Ganache

This article was first published in Hobokeni.com in 2002.

Ganache Review by Dina

What is ganache?  To some, it’s a rich, chocolate filling holding layers of cake together.  Or warmed, it’s poured over a cake for a glossy shine.  For French speakers and language buffs, the word’s literal translation is “imbecile.”  As the legend goes, a 19th century apprentice in a Paris patisserie accidentally dropped scalded milk into a nearby bowl of chocolate.  His superior called him an imbecile.  This epithet inspired the chocolate concoction’s name, as the created chocolate mixture was salvageable—and delicious.  In Hoboken, Ganache is a reason to head uptown.

The patisserie by that name sits under a scant blue awning across from an undeveloped lot on 13th Street between Clinton and Grand Streets.  At first glance, it seems a rather strange location for a patisserie the caliber of Ganache. Inside, the walls are a warm, inviting gold.  Comfy, pillowed couches sit near quaint tables.  Brown-framed photos by local photographer Angela Michelle hang on the wall—of winding European city roads with flowerpot-spotted windows.

In the dessert case, there are a wealth of French pastries, from the signature ganache cake—a chocolate sponge cake soaked in rum syrup and filled with ganache, to the popular strawberry shortcake—three layers of vanilla sponge cake, soaked in fruited syrup and filled with whipped cream and strawberries.  The creative tantalizers go on:  La Dome, a hazelnut sponge cake layered with hazelnut butter cream and chocolate ganache encircled in dark chocolate, a dark chocolate mousse, a white chocolate mousse, handmade petit fours in lemon, banana, white chocolate and more, carrot cake, hazelnut nougatine—layers of hazelnut cake soaked in syrup with a praline filling and crushed nougatine (caramel mixed with chopped nuts) topping, a tart tatain—caramelized apple baked over a buttery pastry crust lightly glazed and topped with almonds, and various fruit tarts including almond raspberry, lemon and pear, a Grand Marnier cake, a Moka cake, a chocolate torte, and a crème brulee cheesecake.  I get the customer favorite of the moment, the pear tart, a butter-cookie crust filled with frangipane (almond-flavored custard) and topped with a pear poached in cinnamon syrup and glazed.  Sitting near the window, I gaze out dreamily as I savor this delight and understand why the owners, brother-and-sister team Keith and Jessica Carpentier and Master Pastry Chef Jean Claude Sanchez, chose this location–far from the bustling madness of Washington Street.

It has to do with Europe.  Sanchez, a native of southern France, started apprenticing in traditional pastry techniques at age 14.  Later on, in the U.S., he became head pastry chef at Les Friandises and Le Bernardin.  Eventually his talents led him to the famous Rainbow Room.  According to Jessica, he cranked out carbon-copy desserts for 150 guests night after night with little avenue for creativity.  Keith Carpentier is a Europhile.  He regularly travels to Europe, particularly Geneva, Switzerland.  Jessica calls her brother “a true entrepreneur.”  His vision was to create an Old-World, European-like setting here in Hoboken.  Teaming with family friend Sanchez, the Carpentiers did just that when they opened Ganache in December 2001.

Jessica says, “We are a traditional European patisserie.  We’re here to bring the true European culture to Hoboken.”  What is the true European culture?  “Living for the day and enjoying it,” explains Jessica.  She notes now there is a “resurgence of community.”  She adds, “People want to spend time being together and relaxing.”

To help them do that, Ganache holds a Sunday yoga and relaxation night.  During the week, customers can sign the sign-up sheet and after the program, guests are given complimentary teas.  What could be more relaxing?  The teas at Ganache are not just teas—they are as high quality as the cakes.  The organically grown, loose-leaf teas come in a wide aromatic variety.  There’s Fiji, a tropical mix of papaya, pineapple and green tea, or Colonille, a sinful vanilla with Vietnamese black tea or Ruby Sipper, a blood orange and pear Tisane (dried fruits, herbs or flowers brewed like tea), among others.

In fact, all of the goods Ganache makes or sells are of highest quality.  “I only use Illy coffee,” says Jessica.  In addition, she sells varieties of fresh honey, including raspberry and buckwheat.  There is a reason everything is so good at Ganache.  “It’s a labor of love,” says Jessica.  In a week, she devotes about 100 hours to the patisserie.  Sanchez creates his “edible works of art” daily.  A batch of ganache takes him 15 hours to make; the signature hot chocolate, four.  “Everything’s done the old-fashioned way,” says Jessica.

At Ganache, Sanchez has “creative license.”  His “gift” shines through most in his specialty cakes.  He parents perfections for all occasions—christenings, birthdays, anniversaries, bar mitzvahs–but weddings stand out.  “We do one wedding on a given day,” says Jessica.  This ensures a unique, creative cake for each customer and one that is not “mass-produced.”  If the date is available, the customer is invited to a tasting where he or she samples the different flavors from which to choose.  Jessica mentions that it’s good to bring a picture of a cake from a magazine or a color palette if the customer has a particular one in mind.  “Cakes are a reflection of an individual’s personality,” she says.  The former fashion expert analogizes picking a cake to getting dressed. She says, “When you dress in the morning, you want to represent yourself in a certain way.  It’s the same with picking out a cake.”  Ganache’s repertoire of wedding cakes includes décor with dotted Swiss and scrolling and marzipan rosettes (the most popular), garlands of flowers, basket weave and a lavish traditional French wedding cake made of towered cream puffs.  One customer ordered a two-tiered cake that she carried on her lap on a plane to her Las Vegas wedding.

Recently, the patisserie was featured in a Taste of Weehawken where the party-sized pear tart pared down quickly.  Event-goers who didn’t get to try it headed to the shop for to relish in the refreshing tart.  In late April, Ganache catered the Morning Blast Off at WPLJ 95.5.  In the works—Bridal Day.  Jessica wants to team up with area florists and photographers for a day devoted to brides—to taste cakes, see floral designs and portfolios.  In fact, that’s just the beginning.  Jessica values a sense of community, especially at Ganache.  The patisserie’s décor was a community effort.  She and Keith did it themselves with the help of Rosalie Wittson of Ro’s Garden interior and floral design in Hoboken.  Jessica also gets to know her customers well.  “I know what people want before they get in the door,” she maintains.

At Ganache, things are done the old-fashioned way, with love, commitment, a sense of community and a welcoming smile.  Jessica says, “We look forward to seeing everyone.”

Ganache also serves croissants, chocolate, classic butter and almond, muffins, scones, baguettes, foccacia, other breads, wraps, and quiche.  Visit Ganache on Mondays from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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