Marie Antoinette didn't say, "Let them eat cake." The French words actually meant, "Let them eat brioche."
No biggie on the mistranslation. When they're done well, the little rolls are even more sumptuous than cake. And Pistacia Vera bakes them especially well.
The brioche is a denser sibling of the croissant. Equally as buttery as the crescent-shaped pastry, a brioche contains more egg and is traditionally shaped like a muffin with a nodule growing out of the top. I always think of the cartoon character Ziggy, with his round head and bulbous nose.
Pistacia Vera, celebrated for its heavenly macarons and croissants, makes two pastries that it considers "brioches."
The store's Orange Brioche ($2.50) is dusted with sugar crystals and has the classic Ziggy shape. Orange zest adds a mild citrus flavor that works perfectly with marmalade or by itself. Under the roll's golden crust is a soft interior with a cotton candy-like ability to disintegrate in your mouth.
And biting off that protuberance on top elicits the same sense of carnal pleasure as attacking the ears of a chocolate Easter bunny.
While the shop's Cinnamon Spiced Brioche Roll doesn't look like the typical brioche, it's made using brioche dough. Pistacia Vera's take on a cinnamon roll is covered with a sticky, sweet glaze. It's fun to unwrap bit by bit while admiring the flecks of Ceylon and Vietnamese cinnamon inside, though there isn't an overwhelming cinnamon flavor.
Figure out a plan before eating it with your soon-to-be-sticky fingers - you'll need to make sure you can get to a sink without touching anything except your precious pastry.
If you want a great classic brioche, you may still have to catch a flight to Paris. There, you can find brioches bigger than basketballs. But the baseball-sized ones at Pistacia Vera are rich enough to satisfy anyone's pastry hunger.