This is a story that my husband, an avid traveler, loves to tell.
He is in France and witnesses a small accident on the street. A man on a Vespa is involved in a fender bender with a Fiat. The man is screaming, gestures and all, at the man driving the Fiat.
It is evident that he is not upset that his means of transportation is slightly mangled. What he is really hot over is the fact that the baguette that he was carrying in his backpack is now on the street. This is how serious Europeans are about their bread.
Every morning in Paris my husband and I would stop into the pâtisserie just down the street from our hotel and order two baguette sandwiches – either a jambon beurre or a jambon et fromage, which are basically baguettes with slices of meat and either cheese or butter.
It was the whole process that endeared me. Wake up early, get dressed, and stroll down the bustling Avenue des Gobelins – so indicative of the Left Bank. Take your time and watch the shopkeepers raise their security gates and flip over their fermé (closed) signs. Paris in the morning is always crisp, alive, and soothing – just like their bread.
Enter the pâtisserie. Instantly you are hit with the perfume of flour, sugar, and salt. The baguettes and desserts behind the glass are arranged ever so perfectly and treated with care, like fine jewelry. Order you heart’s desire in your best French and enjoy.
Whenever I miss those mornings, my husband and I try and make our way to the Americana in Glendale. The outdoor mall, built to reflect the industrial era, has a European flair – from the clock tower to the courtyard fountain.
Our first stop is Le Pain Quotidien, which means “daily bread” in French. The bakery and “communal table” is not necessarily French but the ambience is. Le Pain Quotidien is the creation of chef Alain Coumont of Belgium who opened up his first communal table on Rue Antoine Dansaert in Brussels.
Walk into Le Pain Quotidien and you will be welcomed with the same communal dining on rustic furniture and the smells of fresh-baked bread mingling with the aromas of Belgian hot chocolate, Café au Lait, and organic tea. The marble counter adds to the inviting setting.
Order an “assiette” to share. They are always served with organic bread. My favorite is the charcuterie – prosciutto, spressata, Paris ham, olives, and cornichons (15.70). The carafe of mint lemonade (4.80) or sparkling iced hibiscus tea (5) is a refreshing complement.
There is a small table at the restaurant’s picture window. In my opinion, it is the best seat in the house. Sitting there, you will have a view of the street. Watch stylish Glendale people walk by with their miniature dogs.
After your time at Le Pain Quotidien, step across to Napoléon’s Macaron booth where Razmig Tchoboian’s, of Lyons, France, entices passersby with his colorful display of richly filled petite sweet-shelled round pastries.
My favorites are the strawberry champagne, salted caramel, and rose water. At about $2 a macaroon this is definitely an indulgence. We usually buy only two or three and make our way to the courtyard fountain.
The Americana’s huge central fountain is a nice place to linger while you slowly enjoy your macaroon. There’s plenty of seating around the fountain but be careful because the fountain does have a free water show (reminiscent to the Las Vegas Bellagio) every hour from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. You might get wet.
After some time at the fountain, take a moment to walk around the Americana and do some window shopping. There’s nothing like a leisurely stroll that nicely wraps up a petite Parisian getaway in Glendale for $50 or less.
The Americana at Brand | 889 Americana Way suite 330, Glendale, CA 91210 | (818) 637-8982
Le Pain Quotidien | 730 Americana Way Space E-7, Glendale, CA 91210 | (818) 839-5230
Napoléon’s Macarons | 608 Americana Way, Glendale CA 91210 | (818) 291-9160
There is free parking with validation but if you want to spend more than a few hours at the Americana consider free parking at the Glendale Galleria mall across the street. It’s only a short walk to the Americana if you cut through the mall.
Le Pain Quotidien has an app – LPQ App
Download the app and you’ll earn some “dough” in the shape of wedges every time you order and pay through the app.
Collect seven wedges for a free treat such as a mini brownie or a salad of your choice. Refer friends and you’ll earn dough when they download the app as well. If you didn’t order or pay with the app you can always tap the receipt icon and scan the bar code at the bottom of your receipt.
If you’re not in the LA area, Le Pain Quotidien has locations in New York, Chicago, Washington DC, Connecticut, and Philadelphia.