A loaf of Hominy Bread from Ballard’s Tall Grass Bakery prompted me to write this post, as bakeries are one of my favorite places. The smell, the heat, the often wonderful people who work at them… man. I didn’t know that Seattle was an epicenter for the artisan bread movement, but I know it now, intimately.
So, I’ll write a little about the gorgeous treats that await a Seattle traveler.
Tall Grass Bakery, Ballard – Love these folks for the bread they make and distribute through the city and burbs, as well as the stand they set up at my neighborhood farmers’ market. They call themselves a micro-bakery, and given the quantities they produce and how fast they go, I’d say that’s an appropriate moniker.
They make a brick of a rye bread that is so close to Danish, you can hear it switch its v’s with W’s. Tangy, rich, dense and moist – it’s close to German dark rye, but it doesn’t quite slice thinly, so you have to go with a slab. Oh, too bad.
The Hominy bread is made partly with cornmeal, keeps forever, and is a great eating bread either plain or toasted.
In the winter, they make an outstanding gingerbread with a coffeecan mold. I served it with real whipped cream and loganberry sauce. Seconds everywhere.
Essential Bakery, Madison Valley, Seattle – There are two of these in Seattle. I’ve only had a chance to eat at Madison Valley. But oh, I’m glad I did.
First, let me tell you about the brownie. It’s a brick of butter and bittersweet (my guess is guittard) chocolate, with just enough flour to keep it from completely oozing in your hand. De-luscious.
We go through a loaf of Mille Grane each week, thanks to its availability at TJ’s. Along with the always good Columbia baguette and the aforementioned Tall Grass Dark rye, my husband’s bread lineup is complete.
They also make a seasonal bread – a honey orange rosette – that begs to be made into french toast and bread pudding.
Macrina Bakery (Belltown and Queen Anne neighborhoods, Seattle)
Macrina is a full grown daughter of the Seattle Bread movement’s mama, Grand Central. Leslie Mackey has two lovely (though not precious) cafes in town which offer a range of sweet and savory treats. The cookies are always good, as is nearly every variety of coffee cake I sampled here. Like Essential and Grand Central, they provide some merchandise to local supermarkets, though I prefer Macrina for the eat-in experience.
Macrina has had some media attention also – you may see Leslie featured in at least one episode of a road show on the Food network. She has at least one book on the shelves, and sometimes makes travelling appearances – I once noted her on the special appearances listings at one of my Cambridge favorites, Upstairs on the Square.
I probably should have started first with Grand Central, since it is the source of nearly all the great bread makers in Seattle. Gwen Bassetti inspired or trained many of the people who got things going in the bread scene, and her bakery makes some amazing breads. I miss the corn loaf, but often enjoy the Como and the tasty little rolls. (Like Danish bolle in size, but rustic italian in substance.) My only Grand Central experience is at the supermarket level, but if you’re near a market and there is a cafe deficiency, you could do a lot worse than a Grand Central baguette, a lump of butter and a midrange cup of coffee – even in the parking lot.
Belle Pastry, Old Main Street, Bellevue
We discovered Belle Pastry while living in a one-room apartment during house construction. Belle Pastry is a real French patisserie. The glass and gold cases do not overflow – rather, they showcase the tiny tasties in their buttery glory. Rich eclairs, delish sables, but the baguette is the understated belle of the ball. A real shell of crust served with jam and cultured butter. Quel Magnifique – even in the suburbs. The environs are understated french femme – gold, cream, fresh roses, and clean. Good italian coffee, too.