Update Jan 6, 2010. Oh, Artisan, how I wish all bakeries could be like you.
My fiancé and I stopped by Artisan again and got into conversation with some of the local regulars, who together with the owner, Andre, occasionally piping in comments, gave us a bit more background on Artisan bakery.
Apparently up until quite recently, Artisan used to supply select delights to a few local businesses and local restaurants, such as small unknown places, like oh Whole Foods and Air France. But because Artisan is so small and some of these larger businesses have such lengthy accounts payable (60 days before they even think about writing a check), it just wasn't working out.
So he cut back supplying to some of these accounts and apparently now has more time for the local shop, resulting in a new cakes/desserts counter, which judging from the two treats we got, continues on their supply of quality products.
3-chocolate cake - The flavor is surprisingly mostly of white chocolate, but before any chocolate snob gets all up in arms, we were really quite surprised by the complexity that was evident in it and also by the lack of cloying sweetness that usually accompanies white chocolate. As we ate it, Andre mentioned that he sources the chocolate especially from Europe. Goober-snots, if I could get white chocolate like this easily, hell, I'd be more of a white chocolate fan.
Madeleine - yum.
Mango mousse - Oh man, very nice - sweet mango slices on top. The mousse was the equivalent of the improved convenience of instant foaming hand-soap; you don't have to wait to lather up the soap. Or a better comparison is unlike some chocolates, where you have to wait for the chocolate to melt before you get the flavor, with mousse as a vehicle, the mango flavor was immediate and yet provided lingering strands of complexity afterwards. The bottom layer was a mango flavored cake. Yes, that's a lot of mango, but in forms well-executed and restrained.
Croissants - just lovely stuff. I've talked about this before below.
Raisin - Just delicious. A wonderful balance of sweetness and baked bready flavor goodness.
Cream cake - A nice crust on the outside to a sponge-cake like puff, inside of which was a yellow egg cream that I suspect is what the Chinese bakers tried to emulate in some of their buns.
Baguettes - Just a wonderful flavor - enough that it tastes great by itself or even more brilliant with quality toppings.
Leaving the shop, my fiancé and I half-jokingly said that we wanted to have Artisan Boulanger do our wedding cake or whatever sweet we choose to serve.
Heh, that would be fantastic.
On second thought, perhaps we weren't really joking at all...
Artisan Boulanger Patissier is a bit off of the beaten path. It closes relatively early at 3pm and apparently sells out of their baked goods quickly.
But man oh man, when we tried a croissant and one of their baguettes, our immediate thought was "this is simply on another level."
Croissant - What a marvelous range of textures in one croissant. What was that pretentious term for describing a croissant: shatter effect? Yeah, there's a nice crunch to the outside, yet a tasty and surprisingly soft and bready inside. Just lovely stuff in texture and taste.
Baguette - This is what wowed us. Just what you'd want from a baguette. The crust wasn't that hard and the soft inside just made me want to roll around in it.
Yes, this is a bit out of the way for Center City dwellers. Yes, there's not much "ambiance" for sitting around at Artisan. And yes, for those used to La Bus, Metropolitan or other bakeries, Artisan's selection of products seems puny. But once we tasted their stuff, it just seemed like the other bakeries had sold-out and/or were over-extending themselves, instead of just concentrating on making the best breads and treats they could.
Artisan Boulanger Patissier is the real deal and well-worth the trip.
Artisan Boulangerie Patissier
1646 South 12th Street Philadelphia, PA 19148 (Map)