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Croissant Critique: Verzênay Pâtisserie

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Welcome to the fifth installment of our Croissant Critique series! Our team took a trip to Verzenay—not the town in north-east France, but Verzênay Pâtisserie in Lincoln Park! Pâtissière and owner Arshiya Farheen opened the bakery after studying French culinary arts in Paris, and thanks to her delicious skills, you can find the treats from Verzênay at the Green City Market, and in hotels, coffee shops, and about 15 Whole Foods stores. We just had to see what all the hype was about!

We rated each pastry based on six different factors: flakiness, flavor, butteriness, lamination (how shiny they are), presentation (how they look), and whether they’re more traditional or innovative. Sound tasty? Allons-y !

Read on to learn our thoughts on each croissant that we sampled!

Chocolate Croissant

How gorgeous is this pain au chocolat ?! It tasted just as great as it looked! The texture was fantastic – super flaky while preserving the butteriness that we need in a good croissant. It wasn’t an overload of chocolate, but just enough to give a lovely mocha flavor throughout. What makes this croissant perfect for a sweet tooth is the unexpected caramelization on top! The sweetness on top makes it taste a bit like a dessert, but if you want dessert for breakfast, we’d never blame you! With a beautiful and sleek presentation, Verzênay’s chocolate croissant is one of the best we’ve had in our 5 critiques!

Final Grade

  • Flakiness: 10/10
  • Flavor: 8/10
  • Butteriness: 8/10
  • Lamination: 10/10
  • Presentation: 10/10
  • Innovative vs. Traditional: traditional, with a modern presentation

Classic Croissant

If you don’t have a sweet tooth, or want something a little more classic for your petit déjeuner, we recommend this fantastic plain croissant. We loved the texture: very buttery and moist on the inside, but with a satisfying flaky crunch on the outside. It’s the perfect size for breakfast or a snack – not too big or too small – and with a beautiful golden color on top, this is truly a wonderful and authentic croissant!

Final Grade

  • Flakiness: 10/10
  • Flavor: 7/10
  • Butteriness: 9/10
  • Lamination: 8/10
  • Presentation: 8/10
  • Innovative vs. Traditional: traditional

Pecan Almond Croissant

Here, we started branching into the more innovative treats at Verzênay. This almond croissant brings in a deliciously complementary pecan flavor for those who love an extra nutty taste! The bites with the almond slices were especially divine, and with its understated sweetness, this more crunchy pastry pairs very well with coffee!

Final Grade

  • Flakiness: 10/10
  • Flavor: 8/10
  • Butteriness: 6/10
  • Lamination: 5/10
  • Presentation: 7.5/10
  • Innovative vs. Traditional: traditional, but with the fun addition of pecans

Raspberry Rose Croissant

If you’re living for the floral flavor trend, this croissant is calling your name! The first thing you notice with the raspberry rose croissant is how beautiful it is. With a tortoise-shell-like complexion, a strip of sugary goodness, and an edible flower petal, it’s the most photogenic croissant we’ve ever had!

But let’s stay on topic… onto the flavor. The raspberry filling throughout reminded us of a jelly donut in croissant form, but the balance between flaky and buttery gave us the traditional texture we’re always looking for. As for the rose flavor: you definitely have to like rose to enjoy this croissant, but we thought it complemented the classic flavors without overpowering them. It all depends on your preferences: our croissant critic who prefers less sweet pastries could have gone without the fondant-like strip on top, but the sweet-tooth critic wants the taste of this croissant in a candle!

Final Grade

  • Flakiness: 10/10
  • Flavor: 9/10, if you like rose flavor
  • Butteriness: 6.5/10
  • Lamination: 7/10
  • Presentation: 10/10
  • Innovative vs. Traditional: innovative

Take our word for it: Verzênay Pâtisserie’s croissants are as tasty as they are beautiful! Swing by the bakery at 2507 N Lincoln Ave to take advantage of this gem in Lincoln Park!

Thank you for joining us on our third Croissant Critique! For more French food and culture, take a look at the Alliance Française de Chicago’s wine & gastronomy events. We also offer a wide array of French classes, summer camps, social events, and more. Keep your eyes peeled for our next Croissant Critique. À bientôt !

