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Saint Michel Bakery, Wilkins Court in Rockville - Pátissier Bertrand Houlier Once Had A Second Location Downtown - Closed


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After reading about it in the Post last Week, I put Saint Michel Bakery on my list of places to check out for lunch. I'm not thrilled about the options in the lower part of Rockville (or North-North Bethesda), but I know I'll be back here to try more of their sandwiches.

http://www.washingto...9060200792.html

I had the pan bagnat; tuna on baguette with anchovy, egg, tomato, olives, and peppers. The baguette was great, crisp outside, soft inside. The tuna was solid (nothing spectacular, made with a touch of mayo), but the anchovy gave it a nice salty kick. The eggs added a creaminess to the whole sandwich. The 1/2 baguette sandwich (probably 9-10 inches) for $6 was delicious; too bad there is nowhere there to eat it. Carry out only. I also got some mini raisin buns and apple turnovers, to enjoy tonight.

Before going, be sure to map the address. It is an easy place to miss.

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I found them earlier in the week. It was worth the effort. Finding them is truly an adventure - no telephone and in an "alley." To aid all those searching - get on Wilkins Drive in Rockville, look for the Amalfi Restaurant, St Michel Bakery is around to the east side of the restaurant. The Wilkins Court sign is there but hard to see. So far I have been there twice and tried: Miche bread and french baguette - very good, lemon tart - wonderful, paris brest (no laughs) - very good, raspberry tart - very good, apple turnover - very good, raisin pastry - wonderful. I have not been able to get there early enough to buy their croissant, only got a fleeting look as they disappeared into someone else's bag. Looked very good.

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I found them earlier in the week. It was worth the effort. Finding them is truly an adventure - no telephone and in an "alley." To aid all those searching - get on Wilkins Drive in Rockville, look for the Amalfi Restaurant, St Michel Bakery is around to the east side of the restaurant. The Wilkins Court sign is there but hard to see. So far I have been there twice and tried: Miche bread and french baguette - very good, lemon tart - wonderful, paris brest (no laughs) - very good, raspberry tart - very good, apple turnover - very good, raisin pastry - wonderful. I have not been able to get there early enough to buy their croissant, only got a fleeting look as they disappeared into someone else's bag. Looked very good.

I can confirm the croissants are quite good [sampled the regular, chocolate, & almond versions]. All were very good, but definitely give the Almond version a whirl sometime!

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I can confirm the croissants are quite good [sampled the regular, chocolate, & almond versions]. All were very good, but definitely give the Almond version a whirl sometime!

I whirled today and can confirm . . . I think this is the best almond croissant I've had in the DC area.

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EPIC FAIL on a baguette from them last night.

Picked one up in the afternoon intending it for dinner, but while prepping dinner, I tore off the end, and after a few bites of the end (and a sample from the middle) tossed the baguette. Not crusty on the outside, overwhelmed with far more than a dusting of flour on the crust, and tasteless and doughy in the middle.

Without exaggeration, the "artisan" baguettes from Giant are better. One more chance, since others seem to like this place, but they're not on my happy list right now.

Anyone else tried the store recently, or their stand at the Bethesda Farmers Market, that can say whether I got a bad loaf or whether their baguettes just aren't good?

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EPIC FAIL on a baguette from them last night.

Picked one up in the afternoon intending it for dinner, but while prepping dinner, I tore off the end, and after a few bites of the end (and a sample from the middle) tossed the baguette. Not crusty on the outside, overwhelmed with far more than a dusting of flour on the crust, and tasteless and doughy in the middle.

Without exaggeration, the "artisan" baguettes from Giant are better. One more chance, since others seem to like this place, but they're not on my happy list right now.

Anyone else tried the store recently, or their stand at the Bethesda Farmers Market, that can say whether I got a bad loaf or whether their baguettes just aren't good?

I went to their store a month ago at lunchtime for a sandwich. Got a pan bagnat and a baguette to go. The sandwich was on a stale 1/2 baguette. I attributed this to maybe a lack of customers and the 1/2 baguette was just lying around? The counter girl had told me that usually the place gets lots of lunch time carryout sandwich business from the Parklawn people down the street, but she didn't know what happened that day. Anyway, later on at dinner time, I tried the baguette, It was hard on the outside and dryish on the inside; VERY hard to pull apart or bite through - stale?? You could have used it to play cricket. And this from a French bakery!

