That word is now bandied about the culinary world with the frequency of personal pronouns used at the beginning of sentences between long lost friends catching up on life events. Unfortunately, by definition, the word does not speak to the skill or the end result, only the methods employed.
For example most would agree that Antonio Stradivarius was an artisan. The skill required and the end result of each of his handcrafted works stand as an enduring testament to his work as an “artisan.” On the other hand, the recent Domino’s Pizza commercials making use of the word “artisan” to invoke a sense of quality is absurd and makes any discerning linguist rail against the incomplete definition of the word.
Today, I offer you the opportunity to become familiar with the true sense of what the word means in a most practical way. I don’t usually gush over baked goods or chocolate, but like all of us here, I will wax poetic about great food regardless of when one might enjoy it. So, it seems I’m going to turn over a new leaf here.
I was recently introduced to the father / daughter artisans pictured above and I’m…VERY impressed. Karl (Karl’s Quality Bakery) is in his late, late 20’s and still goes in every day at 3:30 am to bake for the day. His fresh, handmade pastries include puff and croissant that are as consistent day after day as the ticking of the second hand on your clock. He speaks French & German and offers up one of the most typically old world European bakery stylings (including cookies) that I’ve seen in quite some time. His Kaiser rolls have such a crisp, thin, buttery crust that it’s hard to eat just one.
But don’t stop at the rolls and pastries, he also does pies and Quiche as well as muffins and just about anything else you might expect. I’ve been dropping in for almost three weeks and haven’t had a single thing that I didn’t REALLY like. And, if that’s not enough, like many of the other single establishment owners we love, he is just about the most gracious person you will find. The smile on his face says it all, and that’s why we call him Mr. Beautiful.
Right next door, (and almost identical in set up to La Dolce Vita in Mesa) is Karl’s daughter Christine Boerner – The Baker’s Daughter and the ONLY Swiss (and Austrian) trained chocolatier that is running a stand alone business in Phoenix (the other three work at hotels in the valley). We sampled some of her cocoa chips and talked percentages and flavor profiles for a bit the other day and what a joy to FINALLY find AWESOME chocolate locally. While there are other chocolatiers in the valley, they aren’t Swiss trained – it is a standard worth measuring by! And not for nothing, she serves your shots or double shots of espresso with Perrier and a truffle – you gotta love the Austrian influence.
When I was at The Baker’s Daughter the other day, Christine had just finalized an order with The Heard Museum for an upcoming artist commemoration. Her work is exquisite and her attention to detail unwavering. She fusses almost daily over the fact that as hard as she tries she can’t find any help capable of consistently crafting chocolate of the right consistency. It’s a family affair, so maybe she’ll be able to work one of her sisters into the chocolatiers’ mold, but for now, there’s no concern that the good swiss chocolate will stop flowing with a taste and texture that would impress Jacques Torres. That’s why some call her the Doctor of Chocolate. (for the record, we concur with this honorary title)
If you ever find yourself in need of some seriously good chocolates to cheer someone up, mend a few fences (maybe you really messed up with your significant other), or impress someone new, Christine’s your new go-to-girl! But like any good establishment there’s more than one drum to play…don’t get all OCD on the chocolate. It’s INCREDIBLE by itself and she crafts close to 30 different truffles on a regular basis (her current offering shows a total of 46) including a Wasabi Lime Truffle – but she makes OUTSTANDING cakes too.
Oh, and don’t forget to take note of the large jar (like 6 gallons large) of Kirsch soaked cherries in the corner. She tells me they have to come out at exactly the right time, and when they are gone, they’re gone. I can’t wait to watch an upcoming and unsuspecting dinner crowd fawn over her ridiculously decadent Black Forest cake made from scratch by her deft hand with only Swiss chocolate and those little Kirsch soaked beauties.
I took home the two dozen truffles you see pictured at right and regretted eating each and everyone of them because with each bite it meant I was coming closer to the end of the box. Thankfully there are plenty more where that came from! And, don’t forget to asked about her gluten-free chocolate options too. In the meantime, I wanted to put these guys on your radar if you haven’t already heard of them. They really deserve the extra traffic and I’m hoping we can bring it to them!
If you don’t live in Phoenix, that’s ok too! They gladly ship anywhere in the U.S.
If you want to see what other Phoenix locals are saying about these and other great artisan’s establishments, you can keep an eye on things here:
If you want to check them out in person, you can find them at the physical and internet addresses below.
Karl’s Quality Bakery / The Baker’s Daughter
8847 N. 7th Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85021