Friday, March 10, 2006

Carbtastic



Today's Variety Weekend takes a look at the recent L.A. explosion in bread-centric bakeries, such as Breadbar (above, bakers shape loaves of tumeric hazelnut bread).

Best bread deal appears to be at Santa Monica's Bay Cities Italian Deli and Bakery; but the weekend insert calls Breadbar's alpine cheese bread "addictive." The story also looks compares notes on Pasadena's Euro Pane Bakery, Mid-Wilshire's La Brea Bakery, and the chains Le Pain Quotidien and Il Fornaio.

Notes the story:

Not to be self-deprecating, but this isn't a bread town. Even our first lady of the boulangerie, Nancy Silverton, says she didn't open La Brea Bakery for the love of it.

"I forced myself to get into it," she says. "It was really to complement the food at Campanile."

In many ways, Breadbar has it easy. When La Brea opened in 1989, artisan breads were still the purview of New York and San Francisco. And Silverton's customers had some choice words for her products, including "dirty," "burnt" and "too holey."

Meanwhile, with Los Angeles in thrall to the Atkins, Zone and South Beach diets, a bread basket had all the charm of a petri dish.

"Southern California was barren," says Craig Ponsford, owner of Artisan Bakers in Sonoma and current president of the Bread Bakers Guild of America. "Even in the culinary world, it was behind the times."

Great bread still isn't easy to find. There's a handful of premium bread bakeries, but the city has never seen a rush to fill the void. The latest entrant is a Brentwood outpost of Maury Rubin's New York-based the City Bakery and while he offers pretzel croissants, melted chocolate chip cookies and caramelized French toast, he steers clear of homemade bread.

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