The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Travel Notes (food version) - Toscano and Paris, May, 2011

dmsnyder's picture

Travel Notes (food version) - Toscano and Paris, May, 2011

We just returned from 2 weeks in Europe, the first 10 days in Italy, traveling with one of my sisters and her husband. We then spent 4 days in Paris and one in Brussels.

I've generally found it difficult to find bad food in Italy, although it's not all wonderful. I think the best meals we had were actually at the B&B at which we stayed South of Siena. Our hostess, Laura, kept saying she was "not a professional," but the best Italian cooking is, after all, "home cooking." Laura made totally amazing tarts and breads, with butter she churned herself, for breakfast each morning, and one special dinner. The dinner included ribollita and pasta with a tomato sauce, both of which were extraordinary.

As an aside, I would recommend this B&B/Agratourismo, Il Canto del Sole, to anyone wanting to stay near Siena. The setting is beautiful, in the Sienese hill country. Our hosts, Laura and Luciano were incredibly warm and helpful. Laura's cooking was simply fabulous. The evening she cooked dinner for us, Luciano learned it was my sister's birthday and presented us with a bottle of champagne with our dinner.

The bread we had in restaurants in Italy was boring with the one exception of a very rustic sourdough that I'm pretty sure was baked in house in the wood fired oven they used for pizzas. 

Paris was an entirely different story. We had some excellent food, and the generally quality of the bread was quite good. I was able to visit 3 of the boulangeries I most wanted to visit - Phillip Gosselin (across the street from our hotel!), Eric Kayser (in Gallerie Lafayette) and Poilane on Rue Cherche Midi. 

We did not know one of Gosselin's boulangeries would be so close, but I was delighted. His is the "pain a l'ancienne" on which Reinhart based his very popular formula. We had Gosselin's "Baguette Tradition" a couple of times. It is a very rustic, thick-crusted baguette with an open, chewy crumb and a delicious flavor.

Gosselin Baguette Tradition

Gosselin Baguette Tradition crumb

Poilâne Miches

Poilâne miche crust

Poilâne miche crumb

We made a special trip to Rue Cherche Midi, arriving at Poilane at about 3 pm on a Friday afternoon. The miches were still warm from the ovens. The aroma of the little shop almost brought tears to my eyes it was so wonderful. The shop was empty of other customers to my surprise. I guess it was just a bit too early for picking up bread after work, but the breads were waiting for the evening line-up. My wife and I were offered lovely little butter cookies to nibble on while we admired the breads. I bought a quarter loaf. (They sell miche by weight.)

We bought two of Eric Kayser's breads - a mini-"Baguette Monge" and a Pain au Cereal. The former was beautiful to look at but was quite ordinary in flavor. The pain au cereals was delicious. It's a pain au levain with some whole grain (wheat, rye or, perhaps spelt) and seseme, flax, millet and poppy seeds in the dough and on the crust.

Kayser demi-baguette Monge

Demi-baguette Monge crumb

Kayser Pain aux Cereals

Pain aux Cereals crumb

We ate the Kayser breads and our miche with wonderful cheeses and tomatoes from the Gallerie Lafayette food court. The Poilane miche had a very crunchy crust and a chewy crumb. The crust was very sweet. The crumb was surprisingly sour. (This was probably no more than 3 hours out of the oven.) The flavor was wonderful - quite similar to the SFBI Miche, actually.

But "man cannot live by bread alone." There is also ....

Gelato in Florence

Pecorino in Pienza

Salumi in Bologna (at A.F. Tamburini)

Tagliatelli with Ragu in Montepulciano

Wonderful wine (Vino Nobile di Montepulciano)

A little something sweet for dessert (from Ladurée in Paris)

And, most of all, good company with which to enjoy them.

Susan, Evan and Ruth enjoying a taste of Brunello in Montalcino

Happy baking and happy travels!



RonRay's picture

Looks like a great trip ;-)


ananda's picture

I knew you must be away, as you haven't posted any baking activities of late.

Great pictures, and detail of the foods encountered, many thanks.

When do you get to go back and taste the bread of Dominique Saibron??

Very best wishes


dmsnyder's picture

I'm not familiar with M. Saibron. Good, eh? I don't think I've even been in the 14th arrondisement. 


ananda's picture

He's the other key baker, alongside Kayser, who are the key champions in Stephen Lawrence Kaplan's book "Good Bread is Back".  Just in case you feel you need an excuse to go back sometime!

