Paris via New York: A Tale of Two Pâtisseries

From frequent contributor Betty Guernsey:

Pâtisserie Claude, at 187 West 4th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues in the West Village, is one of those very few, tiny places that has become almost extinct in Manhattan, vanquished due to gentrification and escalating rents. There’s nothing fancy about the place: four marble-topped tables, mismatched chairs, blaring radio, photos (including one of Claude) hanging slightly askew on the wall – but the secret of its success are its fresh-from-the-oven croissants (tender and flaky, though not necessarily buttery), brioches, quiches, éclairs – no breads here – the pride of display going to daily fresh-baked tartes (apple, pear, apricot, hazelnut).

Wonderfully old school, beloved in the neighborhood with its obvious regulars, Claude has clung to its location for years – the original owner, now retired, handed down his cherished recipes to his successor, who carries on from 8 am to 8 pm daily but for Sunday, when he closes at 7 pm.

At the other end of the spectrum, a mere hop, skip, and jump away at 137 7th Avenue South between 10th Street and Charles, is Dominique Ansel Kitchen, its lavender/white décor smacking of Parisian sophistication. Ansel, former pastry chef for Daniel Boulud, is a master of concoction, his fabulous croissants and pastries resembling mad hats designed by Schiaparelli — and his savories, works of culinary art.

Outstanding — his chilled heirloom tomato gazpacho, curvy shell-like garlic croissants, ruffly prosciutto-boursin crossantwich, and truffled crème fraîche cheesecake, all unlike any you’ve ever tasted. The menu, altered seasonally, is served from 9 am to 9 pm every day. Perhaps best of all, the Kitchen has a lovely outdoor terrace, welcoming on a warm spring day, a small but select choice of wines and beers, and for summer, their own ice cream.