So this week I’m kind of cheating with the Sweet Tooth NYC Bakery Tour because I’m doing two bakeries in one post. Blasphemy, I know! But with so, so many fantastic bakeries in the city, and with Francis Payard and Maison Kayser literally across the street from each other, I couldn’t resist hitting them both up in one trip. Payard has been a staple on the Upper East side for almost 20 years (although was kicked out of his original location before settling in where you find them now), while Eric Kayser just made his way from Paris to NYC in the summer of 2012. They’re both traditionally-trained French pastry chefs that are extremely well known across the globe, and especially on 3rd Ave between 74th and 75th streets. While Maison Kayser has a more rustic feel and large selection of breads, Francis Payard focuses on the fancy schmancy pastries and macarons. Thankfully we grabbed our friend Alyx who lives nearby to help us taste test so many things in one afternoon!
Ryan and I actually visited the Maison Kayser location in the 5th arrondisement in Paris one morning during our visit there in fall 2012. I read great reviews on Yelp, and with a craving for a great pain au chocolat, we stopped by on our way to Notre Dame. I still have drams about those pastries. So when I heard MK was in NYC too, I was very, very excited! Of course it doesn’t have quite the same magic as being in Paris, it seemed pretty darn close. The bakery is always busy, filled with amazing aromas, and a large selection of pastries, breads, and muffins. We tried a caramel eclair, pistachio financier, viennese chocolat, lemon loaf, and classic baguette. My favorite was the pistachio financier, which was surprising to me since I don’t usually love pistachio, but since it’s one of their classics it didn’t come as much of a shock. I didn’t care so much for the loaf of lemon cake/bread but everything else was really, really yummy.
Across the street at Payard the feel is a tad more formal and modern, with everything looking tres magnifique dressed up in stark orange and chocolate brown. Just look at the awesome macaron cake they had in the window! I was in awe of the beauty of the pastries they had on display, they truly are works of art. In my mind there is a big difference between a baker and pastry chef, and while first two stops of the tour celebrated fantastic bakers, there’s no question that Kayser and Payard are on a whole different level. I’m not always in the mood for complicated pastries with almost inedible looking components (I mean, take a look at that neon yellow-green apple pastry below), but I was very excited to try a few things from master Francis Payard.
We got a sampling of macarons (that I forgot to photograph) and also this gorgeous Louvre Cake below – their best selling dessert. As Payard describes it on their menu online, “enrobed in a chocolate glaze is chocolate mousse and hazelnut mousse layered with a hazelnut dacquoise over a hazelnut wafer”. And then of course there’s gold leaf adoring the pastry. I don’t even know what dacquoise is, but I will tell you this pastry was utterly amazing. So rich but still light and the little crunch of the wafer was heavenly. I would love to bring a platter of a few of these beautiful desserts to a party – they’d be showstoppers!!
Verdicts: If you’re French you can probably skip these bakeries on your trip to NYC, but if you don’t have the luxury of amazing French pastries at your fingertips on a regular basis, I really suggest going up 3rd avenue to visit these two gems. Since they’re across the street from each other you can bang out two great eateries quickly and get to compare them just as I did! I would recommend skipping the macarons at Payard and going straight for the elaborate pastries – macarons are a dime a dozen in the city but the look, taste, and textures of his other fancy treats are not. At Kayser, grab a chunky baguette, a pistachio financier, and whatever else grabs your eye. It seems you really can’t go wrong with either bakery!