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Friday, June 18, 2010

Le Pain Flamand

Due to the FIFA World Cup, Boulangerie Paul in Taipei is having a two-week long promotion for its Pain Flamand. Typically the bread sells for NT$600, but with the promotion there is a 40% discount if one buys two at a time. With a price of NT$360 one would think Paul is being generous. That is until a quick search on the internet shows the same bread costs 3.50 euros (roughly NT$135) in the Brussels branch of Paul. Even with the discount the bread still costs 2.6 times more in Taipei.

I am not sure why Paul in Taipei needs to charge NT$600 for a loaf of bread.  I understand the bread is made from a central kitchen in France and airfreighted to Taipei, thus there is a premium associated with that. However the bread is probably 80% baked, cooled, and shipped as a frozen bread. While I actually have no problem with parbaking, I cannot understand charging customers in Taipei more than 4 times the price in Europe. After all, it is a relatively simple bread, not a luxury item.

The pricing of Le Pain Flamand is particularly jarring because while the other items in Paul Taipei are more expensive than in Europe, none of them has such a crazy premium. For instance, a tartelette frambroises costs 3.1 euros (about NT$122) in Paris and NT$155 in Taipei, a premium of 27%; a croissant is .95 euros (about NT$37) in Paris and NT$48 in Taipei, a premium of 30%; the big macaron is 2.8 euros (about NT$110) in Brussels and NT$250 in Taipei, a premium of 127%. All this pales in comparison to the 344% premium for the Pain Flamand.

Nevertheless, with the promotion (167% premium), I bought a couple of breads to try: Le Pain Flamand aux 2 Olives and Le Pain Flamand Emmental Mimolette.  It is unfortunate Paul chose to translate Flamand phonetically. In Chinese, Flamand becomes the more romantic 法藍夢, which sort of means French Dream; maybe Paul is being honest that with the price of NT$600 per loaf, it is a dream, though not a particularly good one. Flamand is French for Flemish, so the bread is just a simple Flemish bread.

The breads are actually pretty good and flavorful. The texture is dense and chewy. However, it is not something to write home about and probably not worth the price even with the discount.

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