After returning from vacation to Paris and Provence, I've been seeking a local bakery that provides at least the semblence of a true, delicious French baguette.
I'll define what I'm looking for--halfway between the older, dense style of French bread and the more cottony variety also found in France. An excellent French baguette has a crispy (but not hard) crust, with a lightly salty, earthy taste. The flesh of the bread is reasonably light and airy, and it may have holes dotted throughout. It does not have the dull, homogenous consistency in texture of machine-made breads. When I butter the bread, the flesh of the bread must compress to a degree--it cannot remain firm in consistency, or it is far too doughy and heavy.
Please do not post with suggestions from the traditional chain bakeries, such as French's Bakery or Champagne Bakery. They do not make my definition of fine French bread. I purchased a country loaf from Whole Foods--terrible. I tried La Brea Bakery in Anaheim--also terrible. In addition, I have tried Le Pain Quotidian in LA, based upon Chowhound posts, which has passable but not wonderful bread. I have tried Village Bakery--reasonable but not hound worthy. And I intend to try the bakery in Laguna Beach opened up by the culinary school (any reports on this one?). The closest I have come to finding excellent French bread is at Jimmy Z's; unfortunately, they buy their bread at Anaheim French Bakery, which does not sell directly to consumers.