We learned our lesson from our last taste-off. Stick to the basics, and don’t overdo it. So what could be more basic than a baguette? A great one eaten warm out of the oven, even plain, can be nirvana. And baguettes are best paired with simple ingredients: a thick smear of butter, a hunk of oozing cheese, or homemade jam.
So it was decided. There would be a baguette taste-off. Here were today’s contenders:
- Bakery Nouveau
- Columbia City Bakery
- The Essential Baking Company
- Grand Central Baking Company
- La Brea Bakery
- Macrina Bakery & Café
- Tall Grass Bakery
We considered others, too: the newly opened Le Rêve Bakery (not selling baguettes yet), Dahlia Bakery (missed out due to morning-of technical difficulties), Boulangerie Nantaise, Le Panier, Le Fournil, and the list goes on. But remember the “don’t overdo it” part?
You may already be familiar with our rating system, but I’ll reiterate it here:
This was a blind taste-off, with an arbitrary letter assigned to each baguette for identification. We ate them sans accoutrements for the taste-off, and each person independently stack ranked them, from their most to least favorite.
A baguette was given one point when it was the top of someone’s list, a second choice baguette received two points, all the way on down the list. So with ten tasters for our seven baguettes, the best possible score is 10 (i.e. when everyone ranks it top on their list) and the worst possible score is 70 (all ten people rank it 7th on their list).
We wound up with three clusters of bakeries in our results: 5th, 6th, and 7th were very close, then we jump up to the 3rd and 4th place rankings, and finally, the 1st and 2nd place winners, which were only two points apart!
|7th place: Over half ranked the baguette from La Brea last, giving it an overall score of 61. However, this grocery store baguette didn’t take the more unanimous last place of our croissant ringer, because a few felt that it had a better crunchy crust and soft interior than the worst of the bakery baguettes.|
|6th place: Macrina didn’t have a good showing today. Their baguette was the palest of the bunch, with a bubbly crust, and had very little textural contrast between the interior and exterior. For the most part, it was in the bottom three on people’s lists, garnering a total score of 58.
|5th place: Essential got points for a caramelized crust, but many thought it was too dark, almost burnt in spots, and the baguette overall was tough. The interior was the least traditional of the lot, with a darker wheat crumb, the sourest flavor, and none of the large airy holes inside that people favored in the higher ranking baguettes. Its overall score was 50.
|4th place: Here we enter the next clustering of baguette scores. Seven of the ten of us ranked Tall Grass’s baguette 3rd, but the others’ lower rankings pushed it down to a score of 37. One of those who ranked it lower gave it a “low crumb rating” and several felt that it had a simple, uninteresting flavor.
|3rd place: Grand Central’s bread got higher accolades for the flavor and had a toasty brown crust, but the exterior was too hard for some. With blunt ends, this wasn’t a traditional shaped pointy baguette like our top two finishers. This one had the widest range of rankings, landing everywhere except last on people’s lists, giving it a final rating of 34.
|2nd place: There were opinionated discussions about the top two results, and it seemed to come down to either texture or flavor. Many preferred the complex flavor of the 2nd place Nouveau’s baguette. But while four felt that it was a winner across the board, others didn’t like the texture as much as our winner. The color of this baguette was a beautiful golden brown. Its overall score was 21.
|And our winner, by a hair: Columbia City Bakery, with 19 points! All but one placed it in their top two, and most felt Columbia City’s baguette was the closest to the ideal baguette texture, with a crisp exterior and a moist, elastic, chewy interior.
So tell me, what is your favorite baguette? And what should be our next taste-off? Bagels? Cupcakes? Even teriyaki has been suggested.
And if you missed any of our past taste-offs, you can find them here: