Vancouver chefs bake with Parisian flair

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      Step through the doors of Faubourg (2156 West 41st Avenue) and you’ll swear you’ve left the tony environs of Kerrisdale and found Paris. The space is chic, modern, and oh so French, from the large chandelier and silver Louis XVI medallion chairs in the back dining room, to the glass display cases filled with croissants, chaussons aux pommes (apple turnovers), and brioches. Owner Franck Point says that customers are always coming in and telling him about their Parisian travels. They’re ecstatic that they’ve found a real, honest-to-goodness pain au chocolat.

      Point sits in the dining room where customers can enjoy high tea and light bistro fare (boeuf bourguignon, croque monsieur sandwiches), and talks about his decision in 2006 to leave Paris, where he grew up, and move to Vancouver to open up a French patisserie. “We wanted to be different. We brought French flavour to the neighbourhood,” says Point, who fell in love with Kerrisdale when visiting his parents-in-law every summer. His family now lives nearby and his children go to school in the area.

      Point insists on the authenticity of his bakery, modelling it on the famed Ladurée in Paris. Point, who trained at the Institut National de la Boulangerie-Pâtisserie, enlisted the help of Nicolas Comte from Les Compagnons du Devoir, an association in France that trains apprentices in trades such as baking and pastry making. Comte worked in Vancouver for two months prior to the restaurant’s opening, getting bakers up to speed and helping to adjust recipes for the higher gluten content of Canadian flour.

      One bite of the croissants—a golden crust gives way to flaky layers of buttery ecstasy—attests to the hard work. They’re made every hour or two, so customers are guaranteed freshness. Batches of bread, like classic baguettes and black olive fougasses, are made roughly four times daily. And let’s not forget items like chocolate éclairs, raspberry and pistachio milles-feuilles, decadent triple-chocolate mousses, and dome-shaped lemon tarts filled with milk foam. Macarons are coming soon.

      If you’re impatient for macarons, Paul Croteau, owner and pastry chef of Paul Croteau Confections, offers seven kinds that are sold along with his other baked goods at Campagnolo Caffe (2nd floor, 1020 Main Street). Chocolate, lemon, pistachio, coffee, salted caramel, vanilla, and passion fruit are available, in quintessentially vivid macaron colours.

      They’re made with only three ingredients: ground almonds, sugar, and egg whites. But over the phone, Croteau says do not be fooled: they’re not easy to make. “When you put two macarons together, they have to be the same size. They have to have nice feet [the ruffled skirt at the bottom of a macaron]. They have to be a bit crunchy on the outside, and moist inside.”

      Croteau learned this exacting skill at pastry school in Quebec City, where he was born, as well as during various stages in France. There, in France, he learned the art of making mignardises (tiny sweets) such as fresh-fruit jellies, nougatine, soft salted caramels, and grignotine (hazelnuts dipped in Valrhona dark chocolate and dusted with cocoa). They’re all basically one-bite (or two-, if you’re dainty) delectables. He also learned viennoiserie specialities such as apricot brioches and apple turnovers, as well as cakes such as Saint Honoré and raspberry mousse, which he makes to order.

      Pastry fans can also look forward to the Top Table Group’s upcoming launch of thierry (1059 Alberni Street), the dream of Thierry Busset, the former pastry chef at CinCin and West. During a phone chat, Busset casts his mind back 25 years to when he worked and learned much of his craft in a patisserie in Riom, France. He vowed there that he’d never labour in another one again unless he was at its helm.

      The 2,200-square-foot luxe shop will sell a wide range of French baked goods (“You can’t get more French than me,” Busset says, laughing), from coffee, chocolate, caramel, raspberry, and lemon macarons to the usual viennoiserie assortment. There will also be breads, chocolate truffles, walnut and pistachio nougat, caramels, candied orange and lemon peel, and jams made from fresh local fruit.

      Oh, but there’ll be more. Black forest cakes, opera cakes (almond sponge cake with coffee buttercream and ganache), as well as light, ethereal passion-fruit mousses and lime apricot bavaroises. He’s especially excited about ice-cream cakes, layered with ice cream, parfait glacée (an iced dessert made with egg yolks and cream), and sponge cake. “I want to push people to realize that cake can be very light and very easy to eat at the end of a meal,” says Busset.

      And what’s the launch date? The bakery is anticipated to open in May. “I’ve been waiting long enough now. I’m looking forward to it,” says Thierry with an excited note of anticipation in his voice. Indeed, and so is the rest of the city.