The Caramel Obsession
Jess, you have to try this French place I found…
I hear this amongst friends, family, and followers quite often, and it never grows old. Never. I’m always looking to discover a new place that offers authentic goodies and magically transports me back to France with one bite. For me at least, taste is the best catalyst for nostalgia, and my French memories are an integral part of my lifeline. In fact, the first recommendation I ever received from a dear friend not only *brought* me to Paris, but it was also the determining factor for this blog’s creation.
A great tarte citron should be on everybody’s radar, right? Bien sûr!
At any rate, today I’m reflecting on a place that I have frequented for the past few years. I’ve briefly peppered posts and social media with its delight, but I haven’t really concentrated on the greatness that is Caramel Pâtisserie- a French artisanal bakery and café- in Salem, Massachusetts.
As a side note, I have always held an affinity for Salem, otherwise known as The Witch City. Every summer of my childhood, I squished into my dad’s red Camaro for a historical day trip that almost always included a fun day of history and an ice cream cone. I loved touring the witch dungeon because such a checkered story seemed to dangerously tickle my otherwise ordinary little life. Years later, I attended college at Salem State University, and became deeply connected with the city’s less familiar (but equally important) maritime past through internships and jobs at the Peabody Essex Museum and other regional historical sites and initiatives. In that sense, discovering a French bakery in one of my favorite cities was equivalent to winning the lottery. Even now, as I live almost more than an hour away from The Witch City, I will make the drive just to taste one of Caramel’s buttery croissants.
Although, I never leave Caramel with just a croissant. I’ve tried. It’s impossible.
If you’ve ever been to Salem, then perhaps you are familiar with its mystically-rooted past with the Salem witch trials in the late seventeenth century. Since then, the city has become a notable hub for the dark arts, where the essence of Halloween tends to reverberate all year long. Yet beyond the haunted houses and tarot card readers is a diverse collection of uniquely charming businesses, which is where our beloved Caramel comes into play.
Caramel is the archetype for French New England bakeries because of its devoted focus on esthetic presentation, for one. In my travels thus far, Caramel is one of the few that actually does this. The storefront is sleekly minimal, clean, and freshly modern, which places sole emphasis on its beautiful selection of treats. In Paris, this is common. Less focus on interior flare, and more focus on the product. Really, it’s a delicious, edible art gallery.
Caramel is always a fun visit- if you decide to people watch, you will notice patrons offering their best attempts at French conversation with the owners, who originate from south central France. The staff is happy to chat in their native tongue, which is endearing for someone like yours truly, who continues to master the language at a snail’s pace. After every trip, I feel a bit more confidant tackling French conversation.
At any rate, let me get to the good stuff- the treats. I’ll go ahead and conclude this post with my flavorful résumé, because in the spirit of Caramel, the focus should be on the abundance of artful goodies…
Are you hungry yet?
Many may argue that Salem is best visited in the fall during its peak Halloween season, but I would argue that summer is the right season for a Salem trip. The city still bustles and thrives without the fuss of eccentric and often inebriated millennial crowds. Caramel Pâtisserie is for an uninterrupted savoring experience. Enjoying these goodies on-the-go risks the oversight of thoughtfully complex flavors that aren’t readily available elsewhere in the region. Recently, they released a Lily of the Valley macaron. I dare say, it might be the best macaron I’d ever experienced. Perfect composition, perfectly light and refreshing flavor. If you can find that anywhere else nearby, I’ll give you a million dollars.*
This summer, have yourself an authentic French moment and visit Caramel. If you miss France every day, as I do, this bakery will salve your woes.
À la prochaine.
*Sarcasm. No. I will not actually give you a million dollars. Désolé!
Salem: 281 Essex St. Salem, MA 01970
Somerville: Coming Soon!