Yes, I do eat sweets. But only the gorgeous types and even then, in moderation. It’s all about balance. I like phenomenal dark chocolate, a single scoop of fresh raspberry sorbet or pistachio gelato, a tangy, lightly sweet lemon tart, sensational fresh-baked bread and simple, unforgettable pastries.
Enter Pistache NYC.
Pastry Chef Christine Herelle-Lewis and Chef Noémie Videau-Zagar are the dynamic duo behind the Brooklyn-based artisanal bakery Pistache NYC. Named for the pistachio that both Christine and Noémie adore, Pistache NYC offers both sweet and savory, “simple yet refined”, homemade treats made from fresh, organic and local when available, seasonal ingredients. And as they say and I love “always keeping an eye on the scale when it comes to sugar and salt.”
I sat down for lunch at chez bytracye (my apartment) with one half of the baking duo, Chef Christine, who also happens to be my neighbor and friend, to talk about her passion. NOTE: There were no pastries involved in the making of this blog (VERY unfortunate!). However, there was a previous tea time with sublime lemon and pistachio macaroons last week, so she is forgiven.
Tracye: I’m not a baker. I love to cook, but I leave the real baking, especially sweets, to the professionals like you and Noémie . What attracted you to baking and when did you start?
Christine: It’s actually an old story. My older cousin used to bake cakes for what became known as “Sunday Cake Time”. Instead of Sunday dinner, my family would gather for a long, leisurely, day of cakes and socializing. I would help her and get to be the taster which was the best part! I watched her bake cakes for pleasure. It was all about the experience.
Tracye: So how did you go from helping your cousin bake cakes as a child to pastry school to apprenticing for Pierre Hermé in Paris, to co-owning Pistache NYC?
Christine: Well, it took awhile for me to decide that I wanted to become a pastry chef. I really didn’t think it was a career choice that was even available to me. I would always bake pastries and cakes for friends and family, but never imagined doing it for a living. It was finally a talk with a good friend that helped me to see that it was my passion.
Once I decided, I applied for a scholarship for the school and was denied. I was crushed at the time, but applied again the next year and was successful. I went on to love school, even though it was tough at times. When it came time to apprentice I absolutely knew the only place I wanted to be was Pierre Hermé so I submitted and got it!
Tracye: And Pistache NYC? How did you and Noémie meet and make it a reality?
Christine: Noemi and I were actually in culinary school at the same time but in different areas. She was in cuisine and I was in pastry. A mutual friend thought we should meet as we were both moving to New York. That was back in 2011. It really was destiny and the perfect pairing – -savory and sweet. And so, after transplanting to New York, we opened Pistache NYC.
Tracye: So what are your thoughts on eating pastries, breads, etc.? I mean, there are people who steer clear of baked yummies, sweet or savory, completely.
Christine: I believe what I do and what I create and offer is about three things – -pleasure, balance, and love.
Tracye: It’s spring, even though we’re both still shivering. What are your favorites for the season?
Christine: Oh, I love both fresh and cooked fruit tarts. I have a pistachio and grapefruit tart that’s amazing right now. (Get the recipe here!) I also like apricot.
Tracye: Bruce Almighty and I are planning to take Sasha to Paris for her 16th birthday next summer. Hard question I know because there are so many amazing patisseries, boulangeries, etc. but, can you name your top three favorites right now?
Christine: That is hard. But let me think. Ok, I’ll go first with Pierre Hermé, of course! Next, and this would be Noémie’s pick, is Aurore Capucine. And finally, you must try Du Pain et Des Idees and get Le pain des amis. It’s incredible.
Tracye: And finally, what’s your favorite New York bakery right now?
Christine: I have to say Levain Bakery. I love their cookies. It’s amazing how a cookie that size that can have such great flavor, the crunch on the outside and be chewy on the inside. It’s consistent. The same great cookie every time. Very good.
Get the recipe for Christine’s Pistachio and Grapefruit Tart HERE!
Learn more about Pistache NYC offerings at www.pistachenyc.com.
Photo credit: Stéphanie Beauval-Cheng, www.delicatesseny.com