Bread–leavened or unleavened–is a staple food in nearly every part of the world. So why is Portland so daggone bad at it?
WARNING: Small, grumble-filled rant ahead
Market of Choice, a local foodlover’s emporium, launched just down the street last week and I was among the throngs who showed up to buy groceries.
I noted–with approval–the beautiful tasting gallery of wines, the gorgeous surfeit of sweets and deli goods, the impressive produce, the luscious-looking meats and fish. The if-you-can’t/won’t-eat-it-we’ve-got-a-substitute-for-it accommodation. The knowledgeable cheese lady (and a tasty smoked Red Dorset that has since supplied me with a week’s worth of snacks).
And I mistakenly purchased two loaves of the spongy wheaten stuff that in Portland passes for bread. Come ON guys, can’t you do better than that?
I doubt it because, I swear, few in this town can tell the difference between spongy wheaten stuff and real bread. And why should they? There aren’t that many good bread bakeries to teach them.
There ARE good bread bakeries, in Portland if you go hunting for them:
- New Seasons bakeries make good, serviceable loaves (and when they put their mind to it, they can do a mean caraway rye)
- Ken’s Artisan Bakery is fairly good although I’ve had some iffy loaves there
- Pearl Bakery is still, hands-down, my favorite commercial bakery. If I really want a good loaf of bread, I will take time off work, drive there and buy one.
- Grand Central Bakery sells Peasant Levain, a semi-sour wheaten loaf that is my go-to bread when I can’t get to Pearl.
But that’s not the same other cities where a corner bakery yields any number of cracking-crusty loaves, still warm from the oven, easily distinguished from the pre-sliced, plastic-wrapped junk on a grocery store shelf.
So why, in a town with its own fermentation festival and more famers’ markets, artisan breweries, saki distilleries, blackberry varieties, and cooking classes than anywhere else in the world…can I only find ONE consistently great bread bakery?
Please note that I am NOT talking about patisseries–bakeries that make cookies, cakes, cupcakes, pies, candy, etc. Portland is absolutely lousy with great pastry shops. Papa Haydn is one, La Provence in Lake Oswego another, Pix, Pambiche…
Hmmm…note how they all feature the letter “P…?” Portland…Patisserie… Pastry… P…
OK. I’m moving to Beaverton.