Young and Hungry

Thinking About Better Bread for D.C.: We Have a Ways to Go

Stuffed with bar food, I've been excited to tear into something new. As Y&H readers know, I've been thinking a lot about bread lately, which resulted in this week's Washington City Paper cover story. I've been eating bread all over the city and burbs, but my favorite loaf to date, it seems, is close to my apartment. But it gets its start on the other side of the globe.

Eating Locolat Café’s wonderful baguette, which comes from a bakery in France, makes me sad that bread like this isn’t available at every corner grocery. If bakeries like Uptown, and Panorama Bakery have seasoned bakers—and they do—why is it so hard to pick up a perfect round on the way home from work? The answer may be as simple as demand.

Sam Fromartz, a D.C.-based writer working on a book about bakers and their craft, knows a thing or two about good bread. Alice Waters featured his sourdough loaves and baguettes at a charity dinner to benefit D.C. Central Kitchen and Martha’s Table last year—not too bad for a baker working out of his home kitchen.

Over e-mail, Fromartz explained it's hard to offer a great artisan loaf on a large scale because they can be difficult to sell. The main issue with bakeries in D.C. is that they are for most part wholesale operations and the logistics of their operations require that they bake bread hours in advance. There's no judgment or craft by the baker in the supermarket, which is why Fromartz thinks so many of these loaves look underdone.

Even if grocers employed better bakers, many shoppers prefer a very soft even crumb and lightly cooked loaves, without the flavors that come with a well-risen product. Without enthusiastic demand for old-world breads, obstacles like production, and transportation costs make artisan baking on a larger scale a tough sell.

So D.C. will only become a great baking town if customers demand it. We aren't there yet, unfortunately.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • Mark

    Scott,

    Have you tried the artisan bread from Lyon Bakery? Truly fantastic stuff. During the summer they had a stall set up outside of Union Station. Currently, they make deliveries every day to Cork Market in DC and Cheesetique in Del Ray. Check it out, highly recommended. If we can get more people interested, maybe they can be convinced to open a full-scale retail bakery...

  • http://www.districtplates.com Scott Reitz

    Cork is close to me. I'd grab a baguette if I could just say no to that damned donut. I'll try and check them out though.

  • Roberto Donna

    Great article!!!!

  • Jennifer

    I second Mark re: Lyon - they have fantastic artisan bread. I was so disappointed when they shut their Union Station stall down for the Winter - thanks for the Cork tip!!

  • melissa

    AM wine shop and cashion's uses lyon, too.

  • Rocket Boy

    DC generally has medicore everything - restaraunts, cultural offerings, etc. And the reason is clear. The general population doesn't demand anything better. The sad truth in DC is medicority is the acceptable norm.

  • http://www.lyonbakery.com Anonymous

    I work at Lyon, and its nice to know someone understands the difficulty in running a WHOLESALE artisan bakery. We manage over 600 clients and bake over 25,000 lbs. of dough daily, yes that means we deliver bread 7 days a week!

    Here is a list of places that retail Lyon Bakery bread:

    1. Cork Market

    2.Sticky Fingers Bakery
    1370 park Rd. NW

    3.The French Confection
    816 Olney Rd. NW

    4. Arrowine
    4508 Lee Higway arlington

    5. Bernie's Delicatessen
    4328 Chain Bridge Rd. Fairfax, va

    6. Cecile's Wine cellar
    1351 Chain Bridge Rd. McLean VA

    7. Cheesetique
    2411 Mt. Vernon Ave.

    8. Home Farm Store
    E. Washington Ave. Middleburg, VA

    9. Nourish Market
    8100 Old Dominion Dr. McLean, Va

    Enjoy and thanks for the recognition!

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