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Best non-Acme Bay Area bread?

Oh - I suppose I also mean "best non-Tartine bread' as well. I will be in the Bay Area (SF and Berkeley) in a couple of weeks, and I want to know what locals consider to be the best bread in the area. I'll go anywhere to find it.

Also - does any bakery in the area make a dense, square Scandinavian-style whole grain bread? I keep thinking I bought it at Tartine in the past, but I may be hallucinating.

Thanks for the help.

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  1. I'm partial to Artisan and Panorama.

    Available at many local stores including Bi-Rite (SF), Rainbow (SF), Piedmont Grocery (Oakland), and Berkeley Bowl (duh).

    Available at Alemany Farmers Market (SF) and Grand Lake Farmers Market (Oakland).

    1. The Meyer Lemon/Rosemary bread from Della Fattoria is my fave...... a bit smoky from the wood fire, rich & moist from olive oil, a nice crust and not too heavy on the rosemary. I believe they are at the Ferry Building Farmer's Market. We usually get this up in Petaluma when we visit friends.

      2 Replies
      1. re: gordon wing

        I second that. Definitely my favorite after Tartine's standard loaf.

        1. re: farmersdaughter

          I'll toss my hat in the ring for Della Fattoria!

      2. I'm curious why if you "want to know what locals consider to be the best bread in the area" you are eliminating the two prime contenders.

        But since you are, I'll put in a vote for Feel Good Bakery in Alameda. I love their French baguettes (lighter and crisper than the heavy, chewy Acme style), their Wholly Moley, their old world miche (the baker is a Paris-trained "maitre boulanger"), their crankin (cranberry and pumpkin seeds) and their currant walnut.

        Feel Good Bakery
        1650 Park St, Alameda, CA 94501

        1 Reply
        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          Their jalapeno cheese breadsticks are pretty tasty too, though sadly not as spicy as they once were.

        2. Not Scandinavian but similar perhaps are the breads from OctoberFeast at farmers markets and at the store in Berkeley.

          OctoberFeast Bakery
          1954 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

          3 Replies
          1. re: wolfe

            Yes, their breads. Anna's Daughter's rye is available at Boulettes Larder, that place in Point Reyes where Cowgirl Creamery is and in Marshall. It is very Scandinavian.

            1. re: wally

              Anna's Daughter is a dense, square loaf. I think they sell Anna's Daughter at the Brickmaiden booth at the Berkeley Tuesday farmers market.

              Acme makes a similar one sometimes, I've seen it only at the Berkeley bakery.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                I have also seen Anna's Daughter's at Berkeley Bowl but it never seems regular.

          2. Metropolis Baking Company's "Pane de Altamura" has a high percentage of durum flour and a lovely golden color. Sold at markets throughout the Bay Area.

            1 Reply
            1. re: anyhow

              yes!...thank you for that..could not think of the name of the co....i love the altamura

            2. I like the Boulangeries in San Fran. There are several in the city, one on Polk, one on Union, and? Baguettes, ficelles, epis.

              1. Anna's Daughters makes nice German or Scandanavian style breads like what you describe. They carry them at Rainbow Grocery and have been at the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market outside Boulette's Larder giving away samples.

                1. Thourough Bread in the Castro is one of my favorites. I also suggest going to the Ferry Plaza Farmers market on Saturday morning. In addtionon to Della Fattoria, there is Downtown Bakery. My favorite bread there is the yeasty, dense Como bread. I love thick slabs of this white bread with top of the season juicy tomatoes.

                  I bought an excellent braided egg bread at Della Fattoria in Petaluma. It wasn't challah, but a little denser and maybe sweeter. It is pretty close to Polish egg bread. For me it was worth the breath-taking $10 for a loaf.

                  Some people won't argree with me on this, but I like Arizmendi's breads a lot.

                  A place that doesn't get mentioned often but makes good bread is Citizen Cake. If you go after 5pm there's a 2 for one deal.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: rworange

                    The thing I love about Thorough Bread is the variety and the all round excellence of their offerings. I suspect its because Thorough Bread is owned by the San Francisco Baking Institute.

                    Thorough Bread and Pastry
                    248 Church Street, San Francisco, CA

                    San Francisco Baking Institute
                    480 Grandview Dr S, San Francisco, CA

                    1. re: rworange

                      I really like Arizmendi's specialty breads, particularly toasted and spread with butter. I recently took one of Kasma's Thai cooking classes in Oakland and every morning they had a different Arizmendi bread (corn & cheddar, asiago, provolone & olive...).

