Naz Valian was incorrectly identified in yesterday's Food section. She is the manager of Le Bon Pain in Hyattsville. (Published 1/14/88)
All over the Washington area the plaintive cry rings out: "WHERE can I buy good bread?" Actually, delicious bread is not quite as scarce now as it was when I moved here in 1960. I soon learned that while bread may be the staff of life, good bread was not necessarily one of life's givens.
In the residential sections of the New York of my childhood, there was a bakery on practically every other street corner, and nearly every one sold excellent bread. The back of each shop housed huge ovens, and the bakers toiled through the night to produce the crusty loaves we ate for breakfast: rye bread, dense corn rye with caraway seeds, pumpernickel and other East European specialties in some shops, Italian peasant breads in others.
There was so much variety and so many bakeries that we took good bread completely for granted. Here, plain white bread and soft dinner rolls were the most common bakery fare.
For years I'd bring fresh bread back with me to Washington from frequent forays to New York -- and quite a few people still do. Carol Annis, owner of The Fashion Tree in Bethesda, who makes monthly buying trips to Manhattan, makes Macy's bakery her last stop before catching the train back to Union Station. "With $50 worth of bread I look like a bag lady," she quips. But in the last few years, our town and its suburbs have sprouted some bakeries that turn out loaves good enough for all but diehard New Yorkers.
By all accounts -- of chefs and retail consumers alike -- the freshest news in bread is the Anacostia bakery La Marseillaise, owned by Andre' Michel, who came here less than two years ago from his native Marseille with his own French baking crew, 25 years of know-how and French equipment. Speaking through a translator, Michel says, "It's the only bread in Washington that resembles real French bread." Even the folks at Rudi's, who also claim to have the best French bread in town, praise Michel's product.
Perhaps the most unusual bakery situation is at Loch Lomond, a Scottish bakery in Hyattsville recently taken over by Vijay Sharma, an Indian who worked for the former owner for years after an apprenticeship in England and who still turns out traditional Scotch specialties such as bridies (meat and onion turnovers), scones and Scotch meat pies. On special order, he will also make the Indian bread called naan, which is something like a rich, buttery, flaky pita bread.
As for that New York Jewish rye bread about which transplanted New Yorkers are always waxing nostalgic, there are a number of places here that claim to have recreated its exact taste. Each, in fact, claims to bake the only "real" Jewish rye in the Washington area. The latest contender is the Carnegie Deli's rye, baked by Federal Bakery exclusively for the Tysons Corner-area restaurant and sold at its carryout counter.
Along with the new bakeries that have sprung up in the last few years are the well-worn establishments that have weathered neighborhood upheaval and consequent changes in clientele. Posin's, for instance, a landmark for 40 years, continues to bake Jewish-style breads along with the biscuits the current customers prefer, though the immigrants are long gone from Georgia Avenue. Not far away on Georgia Avenue is the Swedish Pastry Shop, which Leonard Clark took over in 1962 from his former employer. He continues to bake traditional Swedish limpa bread flavored with molasses, although not too many local customers still want it. Like all the bakery people interviewed, these proprietors, too, complain that bread is a low-profit item for bakeries and claim that the high profits are in the pastries.
We may not live by bread alone -- and would not want to if we had to survive on packaged supermarket brands -- but now we have lots of choices. Here is a list of suggestions to get you started in your search for the one "real" French, rye, pumpernickel or whatever your favorite bread is:
Aenjera International, 4554 Eisenhower Ave., Alexandria, 823-9356: On-premises retail sales are made only to large-order customers but the Ethiopian bread called injera is available in many 7-Eleven stores. This spongy, moist flatbread, which looks a bit like a dinner napkin when folded, serves as plate and utensil for Ethiopian meals.
