Charleston seems to be getting closer to its Euro-roots nearly every day. Fromageries & patisseries are becoming nearly as prolific here as they are in Paris. Whisk Bakery is the latest, delicious addition to Charleston's expanding Euro-inspired culinary camp. A soft opening in mid-February has already landed the old brick wall-lined shop a loyal, eager following. When I arrived at about 10 a.m. earlier today, the line was reaching out the door and two German gentlemen were enjoying Germany-native executive chef Vinzenz Aschbacher's oven-warm, flaky whole grain croissants and paper cups full of steaming, strong coffee, which they declared "just like you would find in Europe."
Naturally, the intoxicating aromas of fresh-baked daily breads, pastries, tarts, croissants, cream puffs, and more, would be authentic. Aschbacher has quite the arsenal of training and experience under his toque, including stints at the Art Institute of Charleston, Red Velvet Catering, and Charleston Place Hotel. Then, there is the fact that he's from Germany and speaks with the charming lilt of his native language, beaming with pride for his craft as he does. He seems particularly well-suited to the small, intimate open-kitchen environment here—more relaxed than his Charleston Place days. It's as if he's in his element and it comes across in the food and entire wonderful Whisk experience. Not just for pastries, Whisk also whips hot and cold panini, assorted sandwiches, and salads into the mix. The Sweet & Spicy Halloumi Panini ($7.50) showcased a layer of chewy, mild Halloumi, a sheep's milk cheese that hails from Greece. This was paired with a spread of sweet/hot pickled jalapenos, colorful pepper jelly, and a dash of fresh arugula. Panini-pressed and toasted to warm, ooey gooey goodness, it was light enough to invite dessert, but substantial enough to fill most appetites. It was a perfect late-morning snack. Eyeballing the cream puffs and croissants that I knew I would be taking home with me, I shared the second half with my neighboring German (by now) friends. Again, they declared it "delicious!" On my not too distant to-do list is the tempting sounding Grilled Mac & Cheese with Pulled Pork Sandwich ($8.50). But first, we have to talk pastries.
Left to right: croissant, chocolate eclair, cream puff, and Blackberry Lemon Curd Tartlet
The pastries are made daily, in-house (except the bagels, which are delivered), and all are remarkably beautiful and fresh. Aschbacher's croissant ($2.90) is a bit doughier and less flaky and buttery than you will find at Macaroon a little further uptown, but it's nonetheless delightful and divine with a cup of Whisk's rich and satisfying coffee. A cheerful order-taker who also serves as the resident barista, handled the increasing length of the line well as she neatly bundled the take-away sweet treats pictured above. In my mind, the cream puff ($2.75), with an elegantly airy choux pastry and ever-so-lightly sweetened whipped cream and the creamy, tart/sweet lemon curd tartlet topped with deep purple, sweet blackberries and a dusting of chopped pistachios ($3.50) out-matched their take-away box companions, but everything about Whisk gives cause to smile and stop by a while. Seating is limited and comfortable, but it's just as lovely to take away a bag of Whisk treats and enjoy them at nearby Waterfront Park. Whisk Bakery 209 Meeting Street Charleston, SC 29401 (843) 628-5954 www.whiskcharleston.com