A Taste of Four Beautiful Breads and the Search for More
February 27, 2013
When we break bread, it means so much more than sustenance.
When you've got serious bread, you've got so much more than flour and water.
And when someone starts a dinner, accompanies a meal or builds a sandwich with superior bread, there's so much more flavor in play the world is simply a better place.
In our annual Wine & Dine guide, I spotlighted four great local spots for bread that doesn't cost too much bread (partly inspired by incredible bread destinations Marinus, Sierra Mar and Aubergine, where the pastry chefs and bakers work wonders, but the dough to get in the door rises quickly).
Many more lurk among us. Share your favorites at the Weekly Facebook page. And chew on these in the meantime.
The olive loaf at La Bicyclette (622-9899, pictured above) seduces the eye and the tastebud with tiger striping from the black olive paste and slices of buttery Castelvetrano green olives. The ciabatta is similarly double-delicious, with big air bubbles looking suitably artisan and letting the bread assume more of the seductive smoky flavor from the Mugnaini oven—a beauty itself that is so well-insulated that at times the baking team needs only one piece of wood going to maintain a 400-degree temp. The French farmhouse-style loaf, or boule, is done with a starter created with yeast from the owners’ Georis Vineyard. And as good as the breads are to start, complete or generally elevate dinner, they’re even better at 8am, when they come out of the oven and cost as little as $4.75 a loaf.
The breakfast pizza is deservedly legendary—note: Places that do their own epic breads are a reliable bet for tasty pies too—and baker Michelle Wotjovich can deliver desserts (like brown butter rhubarb bars) that rival any in the state…but it’s still the breads that best define The Big Sur Bakery (667-0520). The whole-wheat sourdough and nine-grain breads are so rustically wondrous that the bread plate, with pure organic butter and several exotic salts—is one of the best dishes here.
At Wild Plum Café Bistro & Bakery (646-3109), an obsession with wholesome ingredients distinguishes a menu loaded with things like the eggplant tacos, chipotle chicken Caesar salads and smoked salmon “steamer” bowls. One of the best things about the soup of the day or the organic house salad is that they come with house-baked bread; gourmet sandwiches like the grilled four-cheese or the chicken club with country ham come on house focaccia, whole-wheat focaccia or a tasty roll named Nana’s bread.
The Bakery Station (783-1140) has earned a reputation—and a following—with burly sandwiches like the Bel Air, Caddy and Road Hog. And those begin with the bread—sourdough, French baguettes, focaccia, ciabatta, whole-wheat and brioche, all made fresh on the converted-gas-station premises. There’s also an assortment of specials that rotate through, like the three-cheese, olive, rye and challah.