To complete my earlier report on Manhattan patisseries.
Ceci-Cela Pâtisserie 55 Spring St Bet. Lafayette/Mulberry (212) 274-9179
My original itinerary had not included Ceci Cela. From 2nd Avenue I had been planning to take the F train to Lafayette and change to the Lexington Ave. line Uptown to get to Payard. However I discovered that you can't get there from here. I would have to get out, add a fare and cross to the Uptown entrance. Rather than waste my two bucks on Lafayette St. I decided to go down one stop to Spring on the 6 train and check out the Spring St. Ceci Cela which is right next to the station entrance. I was very glad I did.
Ceci Cela is what I would call, a very good ordinary patisserie. I don't consider the tartes sampled from Pain Quotidien to have reached that level. CC is the kind of reliable unpretentious purveyor that you can usually find in a Paris neighborhood. Not everything is great, but the standard is high and the price-quality ratio is good. The pastries are a little more than half the price of the uptown shops and the size is almost as large. Everything looked good. Of what I tried -- raspberry with brandied cherries, apple, creme brulee, and cherry flan -- the raspberry cherry tart was the best, the apple the least successful. I also bought some eclairs and a strawberry tarte, but I gave those away without a taste. The pastry dough is neither too hard or thick -- like that in Pain Quotidien and Payard -- nor too soft with the risk of sogginess -- like that of Petrossian. Instead it is of the typical classic French style. The strawberry tart had a rich eggy custard. The raspberry-cherry had a layer of nuts as well.
I also very much preferred the atmosphere to any of the other places, narrow and tight as it was. Locals were coming in and out, to be greeted with a familiar word of welcome. But a stranger was also quickly made welcome as well. The Frenchman -- owner, employee?? -- who was running the counter had an easy friendly manner. Although the quality is not as high as the Bontè of yesteryear, the atmosphere was similar.
Ceci Cela does not have the precious pretentious quality of the mid-town and uptown patisserie, nor the corporate multi-outlet enforced good behavior of the multi-branch Le Pain Quotidien -- 6 in Manhattan and 3 in LA. I believe CC has two branches downtown and I can well understand the preference for this branch. The other, which I happened to drive by a day earlier, is much less intime.
By the way I did not try the croissant or brioche. In general, the best croissant I have had over the last year or so, between sampling in Paris, Montreal, and New York, has to be at Duc de Lorraine in Montreal.