One of Charlottesville’s most accomplished pastry chefs is opening a French patisserie on the downtown mall. Born and trained in France, Fleurie’s Serge Torres first came to the US in 1993, as assistant pastry chef at Le Cirque under his cousin Jacques Torres, aka “Mr. Chocolate.” Next was another Manhattan three-star restaurant, Le Perigord, where he oversaw all breads, pastries, and specialty desserts. Eventually, Torres was lured to Charlottesville to work with Kluge Estate Winery and Fuel, before finding his way to Fleurie in 2015.
Patisserie Torres is a joint venture with Fleurie founder Brian Helleberg, who sees it as a chance to give Torres more space to shine – both figuratively and literally. Torres has been underutilized, Helleberg says, in his 16 square feet portion of Fleurie’s tiny kitchen, and the driving idea behind the new patisserie “was to get Serge and his 15 different of types of sugar out of the Fleurie kitchen so that the rest of us had a little space.”
This could be a win-win-win. For Fleurie, more space. For Torres, his own place. And, for Charlottesville diners, a Torres showcase. Patisserie Torres will be a carryout breakfast and lunch pastry shop serving sweet and savory French pastries along with salads, soups, and sandwiches. The new space is just across 3rd St. NE from Fleurie, once home to Cappellino’s Crazy Cakes.
The emphasis is a quick experience for diners on the run, with plenty of prepared-ahead items. French pastries lend themselves well to the concept. For breakfast, there are croissants, cramique, house-made granola and egg sandwiches. For lunch, savory tarts, often enjoyed at room temperature, make for an ideal grab-and-go meal. Pissaladierre, for example, is a classic Provencal tart of anchovy paste, caramelized onions, and black olives. Quiche likewise rests well, and Torres will offer both Quiche Lorraine, with bacon and Gruyere cheese, and Quiche Salmon, with potatoes and chives. Of the savory items, Helleberg’s favorite is the sausage friand – house made sausage and bechamel, wrapped in puff pastry. There will also be gougeres (cheese puffs by the dozen) and roulés feuilletés – puff pastry rolled with fillings like cheese and sausage.
And there of course will be the sweets for which Torres is known: pastries, confisseries, truffles, cakes, petit fours, clafouti, and more. The “Passion Chocolate,” for example, is coconut dacquoise with passion fruit and banana cremeux, and dark bittersweet chocolate mousse. Torres’ Napoleon meanwhile is caramelized puff pastry with almond biscuit, raspberry-ginger coulis and vanilla mousseline cream. But, Helleberg’s favorites are Torres’ macarons, particularly the coffee-flavored ones.
Patisserie Torres opens Wednesday, August 1, from 7:30 am – 3 pm.