                    2. I like Semifreddi's ciabatta roll, best thing they make, imo. Grace Bakery Pugliese use to be good...like 6-7 years ago. I think they got too big.

                      1. you'll be on the road a bit but i vote for "wild flour" in sebastapool.

                        1. Try La Farine in Oakland, they make great Wheat Levain, Bagettes, Walnut Bread and Olive Bread. Probably the closest to a true French Bakery in the East Bay.
                          (My brother in law owns his own bakery in France, and he was impressed)

                          Feel Good in Alameda is also very very good, although not to the standards it was in the past.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: aktormedic

                            We also liked the Brioche at La Farine along with their baguettes (Brioche seems to be exceedingly difficult to find in the bay area for some reason).

                            1. re: aktormedic

                              Another fan of La Farine's baguettes although I frequent their Solano (Berkeley) location. Won't buy them anywhere else.

                              Also, La Boulangerie's brioche rolls.

                              1. re: aktormedic

                                Another vote for La Farine on Fruitvale Ave. the Dimond District of Oakland, although I am biased since it's in my neighborhood. My favorite is the rustic baguette, or maybe the whole wheat loaf, or the morning buns, really anything.
                                And, as a bonus, they are very active in our community.
                                I heard that they were going to do all their baking at the Oakland location now since it has a larger kitchen. Not sure if that's the case.

                                1. re: pcdarnell

                                  I'd put La Farine's Rustic Baguette up against anyone elses - they are absolutely perfect. Less heavy and dense than Acme's (we get Acme at work and I could bring home a baguette with me.. yet I'd rather eat a La Farine baguette!) with a crackling yet tender crust and a deep, delicious flavor. Really very good. I go to the one on Fruitvale as it's around the corner from my house. . .and I have found that the baguettes are better than any other outpost. . I am not sure why. Something in the air? The cheese rolls are also a great accompaniment to a nice bowl of soup. Make sure to heat them to bring out their best.
                                  I am partial to their almond croissants and the ham/gruyere pate feuillete - heated slightly it is a perfect sunday breakfast.

                                  1. re: pastryqueen

                                    La Farine makes great croissants, pain au chocolat, and tarts, but I've done head to head tastings of their bread and Acme's ... chacun à son goût.

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      I have done a head to head tasting as well and you're right. . everyone's taste is different. . . perhaps a preference for a baguette is as subjective as that for pizza, bbq and hamburgers? :)

                              2. If you're up to the drive north to Sonoma County, Village Bakery in Santa Rosa or Sebastopol makes two types of this bread – Volkenbrot and Kernenbrot. These are dense bricks of whole grain rye bread and the latter has seeds.

                                Since they don't make it every day of the week, call first http://www.chow.com/places/27912, www.chow.com/places/27913

                                Oh, if you get up this way, be sure to visit other bakeries with great bread - Della Fattoria in Petaluma, Downtown Bakery in Healdsburg, Preston Vineyards outside Healdsburg (more famous for wine than bread), Wild Flower Bakery in Freestone, Artisan in Sonoma and Full Circle in Penngrove. You can find Bennett Valley Bakery bread at Santa Rosa farmers market.

                                Chloe's Cafe in Santa Rosa bakes their own bread on weekdays, but incorporates it into sandwiches.

                                And Patisserie Angelica in Sebastopol doesn't have bread, but if you're up to a stop...:


                                Sorry I don't have time to give you all the links.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Columba

                                  I think Village Bakery is out of business, unless it moved. I SPECIFICALLY drove to Sepastopol JUST to go to Village Bakery and there is no bakery at the address posted all over the web, just a house. (7225 Healdsburg Ave Sebastopol CA). What really ticks me off about this is there were reports this year on Yelp about how great this place was so I never bothered to check before driving up there. That's the rotten thing about Yelp. The posting dates sometimes have nothing to do with when someone actually visited the place. There was one 2008 report about a Napa restuarant that went out of business a decade before.

                                  Seems like there might be a Santa Rosa location, but I'd give either place a call to see if they are still in business.

                                  Village Bakery
                                  1445 Town and Country Dr, Santa Rosa, CA

                                  Village Bakery
                                  7225 Healdsburg Ave, Sebastopol, CA

                                  1. re: rworange

                                    I think you were lost. Google Maps' street view shows it in that location. It's the building in the middle with the sandwich board on the sidewalk.


                                  2. re: Columba

                                    Village Bakery is still open in both Sebastopol & Santa Rosa.

                                    Here are links for the other places I mentioned earlier.

