Snack Attack: Gâté comme des Filles Bonbons
The industrial space behind Aeronaut Brewing Company in Somerville is home to the sublime, nine-course experience that is the Tasting Counter, but discovering deluxe and alluring, Parisian-style chocolates when you’re a couple pints in is still quite a unique experience.
Since December, when Alexandra Whisnant moved her company Gâté comme des Filles there, visitors to Aeronaut’s Foods Hub have found just that every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night. She shares a space with bean-to-bar producer and original Food Hubs tenant, Somerville Chocolates, but Whisnant’s confections typically start with premium Valrhona or Tcho chocolates. She blends fruity ganaches and nutty pralinés a couple days a week in the 390-square foot space, and hand-dips and decorates the whimsical bonbons herself.
This summer, Whisnant has been producing about 350 chocolates each week, and she has two assistants who help her sell them each weekend at Aeronaut. Before Whisnant set up her own shop at the brewery, she was shipping chocolates to high-end retailers nationwide, but she has scaled back those efforts. She currently sends a few boxes each week to Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge, and she plans to expand distribution to the South End location later this month. Come October, she hopes to add a Barismo coffee shop or two (a former neighbor at the Foods Hub) to her accounts.
Whisnant is also nailing down a temporary storefront she plans to share with Somerville Chocolates this winter, but can’t confirm those plans just yet. Around the holidays, Gâté comme des Filles quadruples production, she says.
Meaning “spoiled like girls,” Gâté comme des Filles products are each a mouthful of classic technique, made accessible and appealing for a Camberville audience. A Cambridge native, Whisnant returned to the Boston area last year, Edible Boston recounts. She has a physics degree from Duke, but she learned the art of chocolate-making (and French pastry in general) at Le Cordon Bleu Paris. She has staged at the legendary pastry house Ladurée, and developed her own style while interning and working at the pioneering local food restaurant, Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California.
Fellow Francophile Alice Waters, the vanguard founder of Chez Panisse, is one of Gâté comme des Filles’s original proponents, the Boston Globe reported. Waters once specially ordered Whisnant’s bonbons to send to some of her most appreciated farmers and chefs, Whisnant says.
“Chez Panisse is an extremely good place to learn,” says Whisnant. “My chefs gave me free reign to make chocolates, so I could use whatever fruit and herbs were there to experiment with ganaches,” she says.
Waters encouraged the young chocolatier to embrace irregularity, “which was very strange, coming from Paris, where everything is perfect-looking,” Whisnant says. “I started to appreciate the rustic look, so I started doing more like these guys”—she points to a homespun, blueberry bonbon, luster-dusted crevices catching the light—“leaving the trace of my hand so it looks more handmade. That’s definitely what I developed there, having the process be visible.”
Her chocolates, in rotating flavors like Meyer lemon, peppermint, whiskey truffle, and black mission fig, are alternatively decorated with animal- or camo-printed, cocoa butter transfer sheets, or flecks of gold on a stamped crown. Boxes aren’t cheap ($22-$43), and are best enjoyed fresh.
Want to learn more about world-class chocolates—and taste the difference? Tickets are on sale for a chocolate and tea tasting this Sunday, September 11, co-hosted by Carla D. Martin, PhD, a Harvard lecturer and founder of the Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute.
Thursday-Saturday, 7-10 p.m., 14 Tyler St., Somerville, gatecommedesfilles.fr.