Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Pastry crawl, anyone?

Poilane in Paris, France

Chowhounds are people who live to eat, or so says, a site dedicated to everything and anything related to the quest for good food (you might say that The Great American Bakery Hunt is the small, modest, red-headed chubby stepchild of, as we are so focused on one aspect of the food industry and could never possibly encompass the informative, exhaustive, and entertaining culinary grandeur that is Chow. Even so, I'd like to think that Chow and Bakery Hunt readers alike might one day develop a mutual respect for each other in this crazy and mixed up blog saturated, media frenzied, mouth watering land of food-questing Internet utopia).

I was recently looking through Chow's Los Angeles message board when I came across some kindred spirits: Los Angeles bakery hunters who go on much celebrated and adventurous "pastry crawls" or "bakery crawls" in order to search for elusive sources of perfected baked goods within Southern California.

It occurs to me now that I have been on many a pastry crawl, but I had just never thought to describe these searches with such a clever term of endearment. Although I plan on adopting this lingo as a part of my bakery obsessed vernacular, I feel the need to differentiate between "bakery crawls" and "bakery hunts".

Bakery hunting refers to a serious mission, one approached with drive, perseverance, and unfaltering determination to fulfill the quest for new bakeries. During a bakery hunt, you must stop at nothing to pursue discovery and new culinary conquests. This is serious, très sérieux! (French added for emphasis). You vow to try new things. Although the hunt will sometimes end in disappointment, you vow to begin hunting another day with even more vigor. It is always a worthy challenge.

You give no thought to social consequence. Your face may be smeared with sweet jams, your vehicle might be covered in baguette crumbs, you might even have little balls of molasses cookie residue forming in the crevices of your lips. You are certainly not going to be sharing the details of this trip with your fellow members of Overeater's Anonymous, and you doubt you will be squeezing into a bikini/speedo anytime soon. But you go on, you persevere. You're dough-thirsty for fresh treats, and you've got tunnel vision.

Bakery and pastry crawls are much different. Crawls are all about pleasure, not business. Crawls involve a certain amount of predetermined planning. You set aside a whole day for a bakery crawl, it is indeed, a long awaited, much anticipated event-- an occasion if you will. If you're desperate enough for a good crawl, you call in sick to work. You fill up your car with gas on the night before. You make a visit to the ATM for extra milk money. You avoid wearing black in anticipation of powdered sugar consumption. You have extra quarters ready for parking meters, or to compensate "the reserves", aka little kids you give extra change to, so they will go inside the bakery and buy you a fourth helping of your favorite baklava to escape the judging looks of the other customers (Hey, someday they'll be asking you to buy them cigarettes, right?). You tell the girl/guy that you're dating that you have to wash your hair that day, or get rid of them a la Greg Brady, by explaining that "something just suddenly came up". And you enlist the help of a worthy crony in your life, someone who will not judge you when you have to unbutton your pants a little at the end of the day, someone willing to block out an entire day on their calendar for the love of the crawl.

After all of the plans are made, your slumber is hindered by the anticipation of the crawl, much like a child on Christmas Eve awaiting a new Transformer or perhaps a Tenth Anniversary Tickle Me Elmo (Elmo has anniversaries??). You awake to drool, slathered on your face as a testament to your love and dedication to pastries. And the crawl begins. The crawl need not contain new stops along your bakery tour, it may simply be a day for you to celebrate your favorite pastries and baked goods. Sure you can throw a few curve balls into the lineup, but most of the goods will be your old stand-bys.

At the end of the day you will feel satisfied and full. You will allow yourself to sit in a vegetative state, dazed in front of the television by a news magazine show featuring a shocking story about pesticides, then one about teenage prostitution. You will have no free will to move in order to get the remote, so you will then watch an acne infomercial hosted by Marie Osmond. Fabio will make a cameo, followed by Kelly Clarkson, after which you will fall into a deep slumber. Ah, sweet pastry crawl.

I welcome suggestions from anyone who has a favorite pastry crawl. Hopefully, with the help of my blog, you will begin to understand the subtle differences between pastry crawls, hunts, and everything in between.

Personally, the following is my ideal pastry crawl if expense and logic is not an issue:

I would fly to Denmark, landing at CPH, Copenhagen's peaceful airport, and then take the train to the Norrebro stop. From there I would go to Skt Peders Bakery, which is about a ten minute walk away from the train. Following my stroll in the city, I would surprise my host mother in Roskilde, and request that she make me her famous Cinnamon rolls and breads. Also, I would ask for her hot dogs and sausages with warm, homemade fresh bread wrapped around the dogs in a heavenly warm embrace.

The best hot dogs in the world, straight from my host mom's Danish kitchen!

My host mom's cinamon bread-- It must have been fate when I was placed in a homestay with such an excellent baker!

Then I would fly to France, stopping off for breakfast at the Hotel DeVille Bakery (Hotel DeVille stop) for an Ouranais. Then I would swing over to Poilane, where I would have an open faced sandwich at their cafe (featuring their famous bread), and then grab one of the best apple tarts I have ever laid my eyes on (it has the best flaky outer ring of dough), waiting to eat it until I reached the top of the Eiffel Tower.

Boulangerie de l'Hotel de Ville in Paris, France

Then I would come back over to the U.S., grab some French's chocolate fudge torte cake, and call it a day. (Of course, I would need a side of ice cold milk). If there was still room, I might squeeze in a chocolate chip cookie or two made by my mom.

Next week, on the Great American Bakery hunt:

Pastry benders, binges, and extravaganzas- indulgent and excessive pastry marathons, resulting in sugar-induced stupors, empty wallets, and most likely health problems if you engage in this behavior enough! Then again, let us not speak of such things. A crawl is indulgent enough-- a bender just goes beyond reason. Pastries, especially exceptional pastries, should be savoured, not devoured. Thus, our adventures of pastry crawls, not pastry runs! Pastry crawl, anyone?

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