image courtesy of Mango and Tomato

It is a warm spring night. I’m kneading bread dough in a gorgeous white and blue-tiled bakery with three charming Frenchmen. I squeeze the pliant dough with my fingers while pushing it together with the heels of both palms, then flip and slap it back down onto the floured workspace. I am gently teased about my “technique” which is a little bit backward from the norm and occasionally results in flecks of dough arcing through the air. I am a rank amateur.  Thirty minutes later, we nibble macaroons (pistachio and coconut are the best) and oozy millefeuilles while bread bakes in the oven.

Cubicle-dweller daydream? Not quite.  I’m in the windowed kitchen of Paul, the new French bakery by the Navy Memorial Archives. In what may have been my favorite food event to date, several DC area food bloggers were invited to a bread baking lesson in the kitchen just days before the bakery opened.

I have long lamented the lack of the perfect bakery in DC. A  space with an eye toward atmosphere and quality goods. Somewhere the bread is made on site, filling the air with dancing visions of golden crusts and yeasty middles. Where you can stroll in armed with a Kindle and need nothing more but a strong cup of coffee and warm baguette to spend precious spare time in the most delicious leisure possible. Have I finally found it?

Details on Paul after the jump. (more…)

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