Francophone Vacation Spots

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Qui veut voyager ? Now that many countries are loosening their COVID restrictions, we can turn our travel daydreams into travel plans! We’ve compiled a list of some great vacation spots in Francophone countries and cities to get your planning started. Make sure to prepare for your trip with some French classes here at the Alliance Française!

France

If you’re a newbie to traveling in France, Paris is a fabulous place to start! Our friend Jess over at the Golden Girl Blog shares some of her best secrets to make the most of your time in Paris. She has great recommendations, such as only bringing broken-in shoes, buying your tourist tickets ahead of time, and more. Find her list here, and take a look at her other blog posts about Paris, too!

The gorgeous Avignon is located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of Southeastern France. With a Mediterranean climate, it’s a go-to spot for anyone who loves to get their tan on!

You can peruse some ideas for activies in Avignon here, including wine tastings, historical tours, and seeing their famous lavender fields!

If you prefer to go off the beaten path, head to the Loire-Atlantique department! Besides Nantes, which is a lively mid-sized city, you can find Pornic, located on the western coast.

Pornic is home to great sailing and windsurfing, la Crêperie de la Source, and beautiful seaside views!

The Pyrenees are a mountain range straddling the border of France and Spain. Our sporty and outdoorsy readers will love the hiking, skiing, and hot springs. And who doesn’t love a beautiful mountain view? Take a look at travel and activity recommendations for the Pyrenees at Explore France!

Canada

If you’re heading to Montreal or Québec, hit up the great tours of historical landmarks, botanical gardens, and beautiful museums.

Travelers bringing high schoolers should check out McGill University, the alma mater of our Learning Center Coordinator. Learn how a Francophone education can set your student up for a lifetime of French language and culture!

Switzerland may be tiny, but it’s mighty: backpacking, skiing, train tours, and never-ending landscapes make this Francophone country the ideal destination for any traveler. Head to MySwitzerland for travel ideas and tips to make the most of your time in Geneva, Bern, or the gorgeous mountainous regions of Suisse !

Senegal

Lonely Planet shares, “Simultaneously exhilarating and tranquil, Senegal is captivating. Perched on the tip of a peninsula, Dakar, the capital, is a dizzying introduction to the country: elegance meets chaos, snarling traffic, vibrant markets and glittering nightlife, while nearby Île de Gorée and the beaches of Yoff and N’Gor tap to slow, lazy beats.”

Check out their description of fun activities and information about traveling in Senegal, a Francophone country with endless history and culture to discover!

Even though you (or your dream destination) should still be cautious with travel during COVID, there are so many Francophone spots to discover!

Take a look at the Alliance Française de Chicago’s great offerings for French classes, culture events, kids’ programs, and more. À bientôt !

Croissant Critique: Maison Parisienne

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Welcome to the fourth installment of the Croissant Critique! We’re traveling Chicago to find the best French croissants and rate each pastry based on six different factors: flakiness, flavor, butteriness, lamination (how shiny they are), presentation (how they look), and whether they’re more traditional or innovative. Today, we’re taking a look at Maison Parisienne, which prides itself on its authenticity and has two locations in Lakeview! If you haven’t read our previous Croissant Critiques, head over to our posts about Lost Larson, Hendrickx Bakery, and La Fournette. Allons-y !

Read on to learn our thoughts on each croissant that we sampled!

Nutella Chocolate Croissant: $5

We’re suckers for Nutella! This croissant is very rich and chocolatey, so it’s perfect for anyone with a strong sweet tooth. Although the taste was fantastic, the Nutella on top looked just a little messy, like it was slathered on rather than gently spread; perhaps using an egg wash instead would have avoided the slight presentation issue. However, the butteriness and flakiness were perfectly balanced, so this chewy croissant would make a great dessert after a lovely brunch!

Final Grade

  • Flakiness: 8/10
  • Flavor: 8.5/10
  • Butteriness: 8/10
  • Lamination: 6/10
  • Presentation: 5/10
  • Innovative vs. Traditional: innovative

Classic Croissant: $3.75

Wow! This classic croissant blew us away. With a great flaky crunch on the outside and a moist butteriness on the inside, the texture was exactly what we were hoping for! The flavor was also superb, thanks to a slight savoriness mixed with a hint of vanilla. Maison Parisienne’s classic croissant is one of the best we’ve tried thus far. Bravo!

