Ever since the start of the pandemic, I’ve taken great pleasure in going to the bakery. This is a sharp departure from my prior relationships with bakeries (note the generalizing plural), which could best be characterized as occasional cookie dalliances. This bakery is, in fact, a single bakery—La Bicyclette in Williamsburg—that I had overlooked for several months prior to the onset of the current pandemic, because I did not pay attention to bakeries. I have visited this bakery more than any other bakery in my life. I have purchased more numerous and varied bready products at this bakery than at any other bakery in my life. This is now my bakery.
I realize that I am not alone in my renewed interest in bread. It’s clear not only from the block-long line in front of La Bicyclette, but from similar lines (literal bread lines) in front of other bakeries, from the legendary home sourdough boom of 2020, and from wildly popular Instagram bread-delivery accounts that are semantically identical to those of drug dealers. Bread, and the bakeries that produce it, are the signature pandemic vice of the gluten-tolerant. I spend too much money on bread, but it calms me down, and you can’t judge me.
On my average trip to the bakery, I buy a couple laminated pastries, something savory, and a giant crusty loaf of bread, whose long-fermented crumb is mildly tart and perfectly tender. For several weeks during the summer, though, we would stop at La Bicyclette on our way to the beach for a giant bag of bread, which may not sound to you like the absolutely amazing idea that it actually is. You eat the croissant in the car, take a few bites of a baguette with little boulders of gruyère baked into it as you wait in traffic, and then rush down to the sand (leaving the country loaf packed tightly in a paper bag in the trunk for the morning), where you and the family can rip apart two ham sandwiches with your teeth while going back and forth from the water to your beach towels. After several hours of swimming, during which you gradually consume a handball-sized pain sportif, you will have three madeleines tucked away in the side of your beach bag for a treat on the way home. This is all so much better than oversalted chicken fingers.
On those days, and for most visits to the bakery, Kina waits on line with me. We make jokes, maintain appropriate line spacing, and pass judgement on people’s dogs. Typically, since Laurea is with me (and I now take my bread buying very seriously), I hand Kina off before visiting, but today she and I made a little Daddy-daughter visit to La Bicyclette, where she sat on my shoulders and talked to the nice British guy who runs the place, who was wearing a bright green knit cap. As I waited for my giant bag of bread, she talked hats with him. He offered that her puffy hat was very nice; she countered that she also thought her puffy hat was very nice, and that her hat was her favorite hat. I tried to prompt her to compliment the man on his hat, but she stood her ground. Kina’s red poofy hat is her favorite hat. I gathered up the bread and we drove home.
a pavé, the flattish country loaf that I always get, and which you should get if you ever visit
one chocolate croissant
one bicolor croissant filled with hazelnut cream
one slice of quiche lorraine
a hunk of cheese, for Laurea
and two of their Kouglof, an little Alsatian yeasty loaf with various fillings
I’ve been buying a Kouglof from them pretty consistently since they started making them, since Kina will eat nothing else from them except the chocolate croissant. For her, I get a Kouglof with egg, bacon, cheese, and green olives. She likes the first three of those ingredients a lot, and she detests the last one, which means we end up picking a lot of them out of her mouth as they are discovered. For Laurea, I bought a special little ‘lof with chorizo, black truffle, and parmesan. I had one bite and couldn’t even contemplate a second (I have come to understand that I really dislike truffles, which is probably a high-value preference, but makes me feel bad about my tastes); this was fine by Laurea, who scarfed down the rest of it in short order. Laurea likes truffles.
This whole bakery soliloquy went on longer than I thought it would. So has my obsession with this bakery, though, so I suppose it’s all to be expected. Make sure to read the rest of the headlines today; some good stuff in there about breakfast table pen pals and the grand conclusion of our epic 27ish-day serialization of Nicole Kidman and Paddington, which I will summarize for you now:
Villain flies to London, visits zoo, bear is not there
She knocks on bear’s door
Breaking and entering: Signs of marmalade, but absence of bear
Paddington is confronted
The bear escapes: Marmalade proves slippery
Bear at Buckingham Palace. Don’t mess with the crown.
Paddington schemes with the queen. Also: random cat learns that Nicole Kidman isn’t all that bad
The queen and the cats engage in a PR battle. The game is, at last, afoot
Nicole Kidman and her cat friend have vanished. Queen does not appreciate marmalade
Nicole Kidman is saved by the bear. The system was their mutual enemy
Nicole Kidman and the bear are flown to Paris. A mysterious voice is heard
The bear and his newfound friend meet Aunt Lucy and Uncle Pastuso. They will fight crime in Paris
Nicole Kidman and Paddington rescue the Mona Lisa. Bear leaves handy trail of marmalade
Something is amiss with Foucault’s pendulum
Having saved the pendulum, a submarine beckons
They traverse the English Channel by submarine via Seine. A curious penguin is heard
Nicole Kidman and Paddington rescue crab with the Octonauts. Together, they head to Greenland
They help the Octonauts save polar bears from melting ice (also, wolves with knives for teeth and a wily fox)
They turn left at NYC, and the polar bears take up residence at the Central Park Zoo. Three penguins with Brooklyn accents catch a ride
They take the penguins south. Paddington meets the Octonauts and Coba the Octopus in the Caribbean
They traverse the Panama Canal, and a riddle is answered
They navigate Cape Horn with the aid of a squid and a whale—former enemies who have rallied to their aid
They arrive at Antarctica to repatriate the penguins. Elsa makes them an ice tunnel
Elsa saves Paddington from a storm, and Nicole Kidman plays a minor role as the pilot of the sub
The Octonauts, lost after the storm, descend to the Midnight Zone. Nicole Kidman is trapped in an octopus
Nicole Kidman and Paddington are released as Elsa freezes the octopus. The heroes are carried by a tidal wave to the jungles of darkest Peru, where Nicole Kidman finally finds herself a home.
I hope you enjoyed that. Kina sure did.
Today’s Parade is a Kouglof, illustrated by the kid with the funny hat. She wrote the letters herself. Isn’t it great?
And finally, a note: Reader-friends Helen and Peter separately inform us that the notion underlying Kina’s desire to set up camp underneath our table is Jay Appleton’s prospect-refuge theory. That there are papers in evolutionary psychology that explain the nice feeling of sitting in a copse of trees on a riverbank is deeply satisfying to me, and we extend our gratitude.