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Monday, February 03, 2014

Au Coeur de Paris Patisserie & Boulangerie - Westminster (Little Saigon)

Au Coeur De Paris Patisserie & Boulangerie  - Westminster (Little Saigon) 1

This story is a bit rambling, so bear with me. It starts several decades ago, when I was in high school and attended a weekend retreat sponsored by the Rotary Club. Our guest speaker was Bob Farrell, co-founder of Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour and Restaurants, who sold the chain and became a consultant and motivational speaker. He talked about customer service.

The story goes that a man, who wasn't dressed so finely, walked into a bank to cash a check. He asked the bank to validate his 50-cent parking ticket. The teller refused. He asked to speak to a manager. The manager backed up the teller and also refused to validate the customer's parking ticket. So he said he wanted to withdraw all his money and close out his account.

Sure. Because how much money could this scruffy customer possibly have?

The teller's face paled.

Apologies were rendered.

And refused.

The customer withdrew $1 million.

He promptly took his money and deposited it in the bank across the street.

Decades later, the story stayed with me. I thought it was just a story. Turns out, the story is true -- in October 1988, John Barrier, who made his money renovating houses, went into Old National Bank (now U.S. Bank) in Spokane, Wash. to cash a check and had his 50-cent parking validation refused. So he withrew $1 million. He took his money across the street to Seafirst Bank, who made it a point to treat Barrier well. But whether he had $1 or $1 million, was charging 50 cents for parking worth losing any customer? Farrell's pickle principle is about businesses doing what they can to make things right for the customer. Don't be so tight-fisted about the small stuff, that you lose loyal customers.

Now, my story is on a much, much smaller scale.

I used to satisfy my eclair and almond croissant cravings at Boulangerie Pierre & Patisserie - Garden Grove (Little Saigon). I had been going there for close to a decade? And brought other bloggers and friends there too through the years. On Day 285 of my Project 365, after meeting up with a friend for lunch, I stopped off for some eclairs and croissants. While ringing up my order, the owner got a phone call and passed on the rest of the transaction to someone else. The cashier forgot to return my credit card and I didn't notice until I was already at another store near my home.

I called them to hold my card, and drove back down to pick it up. I'm not one to make a fuss about things, but when she gave my credit card back to me, I did make it a point to tell her that I had to drive 80 miles round-trip in order to pick it up. She apologized, and I left.

But as I drove home, now stuck in rush hour traffic, I started thinking. My pistachio creme brulee was soup because it sat in the car for 120 miles on a hot day. Gas was also more than $4 per gallon at the time. Couldn't she have offered me some pastries or a drink or something? It was her error. Time, gas, and the inconvenience is nothing to shrug off. The more I thought about it, the more annoyed I got. Obviously, Boulangerie Pierre & Patisserie did not value me as a customer. I haven't been back since.

Oh, but my eclair and almond croissant cravings! I needed to find a new Vietnamese-French bakery. Now, you know I'm pretty loyal. I happily go to the same places over and over again unless they give me a reason to go elsewhere. And that's how I discovered Au Coeur De Paris Patisserie & Boulangerie. According to the Orange County Register's article, "Pastry Shop Boasts Genuine French-pertise," by Jordan England-Nelson, owner Thuy Mai Pham lived in France for 14 years. Her son-in-law, Jimmy Huynh who interned for two years at a bakery in Paris, focuses on breads at their second location in Garden Grove. And their workers are all Vietnamese-French as well.

So at the end of January, I stopped by Au Coeur De Paris to pick up some pastries on my way down to visit lil' sis and oldest nephew in San Diego. The tables inside were filled with older Vietnamese speaking French. A very good sign!

Cakes, tarts, macarons, eclairs, croissants, cream puffs, creme brulee, brioche, baguettes. All the usual French bakery items along with Vietnamese ones too.

Au Coeur De Paris Patisserie & Boulangerie  - Westminster (Little Saigon) 2

Lemon, strawberry, and fruit tarts.

Au Coeur De Paris Patisserie & Boulangerie  - Westminster (Little Saigon) 3

Coffee and chocolate eclairs, $1.50.

Au Coeur De Paris Patisserie & Boulangerie  - Westminster (Little Saigon) 4

Apple and pear tarts, $3.50.

Au Coeur De Paris Patisserie & Boulangerie  - Westminster (Little Saigon) 5

Asparagus, cheese, ham and cheese quiches too.

Au Coeur De Paris Patisserie & Boulangerie  - Westminster (Little Saigon) 6

Almond croissants, $2.50.

