The other day I got an email from Ancestry.com about a new hint in my family tree. Next thing I know hours have passed and I have no idea where the the day has gone. What caught my eye was a hint from the des Marets family line on my mother’s side. I have traced that line back to the mid 1500s in northern France and when I get a hint from that part of my family, I get so excited I can’t contain myself. But talking about my ancestry experience is for another day. Today it is about this amazing French Pastry and Chocolate shop in Charleston. I only bring up my ancestry because I have to think that my love for France and all things French can perhaps be explained by my deeply rooted French ancestors.
Direct from France: Christophe Artisan Chocolatier-Pâtissier
So when I discovered Christophe Artisan Chocolatier-Pâtissier in downtown Charleston on Society St., I was on cloud 9. Those of you who have been to France or really most countries in Europe understand the thrill of walking into a pâtisserie and staring at all of the amazing treats that makes your mouth water with anticipation. You get so overwhelmed by the smells, the colors, the toppings, the everything that you want to take home one of each item. Well, that was me on my first stop at Christophe’s. The downtown store is a very, very tiny space at 90 Society Street in between King and Meeting Streets.
It s right in the heart of the shopping district that is chock full of tourists. That is how I found this place. Out of town guests were visiting and we were giving the grand tour. As I said it is in the shopping district so you have to use a pay parking lot if you are not lucky enough to find a free meter, so unfortunately for my “frenchness” but good for my belly, I do not get there all that often. On occasion when I needed a true French baguette I would have Gary drive me there and circle the block, and I would come out with a shopping bag of goodies but as downtown has become more and more crowded, we do that less and less.
Heureusement! …(That’s Thankfully in French!)
So imagine my joy recently when driving over to my sister’s house in West Ashley (part of Charleston but off the peninsula) and see this sign on a building (with a huge parking lot). My heart raced with anticipation but also concern. Please do not tell me that they are only selling Macaroons and Chocolate at this location. They must sell their bread and pastries too. So the other day I stopped by and joy of all joys, it is the real deal with their entire line of offerings.
I was greeted by Carly, wife of Christophe and co-owner of both stores. Christophe is in the kitchen doing what he does best. I learn that the store has been there for a year. WHAT? I do not know how I missed it all this time, but so happy that I found it. Note: This store does not open until 10am.
I am many things but one of my more oddball traits is, I am a baguette snob. Well, actually an all inclusive bread snob. I blame my time as as exchange student for this idiosyncrasy. I lived in Sweden for a year which opened up my eyes to world and I have been traveling the globe ever since.
The rest of the world does not make bread like us and for that I am grateful. I was never a fan of our American “wonder-type” breads so over the years I have searched high and low here in Charleston for true artisanal bread and the perfect baguette. Many claim to make it but few succeed. Usually because they are mass making them and or buying frozen and “just” baking it off or as one local bakery did just shaped their regular bread dough like a baguette and called it a day. I was to say the least – HORRIFIED. This last example is criminal but they are all big no-no’s in my book. Let’s face it artisanal bread “needs/kneads” hands. Many of these other breads look artisanal but when I tear into it, I am sadly disappointed in the uniform and spongy interior and the limp and/or rubbery crust.
Thankfully, Christophe makes a great baguette! And now that I have found the West Ashley store, I will never be baguette-less again. My sisters and Gary also thank Christophe because they no longer hear me complain about the dearth of good bread in this town.
I can only imagine that his chocolates are amazing. Being that I am not a huge chocolate fan, I have only sampled a few of his chocolate confections. They are very good but since I do not crave chocolate like most others, I think you need to try them on your own and make a decision. But if they are only 10% as good as the pastries he makes, you chocoholics will be thrilled beyond measure. Just look at these works of art.
And then there are pastries. Those flaky, gooey, fruity, decadent desserts that bring tears to your eyes and joy to your belly. Now that I have found this location I am going to have to resist the temptation to stop. Gary has already said….. slow doing with the sweets ! But I can’t….. I won’t…. ok, I’ll try?
Do you see that slice down the middle of the croissant with almond slices and powdered sugar? Yep, that is where they sliced it open and filled with a ample but not overwhelming layer of almond cream. It is heavenly. As with any croissant I would always eat them the day they are purchased so that you get that flaky, crispy crunch from the outer layer that is just not the same when you put in the toaster oven.
Tarts and Tartlettes
This Cherry Almond Tart is perfectly balanced and moist. I am glad I only bought one piece because I could have eaten the entire thing. The Pear Tartlette on the right is my favorite. The outer layer is crisp but delicate and perfectly sweet. In inside mouth-watering, cake-like center is nothing short of perfection. Lastly, the glazed pear pulls it all together into one amazing dessert.
Macaroons and Other Not Yet Sampled Desserts
Since I can not get to France as often as I would like I guess I will just have to drink more French wines and stop for baguettes and pastry at Christophe’s on a regular basis. The downstore store opens at 8:00am Monday thru Saturday and closes at 7:00pm Monday thru Thursday, 9:00pm Friday and Saturday. Sunday open from 9:00am to 6:00pm. Address: 90 Society St, Charleston, SC 29401 Phone: (843) 297-8674
The West Ashley Location is at 1901 Ashley River Rd, Charleston, SC 29407 sandwiched between Condon’s Bridal Shop and the West Ashley Crab Shack. They open at 10am but I am unsure of closing times and weekend hours so give them a call before you head that way. Phone: 843-225-9133