Final Grade

  • Flakiness: 9/10
  • Flavor: 8/10
  • Butteriness: 8.5/10
  • Lamination: 4/10
  • Presentation: 6.5/10
  • Innovative vs. Traditional: traditional

Pain aux Raisins: $4.25

The pain aux raisins was also a home run for us; it had a great bready density, and yet was quite flaky on the outside. The pastry cream inside mixed marvelously with the light raisin flavor, too. And who doesn’t love a perfectly shaped roulade? Yum!

Final Grade

  • Flakiness: 6.5/10
  • Flavor: 7.5/10
  • Butteriness: 7/10
  • Lamination: 8/10
  • Presentation: 7/10
  • Innovative vs. Traditional: traditional

Chocolate Almond Croissant: $4.50

Mixing two great flavors can be a hit or miss, but Maison Parisienne did a great job of combining almond and chocolate in this croissant. We even tasted a hint of coconut, although the baker said that there’s no coconut in the recipe! (Maybe it was so good that we started hallucinating…) With a satisfying amount of flake and a light, creamy flavor, the croissant checked all the boxes for us. The almond paste on top was a nice touch, too!

Final Grade

  • Flakiness: 9/10
  • Flavor: 7.5/10
  • Butteriness: 8/10
  • Lamination: 5/10
  • Presentation: 6/10
  • Innovative vs. Traditional: innovative

We’re not exaggerating when we say that Maison Parisienne’s croissants are even tastier than we could have asked for! Check out their two locations (Lakeview: 3307 N Clark St) and Lincoln Park: 2564 N Clark St) for authentic French pastries in a trendy setting!

Thank you for joining us on our third Croissant Critique! For more French food and culture, take a look at the Alliance Française de Chicago’s wine & gastronomy events. We also offer a wide array of French classes, summer camps, social events, and more. Keep your eyes peeled for our next Croissant Critique. À bientôt !

Monthly Médiathèque: Août

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Le personnel de notre Médiathèque a rassemblé une liste de six livres différents à lire en août, avec des options pour chaque lecteur, quel que soit leur âge. Vous pouvez trouver tous ces livres dans notre Médiathèque ! Allez, on va lire !

Pour les petits

Selon Éditions Milan, ces livres présentent la Revolution française, et “les textes courts et les belles illustrations documentaires racontent la grande aventure de l’histoire de France aux plus petits.” Elles sont parfaites pour les lecteurs à partir de 3 ans !

Pour les adolescents

« Paris, sous la Révolution » est un roman historique pour des lecteurs de niveau avancé. Ce livre est un bon moyen d’en savoir plus sur la Révolution française !

Pour les adultes avec un niveau élevé

« Candide » par Voltaire, publié en 1759, est un classique ! Selon Fnac, Voltaire « nous fait partager les épreuves fictives d’un jeune homme simple, confronté aux leurres de l’optimisme, mais qui n’entend pas désespérer et qui en vient à une sagesse finale, mesurée et mystérieuse. Candide n’en a pas fini de nous inviter au gai savoir et à la réflexion. »

« Du contrat social » par Jean-Jacques Rousseau est un ouvrage de philosophie politique écrit en 1762. Wikipédia affirme que « L’œuvre a constitué un tournant décisif pour la modernité et s’est imposée comme un des textes majeurs de la philosophie politique et sociale, en affirmant le principe de souveraineté du peuple appuyé sur les notions de liberté, d’égalité, et de volonté générale. »

Contactez-nous pour en savoir plus sur ces livres intéressants, et dites-nous ce que vous en pensez. Ici à l’Alliance Française de Chicago, on aime vous offrir les meilleures recommandations de tout ce qui est français !

Croissant Critique: La Fournette

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Welcome to the third installment of the Croissant Critique with the Alliance Française de Chicago! Here, we take pastries very seriously. Not only do we scour Chicago to find the best bakeries, but as also rate each pastry based on six different factors. They include flakiness, flavor, butteriness, lamination (how shiny they are), presentation (how they look), and whether they’re more traditional or innovative. Before we get started, make sure to check out our thoughts on the croissants at Lost Larson and Hendrickx Bakery! Allons-y !

