Arts restaurant review

A Davis Square delight

My faith in Boston’s French food scene is restored

9814 tarteauxabricots
The tarte aux abricots (apricot tart) at Caramel French Patisserie is crispy and sweet.

Caramel French Patisserie
Bakery, $$
235 Elm St.
Somerville, MA 02144
Wednesday–Friday 11 a.m.–7 p.m.
Saturday 9 a.m.–7 p.m.
Sunday 9 a.m.–6 p.m.

After returning from a recent trip to France, I found myself craving the croissants and the tarte aux abricots I discovered on the streets of Nice. To my delight, I discovered that Caramel French Patisserie in Somerville carried the exact pastries I dreamt about.

Operated by two French siblings, Caramel French Patisserie is located just off the Davis MBTA Red Line station, sandwiched between bars, thrift stores, and a wide array of restaurants. Caramel opened in Somerville in 2017, though its original location in Salem has been open since 2015. Upon entering, a line of macarons and gâteaux are displayed to the right, with flavors ranging from lavender and rose to coconut and Earl Gray. Pistachio macarons, a favorite of Europeans, were disappointingly not available the day I visited. Below the macarons laid a staggering array of cakes: shiny caramel mousse, creamy cheesecake, puff-shaped tiramisu, praline Paris-Brest, and a delectable dessert of the day. Though the colorful gâteaux caught my eye first, I found myself drawn towards the patisserie farther inwards. On a checkered cloth sat wicker baskets filled with croissants, palmiers, pain, tartes, and chaussons aux pommes (apple turnovers).

Wanting a variety, I ordered a tarte aux pommes (apple tart), tarte aux abricots (apricot tart), and a lavender macaron. Both tarts were flat, rectangular, and glazed in butter, resembling the ones I ate in Nice. The apple tart was dusted with cinnamon, and the apple slices were nested in apple jam atop the crust. The crust was delicate and buttery, contrasting the sweetness of the apple jam and slices. The apricot tart resembled the apple tart except that the four slices of apricot sat in an egg custard. This gave the apricot tart a richer taste, as the creamy but not too-sweet custard cushioned the slight sweet-sourness of the apricots and the dry flakes of the crust. The apricot tart was my favorite of the two due to its expert mixing of three flavors and textures. The lavender macaron I ordered was underwhelming compared to the tarts. The almond pastry felt deflated and its filling was too sweet. My friend Erika, who accompanied me to both bakeries that day, ordered the dessert of the day, which resembled a more robust Paris-Brest with a vanilla-chocolate creme blend filling. The hazelnut shell was crunchy and went well against the light creme interior. Had I not subsequently visited Colette Bakery in Medford, I would have named Caramel as my favorite patisserie in the Boston area.

Just three T stops away from MIT, Caramel French Patisserie is a convenient trip to make for any student wishing to sample a true bite of France. Not only are the pastries affordable, with large tarts costing less than $5 and raspberry and chocolate mousse cakes costing less than $6, Caramel also has a number of shopping and entertainment options nearby, like Magpie and the Somerville Theater, making Caramel the perfect stop for a snack or a daytrip to Somerville.