By Veronica Meewes / Photograph By Jeff Kauffmann
There are certain foods that, despite their unanimous appeal, are virtually unattainable in some areas of the country. Austin certainly does not lack in the breakfast taco department. Likewise, we are fortunate to have a fantastic selection of Vietnamese food. But take, for instance, bagels—no, I mean real New Jersey-quality bagels. They are non-existent in our fine city. Good chinese take-out? Equally rare. Another culinary treasure, quite hard to come by until last year, is now right within reach: the heavenly croissant.
Victoria Davies hails from Auckland, New Zealand, and arrived in the states in 1997, settling in San Francisco. In 2004, she relocated to Austin and quickly realized something was missing. “In San Francisco, several boulangeries had opened in the past three or four years. I got hooked on really fabulous pastries. When I moved to Austin I couldn’t really understand what was going on… I couldn’t find a proper croissant anywhere!” Taking a sip from her appropriate Eiffel Tower mug and leaving behind a kiss of lipstick, she recalls having a friend bring her back the flakey crescents from Paris.
Seeing this need, she and partner Dan Bereczki opened La Boîte. With her front of house and his back of house backgrounds, they first set to work searching for the ideal croissant creator. After tasting Barrie Cullinan’s pastries, they looked no further. Barrie, a former Enoteca pastry chef first trained at Manhattan’s celebrated Balthazar Bakery, uses local and organic ingredients to create pastries for La Boîte’s morning devotees and pain au lait for their lunch sandwiches, which change daily. The almond croissants (priced at $2.25) regularly sell out after the morning rush, which is no surprise—each one is a perfectly browned little gift, shingled with almond slices, dusted with powdered sugar, and curiously balancing somewhere between savory and sweet.
La Boîte (French for “the box”) opened last November in a 160 square foot shipping container refashioned by Mark Meyer of designSTUDIOmodern. “We had been interested in a shipping container for a long time,” explains Davies. There are already so many of them and they’re so robust.” They do contain wheels and are just as portable as their motorized counterparts, but with no impending danger of leaking fuel, something food trailers have been criticized for. All in all, recycled shipping containers are a more sustainable, greener option.
Davies also uses all compostable cups and utensils from a local paper supplier and recycles everything possible. Her thoughts on this matter are emphatic. “Recycling is abused in this country. People think that if you recycle it makes everything okay and it doesn’t. You need to reuse!” La Boîte also strives to serve locally grown, raised, and produced foods whenever possible, including Full Quiver Farms cheese, Dai Due condiments and breakfast sausage, Pederson Farms ham, Richardson Farms pork and Confituras fruit jams and butters, which Davies describes as “just exquisite.”
Davies knew she wanted to use Mexican coffee to due its close proximity to Austin, but she didn’t know exactly which region to settle on. La Boîte worked with a local roaster to come up with a coffee blend using shade-grown beans from a fair trade and certified organic co-op in Chiapas called Finca Triunfo Sociedad Civil. She discloses, “We ended up with much better coffee than we’d first realized.” A cup of the brew is low in acidity, boasting subtle chocolate notes, making it a perfect accompaniment to their addictive, airy French macaroons ($1.75 each), available in a rainbow of flavors.
La Boîte’s location at the top of a grassy slope on South Lamar makes for an ideal picnic setting with kids (and some good, old-fashioned hill-rolling). Davies says it has been the site of several recent birthday parties. She looks forward to the opening of another location downtown before the end of the year and a third sometime this spring. Finding quality French pastry just got a whole lot easier… but next we’ll be in need of a support group!
La Boîte Café
1700 South Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704