This week’s Chicago bakery of choice is La Fournette. This Gold Coast gem comes from the Zimmermann family from Schnersheim, France, where they developed their baking expertise over the course of 110 years! Today, World Baking Champion Pierre Zimmermann and his wife, Michele, run a bakery that’s distinctly Alsatian and uniquely Chicagoan.

Read on to learn our thoughts on each croissant that we sampled!

Chocolate Croissant: $3.15

We got our tasting started with a good old pain au chocolat. This chocolate croissant had a lovely, light texture, although we would have loved un petit peu more density! The best part was the flavor. With bars of European dark chocolate inside, it gave the perfect amount of chocolatey goodness without overpowering the butteriness that you expect from a quality croissant.

Final Grade

  • Flakiness: 6/10
  • Flavor: 7.5/10
  • Butteriness: 7/10
  • Lamination: 9/10
  • Presentation: 8/10
  • Innovative vs. Traditional: definitely traditional

Classic Croissant: $2.95

La Fournette’s classic croissant was an absolute delight! We thought that it was just about as traditional as it gets – and sometimes, that just hits the spot. It boasted a wonderful butteriness that really stuck with us after every bite, without feeling greasy or heavy. In fact, we were surprised to find how flaky it was. Buttery AND flaky? Ah mon dieu !

Final Grade

  • Flakiness: 9/10
  • Flavor: 6.5
  • Butteriness: 7/10
  • Lamination: 7/10
  • Presentation: 6/10
  • Innovative vs. Traditional: traditional

Pain aux Raisins: $3.15

This raisin roulade had such a dynamic flavor, what with its golden raisins and pastry cream! Although it was arguably over-toasted, the croissant was still fluffy; sometimes, the texture matters a whole lot more than the presentation! We also loved how chewy it was, and at only $3.15, this pain aux raisins is a great deal!

Final Grade

  • Flakiness: 6/10
  • Flavor: 8.5/10
  • Butteriness: 7/10
  • Lamination: 7/10
  • Presentation: 5/10
  • Innovative vs. Traditional: traditional

Almond Croissant: $3.15

Our last pastry of the day was La Fournette’s almond croissant. Like the others that we tried, it was a bit over-toasted, but that gave the almonds on top an extra layer of delicious toastiness! The flakiness was très bien, as was the level of butteriness. We wished it had a bit more lamination (the shine on top), but we love almond croissants so much that we really can’t complain! This traditional pastry was a great way to round out our Croissant Critique.

Final Grade

  • Flakiness: 8/10
  • Flavor: 6/10
  • Butteriness: 7/10
  • Lamination: 5/10
  • Presentation: 6/10
  • Innovative vs. Traditional: traditional

Overall, we really enjoyed how traditional and buttery these croissants were. If you love classic Alsatian breads and pastries, head to La Fournette at 1547 N. Wells Street in Chicago!

Thank you for joining us on our third Croissant Critique! For more French food and culture, take a look at the Alliance Française de Chicago’s wine & gastronomy events. We also offer a wide array of French classes, summer camps, social events, and more. Keep your eyes peeled for our next Croissant Critique. À bientôt !

Bastille Day 2021 Round-Up

By | Events, Francophone Fun, Uncategorized | One Comment

The Alliance Française de Chicago team is gearing up for an exciting Bastille Day celebration this weekend! In honor of La Fête Nationale, we wanted to round up some of our most anticipated events on and around the holiday.

Below you’ll find a list of AF Chicago-approved French activities in the Windy City and virtually:

WEDNESDAY, JULY 7

THURSDAY, JULY 8

SATURDAY, JULY 10

SUNDAY, JULY 11

TUESDAY, JULY 13

WEDNESDAY, JULY 14

ANYTIME

Bonne fête nationale à tous!

Croissant Critique: Hendrickx Bakery

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The Alliance Française’s Croissant Critique series travels around Chicago to find and rank the best croissants in our beloved city. We rate each pastry based on its flakiness, flavor, butteriness, lamination (how shiny they are), presentation (how they looked), and whether they were more traditional or innovative. If you missed the first installment, check out our thoughts on the croissants at Lost Larson!

This week, we hopped over to our friends at Hendrickx Bakery in the Gold Coast neighborhood (not far from our building!) to try out their baked goods. Hendrickx is Chicago’s first Belgian bakery, offering a wide range of breads, pastries, macarons, and 10 different types of croissants! We had to narrow down our picks, of course, and chose three classic and two innovative flavors.

