Croissant taste-off

April 19th, 2009 by Dawn

Croissant taste-off

Eight of us were tasked with scouting the city to retrieve croissants for our taste-off this morning.  We paired up, fanned out around Seattle, and came together at Kye and Eric’s house with croissants, jam, and coffee beans (for our separate coffee taste-off) in hand.

Kye secretly labeled each of the croissants with letters so we only had appearance and taste to go off.  Each couple split one croissant from each of seven different bakeries, and we had to stack-rank the following bakeries:

We summed the rankings to arrive at an overall ranking across our group of eight people (e.g. the best possible score for a croissant was 8, if everyone ranked it first on their list, and the worst possible score was 56 if everyone ranked the croissant seventh on their list).  Note, although I’ve mentioned prices in the results, prices were not known until the rankings were revealed at the end, so did not influence the results.

Costco Bakery 7th place: Although there were some interesting surprises in the results, no one was surprised that the grocery store croissant from Costco ranked lowest, with a score of 56 (meaning we universally considered it the worst).  It was an unappetizing pale color, and larger than the others, with absolutely no crunch to the soft exterior. Not even worth the $0.35 price tag.
Le Fournil 6th place: Many were surprised that Le Fournil, generally regarded as a good bakery, ranked so low (although the competition here was admittedly fierce).  With a score of 40, it garnered comments that it had a slightly sour taste, was fairly flat in flavor, and didn’t even look like a traditional croissant since it was so big.  It was inexpensive vs. the higher-ranked croissants, at only $1.45.
Le Fournil on Urbanspoon
Honoré Bakery 5th place: It was a bad day for Honoré Bakery.  Their very-dark croissants were clearly overbaked today, with many saying that it had a slightly burnt flavor.  Although it garnered one ranking as high as second, its overall score was 33.  The price was right in line with the going rate for good croissants in Seattle: $2.25.
Honore Artisan Bakery on Urbanspoon
Sweet & Savory 4th place: The appearance of the croissant from Sweet & Savory seemed to rank it lower than some of the others, with a score of 31.  While the flavor was quite good and buttery, the exterior didn’t have the nice crunch some were looking for, and it had a flat tan color instead of the golden color of the best croissants on our list.  Some commented that it didn’t quite look like a croissant.  And with a price tag of $3 it was definitely not a bargain.
Sweet and Savory on Urbanspoon
Columbia City Bakery 3rd place:  Columbia City Bakery had a decent croissant for $2.25, with a toasty buttery flavor, not as sweet as some.  It was the most symmetrical, evenly colored croissant of the bunch, although apparently that bakery had heard that their croissants would be part of a taste test, so that may have biased the appearance.  The exterior was nice and crunchy, but there were fewer layers inside than others.  Overall, it received a score of 30.
Columbia City Bakery on Urbanspoon
Cafe Besalu 2nd place: First and second place were very close.  The results were interesting because our second place croissant from Cafe Besalu garnered the most (five) first place votes, but since it was almost too buttery for some, with a lot of air inside, a few lower rankings pulled it down to a total score of 19.  Those who liked it commented that they absolutely loved the butter flavor.  This, too, had a price of $2.25.
Cafe Besalu on Urbanspoon
Bakery Nouveau And our winner… Bakery Nouveau!  With a score of 15, it was the most universally liked.  Seven out of eight of us had it in our top two.  This croissant ranked with many as the best looking, with more layers than any other croissant, and a nice buttery, slightly sweet flavor that no one felt swayed too far in any direction.  And with a price of $2.25, it was right in line with the other well-liked croissants in town.
Bakery Nouveau on Urbanspoon

The results
The tasty conclusion

31 Responses to “Croissant taste-off”

  1. Michael Bruchas says:

    Nice detail, you managed to take great notes. The shots of each of the croissants really capture their differences. I think the two at the top were clearly above the rest.

    I told Kye a Croissant taste-off in Paris, putting top bakeries against each other should be our next event. ;)

  2. Dawn says:

    A Paris taste-off sounds great! Why don’t you guys meet us there?

  3. Kye says:

    Awesome recap of this morning’s event. All I need to know is who is hosting in Paris? I have some boulangeries in mind.

