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Craving a Taste of Paris Without Leaving Orange County?

Here are some great and affordable French bakeries and pastries from a wide variety of local sources.

An assortment of pastries at Moulin. Photo courtesy of Moulin.

Growing up in a family of bakers and foodies, I’ve had a lifelong love of pastries. My great-grandfather immigrated from France and opened a bakery in the U.S., and my grandmother and mother continued his tradition of cooking and baking great food. I’ve been a baker myself for the past 20 years, and I worked professionally as a cake decorator and chocolatier.


Seven years ago, I had the privilege to study abroad in Europe where I tasted several handfuls of the continent’s most delicious pastries. I returned last summer to reinvigorate my palette. To name a few notables: Ladurée macarons in Paris (yes, they’re as delicious as they are pretty, and I’d say worth the hype), a chocolate Tour d'eiffel inside the Eiffel Tower, Vienna’s famed sachertorte (chocolate cake with apricot jam enveloped in a buttery chocolate ganache), and about as many Italian pastries as I could get my hands on in between gelatos. But, as all wonderful dreams and adventures apparently must, it had to end. I returned to reality, California, and the daily grind. Yet my sweet tooth remains.


I don’t know about you, but I can’t help but fantasize about my next trip to Paris, though I have no plans and no timeline for such a fantasy. Luckily, there are a number of great bakeries in Orange County that can satisfy a sweet craving and might even send you into a blissful Parisian reverie. I have undertaken the difficult task of tasting many pastries for you, scouring Orange County for the most delicious French pastries that I could find – with a flair for authenticity! I also included a selection from O.C.’s vast Asian American community, which long ago developed its own love of French pastry.


Here’s where you can get a taste of France in Orange County.


Dark chocolate raspberry mousse cake and choux praliné noisette (hazelnut praline choux) at Little France Bakery, Mission Viejo. Photo by Lindsay Mack, Culture OC
Little France Bakery

Nestled in the shopping center conveniently adjacent to Mission Viejo Mall is the Little France Bakery, where you can get your shopping and French pastry fix. Little France is bustling in the morning with diners anxiously awaiting the vibrant artisanal pastries found within. For breakfast, I highly recommend the “croissandwiche,” particularly the Italian, a savory, well-balanced combination of ham, turkey, provolone, onion, spring mix, tomato, roasted peppers, black olives, oil, balsamic and dijon mustard served inside a crisp, warm buttery-flaky croissant. Little France’s croissandwiches are unmatched in their perfection in Orange County. The bakery’s ambience at this location (there is a second location in Newport Beach) is reminiscent of Mimi’s Cafe in its heyday, painted cheerfully and stylishly with French scenery that will leave you in the mood to watch “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” or Godard.    


Hours: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily

Locations: 28181 Marguerite Parkway #21, Mission Viejo, and 1735 Westcliff Drive, Newport Beach

Cost: Between $10-$15 for sandwiches


Pandor Artisan Bakery and Cafe 

Pandor Artisan Bakery and Cafe serves fresh French bread, a plethora of pastries, gelato, and excellent paninis and crepes among other French items. Beverages include a variety of coffees, lemonade, tea and a selection of alcoholic beverages. This popular quick casual French bakery offers a refuge for breakfast or lunch for a great slice of Paris in O.C. Looking for an excellent way to start your day? I recommend the classic œufs benedict (eggs benedict) – you can even get it atop beignets (French donuts) – and a chocolat chaud à la lavande (lavender hot chocolate), a delicious blend of chocolate and housemade lavender syrup garnished with lavender buds.


Hours: Vary by location

Locations: Multiple locations throughout Orange County

Cost: $10-$20


Organic macarons handmade by chefs at Duverger, headed by chefs Claire and Bernard Duverger. Photo courtesy of Duverger Macarons

Pavilions

Pavilions grocery stores have excellent macarons. It is perhaps the last place I would expect to find excellent macarons (I’m generally not a fan of their other pastries), but their macarons, Duverger Macarons, located at the refrigerated section of the bakery counter, are the best I’ve tasted in Orange County. Duverger is a French family-owned bakery that services stores across Orange County. Their macarons are 100% organic and made in traditional French fashion. The blueberry lavender macaron is the stuff of French fantasies. Close your eyes while enjoying and you just might be transported to a lavender field in Provence.


Hours: Vary by location

Locations: Multiple locations throughout Orange County

Cost: $2.49 each

Contact: pavilions.com


Moulin

Moulin offers boulangerie (bakery) locations and the unstuffy bouillon (restaurant like a bistro or brasserie) to delight in, and has even created Moulin Maison, an antique store filled with vintage French finds.


