“There are 1,500 bakers in and around Paris, and nearly every one makes baguettes. Yet hardly any baguette is a classic baguette. French bread is gradually recovering from the flavorless hell of white bread into which it descended in the 1970s and 80s, but there is something country about all this new bread, while the classic baguette is the most urban and refined — the most parisienne — of breads.
For several years, each time I’ve visited France, I’ve bought and tasted every baguette that looked as if it might possibly be good. I’ve followed everyone’s suggestions. I’ve learned the link between taste and appearance, that you can tell good white bread by the way it looks — swollen but not ballooned and tense, neither rustic in appearance nor too neat and regular, not to mention cream colored and open textured inside. I’ve also learned the wisdom of a Paris friend, who said, noting that French bakeries usually make both pastry and bread, “The quality of pastry in the window is in inverse proportion to the quality of the bread. A good baker is rarely a good pâtissier and vice versa.” Occasionally, I’ve found a good baguette outside Paris, but in the capital the search was more difficult.”
from “Paris (or What is French Food?)” in The Art of Eating no.45