There are over 300 Beard Papa stores in the world but only one in New York City, curiously located on the Upper West Side. Known primarily for their filled-to-order cream puffs and specialty ice drinks, they also sell a few other desserts, including a Paris-Brest pastry that I've always been curious about.
From a consumer perspective, Beard Papa's has two advantages over a traditional patisserie when it comes to choux pastry. First, they bake new batches all day so they are always very fresh. (Even a day-old cream puff made by Pierre Herme himself is still going to be mediocre.) Second, because they are filled on the spot, they can offer a choice of fillings. Great, but how do they taste?
Beard Papa's choux pastry is excellent, with just the right amount of crispness and an eggy aroma that I love. My Paris-Brest ($2.50) was pre-dipped with a generous amount of quality dark chocolate. The inside of the choux ring is pumped full of green tea pastry cream that's nearly devoid of sweetness. The enormous amount of filling and how runny it is might bother some people, but not me. I was too busy being shocked at how bitter it was—the green color wasn't just from food coloring, it actually tasted like green tea!
The only other hesitation would be for people who like their pastry and filling very sweet. For everyone else, this is a very good Paris-Brest offered with your choice of filling and an optional chocolate dip—for less than half of what it would cost you at a fancy pants bakery.
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