French Pastries in Portsmouth



Pastries from La Maison Navarre, Portsmouth, NH.

Photographs by Rachael Kloss

Behind a glass case of colorful macaroons stands trés chic Charlotte Reymond. Her striped French sailor’s shirt shows from beneath her apron as she selects pastries for a customer. Victor Navarre, a true Parisian, serves coffees and crèpes to those seated at the espresso bar. He points to a map of Paris posted on a brick wall and says that this French pâtisserie, La Maison Navarre, is not meant to be a replica of something that already exists. It is neither a copycat of a Parisian counterpart nor an Americanized version of French culture. It is a place unto itself.

Reymond and Navarre, both French-born, came to New England this year, bringing with them a taste of France. They thought that Portsmouth, New Hampshire, would be a nice place to open shop because of its bustling downtown. Within the inviting Congress Street shop, framed posters of Moulin Rouge and Peugeot brought back from the streets of Montmartre add to the Parisian vibe.

Two crèpe makers are set up side by side, separated by an open jar of Nutella. One customer cuts into something savory while another watches the ice cream filling drip from the middle of their black raspberry macaroon. The pink pool of ice cream hardens onto a white plate below, while sounds of spoons clinking in cappuccino-filled cups fill the café.

Reymond and Navarre believe their customers come with an appetite for that kind of authenticity. A simple ham and cheese on a baguette, something so common in France, can be hard to find here. Knowing this, they say, “The only thing we adapt is the time we serve it. Instead of serving croque monsieur at noon, which is the timeTwo crèpe makers are set up side by side, separated by an open jar of Nutella. One customer cuts into something savory while another watches the ice cream filling drip from the middle of their black raspberry macaroon. The pink pool of ice cream hardens onto a white plate below, while sounds of spoons clinking in cappuccino-filled cups fill the café.

Reymond and Navarre believe their customers come with an appetite for that kind of authenticity. A simple ham and cheese on a baguette, something so common in France, can be hard to find here. Knowing this, they say, “The only thing we adapt is the time we serve it. Instead of serving croque monsieur at noon, which is the timeother organic wheat breads supplied from Annarosa’s in Salisbury, Massachusetts.

Other than minor cultural adaptations, this high-end café is attractive to Americans, as it emphasizes French expertise. “It’s just natural for us, we are not inventing anything here, we are simply keeping a level of excellence,” says Navarre. So what guides this level of excellence? “Le simplicité!” they say. If they receive a request for more butter or salt, they advise the customer to first try it—then comes the confirmation, “You were right, it is fabulous!”

This sense of customer satisfaction is no surprise at La Maison Navarre, where the motto is: Enter into the Sweet World. Sweet has two meanings for Reymond and Navarre, who say, “Of course, ‘sweet’ like a pastry, but also ‘sweet’ because it’s nice."

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