Hello, my friends! How’s your week been? I had some family time this week; my baby brother graduated from college, and a lot of my east coast family came to Hawaii to celebrate the occasion! I’m so proud of him! He started photography about the same time I did, and we have been photo buddies even though we’re separated by half an ocean. Anyway, I’ll write more on that soon enough!
First, I wanted to tell you all about the Best Baguette competition that took place on May 10, at landmark San Francisco restaurant Le Colonial. The event was organized by French Morning, a French language publication for Francophone ex-pats living in the United States. Amazingly, they invited me to be part of the jury to judge the finalists’ baguettes and specialty breads.
The other members of the jury were:
- Laurent Manrique, chef consultant at Le Colonial, owner of Café de la Presse and Blanc et Rouge in San Francisco;
- Geoffroy Raby, owner of French restaurant Cuisinett in San Carlos;
- Nick Ronan, owner of Bisou Bistronomy and Beso Bistronomia in San Francisco, and author of The Kissing Chef;
- Pierre Bee, director of L’Apéro, a French/European hospitality industry networking group, and textile expert for the hospitality industry;
The event took place on the top floor of the beautiful Le Colonial, and it was a packed house! All the judges were interviewed on video in French (•ω•), and we received personalized chef’s jackets (I am never taking mine off!). I couldn’t help but notice I was the only non-French judge, and only female judge. My French speaking skills, I happily found, have not left me, which was good because all judges’ conversations were in French. There was even an appearance by politician Frédéric Lefebvre, deputy for French citizens living in the US and Canada (wow, they have their own government representative).
Prior to the competition, French Morning readers nominated their favorite bakeries for the chance to compete in the finals that night. Four made it in:
We the jury needed to judge these bakeries’ baguettes and specialty breads on the bases of:
We were handed two baguettes from each baker, numbered so that we couldn’t tell what bakery they came from. The chefs quickly devised our tasting system. We would pass around the baguette so that everyone could visually examine it, and then we would pass around a second time so that everyone could break off a piece for tasting.
The first baguette showed promise immediately. It was springy, not too dark, with nicely formed “ears” up top. The crumb was full of irregular holes, as one would hope for in a good baguette. Its flavor was slightly sweet, just a tiny bit sour from the fermentation, and over all pleasing. Baguette 2 didn’t seem to have risen well, so it lacked well-defined ears, and its crumb was a little flat. Baguette 3 seemed a little burnt, and had a doughy texture, not the fluffy, springy one I would have liked to see in a baguette. Baguette 4 was quite lovely. It had the irregular holes throughout the paste, some nice ears on the top crust, balanced flavor, good color. I was about to rank it highest, but then remembered the first baguette again. I compared them, and finally decided the first one was executed just a tiny bit better.
When it came to the specialty bread judging, things were a little different. Each bread was different, so we couldn’t measure the breads against each other. We needed to judge each bread on its own merit. There were two pains de campagne-type hearty breads, a brioche-type bread, and a chocolate bread. One pain de campagne seemed well-made—hearty, flavorful. The other was a little too dense for my taste. The brioche surprised the judges, but ultimately didn’t win them over. The chocolate bread was another surprising discovery. It wasn’t too sweet, the crust was hefty, the crumb was pleasing and open.
After about an hour of debating, and much bread carnage, we had scored our breads (so to speak), and chosen our winners. After the tally, we announced the winners!
The People’s Choice: Jane the Bakery
Best Specialty Bread: The Midwife and the Baker) for their pain de campagne
Best Baguette: Jane the Bakery
It was a wonderful event! I hope they do this again in San Francisco next year! If you missed it this time, keep your eyes peeled for future best baguette competitions on French Morning’s website. Thank you, French Morning, for inviting me to be a part of the jury!
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