American Cafe Restaurant/Markets 227 Massachusetts Ave., NE, 547-8504; 5252 Wisconsin Ave., NW, 363-5400; 1211 Wisconsin Ave., NW, 337-4264; National Place, 13th and F streets, NW, 737-5153; 8601 Westwood Center Dr., Tysons Corner, 848-9476; 11835 Fair Oaks Mall, Fairfax, 352-0201; 301 S. Light St., Baltimore, (301) 962-8817; Owings Mill Mall, Owings Mill, Md., (301) 363-3400: Handmade breads are baked daily in a central commissary for the restaurants and for retail customers. The same sourdough starter has been used for the San Francisco sourdough bread for the last eight years, though it has been modified to be slightly milder to suit East Coast tastebuds. The markets also sell whole wheat, rye, cheddar cheese, pumpernickel and corn bread, egg-dough twist rolls, fresh-onion hamburger rolls and croissants.
Au Croissant Chaud, 3222 N St., NW, 333-9220: The people who own Au Pied de Cochon also own this tiny Georgetown shop. Croissants, French bread, pumpernickel and rye bread are baked in a central commissary and sold here and also at various delis and groceries.
Bakery de France Seven Locks Plaza, Seven Locks Road, Rockville, 762-6577: When the Bread Oven owned this bakery, it gained the reputation of baking the best French bread in town. Now under different management, the bakery still turns out crusty French bread in the traditional baguette, boule and ba~tarde shapes.
Bakery Potomac Metro, 1238 Pennsylvania Ave, SE, 543-2960: Co-owners Linda Pryor and Hamidou Diarra worked in bakeries around town before opening this shop 6 1/2 years ago. They specialize in sourdough German rye, whole grain and dense, crusty French bread -- all handmade, which gives the breads a dense texture rather than airy texture most commercial breads have.
Barbera Bakery, 5737 Tuxedo Rd., Cheverly, 773-1000: You can buy the old-fashioned Italian bread turned out by this strictly wholesale bakery at Marchone's, Marinelli's and Sniders groceries and Bradley Food and Beverage.
Bread and Chocolate, 1111 N. Fairfax St., Fairfax, 836-5583; 611 King St., Alexandria, 548-0992; 5189 Leesburg Pike, Vienna, 379-8005; 1033 W. Glebe Rd., Alexandria, 548-0999; 5542 Connecticut Ave., NW, 966-7414; 2121 Crystal City Plaza, Arlington, 685-3796; 2301 M St., NW, 833-8360; 1120 20th St., NW, 887-0570: Tea-room style retail outlets sell the old world, mostly Swiss, breads baked in the company's 24-hour central facility where, despite the use of volume baking technology, quality is maintained by hand-finishing techniques. In addition to French baguettes, hard rolls and sourdough bread, Bread and Chocolate sells bauern bread, a typical Swiss white, wheat and rye grain farmers' bread; a whole wheat, raisin and walnut bread called romer after the old Roman recipe used; walliser, a hearty whole grain bread; basler bread, named for the rural area surrounding Basel, Switzerland, where people favor this hard peasant loaf; Swiss zopf bread; and dark German rye bread. Natural Nutrition Centers also sell this bread.
Breads Unlimited, 6914 Arlington Rd., Bethesda, 656-2340: Its large variety of baked-daily, European-style breads is the key to the charm of this busy bakery. Choose from French bread and rolls; German, caraway or onion rye; six-grain bread; whole wheat bread; Russian or raisin pumpernickel; sour dough French; Vienna bread (soft inside, crusty outside); salt sticks; egg-twisted, kaiser and onion rolls; challah and corn rye. Available only on Saturdays are a dark, dense peasant rye bread, a dense walnut rye and a whole grain Black Forest bread. Look for sauerkraut rye and pumpernickel with figs and walnuts to be added to the selection soon. Oversized loaves are available for parties.
Brenner's Bakery, 1512 Belleview Blvd., Alexandria, 765-4688: For over 30 years potato bread has been the specialty here, but also notable are the rye, challah, raisin, pumpernickel, corn rye, sourdough, French, garlic and white bread.
Brown's Caribbean Bakery, 3301 Georgia Ave., NW, 882-1626: The Browns, she a former nurse and he a former medical technician, opened this bakery eight years ago. They specialize in Jamaican hardo bread, a heavy white bread nothing like the packaged fluff sold in supermarkets. It is also available at Spanish and West Indian stores, such as Intercontinental Market, Gee's Market, the Red Apple and Americana Spanish stores.
