Last year saw a boomlet in French bakeries, among them Payard Patisserie, the bakery-bistro powerhouse that has won over the Upper East Side with its bustling restaurant and casual café. An unusually accommodating Frenchman, François Payard wisely plays to a family crowd with spectacular confections, tasty panini on homemade bread, and velvety ice creams. He even caters to neighborhood whims, like a request for chocolate-covered matzo on Passover. We also love the exquisite croissants and brioche at Bonté (1316 Third Ave., at 75th; 535-2360). And for all-around atmosphere, Marquet Patisserie (15 East 12th St.; 229-9313) remains the best place to refuel with a top-notch espresso and a slice of St. Tropez.