Well, a late morning walk in the park with my dog and JoanN led to a baguette tasting! (We were inspired by this thread: [BROKEN LINK REMOVED])
We bought five baguettes en route to her apartment and rated them on a scale of 1 to 10. We first tasted them "as is" and, while they all seemed to have held up against the humidity, we decided to do a second tasting after putting them in her pre-heated oven for five minutes on a pizza stone. My score is first, then JoanN's. Our rankings didn't change after heating the breads.
Grand Daisy (made by Sullivan Street - $2.40) - 7/7 - Great crust, nice crackle, not a lot of flavor. After heating, flavor was better, crust still great. We think maybe there is more salt in this bread - particularly in the crust.
Tom Cat (purchased at Citarella - $1.99) - 6/6 - Good flavor, hard crust, but no crackle. After heating, the crust was still good, but the baguette seemed to have less flavor.
Balthazar (purchased at Fairway - $2.29) - 5/4 - Ok crust, no crackle, but good flavor. Crust better after heating, but less flavor.
Pain Quotidien (pain ancienne - $3.25) - 3/4 - no crackle, too dense, pleasant flavor to crust - almost made us wonder if we were really eating a baguette, given the density of the interior. Same after heating.
Fairway brand ($1.69) 2/3 - tasted like faux artisanal supermarket bread. Crust a bit better after heating, but even less flavor. (Note, I was the one to go into Fairway while JoanN waited outside with the dog, and I was almost reticent to buy this one, as the appearance made it clear to me that it would not be a decent baguette. But, in the interest of research, I did!)
My summation, based on this test, is that I'd never buy the Fairway or PQ baguettes, I'm happy that I can get Tom Cat around the corner from me, and that Citarella, where I usually do my grocery shopping, sells both Balthazar and Tom Cat. I probably won't go out of my way to buy a baguette from Grand Daisy given the previous sentence, but might take the 72nd St. transverse from the UWS to the UES instead of the 86th St. one, knowing that I can pick up a Grand Daisy baguette en route.
Photos - from top to bottom:
Grand Daisy (Sullivan Street)
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