Many thanks again David


dmsnyder's picture

I've (amazingly) not yet read Kaplan's book. Thanks for reminding me to remedy that delinquency. 

To us, Paris as a whole is sufficient excuse to visit Paris. We love just being there. 


SylviaH's picture

Looks like you had a great time tasting the local breads, food and wine!  Thanks for the nice photos.


foodslut's picture

I'm lucky enough to eat with relatives when we visit, but the best food you'll get outside nonna's kitchens will be in smaller, family-run establishments (like the B&B you were at).

Italians like their bread, but they're not necessarily adventurous or passionate about it like the French - that level of engagement the Italians save for pasta :)

Thanks for sharing the pictures, esp. of the French bread!

dmsnyder's picture

Good point re. the pasta. I think the best dishes we had were all pasta - pici, tagliatelle, lasagna, tortellini, tortelloni. The next best were crostoni, but that was because of the funghi porcini and tomatoes, not the bread. The tomatoes this early were mostly from Sicily, I think, but wow! were they tasty!


varda's picture

particularly the Poilâne miches.  Thanks for sharing and glad to see you back.  -Varda

GSnyde's picture

That sounds like a wonderful voyage.  Excellent photos.  The French bakers' marketing bureau should hire you.

I am sure you would rather have been in Fresno for your birthday, but if you have to be away, I suppose Italy is not a bad place to be.

Did you wander into the back of any Parisian bakeries to offer advice?

I look forward to seeing you and more photos soon.   I have your Central Milling order ready for pickup.


dmsnyder's picture

I don't think the French bakeries need my help, either in the baking or the publicizing. 

The trip was most excellent. For TFL, I featured the bread experience, but the wine was pretty great, and the countryside is just gorgeous, especially the Sienese hills (San Quirico, Montepulciano, Montalcino, Pienza, etc.) We didn't have time to tour Chianti. That's sufficient excuse to return.


Mebake's picture

Welcome Back, David, and a Happy birthday!

Can't be better than this, can it? I can smell sourdough aroma from my seat here, by your desciptions. Thanks for sharing your wonderful trips with us. I happened to visit Eric kayser in Dubai , once,also in Gallerie Lafayette  - Dubai Mall. I bought rye bread, and a Sourdough Boule:

Sourdough Boule: this was my first sourdough sample away from my kitchen. Not bad, But not what i had hoped for. You post better breads, David!

Sourdough Rye: Lovely. Tastes like multi-stage built Rye leaven.


Salilah's picture

That's a lovely report, and with wonderful photos - thanks so much for posting!


teketeke's picture

 Thank you for sharing your great travel, David!

I have wanted to taste Gosslin baguettes..  I really appreciate that you had it and report the detail here. Thank you so much.

Interesting to hear Italy's restaurants.. I thought the food in Italy is amazingly tasty.  

Thank you for sharing your trip,again!


Barbara Krauss's picture
Barbara Krauss

Hi David,

Excellent photos and comments, as usual, thanks so much.  What were you able to bring back by way of cheeses and breads?


dmsnyder's picture

We didn't bring back any food except some speculoos from Brussels. I did bring back a renewed determination to work on the Gosselin pain à l'anciènne. In all humility, I found no breads I felt could not be duplicated in my own kitchen with similar quality. As good as the best breads I tasted were, I see many of the talented home bakers here on TFL making stuff that looks and sounds equally impressive. Now, having a steam injected deck oven or WFO would make it a lot easier. <sigh> 


shansen10's picture

My one and only trip to Paris was in Nov. of 2005, and at that time I had not yet transformed into a vegetarian, breadbaking foodie.  How I wish to go back to sample all the good breads and visit the bakeries!  I am determined to go someday, and also to take classes in either NY or San Francisco

Meanwhile I keep on baking. 


breadsong's picture

Hello David,
Thanks for sharing the photos of these wonderful foods (and wine!).
I love all of those Poilane miches, all lined up in rows, with their elegant scoring.
from breadsong

RuthieG's picture

While it's been said so many times already, I have to add my thank you too.  I so enjoyed the trip description and the wonderful pictures.  Thank you for sharing your experience.