Jihye Chang

“Artisan Bakery”

Bread and Chocolate, Berkshire Mountain Bakery

I love reading Saveur. And I have somewhat naive trust over whatever that magazine recommends. Plus I have a soft spot for the Berkshires (memories of Tanglewood, Lenox coffee, Chocolate Springs in Pitsfield, etc.) So when I read an article about an artisan bakery in the Berkshires in the Saveur’s December 2012 issue, I HAD to order some.

Berkshire Mountain Bakery’s website is very simple and you can easily place an online order. However the shipping cost is really high – for the states that are not close to the east coast, an order of $50-60 will cost you $45. I know food items should be shipped overnight, but $45 seems pretty steep. And the minimum order is $50. But like I mentioned above, I had to try it.

So I ordered a box of stuff – 2 loaves of cherry pecan, 2 loaves of the holiday Stollen, 1 loaf of multi-grain sourdough, and 2 loaves of the infamous Bread and Chocolate, which appeared on Food TV’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” show.

I placed this order on the 23rd. I expected nothing to happen until the 26th. (They ship on the Tuesdays.) But there was no shipping notice, so I had to make a call in the afternoon of the 26th. They said they were handing out my box to the UPS guy as I was talking to them. For $45 shipping, I would expect it to be an overnight service, but it’s a 2 day air UPS shipping. I waited all day long anxiously on the 28th, and it arrived at the end of the day.

All the breads seem to have the same sourdough base. I liked the cherry-pecan bread a lot – great balance between the dough and the cherry! (I would have liked a bit more pecan ratio, though). Multi-grain was not as good. Stollen was a little disappointing as it was a bit too chewy, and not fruity enough. But the Bread and Chocolate – this was worth all the effort and the shipping cost! The loaf is loaded with dark Callebaut chocolate pieces, and it’s somehow magical to have the tangy flavor of a sourdough bread and sweet and deep chocolate flavor together. It actually is better than chocolate croissant. And it’s quite large, too. I think it’s a really great buy ($5.95 for a loaf) if you can just get it in store. I enjoyed both loaves of Bread and Chocolate for about 5 days, trying to imagine how much better it would be if I had it right out of the oven!

I don’t think I will order it online again, but this made me want to go back to the Berkshire area very much. I should make an excuse or an occasion to go back there sometime soon.

MSP greats #2, Patisserie 46

Early morning with a just-baked baguette or a warm and flaky croissant and a cup of double espresso macchiato – these are some of my favorite things in the world. I get happy just thinking of them. Recently I found a very happy place that makes wonderful baguettes, croissants, and French tarts and pastries along with decent espresso drinks, called “Patisserie 46.” (I found it while reading a magazine about Minneapolis.)

Patisserie 46 is located in a nice neighborhood. A tasteful sign that blends well with the red bricks welcomes you.

46

My first visit to Patisserie 46 was during a sunny, cold weekend in late February 2011. There were a lot of people enjoying themselves and it was quite noisy and loud. I asked if I could take photos, and the manager said “yes, of course – fire away!” There were so many people that I shied away from some details, but I think one can get glimpses of this wonderful place via a few of my photos.

I got a piece of quiche Lorraine with organic salad – crunchy, buttery crust filled with nicely balanced egg, cream and bacon bits. The organic salad had a mustard-y dressing and delicious yellow cherry tomatoes! And this was only $7.  My husband got a corned beef and steamed cabbage on baguette for about $6.5. I loved the jute-string presentation, but this sandwich fell a little short compared to the quiche (nothing special or extraordinary, but still good). I also had a chocolate croissant ($2), Canele de Bordeaux ($2.5), and 3 macarons (Pistacchio, Earl Grey, and Mango with white chocolate, $1.75 each)

 

Their double espresso macchiato ($2.75) was good enough – nothing to compare to famous espresso bars, but good for a bakery. No complaints! And the condiment bar has organic cane sugar packs. They source their coffee from Wisconsin’s Great Rivers Roastery, and they use an Astoria machine.

I got their macarons purely out of curiosity. Macarons have become the next best thing after cupcake fad in Korea, and people are crazy about them. I understand that these little meringue cookies are super tricky to make, and the flavor selection can be very interesting. I liked the mango macaroon the best – earl grey was too strong, and pistachio was a bit boring. I think these make a very good dessert option when you’re so full but still wanting something sweet to finish off a meal.

Patisserie 46’s chocolate croissant is awesome – lots of butter flavor, really moist inside, and crusty outside without being too messy.  Canele was good, too. I took home a plain croissant, almond financier, and l’Opera cake as well as a baguette. Their plain croissant was one of the best croissants I have ever had, even compared to the ones in France. The almond financier was also very good. The opera cake was a little bit disappointing as the sheet was too thin and there was too much syrup. I think I will give it another try next time I visit. I am just happy that they carry this fancy little cake! The baguette was also very very good..crusty outside, yeasty and fragrant inside that is moist. I like the baguette at Rustica a little bit more, but both are very good baguettes. Lucky MSP people..!

On my second visit, I bought more macarons, one apricot mousse bomb, and a blood orange tart. The apricot mousse bomb was fantastic! It looked so precious, and it had an amazing construction of custard cream and apricot mousse inside the caramel coating. The taste was so refreshing and complex. I highly recommend this! The blood orange tart, by comparison, was just OK. I also tried three more flavors of macarons – mango and white chocolate, strawberry rhubarb, caramel and orange. These are very well made and just fancy enough (but not too fancy like a foie-gras macaron), but I think I would rather spend my money on more substantial desserts from now on. Macarons are just not my cup of tea. (BTW – someone on an online review site commented that the macarons at Patrick’s are better than Patisserie 46’s. I went to check it out and concluded that really people have different tastes and opinions..)

Other good things: The orange colored walls and dark brown furniture create a warm and playful atmosphere. Nice clerks. They also serve many kinds of chocolates and gelato along with many selections of desserts in the showcase.

Something to keep in mind: Coffee drinks can take a while.  It’s always packed and it’s a very clanking, noisy place. It might overwhelm a first-timer as you need to line up as soon as you enter the store and one of the clerks will ask “Do you know what you want?” before you take a look at the showcase and the tiny little menu items. Oh, and you might experience that many things are sold out as early as 11am.

John Kraus is the owner and the baker of Patisserie 46. Quite famous guy..! I talked to him a little bit on my second visit, and he was so pleasant. (He was the winner of USA Pastry Championship in 2002. You can check out his interview with “Heavy Table” here:  http://heavytable.com/john-kraus-of-patisserie-46/

Also you can check out his short bio here:  http://www.usmenuguide.com/frenchpastryschool.htm

I made a few more visits after my initial 2 visits, and every time I am pleased. I hope this charming neighborhood gem will make many more people happy for many more years!