There are a lot of recurring themes here at Brunch with Bear, and one of them is that I love bread. I find it so difficult to be upset in a bakery; there’s something about the smell of freshly-baked bread that has an instantly calming effect, particularly amidst the hustle and bustle of New York City. One place that has an overwhelming amount of both hustle and bustle is midtown Manhattan, particularly the area around Bryant Park. That’s where businesspeople and tourists combine for a mishmash of hustling, bustling, and mostly making a mess of the place, and that’s where it’s crucial to have a haven in the form of a bakery.
Fortunately, Maison Kayser is on the south edge of Bryant Park, on 40th Street just off of 5th Avenue. The closest subway stop is, of course, the Bryant Park station on the 7 train, but it’s also accessible by a short walk from the Times Square stop on the 1, 2, 3, 7, A, C, E, N, Q, or R trains, or Grand Central Terminal on the 4, 5, 6, and 7 trains.
Maison Kayser is an artisanal boulangerie by Eric Kayser, originally founded in Paris in the ‘90s and now all over the globe, including New York City. Maison Kayser takes pride in being an authentic French establishment, and the Parisian flair is evident in its marble display counters and minimalist décor. One of the things I love best about it is that the breads behind the counter are displayed with their French names and also with their ingredients, so it is very easy to ascertain what to eat and what to avoid.
We were going for a light snack, so we got a mini French roll and a mini olive roll to go, and they were packaged in a fancy little bakery bag, which I always enjoy seeing. For entertaining or larger meals, Maison Kayser certainly stocks larger loaves, rounds, and baguettes. Unfortunately, the cakes and tarts have lots of butter and cream, but they are very beautiful to simply look at and sometimes aesthetics can be as filling as flavors!
The breads were, as expected, perfectly delicious. The French roll, which you might think would be boring or plain compared to the olive roll, had a perfect crust with a perfect crackle and melt-in-your-mouth insides. I don’t actually like olives all that much, but the olive roll had a really smooth flavor that was not at all reminiscent of the gross olives of my memory. Unfortunately, the texture was more rubbery and less fluffy than the French roll, so if I had to choose one, I would choose the plainer one for its more perfect execution.
Maison Kayser also has a café section open, and while I have never been, my mother tells me that it is delightfully simple as well as worth savoring. I do not know if it would be a Bear-friendly dining experience, as French food is traditionally cooked with lots of cheese and even more butter, but seeing as how the bakery is so conscious of its ingredients as well as its craft, I imagine the chefs at the café would be equally aware of their own preparations.
I know that bread has lost popularity in recent years for a number of reasons, but seeing as how it is an artisanal food that I can rarely seem to find in this city, I maintain its merits as a comfort food. Maison Kayser certainly does not disappoint in terms of comfort: it is a well-operated and authentic boulangerie that adds a stylish stop on our way down to breakfast at Tiffany’s and our other cinematic dreams on 5th Avenue.