Yes, I know one is the much hyped independent bakery, and the other a chain from Europe, but I figure I'll try to sample some items from both while I was at Pasadena for a conference.
In the morning I popped into Europane with the intention of getting one pastry for breakfast. So I ended up with 2 pastries, and 2 macaroons when I walked out the door - good thing I have a one mile walk to Old Town. I got the bread pudding which is in a disk shape - it was extremely good and not too sweet. Also got the cream cheese blueberries topped on a croissant like dough. That was not that wonderful. Actually JJ Bakery has almost the same thing and their version made with puff pastry, and a surprise brownie bit instead was much more tender. The main problem is that the croissant part is rather leaden. Onto the coffee macaroons. They are not of the same size, so won't win any beauty contest. Taste wise they tasted appropriately of coffee, and have the crunchy-tender texture typical of the macaroons. Not bad, but nothing I would go back for.
In the afternoon I dropped by Le Pain Quotidien for lunch. I heard a lot of negative comments on this board on the price, and I don't get it. It's not too expensive for what you get. I had the egg salad, which is about 1.5 size of a normal sandwich. I had to resort to eating the filling and leave some of the bread because I just can't finish the sandwich. I really like the rustic brown bread they used (sourdough?) I would totally get the bread again, but the egg salad was weird with a lot of parsley and anchovies (I love anchovies, btw). At the end all I can taste was the parsley. I also go the belgian brownie to go. The brownie was my favorite sweet out of both bakeries. It's more like a brownie cake. It's rich in taste but lighter in texture than most brownies, and the outside is rather crunchy and the inside is soft and moist. It's not too sweet either. Anyway, thought I have to check this place out as it's been mentioned in a a few travel shows/books on Belgium. Somehow the place in Belgium seems a little more rustic and inviting than the one at Pasadena.
One of these day I want to go back to Europane to check out the much lauded lemon bars and egg salad sandwich, and stock up on more of the sweets from Pain Quotidien.