Bastille Day, France's National Holiday is upon us – time for a croissant! While you certainly don't need to wait until July 14 to visit one of the many French bakeries in Winnipeg to get one, we've asked new guest columnist, Parisian Kenza Zaoui, to try a few for us.
And should you be looking for special Bastille events in Winnipeg, we suggest a Tour de France with breakfast/lunch pairing at Ker Breizh Crêperie, followed by a special menu at 6 p.m. and plenty of accordion all day to mark its one-year anniversary on Sherbrook.
As well, the Alliance Française Manitoba is holding an event for Bastille Day today, July 13 starting at 5 p.m. on the Esplanade Riel featuring a free concert, artisanal cheeses, and crêpes from the aforementioned Ker Breizh.
The flavours of my youth
I grew up in Paris, and just like in the movies, baguettes and croissants were almost a daily occurrence for our French family. When I arrived in Winnipeg, I was really pleased to find so many bakeries with French flair and I decided to try them all. It took a few years and as the bakery scene changes, it is the perfect opportunity to find the best croissant in town together. I selected four bakeries across the city but my list could have been longer!
Gâto Bakeshop | 819 Sargent Avenue
The name of the bakery is a pun on the word gâteau, which means cake, as explained in this interview with owner Laura Ghurboo in 2021. In the shop, half the case contains the expected croissants, danishes and cakes, whereas the other half features only vegan products. They have a rotating croissant of the week (when I visited it was Black Forest: chocolate with cherries) and offer both salty and sweet baked goods. The plain regular croissant had a delicious taste of butter and the savoury potato croissant was a yummy breakfast.
Frenchway Café and Bakery | 238 Lilac Street
Sitting just steps away from Corydon, it is the oldest bakery on this list as it has been open since 2008. I have been eating their croissants since I first arrived in Winnipeg six years ago when I was living and working in the neighbourhood — they are almost comfort food for me. They are big, always fresh and will satisfy the croissant lovers who prefer their pastry on the softer side. Their almond croissant is worth a try for the concentration of flavours as well!
A Taste of France | 1171 Kildare Avenue East
A Taste of France, formerly Sweet C Bakery, is the newest French bakery in town. The owner, Emmanuel Battaglia, worked in several bakeries around the city before opening his own. He comes from France, hence the name of the shop, and offers interesting twists on the classical French menu. There were no jalapeño or lemon meringue croissants when I was a kid, but today in Winnipeg there is something for every palate, vegan or not. I really enjoyed the variety pack which is available on week-end to sample seven different croissant types! Regardless which one you bite into, the pastry is flaky, crunchy and light. Special mention to the chocolate croissant which tastes just like it would in France.
L’Épi de Blé bakery - Mithi Bread | 1757 Main
This bakery is a staple among the French community in Winnipeg, and they rush here a few times a year to get traditional baked goods like Yule logs at Christmas or the marzipan king’s cakes in January. The two original owners from France recently sold the shop, recipes and equipment (including their oven imported from France), but the new owners have continued the operation while adding Mithi Bread to the shop's title (mithi is a reference to the Indian dish of fried bread soaked in cardamom- or saffron-flavored sugar syrup). Croissants are still for sale, either sweet (plain, almond, chocolate) or savoury (spinach and feta or ham and cheese), as are most of the original menu items. The plain croissant is on the softer side but the savoury croissants make a perfect quick lunch!