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I have been working my way through their short repertoire of foods and have not hit a clunker yet. Sandwiches, breads, croissants, tarts, etc. I visit the shop in Rockville about once per week, the last time being Tuesday. Been doing that for about two months now. My favorites are the lemon tart and almond croissant. BTW I know he has been working at a new bread recipe. Perhaps he missed on the day you were there. Staff will tell you which is the orginal recipe and which is new. Give them another try.

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Anyone else tried the store recently, or their stand at the Bethesda Farmers Market, that can say whether I got a bad loaf or whether their baguettes just aren't good?

We had a few croissants and a baguette from them last week, and were happy. The croissants had a light touch--the simple croissant was great. The chocolate croissant was not as good but still very acceptable.

The baguette we shared with some visitors from Germany. It was crispy enough for us on the outside, and didn't have the 'gummy' texture within that can often plague a baguette. I was enjoying it, and even fantasizing about having a piece of it later that night with some jam, but our visitors' two young daughters devoured the baguette. High praise.

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We've patronized them thrice, once at the Bethesda Farm Womens' Market (baguette, plain croisant), twice at the Rockville store (sandwiches, plain croisant). Everything was really good. The croisant is the best I've had and the baguette is almost ethereal compared to the local competition. FYI, received an email notice that they are now open in Rockville on Saturdays and they've added a couple more sandwiches to the menu.

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The croisant is the best I've had and the baguette is almost ethereal compared to the local competition.

I really wish I could agree with you, because I'm a nut for bread and pastry and would drive an hour out of my way to buy a snack and help a good bakery stay in business. But the baguette I bought only resembled the real thing on the outside. The inside was somewhat dense and very soft, like the faux-baguettes you find everywhere these days. I used a few slices for French toast the next morning but otherwise ditched the loaf.

The croissant was well shaped and flavored, but a little bit toward the bready side (it's a pastry, after all, and shouldn't have much chew). But maybe I'm nitpicking here. A truly good croissant is a rare and precious thing, and I shall continue searching for one. Likewise with the chocolate croissant: one of the better ones I've had but not perfect, either.

The outstanding thing I tried was a canele, at $.50 a real steal for a little snack. I admit to having no idea what a canele should be in terms of texture, but I loved the caramelized-like outside and custardy texture inside, and it popped like a little bomb of flavor in my mouth. In fact, I think I'll start making excuses to go to that part of Rockville so that I can buy these by the dozens.

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Went on Saturday 8/29 and bought three mini-chocolate croissants. I wasn't crazy for them, but they certainly weren't bad. I love the amount of chocolate in a standard croissant, and there wasn't enough in the minis. Normally, mini croissants would not have been my choice, but for reasons not worth going into here, that's what it needed to be. Flavor was fine, nicely browned on the outside.

They gave us a freebie macaroon (I threatened my kids to make them act as cute as possible in the hopes they might do something like that), and I thought it was great. However, I don't claim to be a macaroon aficionado(a?).

WORD--they don't take credit cards.

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Porcupine reminded me of this place following our lunch at Praline, so I had to swing by - in particular to check out the croissants. The plain croissants are available 'regular', or for 25 cents more you can have ones made with AOC Charentes-Poitou butter. The ones yesterday were among the best croissants I've had anywhere in the DC area, baked to a dark golden brown with a shatteringly crisp outermost layer, and airy flaky layers inside. Ditto for the almond variety.

I took home a couple of peach tarts, quite good but not distinctively so. They offered tasting samples of their lemon tart, and also the chocolate+pear tart. The lemon was excellent. I'm sure the chocolate and pear were made very well, but I'm not fond of the flavor combination; the chocolate distracts strongly from the crisp, sweet pear slices.

It's hard to spot, and their signboard still rests on the ground, awaiting a bracket to be mounted over the shop window. If you're facing Ristorante Amalfi (which occupies an endcap location in this industrial park) just head up along the left side of their building; the bakery is about halfway up the parking lot and on your right.

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It appears that they have opened a location at 1420 New York Avenue, right by the White House. I walked by today and they have a nice selection of viennoiserie in both regular size and mini, muffins, other French pastries, breads and a nice lunch menu made up mostly of sandwiches and salads. They appeared to be doing a pretty brisk lunch business. I tried a mini Chausson aux pommes and it was good but not excellent. According to their very sparse website they also have a location in Bethesda.

