Is the pain au chocolat with banana our cronut? Find out for yourself next week, when
Le Marais Bakery (2066 Chestnut St. near Steiner) is slated to open in a former Jamba Juice space in the Marina on July 3. Pastry Chef for Le Marais is Phil Ogiela, who had stints at Dandelion Chocolate, Aziza, and the Fifth Floor. The pastry menu includes "haute pâtisserie" items: gâteau Basque, pain de Gênes, tarts, macarons (go for the chocolate version, which are pleasingly light and airy), and madeleines.
Still, we had to try the genre-bending creation known as a pain au chocolat with banana, which was rightly decadent, buttery, rich and sweet -- perhaps too sweet for us but a potential draw for those on the cronut craze trail.
The new bakery serves Stumptown Coffee and is baked up with backing from retired business exec Patrick Ascaso, who is a French native looking to recreate the anticipation and magic youngsters (of all ages) get at that first smell of baked sugar and fresh bready goods. Le Marais has that Paxton Gate look, from the team that also gave creative flair to spots you may have heard of: flour + water, Salumeria, and Central Kitchen.
Vintage items catch the eye: bundt, small loaf, and Madeleine pans, and lighting that uses a bundt pan as a shade (feel free to makes us one, pretty please!). The menu is further inspired by French classics, and the bakery also has a literal slice of Paris in the form of reclaimed Parisian balcony railings.
Every bakery should consider having warm loaves to draw in afternoon customers looking for that afternoon get-me-away-from-work fix. Here, Baker Justin Brown (of Roberta's and Bien Cuit Bakery fame) uses complicated-sounding "long-fermentation, high-hydration doughs that are allowed to naturally rise for over thirty hours before being baked in a steam-infused deck-oven."
We sampled Brown's artisan walnut loaf at home and found it to be killer for sopping up porchetta juices from Fatted Calf. Le Marais bread equally spiffs up a no-longer-lonely wedge of Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam cheese, giving us yet another reason to adore the concept of our native state ("new world") and France ("oldish world"), together at last.