Carnegie Deli, 8517 Leesburg Pike, Vienna; 790-5001: The local branch of New York's premiere deli hired a local firm to bake rye bread exclusively for use and sale at the restaurant.
Catania Bakery, 1404 N. Capitol St., 332-5135: Established 55 years ago in what was then an immigrant Italian neighborhood, this old-fashioned bakery has survived demographic changes and continues to bake hard-crusted Italian breads, subs and dinner rolls for sale at the bakery, for restaurants and for outlets all over town. In Washington the bread can be found at Neam's, Gallo, Litteri, Bell Liquor, Mangialardo, Prego, So's Your Mom, Fine Sweets, Casa Tena, Vace and Skenderis; in Virginia at La Cocina; and in Maryland at Vignola, Asadur Market, Marchone's, Casa Vega and Italia.
Epi d'Or 1220 19th St., NW, 223-7676: Since last July, this "typically French" bakery-restaurant, as it describes itself, owned by Gadsby Tavern's Tim Jackson, has been baking French bread and other French specialties such as brioche and croissants as well as Irish soda bread, pumpernickel and rye bread.
Fu-Lo Bakery, 3209 N. Washington Blvd., Arlington, 528-5335: This is the place to go for Chinese specialties such as steamed and baked buns.
Giant Food (bakery administrative office, 495-3225): Put all the supermarkets together, says a Giant spokesperson, and there are about 100 different types of bread sold by the chain. Most stores carry the so-called "crusty breads," introduced by the company in 1986 and made at the main Heidi bakery, as well as French baguettes, onion rye, challah, New York pumpernickel, whole wheat, Italian, French and Vienna bread. All the gourmet stores bake specialty breads in the in-store bakeries with dough supplied by the central commissary. The flagship stores on Rockville Pike and Bailey's Crossroads as well as Someplace Special in McLean bake what the company calls "Euro-breads," which include Bavarian farmers' pumpernickel, German rye, Black Forest bread and six-grain bread.
Heidelberg Pastry Shop, 4500 Lee Highway, Arlington, 527-8394: Using bread flours imported from Germany to bake its dense and chewy, crusty European-style breads, this bakery produces bauernbrot, Westphalian pumpernickel, six-grain bread, three-seed bread, light and dark rye and sourdough.
Hugo's Market, 5486 3418 Livingston St., NW, 966-6103: Although Hugo's is a health food store, not a bakery, it deserves mention as one of the few places people with special health needs can obtain wheat-free, yeast-free and salt-free breads, most made by local bakeries and delivered twice a week. The biggest seller is eight-grain bread.
International Food Bakeries, 2501 Shirlington Rd., Arlington, 892-5376: Croissants, baguettes, rye, San Francisco sourdough, pumpernickel, whole wheat, white and Italian breads are baked daily without preservatives and supplied to Safeway and Magruder's groceries, Pace in Southwest Washington, Makro Inc., in Capitol Heights, Someplace Special in McLean and other specialty stores.
La Marseillaise, 1800 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., SE, Anacostia, 889-4901: Though there are no retail sales at the site, the bakery supplies French baguettes, petit pain long, walnut raisin rolls, sour dough rolls, pumpernickel rolls, seven-grain whole wheat rolls, croissants, silver dollar cocktail rolls, brioche and hamburger buns to restaurants and shops. The baguettes and sometimes one or two of the others can be purchased at the Gourmet Market in Columbia Plaza near the Watergate; Ilija International Gourmet Shoppe and Addy Bassin's on MacArthur Boulevard; Harry's Liquor, Wine and Cheese on M Street SW; Neam's in Georgetown and Wurst Wagon at Union Station.
Le Blado, 6651-06 Backlick Rd., Springfield, 569-0379: Owned by a Vietnamese family named Bui, who once operated Saigon's largest fully-automated bakery and supplied the U.S. Army, this 6-year-old bakery specializes in French pastries but also bakes an authentic, handmade, hard-crust French bread in a brick-lined oven.