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It appears that they have opened a location at 1420 New York Avenue, right by the White House. I walked by today and they have a nice selection of viennoiserie in both regular size and mini, muffins, other French pastries, breads and a nice lunch menu made up mostly of sandwiches and salads. They appeared to be doing a pretty brisk lunch business. I tried a mini Chausson aux pommes and it was good but not excellent. According to their very sparse website they also have a location in Bethesda.

Probably trucking this in from base camp, huh?

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According to their very sparse website they also have a location in Bethesda.

They sell out of the Montgomery Women's Farm Coop in Bethesda on (I believe) Wednesday, Friday and Saturday mornings. Their almond croissants are terrific -- but lately I've come around to thinking that Patisserie Poupon's are even better.

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Probably trucking this in from base camp, huh?

Yes, that is what the woman behind the counter told me. I asked because the storefront lacked any aroma of baking bread. Obviously, one would prefer a croissant still warm from the oven. But still a welcome addition to the neighborhood.

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I finally tried the pan bagnat and it might be my current favorite riff on the tuna sandwich...so long as I'm not scheduled to speak at a meeting any time afterward. The anchovies and olives push this solidly into the salty/savory category.

I do like that they bake their croissants to a darker, crispier level than most, and the outermost layers flake apart beautifully. The fillings are a bit skimpy however...enough so that I prefer the messier and softish almond croissants from Bonaparte (available at the Bethesda food coop).

The bargains would appear to be the caneles (often sold out), and the pear and almond tart (only $10 for an entire 8" tart).

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I finally tried the pan bagnat and it might be my current favorite riff on the tuna sandwich

Dave, my son,

The tuna sandwich is a riff on the pan bagnat.

This is one of just a handful of food items that I assign almost entirely to Nice, France (along with socca, pissaladière, and tourte de blettes, these are the four Niçoise food specialties that I urge any and all visitors to hunt down whoever is currently serving the most traditional version of (*) - there's a little Kiosk, just off the beach to the east of the airport, that sells the best darned pan bagnat I've eaten (other than Tatie's, of course)). Imagine a perfectly made chivito or muffaletta, being sold on the beach - awesome. The beach, made with rocks resembling ostrich eggs, maybe not so much, but the sandwich - yes!

I love this sandwich with all my heart. When it's made correctly, it is absolutely transporting - I seem to recall Saint Michel's version using a baguette which is why I didn't order it: a pan bagnat roll is round and oversized, with some of the insides picked out so you can drench it with olive oil and pile even more ingredients in. Gosh you've set off a craving in me.

(*) To be enjoyed with a

Bellet Blanc, natch. If you told me that, for my final meal, I'd get to have one of Tatie's pan bagnats with a bottle of Chateau de Cremat, I'd be the happiest guy in the world (I'd avoiding eating the combination for a good long while, of course, but I'd still be happy). :) I will never forget the four of us hiking up Cinq Lacs, and about halfway down, after a good three hours of medium-difficulty randonnée, there they were - pulled fresh out of Tatie's backpack, with hot tea. Oh, bliss.

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Saint Michel Bakery's final day was on November 8th, as Pátissier Bertrand Houlier is moving back to France.

If its any consolation (and it shouldn't be much because this place was good), I had a really good cannelé today at BreadFurst. As great as this pastry is when it's done properly, we have room for two, three, ten, fifty bakeries which sell it.

Saint Michel closing is a palpable loss.

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Saint Michel Bakery's final day was on November 8th, as Pátissier Bertrand Houlier is moving back to France.

If its any consolation (and it shouldn't be much because this place was good), I had a really good cannelé today at BreadFurst. As great as this pastry is when it's done properly, we have room for two, three, ten, fifty bakeries which sell it.

Saint Michel closing is a palpable loss.

This is sad to hear for Rockville Rockwell-ians. It was certainly in a strange spot, but those canele were fantastic.

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I was walking by the former location of the St. Michel bakery and saw a sign for "La Bohemia", a "European-style artisan bakery" that is coming soon.  The sign further said that they will be collaborating with the former owner (I assume Mr. Houlier) and it seems they plan to have some of the St. Michel products (hopefully they'll be making those addictive canneles)

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I was walking by the former location of the St. Michel bakery and saw a sign for "La Bohemia", a "European-style artisan bakery" that is coming soon.  The sign further said that they will be collaborating with the former owner (I assume Mr. Houlier) and it seems they plan to have some of the St. Michel products (hopefully they'll be making those addictive canneles)

Thanks for the scoop, SilverBullitt - the new thread is here, and a tweet about your post is here.

Farewell, Saint Michel, and thank you for having put out such quality products for as long as you did.

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