Breakfast is my favorite meal. Not only am I typically extremely hungry when I wake up in the morning, but I love breakfast foods. I have always been a large breakfast eater as well. When I was little I would eat two bowls of cereal and two English muffins on most mornings and have been known to eat six waffles in one sitting. My metabolism and food consumption have slowed down a bit since, but I still need to eat a hefty breakfast to get me off to a good start.
That is why it always surprises me when traveling in Europe that a simple cafe au lait and pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant) can sustain me all morning (and through several miles of walking) until lunch. I have decided there is something magical about this breakfast and often dream of it back here in the U.S. Alas, I have determined that eating a croissant every morning without accompanying it with the increased activity that being in Europe evokes would be detrimental to my waistline, so steel cut oats will have to do most mornings.
Not to toot-my-own-horn, but I can make a pretty mean pain au chocolat and I enjoy being the creator of such perfectly flaky layers of butter and flour. Yet making your own croissants takes about 12+ (glorious) hours and having a dozen of them in my kitchen on a regular basis is dangerous because I WILL eat them ALL.
However, I deserve my favorite breakfast sometimes and I was really craving it this week. Luckily there was a bakery on my list of places to try that I had very high croissant-hopes for.
A few months ago Houston’s My Table Magazine conducted it’s 14th annual Houston Culinary Awards and The French Riviera Bakery and Cafe was recognized as Houston’s favorite Bakery. I had never heard of this place and I discovered they do not even have a website, but by this week my curiosity was boiling over and I set out to find this bakery.
The French Riviera Bakery is surrounded by some of the most expensive neighborhoods and shopping in the city, but it isn’t showy at all. In fact, had I not been determined to find it, I would have driven right past with no second thought (and I probably have a hundred times). It is definitely a hole-in-the-wall, but the parking lot was busy which got me excited. Inside was small, but the pastry case was brimming with exactly what I came for, croissants, and the beautiful espresso machine was steaming away. Decorated with old posters and postcards of France I felt like I could have just walked into a high school French teacher’s dream. The food and decor was decisively French yet all the workers (and most of the patrons too) were Spanish speaking…we are in Houston after all. However, the best thing about this little bakery was that it did not have the panic and hurried anxiety of most coffee shops. Not a single customer that came in while I was there ordered their coffee to-go. Instead, everyone was happy to take a moment from their busy day to sit down with a friend or a newspaper and enjoy some breakfast.
I walked in 100% prepared to buy a pain au chocolat, but I got distracted. You see, I also love an almond croissant and not only did The French Riviera offer those, but they make a almond-chocolate croissant so obviously I had to get it.
And do they make you wait at the counter while your pastry and cafe are being prepared? No ma’am/sir! They bring it to you at your cute little table on a cute little tray. Can you tell I’m excited here!?
How about that croissant and cafe au lait? They were divine. The croissant was packed with yeasty goodness and the flavors of marzipan perfectly paired with a healthy dose of melted chocolate was just what I was looking for. The cafe au lait was smooth with foam that stood strong the entire time I enjoyed it and did not even beg for a sprinkle of sugar.
I have obviously found a new favorite and if any of you Houstonians are braving the Galleria area this holiday season you should find it too.
The French Riviera Bakery and Cafe
3032 Chimney Rock Rd
Houston, TX 77056
Monday-Thursday 7am-5:30 pm