Le Bon Pain, 7637 New Hampshire Ave., Hyattsville, 434-3911: While the bakery supplies bread to restaurants and shops around town, retail sales are also made on the premises. According to owner Naz Valian, the bakers are French and "French people call ours 'real' French bread because of its texture -- crispy outside and light inside."
Le Cafe (formerly Au Bon Pain), 1331 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, 628-9560; Red Lion Row, 2000 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, 887-9215; USO Building, 601 Indiana Ave., NW, 347-7350; 706 L'Enfant Plaza Center, 488-8593: French bread is baked in Bethesda for sale in these cafe-bakeries.
Loch Lomond Bakery, 2500 University Blvd., Hyattsville, 422-6333: Scottish specialties are the order of the day at this Hyattsville landmark since 1932: sausage rolls, bridies (beef and onion turnovers), Scotch pies and scones. Also available are Irish soda bread with currants, snowflake bread, whole wheat, rye, pumpernickel, San Francisco sourdough, croissants and French baguettes.
Mayflower Wines and Spirits, 2115 M St., NW, 463-7950: Tuscan-style bread, made of unbleached white and whole-wheat flour and baked in a wood-fired brick oven, is trucked in from New Jersey on Thursday nights for sale on Fridays and Saturdays. Owner Sydney Moore discovered it in a New York restaurant.
Mediterranean Bakery, 374 S. Pickett St., Alexandria, 751-1702: Made-on-premises white and whole-wheat pita bread are sold retail and to Middle Eastern restaurants.
Middle East Bakery, 11400 Old Baltimore Pike, Beltsville, 937-2484: White and whole-wheat pita and lavasch is sold at supermarkets such as Magruder's, Safeway and Shopper's Food Warehouse but not at the bakery itself.
Old Town Bakery, 315 Madison St., Alexandria, 836-9165: The specialty here is potato bread, a light white bread with potato flakes.
Philadelphia Mike's, 7732 Wisconsin Ave, Bethesda, 656-0103: Brothers Joe and Michael Saedlo, Philadelphia natives, decided 1 1/2 years ago that Washington needed a true Philly-style deli-bakery. The "secret ingredient" in that city's famous bread, they believe, is hard water. So they bake with dough premixed there: hoagie, whole-wheat kaiser and white kaiser rolls as well as seedless light rye.
Posin's, 5756 Georgia Ave., NW, 726-4424: A landmark since 1947, this bakery is distinguished by its ability to do a high-volume, handmade production. Bagels, too, continue to be handmade, although bialys gave way to biscuits (more than 1,000 dozen per week) to accommodate today's clientele. Challah, seeded rye, pumpernickel, kaiser rolls and many others are also popular.
Rudi Foods, 336 Randolph Pl., NE, 529-7834: Although there are no on-site sales, Rudi's bread is available at Calvert Woodley Liquors, the downtown Woodward and Lothrop, the Federal Market and Suzanne's in Washington and Company Chef in Tysons Corner. The company started to bake its specialty, authentic French bread, in 1971 in Bloomington, Ind., later moved to Boston and went into partnership with a French firm in 1981. Currently there is a large commissary in Boston and the bakery in Washington, where whole wheat, sourdough, pumpernickel, corn rye and butter crust bread (like a softer, lighter French bread brushed with butter) are made also. A company spokesperson says all breads are handmade, while rolls such as poppy seed, onion-dill and pain au lait (very rich and soft) are cut by hand.
Sutton Place Gourmet, 3201 New Mexico Ave., NW, 363-5800; Wildwood Shopping Center, Bethesda, 564-3100: When Sutton Place II opened a few years ago, it inaugurated its state-of-the-art bakery with imported-from-New-York bakers and New York recipes. A recent addition is a French mixing machine for making baguettes, boules and pain de campagne. Special items include three-seed bread (sesame, linseed, cottonseed); herb bread with Italian seasonings; dense Bavarian farmer's bread baked in a wooden basket; Ementhaler cheese bread; Russian pumpernickel, raisin pumpernickel and marbled rye and pumpernickel; corn rye; sesame seed Italian bread; hamburger and hot dog rolls; onion rolls; onion boards; and challah. Specialty breads are baked on holidays.
