian Bellanger formerly of Le Bernadin, will more than compensate.

Should the prospect of choosing from among 140 teas seem daunting, consult Michael Olsen. Fauchon’s young store manager, who back home in Iowa planned to become a chemistry teacher, is also the resident tea specialist - - he modestly eschews the grander “tea sommelier” designation.

“People associate tea with the English,” Michael says, “but it’s the French who define the tea experience. The French know their teas. And the quality of the teas Fauchon offers can’t be improved. Some are extremely rare. They’re sold loose or in bags that contain little pieces of the leaves. You have to steep these a little longer, but the flavor is quite wonderful.

“Like wine,” Michael continues, “you have to learn to taste teas. You can specialize in Darjeelings alone – there are 87 different kinds. They come from the area around the Chinese/India border near Nepal at the foothills of the Himalayas where everything comes together in terms of weather, soil, and drainage. I think  Darjeelings are the best teas in the world.”

This time we had coffee – from Zimbabwe. Next time, we’ll order a pot of the Indian Darjeeling 1st Flush 2000 Singtom that Michael recommended. It combines the flavor of ripe fruit and chestnuts, he told us. Sounds good. And to go with it, we’ll splurge on a round of kouignaman.          

We’ll close our eyes. Park Avenue for all its splendors will disappear, and there’ll be Paris. At Fauchon, you always have Paris.

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Fauchon
442 Park Avenue
New York,  NY 10022

Phone: 212-308- 5919

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About the Authors:  Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer are a wife and husband team who successfully bridge the worlds of popular culture and traditional scholarship. Co-authors of the critically acclaimed interactive oral histories It Happened in the Catskills, It Happened in Brooklyn, Growing Up Jewish in America, It Happened on Broadway, It Happened in Manhattan, It Happened in Miami. They teach what they practice as professors at Dartmouth College.

They are also travel writers who specialize in luxury properties and fine dining as well as cultural history and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. More about these authors.

You can contact the Frommers at: 

Email: myrna.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU
Email: harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU
Web: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~frommer/travel.htm.

This Article is Copyright © 1995 - 2012 by Harvey and Myrna Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

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