Read on to learn our thoughts on each croissant that we sampled!

Like any good pastry lover, we had to kick off our tasting with a plain croissant! Hendrickx Bakery’s “Belgian Croissant” costs $3.50 and boasts an extremely buttery taste.
If you prefer croissants that err more on the side of dense and chewy (rather than light and flaky), the plain croissant at Hendrickx is for you!

Belgian Croissant: Final Grade

Flakiness: 4/10

Flavor: 6.5/10

Butteriness: 10/10

Lamination: 4/10

Presentation: 4/10

Innovation: very traditional

Next up: the “Belgian Chocolate.” We found this pastry to have a great fluffy texture, and the filling – chunks of tasty dark chocolate – was very concentrated in the center.
Although it didn’t have the shape of a classic “pain au chocolat,” Hendrickx Bakery’s chocolate croissant has perfected the flaky-to-chewy ratio, so it’s a winner in our books!

Belgian Chocolate Croissant: Final Grade

Flakiness: 7/10

Flavor: 7.5/10

Butteriness: 8/10

Lamination: 5/10

Presentation: 6/10

Innovation: very traditional, but without the “pain au chocolat” shape

The almond croissant, which costs $3.95, surprised us with a dry, thick texture. (It would pair well with your favorite coffee or tea!) Despite the dryness, it had a great almond filling concentrated in the center, which reminded us of marzipan because of the dense consistency.
Though this croissant could have used some more lamination, we enjoyed the toasted almonds on top!

Almond Croissant: Final Grade

Flakiness: 5/10

Flavor: 7/10

Butteriness: 5/10

Lamination: 2/10

Presentation: 5.5/10

Innovation: traditional

We were SO excited to try this chocolate pistachio croissant, and it didn’t disappoint! The flavor was fantastic. If you’re a pistachio lover like we are, you’ll love how much the unique flavor comes through!
As with the rest of the croissants at Hendrickx Bakery, the filling is definitely very dense and concentrated. The glaze was a nice touch, though some of our taste-testers found it a bit overpowering. If you love pistachios, be sure to try this croissant, valued at $4.25!

Pistachio Chocolate Croissant: Final Grade

Flakiness: 7/10

Flavor: 8.5/10

Butteriness: 7/10

Lamination: 4/10

Presentation: 7.5/10

Innovation: very innovative

We just knew we had to try the chocolate hazelnut croissant! At $4.25, this innovative pastry packed a punch. It boasted a strong caramel essence – even though the flakiness was inhibited by the caramel glaze on top – and we really enjoyed the chopped hazelnuts on top for an extra crunch.
The flavor was lighter than that of its companions at Hendrickx Bakery. The caramel hazelnut croissant was a great ending to our second Croissant Critique!

Caramel Hazelnut Croissant: Final Grade

Flakiness: 6/10

Flavor: 7/10

Butteriness: 8/10

Lamination: 5/10

Presentation: 7.5/10

Innovation: slightly innovative

With 10 options of different croissant flavors, Hendrickx Bakery is sure to have the perfect pastry for you!

For more French food and culture, take a look at the Alliance Française de Chicago’s wine & gastronomy events! We also offer a wide array of French classes, summer camps, social events, and more. Also, keep your eyes peeled for our next Croissant Critique. À bientôt !

Croissant Critique: Lost Larson

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For the first installment of our Croissant Critique series, we ordered from Lost Larson at the recommendation of our followers! This gorgeous bakery recently opened a storefront in Wicker Park, and its original location is in culturally-Swedish Andersonville, which makes it less surprising that Lost Larson has a strong Scandinavian influence. 

The pastries we sampled were so delicious and unique that we decided to rate each of them based on their flakiness, flavor, butteriness, lamination (how shiny they are), presentation (how they looked), and whether they were more traditional or innovative. Read on to learn our thoughts on each croissant that we sampled!

The first treat we tried, a tebirkes, is classic in Denmark! This poppyseed-covered and almond cream-filled pastry is more savory than sweet, with a refreshing and unique flavor. Wrapped up in a pain au chocolat shape, the tebirkes (valued at $4.75) was absolutely delicious!