Swedish Pastry Shop, 5409 Georgia Ave., NW, 723-3191: Swedish limpa, snowflake, pan and cocktail rolls, brioche, croissants and whitebread are sold on the premises and at Wagshall's Delicatessen.
Sweet Success, Seven Locks Plaza, Seven Locks Road, Rockville, 424-6698: Using his prized, imported-from-Sweden Dahlen oven with built-in steam injectors, owner Richard Noller produces seven-grain bread, salt sticks, Italian bread sticks, marble rye, raisin pumpernickel and seeded rye for sale in this new deli-bakery.
Takoma Kitchens, Tulip Avenue, Takoma Park, 270-1478: This bakery wholesales its five bread varieties (moist honey whole wheat, dill-cottage cheese white bread, whole-wheat cinnamon raisin, European rye and sourdough French) to Wagshall's, Western Market, Chevy Chase Supermarket, Bethesda Farm Women's Market, Country Boy Produce Market, Ciao and, on Sundays only, Takoma Traders.
The French Baker, 1825 I St., NW, 466-4448: Tucked into a corner of the food hall at International Square, this attractively designed bakery stand with baking facilities in the back sells unusual European-style breads such as mountain wheat-rye bread stuffed with blue cheese and topped with parmesan, dense Italian balastra made of soy wheat, soy bean and sea salt and brioche bread. Crusty Italian bread, French baguettes and dense wheat-rye French country bread, six-grain bread and dense high-fiber bread are other choices along with challah, baked only on Fridays. Since owner Bruce Mones is Jewish and the manager, who comes from a bakery-owning family in Naples and calls herself Nanda "The French Baker" (no last name), is Italian, she likes to call the shop the "pizza-matzo bakery."
Vie de France, 8520 Tyco Rd., Vienna, 734-9426: The first plant was started in Rockville in 1972, the story goes, when four tennis friends complained about the lack of good French bread. They went to France to learn how to make the perfect loaf. There they found a large French bakery which lent bakers and helped with technology. Vie de France exploded on a Washington market ripe for real French bread. Now the bread is available across the country. Vie de France restaurants/bakeries bake on the premises. For supermarkets, the breads are baked in local bakeries and delivered daily. Although some people maintain that expansion caused lowered quality, Ann Mirabito, spokesperson for the wholesale division, says, "It's the same bread it always has been -- same recipe, same hand processes, no preservatives, no additives. When other bakeries want to make French bread, they use Vie de France as the 'gold standard.' " Croissants, brioche, multi-grain, sourdough and rye are other choices. The bread is sold in supermarkets, major shopping malls and Vie de France restaurants.
Women's Community Bakery, 736 7th St., SE, 546-7944: This non-profit women's collective is dedicated to providing consumers with low-cost, whole grain breads, which they sell at the bakery, at food cooperatives (such as the Bethesda, Takoma Park-Silver Spring and Glut Co-Ops) and health food stores. No white flour is used -- only whole-wheat, rye, brown rice, millet and buckwheat flours (all organic), along with rolled oats, wheat flakes and flax. Honey, blackstrap molasses and dates are sweeteners used in place of white sugar. Honey whole-wheat, salt-free whole-wheat, eight-grain, rye, pumpernickel and oatmeal raisin bread are baked daily, herb and other special breads seasonally.
Wooden Shoe Pastry Shop, 1130 Georgia Ave., Wheaton, 942-9330: Abraham Santilhano, who learned his trade in Amsterdam, owns the area's only kosher bakery, supervised by the Rabbinical Council of Washington. For 16 years he has been baking handmade challah, pumpernickel, sourdough Jewish rye, whitebread, Vienna bread, nutty-flavored Dutch six-grain bread and assorted rolls.