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Dec 3, 2009 07:54 PM

Old-school sourdough bread?

I thought it would be fun to get some old-fashioned San Francisco sourdough for a crab feed, but was surprised to find that they had none at Berkeley Bowl West, and at Safeway the one brand that was in an old-fashioned paper bag had a plastic bag inside that.

Does anyplace in the East Bay have the real thing, or even an artisan version, or do I just give up and go with Acme Italian? I knew this stuff was nearly extinct, but I didn't know things had gone this far.

Please don't tell me to buy something in a plastic bag and heat it up.

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  1. The only place I can think of is Boudin at Oakland International Airport. Going to SF might be faster although no toll going to OAK.

    5 Replies
    1. re: ML8000

      Is it really true that the only place to buy Boudin in the East Bay is at Oakland Airport? I find that a little hard to believe.

      1. re: DavidT

        Looks like that is true DavidT. Unless Boudin is available in retail outlets somewhere (I don't recall seeing it in supermarkets) then this looks to be correct.

        1. re: DavidT

          There is a Boudin bakery/cafe in Broadway Plaza, Walnut Creek, if that's helpful.

            1. re: Mick Ruthven

              Yeah, but none in the East Bay, unless you count Walnut Creek, which I don't, and anyway it's even less convenient than SF for me.

              The list doesn't include Oakland airport, has that closed?


        2. Coincidently I saw some today at Seabreeze Market in the Berkeley Marina. Gotta be authentic ... they sell clam chowder in a sourdough bowl. I was thinking that was a nice-looking classic sourdough round. You might ask if you can buy the bread without soup.

          Along that line, maybe Spenger's fish market has some.

          I've seen it occasionally at Grocery Outlet in Oakland. There is some bakery that usually sells baguettes in paper bags ... I forget the name but they are the only one ... and every now and then there is sourdough. Haven't tried either though and with GO it is with the blessing of the food gods if it is there.

          14 Replies
          1. re: rworange

            I happened to be at the Berkeley GrocOut while the Colombo delivery guy was there. The only bread in paper bags was the idiotic "Double Wrap," i.e., they waste a paper bag by putting it over a plastic bag. He said he didn't know of anyplace that gets it in paper only.

            Seabreeze had nothing. Their shelves were pretty empty.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              It is not Columbo, but some other bakery I'm not familiar with from the South Bay, I believe. Did you lookat the section next to the soup pots at Seabreeze They had an acrylic bin with whole sourdough rounds.

              I'm not a big fan of Bordenave's but it is much better than Boudin off the shelf and comparable to some of the old school breads once sold. Get the extra sour though if available. I suspect Bread Garden may be the better bread... but again I haven't tried it. Will have to get up that way and give it a try ... as well as a last look.

            2. re: rworange

              Thanks for the tip, the Oakland GrocOut had a Wedemeyer loaf that looks and smells right. It even has the little bumps on the bottom, which I had forgotten about. I'll give it a try with dinner tonight and report.


              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                I thought the wide Wedemeyers was really good. Still not totally it, but probably my favorite of the old companies still producing bread. Parkside Market also carries it.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  The Wedemeyer was OK, not as good as the Bordenave.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Thanks for taking the bullet. I have had Wdemeyer on my to-try list for a long time but either it was too late in the day and the loaf had turned to rock or I was avoiding bread.

                    My suspicions were right. Bread Garden has the absolute best sourdough I've had in a long, long time.

                    They will slice it ... which always makes me happy. When I got to the car I had a slice. Opening the bag I was overcome with the wonderful sour tangy aroma. The crust nicely chewy, the crumb classic. IMO, better than Raymonds which doesn't have enough sour for my tastes.

                    This begged for crab. I was in no mood to fuss with a carcass. A light went off .. this bread was crying for the crab salad from Sea Breeze.

                    Alas, the crab salad means a big green salad with a scoop of crab. They only sell the crab salad like that or in a sandwich. I stated my case ... they had the best crab salad I've ever had and I had the perfect bread. Could they please, please sell me a small deli container. I flattered them, I insulted their roll. No Easy Rider moment here. They sold me the pure pristine salad. My profound thanks.

