Monday, August 18, 2008

There's No Good Bread in LA

If any of you read the title of this post and immediately got "To Live and Die in LA" stuck in your head, high fives all around.

Those of you who know me know that I'm not a big bread guy. It's not that I'm anti-carb or anything like that. I just find bread, most of the time, to be utterly pointless. Bread is largely empty calories, full of starch and low-quality protein. I put all my sandwiches on various Trader Joe's high-fiber, high-protein breads because, hey, you need some bread on your sandwich and it might as well be doing something for you.

So it may surprise some to hear me say that I miss bread. I miss Acme. I miss Metropolis. Hell, I even miss Semifreddi's. Bread is not held in the same esteem in LA that it is in SF and Berkeley.

But it's not for a lack of there being bread. The zero-carb craze is over and moderate carb consumption is back in. Sandwiches are big right now. Burgers too. Yet even the $16 Berkshire pork burger at BLD was sandwiched between a dry flavorless (though not inexpensive) bun.

The same with Father's Office's esteemed burger, which is stuffed between what looks like a Costco-caliber French roll.

And as much as I enjoyed my drop-in at Sheddy's, the sliced baguette that came with my cheese and charcuterie plate was stale.

Bread's something that served the very useful roll of providing a lot of inexpensive calories. It's the Western world's rice. Which also is to say that we don't really need it any more in the developed world. So if I am going to eat what is essentially unnecessary calories, it'd better make itself necessary and add to the dish.

There's a fear at restaurants here I think to do what needs to be done to all sandwich bread, namely slather it in butter/oil and throw it under the salamander. This makes bread much better on a sandwich. Failing that, you should at least smother your roll in a nice fatty spread of some kind: aioli, remoulade, whatever. Bread's purpose is to absorb. Sure bread absorbs liquid fine, but it absorbs fat awesomely. Don't be afraid of fat. Throw it on there. Just eat less overall. I get at least half my calories from fat and I'm 5'8" and 145 if I'm lucky.

My Berkshire pork burger at BLD would've been even better if there had been an awesome aioli or spicy remoulade smothering that shit. It also would've been better without the thin-cut fries. Seems like a good idea until you realize that they go cold in about 30 seconds. The pickles were phenomenal.

Basic rules about bread:

1. Bread is delivered FRESH every day. Bread should be made in a bakery. If your restaurant does not have an actual bakery as part of its operation, you should buy your bread from a bakery.

2. Bread should not be used a second day for any fresh purpose. Those fresh purposes are primarily sandwich buns, cheese plates, and table bread. Luckily, old bread can be used for croutons, bread salad, bread pudding, bread and broccoli, and much other awesomeness.

3. When in doubt, skip it. Seriously, you don't need the bread. I eat cheese by itself all the time.

Am I missing something? Where is the Acme of Los Angeles? I'm told it's La Brea Bakery, but they sell par-baked bread for restaurants to finish off themselves. Why would you do that? You don't pay a Thai masseuse to get you 80% of the way there and then you have to finish off yourself, so why pay your baker if he or she's not going to get the job done? I want the firm hand of a specialist involved from initial mixing all the way to the money shot.

Customers who want "warm bread" served at the table are ignorant petite bourgeoisie with no understanding of how bread works.

Please please please, if you know a good bakery in LA, let me know. And I mean a bakery that bakes bread. White bread. Levain. Whole wheat bread. Baguettes. Rolls. Real, honest bread.


Kevin said...

No such thing. It's helpful if you picture La Brea as a Godfather-esque bakery, destroying any other competition. Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Ralphs, all mutely carry the same uninspiring collection of mediocre breads.

Zack said...

what needs to be done to all sandwich bread, namely slather it in butter/oil and throw it under the salamander

You don't deserve good bread if you're gonna mistreat it like that. Bread's favorite fat is mayo, which can't be broiled, not butter, a flavor that gets boring in adolescence, about the same time ketchup does.

We've got La Brea available up here, too. I've only had it a couple times, but I think I liked it more than Semifreddi. Of course, it's no Acme.

Customers who want "warm bread" served at the table are ignorant petite bourgeoisie with no understanding of how bread works.

??? You need to let bread rest before cutting, but it can still be warm when the knife hits. What's the problem?

The only good bread I can think of in LA is King's Hawaiian, which is not what you're looking for.

David J.D. said...

Mayo is included in the butter/oil family. I mentioned aioli and remoulade later on....

Really good creamy salted Irish butter is a beautiful thing and as different from Land O'Lakes as whole grain mustard is from French's.