Sunday, August 8, 2010

Almond Brioche By the Beach: PB Boulangerie Bistro, Wellfeet

For 30 years, summers on Wellfleet Cape Cod have consisted of slurping raw oysters, indulging in fried clams and breakfasting on mediocre muffins. Then, starting a few months ago, friends started telling me about "this new French place" (otherwise known as PB Boulangerie Bistro) that had opened near our August rental. And as soon as I walked into my mom's house, she extolled their fruit tarts and scrumptious white chocolate bread. And then I tried the tarte au citron. Graced with burnt meringue, it consists of suave and perfectly tart lemon curd sitting on buttery crust. And, on top, a glistening layer of clear jelly. Heaven.
There is a price for this indulgence, as well as the other treats that I love there. First, is the wait. And then a longer wait. On each of my visits (and each time I have driven by), this place has been distinguished by some of the longest lines I have seen at the Cape. And, each time I have made it to the front of the line I have noticed some remarkably inefficient service. The place can be forgiven: It just opened in March and August on the Cape often means restaurants are short-staffed while the crowds pour in.
Needless to say, the one hour wait in line (!), can actually be worth it as the executive chef, Philppe Rispoli and baker, Boris Villatte are the real thing: from Lyon, France.
Their backgrounds explains the incredibly flaky croissants. (They are so good, and so popular that Villatte is making over 1,500...a day!) And the barely sweetened almond cream that fills pockets of moist brioche topped with raspberries. And the exquisite raspberry "danish" that consist of pastry cream topped with raspberries and sitting on flaky pastry. And the crackly, sugar-kissed tops of the orange-chocolate chip brioche. And the luxurious, better-than-trendy macarons with jelly, rather than buttercream gracing twin meringues.
Another of my absolute favorites is their pain au fromage or cheese bread. Having stood in line since 7 a.m., I was lucky enough to get one directly out of the oven. Filled with pockets of molten Asiago cheese that also creates a crisp bottom my son and I ate the entire loaf! You can also buy it with smokey bacon (or lardons), though I preferred the simplicity of the cheese bread. In fact I plan to buy a few loaves to store in my freezer when our vacation comes to a close.
In addition to the bakery, you can also have dinner at the restaurant. Because I was hesitant about service issues, overwhelmed by the prices (the average main dish runs in the mid-20s!), and limited by scarce reservations (I am a weary mother by 9 p.m.), friends and I headed there for dessert. While the inside dining room is solely for reservations, you can wait for an outdoor table on their patio any time of the night.
We arrived at about 8:30 and were seated by about 9:00. As soon as we sat, I knew we made the right choice: many customers were trying in vain to get the attention of the limited wait staff. Ironically, though, we were struck by the sight of numerous chefs in the kitchen, so I don't doubt that the food is delicious. And, I can say this: we were more than pleased by dessert. We shared three items.
First, a silken buttermilk panna cotta sitting on fresh berries. Then, thin crepes swimming in a buttery sauce, contrasted with thin slices of bitter orange rind. Homemade vanilla ice cream melted onto the dish.
Finally, we devoured a wonderfully light beignet served with subtly sweet chocolate mousse.
And all three items came promptly. Even the bill was accompanied by 8 tiny madelaines. Needless to say, during that time, a group of three, seated at the same time as us, still hadn't been given bread!

I don't doubt that this place will succeed. And, in many ways it clearly has as people drive in from Brewster (and further) to try these treats. Hopefully, they will be able to work out the service issues. In the meantime, your best bet is this: they allow you to place an order and pay in advance. The advantage? You can literally bypass the ENTIRE line and pick up your pre-order (which may or may not be ready....but still an improvement!) For example, you can show up to the bakery at 7 p.m., pay for those scrumptious treats and have them ready for you the next day. Believe me, if you have young children, this is far better than waiting! Last warning: they are currently closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, and the lines are unbelievable on weekend mornings.

So, go. Bring a newspaper (they even sell the Boston Globe and the New York Times), make friends with others in line, and look forward to the prize at the end of the line.

***UPDATE: I wrote this post in August, at the height of the summer in Wellfleet. As you can see from commenters below, by the fall the lines had died down. It makes me want to head back for a day trip....***

PB Boulangerie Bistro, 15 Lecount Road, Wellfleet, 508-349-1600


  1. Great, honest review. The beignet looks fabulous!

  2. I couldn't help but comment... as a Cape resident, we fell instantly in love with PB back in the spring (when the Cape was quiet). EVEN THEN the lines were long (with just the locals)! I keep hearing how insanely long the wait is now during summer (and with 4 kids, I don't dare make them wait for an hour in this summer heat), but I can vouch for the high quality of breads and sweets (we've often said PB could charge for just the aroma)! Having had French breads and pastries in Europe, I can honestly say PB is the real deal!

  3. Thanks, Fun and Fearless. I have been hesitant to offer up negative points, but as I pointed out, I do want them to do well. So, hopefully this is constructive criticism! I worked in Wellfleet and Provincetown, and August is so hard. And, as Cape Cod Rambling Rose noted, the products are just so good.

  4. We are headed to Eastham in another week. I think I'll have to brave the lines and leave the kids at home.

  5. This is a wonderfully honest review. I actually worked at PB this summer and understand completely how the service might throw customers off. We were short-staffed for most of the summer, a problem that I hope they will be able to rectify next year, however it should be known that to their credit Boris and Phillipe both jump in and serve customers in the bakery when they are able, as do the managers and other chefs. They are incredibly dedicated, though the result may not yet show this effort. They also treat every staff member, no matter their position, with the utmost respect! The bistro is entirely worth the wait, although you must be ready for a leisurely meal that very well may last 2 hours. All ingredients are fresh and local. My personal favorite: poached cod over mashed yukon potatoes in a clam broth that is to die for. I also highly recommend the soup du jour, created by sous chef Matt. They are planning to be open year-round, so go, order wine (they offer a full bar and employ a somelier and friend from France named Sebastian to help with pairings) and bring along a few good friends. PB is well worth any idiosyncrasies you may encounter while they work out the kinks.

  6. Just returned, relatively short line with 15 min wait; now home in heaven sampling brioches, Croque Monsieur (fabulous), pain au chocolat and plain croissant. What a decade t breakfast.