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NYC: The state of bread in 2007


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What do you think are the best breads in NYC today? Where are you all buying your bread these days, and where is that bread coming from?

Me, I'd say 90% of the bread I've been buying for the past year or so has been one of these five. I get the occasional other item, but these are my tried-and-true mainstays:

- Bread Alone organic whole wheat sourdough miche, purchased at Fairway on Broadway and 74th. You can also get Bread Alone breads at a number of the greenmarkets. This is, to me, one of the best artisanal breads you can get in New York. It's made with no commercial yeast -- it's a true sourdough -- and has incredible flavor from its long fermentation and fundamentally excellent ingredients (organic flour ground to the bakery's specifications) and facilities (brick ovens built by French craftsmen). It's long lived, and also freezes exceptionally well for toasting later on.

- Pain Quotidien baguette a l'ancienne, purchased at the 84th & Madison branch of Le Pain Quotidien. I guess you're getting the idea that I like chewy breads made according to a slow-rise sourdough process. I just love the Pain Quotidien baguette -- every time I taste it I marvel at how consistently excellent it is. I only wish they made a smaller one, because it has to be eaten same-day -- it's just not a great bread to reheat, and it's a lot of bread to eat alone in a day (not that it stops me). I know they do or did make individual rolls in this style for Jean Georges that they don't seem to sell at the bakery -- I wish they did sell them.

- Eli's stupidly named "health loaf," purchased at Fairway on Broadway and 74th. This is my freeze-and-toast workhorse for sandwiches. The slices are small because it's a long square loaf, so I usually make two sandwiches at a time. The marketing literature calls it "a toasty mosaic of seeds and grains," and it really is -- I can't think of a better way to describe it. I think Eli's breads are not on the whole quite as good as those from the handful of top artisanal bakeries, but I think Eli's sets a very high standard for large-production commercial bakeries. I could certainly have a fulfilling bread life only eating breads from Eli's.

- Eli's bagels, purchased at Vinegar Factory. Every once in awhile I read some roundup of best bagels in New York, and I have never seen Eli's mentioned. In my opinion, however, these are the best bagels in New York. They're dense, chewy and have great flavor. They're so faithful to the old-style texture and flavor of a bagel that many of today's bagel eaters reject them -- they'd rather have something caky like an H&H bagel or something bagel-like but not seriously dense like Ess-a-Bagel or Tal. And they're sold at room temperature, the way bagels should be eaten -- they're baked in the bakery and delivered to the two stores. None of this hot bagel business (though if you have leftovers and you freeze them they toast up nicely). You can get them at Vinegar Factory or at the Eli's store on Third Avenue -- I don't think I've seen them around at other places that sell Eli's bread. They don't make a whole lot of them -- by 11am on a weekend they're out of most varieties.

- Balthazar Bakery levain in the boule shape, purchased at the Nature's Gifts market on Lexington Avenue between 87th and 88th. I wish I had better access to Balthazar breads other than the baguettes (which I think are not great), but at least the levain -- my favorite -- is readily available in my neighborhood. It's the best straight-up white sourdough bread I've been able to find.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Balthazar's Potato-Onion Fendu is excellent (available at Whole Foods). I also like the WF 12 seeds and grains (I think that's what's called) but only from the USq or 25th st stores.

The human mouth is called a pie hole. The human being is called a couch potato... They drive the food, they wear the food... That keeps the food hot, that keeps the food cold. That is the altar where they worship the food, that's what they eat when they've eaten too much food, that gets rid of the guilt triggered by eating more food. Food, food, food... Over the Hedge
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When I'm not baking my own (which stops happening as soon as the weather warms up), I like the Pugliese, sfilatino and ciabattini from Sullivan St. Bakery, the whole-wheat boule from Pain Quotidien, and all the boules (rye, white, wheat) at Balthazar Bakery.

I actually bought a decent sourdough loaf from Whole Foods the other day - had them slice it and it was nice for sandwiches, but not long-lasting at all.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Bittman's publication of the Sullivan Street no-knead bread recipe, baked initially in a covered casserole to mimic a bread oven, has changed our bread habits altogether - because of a failure in our logistics unit (me), we bought a loaf (pugliese from Sullivan St) this week for the first time since the appearance of that recipe.

But favorites are: Sullivan St; sandwich bread from Pain d'Avignon; Tom Cat baguette. The first two purchased near where we live, at Corrado, the third at Gourmet Garage. Does anyone know other retail sources for Tom Cat bread?

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I dont know if you all get Our Daily Bread down there in NYC. They are a bread baker in Chatham NY which, in my opinion, beats out Bread Alone. I know they sell at many farmers markets, but NYC is about 2 hours south of Chatham. If you get the chance, try it...

"It's better to burn out than to fade away"-Neil Young

"I think I hear a dingo eating your baby"-Bart Simpson

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Bittman's publication of the Sullivan Street no-knead bread recipe, baked initially in a covered casserole to mimic a bread oven, has changed our bread habits altogether - because of a failure in our logistics unit (me), we bought a loaf (pugliese from Sullivan St) this week for the first time since the appearance of that recipe.

But favorites are: Sullivan St; sandwich bread from Pain d'Avignon; Tom Cat baguette. The first two purchased near where we live, at Corrado, the third at Gourmet Garage. Does anyone know other retail sources for Tom Cat bread?

I often buy Tom Cat from my local Korean deli on St Marks, between 2nd and 3rd Avenue. They also have Balthazar and Orwasher's bread.

"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure
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I'm glad Tom Cat came up. Tom Cat really used to be the gold standard, back in the day -- I think Lutece in its heyday used Tom Cat. Today it seems that Tom Cat is pretty obscure, and I see it in the strangest places: totally unremarkable bodegas, etc. I've had some good Tom Cat products but have never found a consistent supply or anyplace where I could sample a range of Tom Cat offerings.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Balthazar's multigrain crescent is the most delicious bread I've ever had. It's good by itself, and it's good with savory and sweet items. Balthazar Bakery sells it for $5.50 which is fairly high, but you can get it at Garden of Eden (on 14h Street) for $3.99.

It's what I call a sexy bread!

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I like Pain Quotidien's baguette but I do find the crust too thick and sometimes too burnt. The interior, however, is very good, nicely chewy. PQ's multi-grain high-fiber boule with raisins has impressed me lately, I might add.

Balthazar's baguettes used to be good but went downhill in revent years.

Sullivan Street bread is fantastic but I can't get any near me, on the UES (that I know of).

Payard's bread is terrible, though his pastries and croissants are fantastic.

I do wish NYC was like Paris, with small bakers on every block. Sigh... :sad:

Cheers! :cool:

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Yes, Steven, it is odd about Tom Cat. The baguette (exemplary) is the only bread of theirs I've knowingly bought. When the transfat ban and labeling requirement were being covered in the newspapers, the NY Times did a story in which it quoted people at Tom Cat with reference to products such as croissants that they make for clients. I had no idea they made things like that and have no idea how good they are. Presumably people who eat out more than I do eat Tom Cat bread all the time in restaurants. Yes? No?

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I haven't bought one recently, as I no longer work in the neighborhood, but Dean and Deluca (soho) usually had the Tomcat whole wheat sourdough baguette (also often sold out by days end) - always my favorite bread there. I can sometimes get tomcat breads at a deli near home, but never anything matching this loaf.

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