  4. Kim - Easy French Food says:

    Well at least you would save some money on the croissants once you got here – why oh why do they cost at least twice as much in the States? Hope you ate these warm. Even French croissants taste best when they are warmed for just a few minutes in the oven. I actually don’t much like them if they aren’t. I am always surprised by how much the quality of a croissant (and all boulangerie items) can vary from one shop to the next.

  5. Jannet Fahn says:

    I will agree with the winner. I’ve had their croissants and they’ve been absolutely divine, however, nothing beats their twice baked almond croissant. Now that is pure love.

  6. Frank says:

    I won’t dispute the winner, but Boulangerie Nantaise at 4th and Blanchard are worthy of checking out. And Grand Central’s.

  7. Eric Vigesaa says:

    This tasting was a blast. My only regret was the poor showing of Honoree. I’ve had so much better from them – this was clearly an off day. Besalu was my champ going in, and they did have a solid showing. Gotta hand it to Nouveau though – they do so many things well.

  8. Mathias says:

    It’s a shame you didn’t include the croissants of Dahlia Bakery.

  9. Dawn says:

    Frank – Thanks for the recommendations! I have never been to Boulangerie Nantaise.

    Mathias – I seriously considered picking up some from Dahlia to add to the mix, but they don’t open early enough! We were out at 8am getting the goods, so we could meet up at 9, and they don’t open until 9. This isn’t the first time I’ve been bitten by their late opening hours. As much as I love the place (I was even there just the day before this tasting), what kind of bakery opens at 9am?

  10. matt wright says:

    what a completley horrific morning that must have been..

  11. Amy says:

    Another one for the future: Belle Epicurean – they’re known for their brioche buns, but they make a pretty good croissant too

  12. Mark says:

    What abour Le Panier? I think they do plain croissants – I usually get an amandine when I visit them :)

  13. Elizabeth T. says:

    I’m also a big fan of Belle Pastry in Ballard (5406 Leary Ave NW), I think they’re pretty darn delish.

  14. nikeheart says:

    I have to try this for a party theme next time – it’s an awesome idea! You may also want to try the croissants at The French Bakery in Kirkland. I especially love the raspberry filled one.

  15. Dawn says:

    Thanks for the recommendations, everyone! I just got back from Paris last night, and my unofficial taste results from there say that Pierre Herme is the croissant taste-off winner of Paris, and came out far ahead of even Besalu and Bakery Nouveau. I’ve never had a croissant so flaky, buttery, and ful of layers as theirs! It shattered everywhere when I took a bite, and it was impossible not to make a mess.

    Amy, you’re absolutely right, Belle Epicurean is great. I love getting one of their buns or almond croissants at the Saturday farmer’s market.

    Mark, I used to go to Le Panier every morning on my walk to work, for my almond croissant. Unfortunately I don’t work downtown anymore. :( I did find that they were hit-or-miss on quality, though – sometimes the almond paste was mushy and barely cooked inside, and other days the croissants were way too dark.

    Elizabeth, I’ve never been to Belle Pastry and will have to try it out now!

    Nikeheart, I’ve only had the plain croissant at The French Bakery, so I’ll have to give the raspberry one a try next time I’m in. Thanks for the heads up.

  16. Briana says:

    You should try Fresh Flours on Phinney! Also soon to be in Ballard.

  17. Joel Rogers says:

    Ahh – I am a loyal Besaluian – James and staff consistently produce the best of what I’ve tasted around town. I admit I have not had a Croissant at Bakery Nouveau in WS, but was not knocked out the few times I’ve been there – too much of a production and too distant from those who own/bake… However I want to add one candidate that has been overlooked: Le Pichet at First and Virginia – a great croissant and a great place to have it – also I think they do the best Latte I’ve come across since the long remembered Raison D’etre (sic)

  18. Baker chick says:

    Try ours!

  19. Putri says:

    WOW Gabrielle!,I listen to you on Rod Quinns ovitreghns,and its so nice to see your pictures of the story’s you tell us.I love the work Sean dose and your photography is awesome too,I would love to spend a whole week in N.Y with my camera just taking pics.Thanks for the keeping me entertained wile I’m baking in the early hours of the morning.Happy days,Craig the baker

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