D.C. Restaurants' Moveable Yeast Why do we care if someone imports their bread?

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Locolat’s baguettes boast a slightly blistered, crunchy exterior that left me covered in shards of browned crust after tearing into one on my couch. The rich, buttery flavor and chewy texture made my Whole Foods baguette taste like Wonder bread in comparison.

Piferoen may not brag about the source of his baguettes directly on his menus, but he doesn’t need to. Nearly every mention of his delicious sandwiches in local restaurant reviews publicize the bread’s lineage.

Locolat’s not alone in its attempts to market out-of-town loaves. Commercialized par-baking and expedited shipping make bread available anywhere willing customers are willing to pay the shipping costs.

Calvert Woodley Fine Wine and Spirits sells H&H bagels shipped from New York City. Brabo in Alexandria opened up by touting breads from Ecce Panis in New Jersey. Dino in Cleveland Park sources its bread from Tribeca Oven, which began life in Manhattan before relocating to New Jersey. Owner Dean Gold subscribes to the theory that New York’s water significantly contributes to the superiority of the region’s breads.

The hype stands in significant contrast to the era’s biggest food-buying trend: locavorism. Locolat’s baguettes float to town on gallons of jet fuel even as other pricey restaurants tout local ingredients, listing area farms, and even specific farmers, as the sources for meats and vegetables on menus. So why not do the same for bread? The distant sourcing may be in part because customers react so profoundly to the perceived superiority of pedigree baking.


H&H Bagels, for instance, built a reputation making authentic New York bagels available wherever someone is willing to pay for shipping. Every morning Calvert “fresh bakes” the frozen bagels for a steady stream of morning customers.

The provenance, though, can distract critical impulses just as easily as it can ramp up an eatery’s feeling of authenticity. Actually eating H&H Bagels as purchased in Washington is a distinctly underwhelming experience. I bought a few at Calvert Woodley to compare to a locally baked version from Bethesda Bagels. The imports displayed a few small dark patches that seemed the result of uneven cooking. After cutting one open, the irregularities revealed themselves as holes that had almost risen to the surface, but had not broken through. The texture was bready, almost doughy; toasting did little to improve the inferior bagel.

In comparison, the exterior of a bagel baked in Bethesda and purchased locally was an even, golden-brown. The bagel’s innards were dense and chewy, presenting a subtle tangy taste I could only describe as “bagely”.

I asked Stephen Fleishman, owner of Bethesda Bagel, to compare the two. “The biggest problem is perception,” he said. “People hear New York bagel and think it’s a better product.” Bethesda, to some, doesn’t quite have the same name appeal as the Big Apple.

The odd thing about the imported-bread braggadocio is that Washington has finally become a pretty decent baking town. And the guy who deserves a chunk of the credit is Mark Furstenberg, the man who opened Marvelous Market and Breadline. Furstenberg traveled to Paris to learn from the masters at Le Moulin de la Vierge and L’Autre Boulange, in the process bringing artisanal baking to a city accustomed to buying bread at Safeway.

One day last month, I snagged a plain roll from Taylor’s K Street NW location and took it to Furstenberg’s home in Kalorama. Furstenberg reached into the crinkling brown paper bag I brought, pulled out the sesame seed studded roll, and frowned. Next, he placed his nose against the cut end, inhaled deeply and nodded, confirming some inner suspicion.

Handing me the roll, he instructed, “Smell this.” I took the roll and sniffed the same cut end, noting nothing special. Nervous, I stuck my nose deep within the precut bready void meant for Patten’s delicious fillings and took a deep breath.

“It smells like grocery store bread,” I said.

Furstenberg shook his head as he corrected me.

“Yeast. It smells of yeast, but not grain.”

Furstenberg pulled out a mahogany-colored whole grain loaf he had baked that morning. He told me to take another whiff. The difference was clear: Furstenberg’s loaf was deep, grainy, and complex.