Au Coeur De Paris Patisserie & Boulangerie  - Westminster (Little Saigon) 7

D'ossant, $3.50, their version of the Cronut.

Au Coeur De Paris Patisserie & Boulangerie  - Westminster (Little Saigon) 8

I came in at the same time as a family, so the owner thought I was with them. I was busy taking photos of the display case while she helped them so it wasn't an issue. When she realized I wasn't with them, she was profusely apologized and was sooo nice!

I ended up getting two boxes of goodies.

Au Coeur De Paris Patisserie & Boulangerie  - Westminster (Little Saigon) 9

And immediately opened the bag containing the almond croissant to dig in. Best almond croissant ever! Usually the almond paste is a bit grainy and thick, Au Coeur De Paris' version was so smooth.

Au Coeur De Paris Patisserie & Boulangerie  - Westminster (Little Saigon) 10

I couldn't resist picking up some Au Coeur specials, $2.50. It's a Banh Pa Te So (Vietnamese Pate Chaud (French Hot Pastry Pie)), but with banh mi filling as well!

Au Coeur De Paris Patisserie & Boulangerie  - Westminster (Little Saigon) 11

Xa Xiu (Vietnamese Chinese Barbecued Pork), Cha Lua (Vietnamese Steamed Pork Loaf), and Do Chua (Vietnamese Pickled Stuff), and cucumbers. Genius! Why did this not occur to me before? Must recreate Banh Pa Te So Nhan Banh Mi (Vietnamese Pate Chaud (French Hot Pastry Pie) with Sandwich Fillings) at home!

Au Coeur De Paris Patisserie & Boulangerie  - Westminster (Little Saigon) 12

I also picked up some macarons and eclairs. The $1.25 macarons are buy 10, get 1 free. I can't remember all the flavors I got, but I have to admit, I thought they were a bit dense and chewy. Not nearly as good as their other pastries. The eclairs were great though!

Au Coeur De Paris Patisserie & Boulangerie  - Westminster (Little Saigon) 13

Later, after I arrived in San Diego, I cut into the D'ossant. I found it just OK. Not that I've tasted a Cronut for comparison, but this looked better than it tasted.

Au Coeur De Paris Patisserie & Boulangerie  - Westminster (Little Saigon) 14

Here's a better picture of the Au Coeur special again. These are also buy 10, get 1 free.

Au Coeur De Paris Patisserie & Boulangerie  - Westminster (Little Saigon) 15

On another trip down to San Diego, I stopped at the new Garden Grove location right as it opened. I ordered a chicken banh mi, but it wasn't ready yet, so Jimmy gave several Au Coeur specials in apology. Now, that's what I call making your customers feel appreciated!

Au Coeur De Paris is my new favorite Vietnamese French bakery! Great pastries and great owners who treat their customers right!

Other bakery posts:
Happy Bakery - San Gabriel
Le Croissant Dore - Westminster (Little Saigon)
MoMo Bakery - Alhambra
Oh My Pan Bakery and Tea - San Gabriel
Vanille de Patisserie - San Marino

Au Coeur De Paris Patisserie & Boulangerie (several locations)
9441 Edinger Ave.
Westminster, CA 92683
Monday to Saturday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Sunday 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

1 year ago today,
2 years ago today,
3 years ago today, Happy Year of the Cat!
4 years ago today, Weekend Wokking #21 (chili peppers).
5 years ago today, beef udon stir-fry and pork chop rice at Dim Sum Express - Monterey Park.
6 years ago today, Banh Mi Hot Ga Op La (Vietnamese French Bread with Sunny-side Up Eggs).
7 years ago today, the golden crocus and primroses and Punxsutawney Phil says spring is coming.


  1. Been reading your blog FOREVER and finally decided to comment. I vowed never to go back to Boulangerie Pierre after the lady sold me stale pastries and claimed they were fresh. The quality of their sweets have declined so much since theyve opened, however the breads are still good. I've been going to Au Couer since they were called Les Versailles and the pastures are always consistent sand fresh! at Boulangrie Pierre the seem more worried about making a buck than satisfying the customer.

  2. Andrew,
    Earlier this week, I was at Tacos Baja for 99-cent fish taco Wednesday. The guys behind me ordered 50+ tacos so my order got lost in the shuffle. They quickly made my tacos and gave me a free ceviche for waiting. I was happy, it only cost them a litle bit in food, and they retained a repeat customer. Good customer service shouldn't be that hard!

    I have not been back to Boulangerie Pierre in four years and don't intend to since Au Coeur actually appreciates my business and their eclairs and almond croissants are better too.


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