I stopped by Moulin Dana Point and stepped into France. I was immediately seduced by a hand-drawn sign reading “Welcome Spring with our … Pink Opéra” and an image of a pink opera cake and tulips in the center. Handwritten signs with menu features are ubiquitous in Europe. Inside was a stylish yet fairly minimalist bakery with all the right features: a selection of drinks, including imported French fruit juices, wines, Evian (it really is great water), a section of packaged goods for a quick to-go snack, and a counter lined with beautiful pastries including the pink opera cake, which I was delighted to discover proved a raspberry lover’s dream: joconde sponge cake with milk chocolate raspberry ganache, raspberry crémeux, vanilla chantilly and raspberry compote. Additionally, Moulin offers artfully laden baguette sandwiches overflowing with artisanal-cured hams and meats, veggies and salads, typical of casual French markets you’d find in the cities.


Hours: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily at most cafes; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at South Coast Plaza

Locations: Multiple locations throughout Orange County

Cost: $10-$20

Contact: moulin.com


A classic french breakfast: a croissant and espresso. La perfection. Photo courtesy of Chaupain Bakery
Chaupain Bakery

Conceived by a husband-and-wife team Sarah and Sami Ellouze, now joined by bakers and chefs with more than 50 years of combined experience, Chaupain Bakery makes artisanal French breads, pastries, quiches and other baked goods. Savory lovers will find delicious sandwiches like the French dip with roast beef, caramelized onions, Gruyère cheese and horseradish aioli; the chicken pesto sandwich with pistachio pesto aioli, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach and Monterey jack cheese on freshly-baked baguettes and served with fruit or a mixed greens salad; and the “Chaupain Burger”: a seven-ounce ground brisket and chuck blend with sauteed criminology mushrooms, caramelized shallot and bacon jam, aged Gruyère cheese and garlic aioli served on a toasted brioche bun. You’re sure to find other French favorites on the menu and a plethora of pleasing pastry options.


Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily

Locations: 24401 Ridge Route Drive B104, Laguna Hills, and 211 Avenida Del Mar, Suite B, San Clemente. A third location is approved to open in a soon-to-be renovated section of John Wayne Airport in 2025.

Cost: $10-$20


Fruit tarts flaked with gold at Rendez Vous Cafe. Photo courtesy of Rendez Vous Cafe
Rendez Vous Cafe

Rendez Vous Cafe is decorated adorably with roses, an Eiffel Tower, and a pretty display of pastries, certain to brighten the day of anyone who walks in. Rendez Vous features mint hot chocolate with mint whipped cream, smoothies, traditional French offerings and popular California favorites like the guava cream cheese croissant and delicious specialties like the raspberry dome, the Pistachio Croque Croissant, and the mini chocolate Versailles layer cake (named after the famous Parisian palace). I think Marie Antoinette would approve.      


Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday; 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday

Location: 3330 East Coast Highway, Corona Del Mar 

Cost: $10-$20

Contact: 949-791-8730 or rendezvouscdm.com


Le Parfait Paris

Le Parfait Paris is a French bakery located in the Anaheim Packing District. (Five more locations can be found in San Diego County.) Le Parfait offers fun contemporary twists on French classics with excellent execution; offerings include the apple-licious brioche (with pastry cream inside, a decorative gold apple on top, and almond streusel), the nutella cruffin (a nutella-stuffed muffin-croissant combo), and the crookie – a magnificent marriage of croissant and chocolate chip cookie. For a savory twist, try the French hot dog: a 100% beef frank, bechamel, dijon mustard and cheese, wrapped in croissant dough and topped with white sesame and flax seeds. You will also find a selection of coffee and teas, imported juices and gelato.


Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Wednesday; 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday-Friday; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday

Orange County Location: 440 S Anaheim Blvd. Suite #214, Anaheim 

Cost: $10-$20

Contact: 714-783-7851 or parfaitparis.com


Cream Pan

Cream Pan’s owner Yoshinori Inada brings decades of baking experience to craft his confections, blending both French and Japanese methods for uniquely decadent treats. Cream Pan is known for its strawberry croissant, but creates a variety of pastries, sandwiches and tasty rice dishes. Try the pork katsu sandwich, featuring crispy pork katsu, lettuce, cabbage, tomato and spread on freshly baked bread, or indulge your sweet tooth with the fun “Choco Horn”: a pastry stuffed with and covered in chocolate. Or there’s the “Cream Pan”: sweet buns with light custard inside, to name just a few notables.


Hours: 5 a.m. (Fountain Valley) / 5:30 a.m. (Tustin) to 7 p.m. daily

Orange County Locations: 602 El Camino Real, Tustin, and 15945 Harbor Blvd., Fountain Valley

Cost: $10-$20

Contact: creampan.com



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