Beyond the stretch of outlets, chain restaurants, and general retail, and nestled between an airport and a central route is a miniscule, slightly rocky parking lot, affording only a handful of spots to those who were ambitious to explore beyond the tourist traps and who are especially lucky to find it. The tiny lot abuts an equally tiny patch of cobble-stoned terrace, which offers a few iron tables scattered within the periphery of richly green shrubs happily basking under the midday sun. Behind this terrace stands a sleek and simple shop front, all black. The entrance conceals the regular bustle of staff, patrons, and general camaraderie inside. This subtle French imprint entertains the unimaginable possibility of being plucked from a posh Parisian corner, plopped, and recessed into the steel traps of a clunky industrial building. Welcome to the bread metropolis of Hyannis: Pain D’Avignon.
A two-hour road trip to Pain D’Avignon sprung from my quest to find a great baguette in New England. You may recall last week’s diatribe regarding supermarket baguettes. A simplified refresher- they are sort of okay, but not really. The initial search yielded an abundance of results, many of which are more than worthy of future research- blogging is a tough gig. However after all the sticky note paper cuts, highlighter finger stains, and eye strain from hours of squinting at poorly constructed Yelp reviews, I decided that Pain D’Avignon could potentially satisfy the increasingly unmanageable desire for an authentic baguette.
The trip down to Hyannis was remarkably effortless, and despite being tucked into a side street, Pain D’Avignon was easy to find. I arrived just before the lunch rush and snatched a great parking space. Pulling on the doors with a reluctant tinge, the café and boulangerie greeted me in the most French way possible- it didn’t. Everyone was engrossed in their tasks- clearing tables, taking orders, wiping the bar, stocking the refrigerator; even the customers dutifully ordered and found their spots, clearly local regulars. Everyone knew one another, and everything seemed routine… except me, the creepy newcomer lingering, ogling, and waiting for instruction. For a few moments, I stood pondering the next appropriate move, but nonetheless happy to absorb the surroundings. This place is the place to be if you are a local- a great scene off the beaten path. The atmosphere, a seamless balance of being traditionally rustic and fashionably modern, immediately invites with its demure color scheme of black, white, and a glorious burst of bright red that solely illuminates bar area- the most intriguing focal point. Barely able to look elsewhere, my nose promptly interjected with the glorious waft of fresh bread. Jackpot. I headed toward the service area, a wondrous bread-topia, with the intent of grabbing two baguettes and leaving. Then I saw the menu, and the plan changed.
The feeling was reminiscent of seeing Disney World for the first time as a child. Everything seemed magical… and French! The ten minutes I had originally planned at Pain D’Avignon evolved into three-hour euphoric dining experience. Essentially, I knew I could get a decent lunch there but reading ‘Croque Monsieur’ on a menu is vastly different from actually seeing it on a glossy white plate, like this:
That’s what I ordered, right there. How could I leave without sampling? The ratio of toasted buttery country bread, black forest ham, and Gruyere cheese was precise. The strip of melted Gruyere on the side of the plate was an added bonus. Everything oozed in all the right places. Then, the gherkins. Those were gherkins straight from Heaven, blissfully adding a quick snap of refreshing tang and crunch to every bite of salty, cheesy excellence. A Croque Monsieur is simple to make, but finding one this flawless is a treasure. I savored every morsel… and then savored some more on a raspberry frangipan tart for dessert. My taste buds were especially grateful that afternoon.
Following the long and tasty lunch, I grabbed two gorgeous baguettes to enjoy later, an ironic afterthought following such an impromptu feast. I saw them upright in their baskets, pleading for a good home filled with Nutella. Could I deny them a happy, albeit short, life? Absolutely not.
Tonight, I will sleep well assured that in times of desperation, viable options exist for my particular bread desires. Pain D’Avignon granted me baguette salvation. Not only did the fabulous and friendly folks there give me a scrumptious afternoon, but their baguettes exceeded an already high expectation. After the visit, I was snapping, crackling, toasting, and bathing those beauties in Nutella for dinner. Whether you live in the area or are looking to take a day trip, this is a genuine taste of France that will satisfy the most critical baguette connoisseur.
15 Hinckley Rd
Hyannis, MA 02601
For more information, please visit their STUNNING website:
À la prochaine!