For its first-ever French Fest this weekend, the French-American Chamber of Commerce ditched the fruit tart-off it's previously staged in conjunction with Bastille Day celebrations, asking area bakeries to instead contribute their best loaves for a tasting. Event attendees were invited to sample baguettes from nine bakeries and cast their votes using stickers.
"We said, 'let the community be the judge'," says Casey Marie Mochel, the chamber's deputy director.
While the community might have preferred to eat cake, Mochel said participating bakeries were far more enthusiastic about baguettes than fruit tarts. The contest was styled after the Grand Prix baguette competition held annually in Paris, and sponsored by Darigold, which rolled out a butter bust for the occasion.
Columbia City emerged as a crowd favorite early on Sunday and never relinquished its lead. The baguette d'argent went to Breadfarm, a cash-only artisan operation just off Chuckanut Drive in Edison, while Panzanella Bread Company, Everett's resident Italian bakery, claimed the baguette bronze. Strictly French bakeries, including Le Fournil, Le Panier, Le Reve and Belle Epicurean didn't fare as well with tasters, perhaps indicating a collective preference for less-pronounced crusts.
Citizen judges weren't issued any directions other than "keep moving," since the bread line was among the festival's most popular activities, but Mochel revealed how she evaluates a baguette.
"I like my baguette crunchy on the outside and nice and soft on the inside," she says. "It should have a nice yeasty flavor and not be too salty. That's important."