The ingredient in the Taylor roll that invoked “grocery-store bread” was indeed yeast. Yeast-heavy dough is quick to rise, less temperamental, and processed start to finish in a matter of hours. Commercial bakers lean heavily on the leavener to produce bread reliably and quickly. In other words: From a haute-baking point of view, Taylor’s rolls were lousy.

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Our Readers Say

I haven't noticed any difference in quality and I order from Taylor once a week. As long as the quality doesn't decline I don't really care where they get their bread. Not sure this deserved such a long article.
Great article! Personally, I only get the roast pork at Taylor (the other Italian sandwiches were just too dry without the broccoli rabe). This is the kind of bait-and-switch that's akin to advertising your authentic margherita comes with imported mozzarella di buffala, and you actually use the skin stuff you bought at Safeway.
Interesting. Does this mean that Taylor's will now have enough bread to actually stay open until they close? Or, will they continue short-stocking supply so they can close down 3 hours before their scheduled closing time?
But I thought you couldn't make bread as good in DC? It's the water! YOU CAN'T DO IT!
All this ado about local bread, and no mention of Firehook?
doug, you're like the guy who insists the world is flat, despite evidence to the contrary. Did you read the article? You can bake good bread in DC. It's not the water.
Definitely a very interesting article. I'll have to try those bagels up in Bethesda. But it's true, as long as the sandwich tastes good at Taylor's, I don't really care where the bread is from.
I smell yeast and a sarcasm detector fail!
Although I'm disheartened by the false advertising I'm still going to purchase their sandwiches. In the end, as long as they continue to make great sandwiches I'll continue to be a loyal customer. Thanks for the heads up on Locolat Café - will definitely check this place out!
Love Taylor, though I must admit I am in it for the arinchini more than the subs. The sandwiches just gild the lily for me.

I will continue to eat there, but I will be judging them. I am not a fan of being taken for a fool. Side eye goes well with a chicken parm hoagie, I hear.
Thanks for this article. I, for one, was even more disappointed by Taylor's response to this situation in their "State of the Hoagie" than anything else. Here is the comment I posted on that post:

This post lacks transparency, and fails to address a number of points that the WCP article brought to light.

1) You say you made this change "recently" but Sarcone's said it was September. Four months ago is not "recently."

2) Even if you did make the changes to support a local business and reduce your carbon footprint (hardly believable over the obvious fact that you realized it would be significantly cheaper / more convenient to have them produced locally by a no-name baker), you continued to market that you were using bread from the "legendary Sarcone's bakery." The bread, according to you in published interviews, was a significant differentiator. In fact, you mentioned the bread in nearly every article that has ever been written about you guys. In every article / review that published after September, you conveniently did not correct any instance that said you were so fanatical about your bread that you used Sarcone's (I looked; there are several examples like this). You were marketing your product under false pretenses, and using the "legendary" Sarcone's reputation to help in part to build your reputation and story. Those are abhorable business practice, and most definitely show that you are operated by people with questionable ethics.

3) Your "State of the Union" fails to address what the actual issue is here - which is that you, put plainly, lied. While I'm certain that you are correct - that the new bread is fantastic and no one will tell the difference (I haven't noticed in the 2 dozen plus sandwiches I've had from your shop since Sept), you don't address why you weren't honest about it. And that's a big problem.

4) You really do owe the good people at Sarcone's a public apology. You've used their name improperly, and now dragged them into this mess.

Solely because of your lack of transparency - both through lies of commission (your website and marketing claiming to use Sarcone's) and lies of omission (not correcting stories and articles published since Sept. that talked about how you used Sarcone's bread), you can consider me and my family former customers.
As a former Philadelphia resident, I've been a huge fan of Taylor since moving to the city, but am disheartened by the apparently misleading practices they have been engaging in over the past few months. Personally, I did notice a change in the quality of the rolls recently and had even remarked to my dining companions that I thought the bread wasn't quite up to snuff and worried that Taylor had stopped using Sarcone's. They still make a great hoagie, and the replacement bread they are using is good, but it is noticeably a step down from Sarcone's.
Taylor's was a big disappointment for my husband and I. And when you don't have a car and rely on shitty Metro bus (no nearby subway for Taylor's) to get to your much-talked-about destination the disappointment is even more visceral. We really wanted to like Taylor's but felt it was all hype and noticed that the bread was really poor quality. If the bread is bad on a sandwich then what is the point?