                                    Della Fattoria
                                    141 Petaluma Blvd N, Petaluma, CA 94952

                                    Downtown Bakery & Creamery
                                    308 Center St, Healdsburg, CA 95448

                                    Preston Vineyards & Winery
                                    9206 W Dry Creek Rd, Healdsburg, CA 95448

                                    Patisserie Angelica
                                    6821 Laguna Pkwy, Sebastopol, CA 95472

                                    Full Circle Baking Co
                                    10151 Main St, Penngrove, CA

                                    Chloe's French Cafe
                                    3883 Airway Drive 145, Santa Rosa, CA 95403

                                    Wild Flour Bread
                                    140 Bohemian Hwy, Freestone, CA

                                    Artisan Bakers
                                    720 W Napa St, Sonoma, CA 95476

                                    Santa Rosa Farmers Market
                                    1531 Maple Ave, Santa Rosa, CA

                                  3. My favorites besides Acme and Tartine:

                                    Vital Vittles Sourdough Rye. Most of the many stores that sell VV don't stock this. I've seen it at Rainbow Grocery, at the farmers market stands, and at the bakery outlet, but they don't make much and it often sells out. Farmers markets: http://www.vitalvittles.com/html/stor...

                                    Liguria Bakery focaccia: get it at the bakery in the morning before they sell out.

                                    Pure Grain Pumpernickel: Lehr's German Specialties and Rainbow Grocery are the only retail outlets in SF. There are none in the East Bay. You can get it at the bakery in Vacaville.

                                    Esther's German Bakery Steinerbrot. Rainbow Grocery, Berkeley Bowl, farmers markets listed here: http://www.esthersbakery.com/buy.htm

                                    Rainbow Grocery
                                    1745 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                                    Liguria Bakery
                                    1700 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                                    Pure Grain Bakery
                                    600 Eubanks Ct Suite A, Vacaville, CA

                                    Lehr's German Specialties
                                    1581 Church St, San Francisco, CA

                                    Vital Vittles Organic Bakery
                                    2810 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA

                                    Esther's German Bakery
                                    570 Showers Dr, Mountain View, CA

                                    1. My favorite is Artisan. However I focus on bread that's mainly bread rather than with lots of flavors added ie not the walnut, pumpkin cheese versions. I think Artisan does a great job making good flavored simple bread. I havent found anywhere in the bay area that makes a baguette as well as theo nes I ate while living in France. Apparently the flour is different here so one can't get the same texture.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: sonomajom

                                        Water content is another key. The moister the dough, the better the texture. At the same time, a very moist dough is too difficult to handle for mass production. The baker at Artisan made some baguettes for us using a very high moisture dough a few years back when I took my students there and I still dream about that bread.

                                        1. re: sonomajom

                                          You reach a point with this where the bread will only "rise" sideways- very moist doughs are generally best handled mechanically, and require very little kneading. If you experiment with this, I would recommend using a Silpat as a work surface.

                                        2. I am surprised that no-one has yet mentioned the olive bread made by Phoenix Pastificio. It is certainly among the best. You can find it at the Saturday Berkeley Farmer's Market, at the factory and I am not sure where else.

                                          Phoenix Pastificio
                                          1250 Addison St, Berkeley, CA 94702

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: foodeye

                                            That's the best flavored bread I know and the only one I ever buy myself. It's a nice item by itself, but I wouldn't serve it in most contexts, e.g. with cheese, a spread of cold cuts, or pasta, since the olives overpower most any other flavor.

                                            Noe Valley Bakery's apricot-ginger bread is another first-rate flavored bread.

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                              Bouchon Bakery in Yountville is head and shoulders my favorite. Thorough Bread and La Farine are great, too.

                                          2. I see that this string is a little old, but if you are still looking for authentic Scandinavian breads, then try Sweden House Bakery in Tiburon or Neldams Danish Bakery in Oakland. They both make the Swedish style limpa (rye) bread. Furher south is Copenhagen Bakery in Burlingame, but their Vört Limpa is only available around Xmas.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: sfgaby

                                              Sweden House closed a few months ago.

                                            2. Two of my favorites are the light and dark Russian rye from Cinderella Bakery in SF. Their web site lists many stores in the Bay Area that carry them. They're so different from the Oroweat style Russian rye. The dark rye is so good that it's a meal in itself.

                                              Cinderella Bakery
                                              436 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA 94118

                                              1. Cheeseboard in Berkeley- I usually go for a simple sourdough baguette, but they make all kinds of neat stuff.