Tebirkes Final Grade

Flakiness: 7/10

Flavor: 8/10

Butteriness: 10/10

Lamination: 2/10 (coated in poppyseeds)

Presentation: 7.5/10

Innovation: definitely unique to most Americans

Lost Larson’s pain au chocolat, $5, was the most chocolatey croissant we’ve ever tried! With notes of cardamom and mocha, it had a more complex flavor than other bakeries’ pain au chocolat, and it boasted a consistent amount of chocolate throughout the pastry (instead of just a few chocolate chunks in the middle).

Pain au Chocolat Final Grade

Flakiness: 7.5/10

Flavor: 10/10

Butteriness: 9/10

Lamination: 6.5/10

Presentation: 7/10

Innovation: A unique take on a classic

The almond croissant had a dense, concentrated almond filling. Admittedly, it was a bit over-toasted, causing a slight burnt taste, but the sugar and almond dusting on the top made for a great presentation. And considering that it cost $5.25, this wasn’t the best almond croissant we’ve ever had, but it was still tasty!

Almond Croissant Final Grade

Flakiness: 7/10

Flavor: 6/10

Butteriness: 7.5/10

Lamination: 6/10 (hidden by powdered sugar)

Presentation: 7.5/10

Innovation: traditional

Nutella, caramel drizzle, and extra chocolate? Sign me up! This delicious hazelnut chocolate croissant was so rich, filling, and massive that it could be a whole meal (for $5.75). However, we’re not sure it warrants the “croissant” name, because a true croissant would be in a crescent shape with a simple taste, while this was more like a round personal cake with borderline-crowded flavors and sweetness.

Hazelnut Chocolate “Croissant” Final Grade

Flakiness: 5/10

Flavor: 8/10

Butteriness: 6/10

Lamination: 8/10

Presentation: 7/10

Innovation: very innovative

Lost Larson’s classic croissant, which goes for $3.75, won our hearts over with a great buttery texture, generous size, beautifully golden color, and the ideal chewy interior. If you’re heading to the bakery for the first time, you should beeline to the plain croissant, which has clearly been perfected by the team at at Lost Larson!

Classic Croissant Final Grade

Flakiness: 8.5/10

Flavor: 7.5/10

Butteriness: 10/10

Lamination: 7.5/10

Presentation: 8.5/10

Innovation: traditional

All in all, we found Lost Larson’s pastries innovative, artistic, and lusciously sweet! Head to Andersonville or Wicker Park to try their Scandinavian-influenced treats–we’re sure they’ll win you over!

For more French food and culture, take a look at the Alliance Française de Chicago’s wine & gastronomy events! We also offer a wide array of French classes, summer camps, social events, and more. Also, keep your eyes peeled for our next Croissant Critique. À bientôt !

Top “Terrasses” in Chicago

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Un café au lait, s’il vous plaît ! After months of making coffee at home, buying it to go, or just passing up coffee altogether, the French are now allowed to reopen their famous terraces and enjoy their favorite beverage en plein air. As of May 19th, French restaurants, cafés, and bars can resume outdoor dining at 50% capacity, while here in Chicago, we can take advantage of opening up to 75%. Les Français are celebrating this newfound freedom with a new hashtag #TousEnTerrasse, meaning “everyone on the terrace!”


Summertime weather is gradually setting in at the Alliance Française de Chicago, and we can’t wait to relax on rooftop bars and café patios (to pretend we’re in France, of course). In honor of this, we’ve put together a list of our all-time favorite terrasses in Chicago. From Andersonville to Pilsen, we have enough suggestions to fill your summer with the best Chicago has to offer. Which restaurant do you want to try tonight? Vous voulez aller à quel resto ce soir ?

Alliance Française’s Top Terrasses in Chicago:

Colectivo (Andersonville, Logan Square, Lincoln Park, Wicker Park)

Le Sud Chicago (Roscoe Village)

Dry Hop (Lakeview)

Maison Marcel (Lakeview, Streeterville location opening soon)

Sofitel (Gold Coast)

Piccolo Sogno (RiverWest)

Pizzeria Portofino (River North)

Aba (Fulton Market)

Chez Joel (Little Italy)

La Vaca (Pilsen, Lincoln Park)

We hope you enjoy these great locations like we have. Hopefully we’ll find ourselves in France soon to experience their famed patios in person – #TousEnTerrasse!