Is Furstenberg still associated with Marvelous Market? I ask because MM quality has gone tremendously downhill since at least 20005. At one time they did have marvelous bread and cakes but no longer - and not for a long time. Whole Foods bakery is only slightly better and only for certain items but still priced too high for the quality being offered.

The only places I have ever been able to buy very good fresh baked bread in Washington, DC (sorry but Bethesda is NOT DC) is Vace Italian Deli (across from the Cleveland Park Library on Connecticut Ave NW south of Porter), Bread and Chocolate (23rd & M Sts NW and upper NW Connecticut Ave just south of Chevy Chase Circle), Potenza Bakery (15th & H Sts NW) and McGruder's Market (upper nw Connecticut Ave just south of Chevy Chase Circle). Bread and Chocolate also has pastries and cakes which (from all those we have tried) are excellent. B & C coffee is also very good and much better than Marvelous Markets coffee at their Dupont location (the coffee there is VERY bad - their Georgetown location has a different brand which is quite good and I cannot understand why all MM locations do not serve this?).

I would like to add that in a city where one finds it extremely difficult to buy well made fresh bread - pizza is also really poor quality (and for some bizarre reason outrageously over-priced). Vace has the very best pizza you can find in DC.

Lastly, Furstenberg sounds hypercritical especially if he's still the owner, or has any say in quality at Marvelous Market. Not only for that reason but because Marvelous Market frequently brings in baked goods from a Brooklyn NY bakery. I've noticed for the past two years they've brought in babka from a Brooklyn bakery and after reading the ingrediants on the package decided it too was inferior (something like hydrogenated palm oil was listed). Why in heaven's name out of all the wonderful NY bakeries would you purchase babka from a bakery which uses hydrogenated oil?

Because it's DC and no one will be the wiser.

For bagels it doesn't surprise me in the least that not-a-one is to be found within the District. Good food and more accurately, affordable good food, is very hard to find here.
Oh and a big YES for Locolat Café (1781 Flordia Ave NW - next to MINT Fitness). The very best coffee in all of DC. And the pastries we tried were fantastic and probably also the best in DC.
...and this is why I stopped reading the Post. Please, CP, leave these kinds of precious princess-and-the-pea stories for the other paper.
When I hear "Taylors", I think of Taylor's Refresher, not Taylor's Gourmet.
Mark Furstenberg is as close as DC has to a bread god. No, he's not with MM or BL anymore.
Why lie? Their bread now is better then their bread before! And it's local! Aren't we supposed to applaud people for going green and local? I am in the restaurant industry and I know where their bread is coming from now and it's, by far, the best artisan bread bakery in DC, hands down. Quite frankly, it pisses me off that they are not giving credit to a local bakery that is doing a fantastic job making a bread that, I think, makes the sandwich what it is.
The new and improved bread is from LYON BAKERY!!!!
No, I don't think so..I heard is was Uptown Bakery
I think that's B.S. Panorama bakery must be the ones making the beard!!!
Taylors doesn't recycle any of their plastic, glass bottles or cans either. basically their whole website is a sham.
As a Philadelphian, I can say that Taylors sammies are good. I have not had one since the switch, but I bet they're still good; however, they ain't no Sarcone's. And they ain't no Paesano's... orrrr Jake's. I'll take it though!
Total BS. Taylors lied. Then they lied to cover it up. Then they issued theyre ridic release where they totally avoided the issue. these guys can't be trusted to do anything they say theyre doin.
Theoretically you could make the same bread here, however no one is. There is a difference. Sarcone's is the best italian bread in Philly, a town with great bread. I knew there were times I went to Taylor even before September and didn't get Sarcone's.

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