Monday, July 11, 2011

When the Bread No Longer Rises ...

Last week I snapped a photo of bikers, leaving PB Boulangerie Bistro with their tummies full, happy to have discovered one local business that seemed to be a fairy tale come true to all Wellfleetians: a real French bakery and bistro. These tourists probably did not remark anything remiss, but the natives cannot help but notice. Something has changed. The tight faces of the serving staff, the absence of the chef’s wife, who used to be in charge of the cash register, a longer wait than usual for a main course in the restaurant. And, of course, the bread.

“It isn’t as good, especially the whole wheat,” a friend reported with a sigh. She had been a big fan, too.

When my son was here two weeks ago with his French wife, I treated them to croissants. The bottoms were burned. Then, this weekend, I bought a fourth of the famous large round loaf (shown here, top right, with some croissants and baguettes made over a year ago, when the oven was being tested). The bread looked weird, but I was in a hurry. Once back home, I realized the problem: the loaf had not risen the way it should. Normally I would have said something in the bakery, but I had been too busy complaining about the pain de mie, burned on top. When I served it yesterday morning to the guests, I realized the inside part – the “mie” – did not taste as sweet either.

I have been hesitating to write about why because it makes me sad. My friends and I hoped mediation would be an option. It apparently was not. With all the hotsy-totsy reporters in Wellfleet this summer, I figure the news will appear shortly, so it’s time to share what I know. You cannot have a four-star bakery without a four-star chef. Boris, the master baker, has left. There was a quarrel. He was replaced.

I feel regret for both Boris and Philippe, two longtime friends who lived an amazing dream: they created a successful year-round business in a seasonal town, a marvelous place to eat and dream France, with a line out the door even in winter.

I also feel sorry for Wellfleet because buying “le bon pain fran├žais” is no longer the same, unless Boris opens another bakery. He is still here, so that still might happen.

I continue to recommend PB to my guests, because the restaurant remains exceptional. Unfortunately, I can no longer say the same about the bread. And, the fairy dust? Dissipated….