                    Opening the crab salad was another orgasmistic olifactory experience. It smelled of crab at it's freshest ... of all that is good about seafood.

                    So I made my sandwich ... crab, sourdough and a bit of ground pepper. A bottle of Anchor Steam to complete the meal.

                    Beer, bread, crustacean ... classic, simple, old-time San Francisco at its best. I closed my eyes and took a trip back to the glorious culinary past.

                    .... and I don't even like Dungeness that much. Greatness though is greatness.

                    Thank you, Robert for starting this thread. I nominate my own sandwich as one of my top ten tastes of 2009.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        The only negative is they don't sell rounds. They only sell baguettes, round rolls and loaves ... which worked out swell for my sandwhich ... . They said on Saturday they sell large rounds of a sour country bread that you can buy chunks of. It isn't classic sourdough though. It sounds interesting.

                        I asked for an update about closing. No updates. It seems like the decision won't be made until after the holidays and the owner is being tight-lipped about any more info. Even if they do leave/realocate they will stay until the end of their lease in early summer 2010. I hope they stay in Berkeley. I need to get up there more often and throw more business their way.

                        BTW, there's some sort of open house at Peet's next week on Saturday from 11 - 1. Lots of samples and stuff.

                        1. re: rworange

                          Bread Garden doesn't make what I'm looking for.

                        2. re: Robert Lauriston

                          I forgot to mention. I was over at Berkeley Grocery Outlet today and they had whole loaves of Columbo extra sourdough bread. The paper bag boasted it was 'double-bagged'. You just can't put sourdough in a plastic bag. It compromises the crust and changes the whole character of the loaf. Didn't even look at the ingredient list when I saw that. I just walked on by.

                          1. re: rworange

                            Yeah, that's what I mentioned in my first post. Wonder / Hostess sells only bagged bread, and gives a bogus nod to nostalgia for the local brands it assimilated by sticking a paper bag on top of plastic.

                          2. re: Robert Lauriston

                            I'll be interested in your opinion of Bread Garden. They have such a history of bread in the east bay. I may be wrong on these exact details...but when they opened mid-70's I think it was only Cheese Board that was making a baguette when they started theirs or maybe the other way around. But for a very long time I know they were the source for great baguettes and have done lots of interesting breads over the years not available elsewhere like salt rising bread. On another note... I was at Lucky's today and passed a little stand with par-bake/half-bake loaves but the interesting thing was the label was "Larraburu" which I thought was long gone. I turned it over and it's made by Boudin. I've never noticed it before.

                            1. re: cakebaker

                              >not available elsewhere like salt rising bread<

                              I know this thread is about sourdough, but I've been looking for good salt rising bread for a long time. The one time I got a loaf of it from the Bread Garden I found it a shadow of the kind I grew up with, giving me the opinion that they really didn't know what salt rising bread was supposed to be.

                          3. re: rworange

                            This post reminded me of another bread memory...the little kiosk of sorts that used to me in the Cannery in the 70's/80's. They made only huge crab sandwiches with crab, a little mayo and thick slices of sourdough and that's it. Your sandwich reminded me of that.

                    1. Oh wait ... I know, I know ... Bread Garden

                      You might call to see if they are still open. They were thinking of closing at the end of the year and the website link seems to be gone. I do mention seeing sourdough there in this endless report

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: rworange

                        The Bread Garden is still open as of this week, and I'm pretty sure it will be open through the end of the year. The owner is considering whether or not to renew the lease; he'd like to relocate to somewhere with more traffic, but I don't think anything's been decided.

                      2. Trying to understand...

                        By "old-school sourdough bread," do you mean sourdough that is made from airborne SF flora? In contrast to "manufactured" sourdough that has the lactobacillus and c. milleri added in the form of a powder, or even sourdough that gets its sourness from added vinegar?

                        Why would something like Acme not be OK? To be sure, a lot of what is claimed to be SF sourdough is actually hype.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: maria lorraine

                          the s.f. sourdough I ate 35-40 years ago, (I timed my visits to the corner groceries within six blocks of our flat acc. to the delivery schedule of the bakeries, which incl. Larraburu) if that's considered old school, had a simpler flavor profile than Acme--their flour was probably more refined and commercial in nature, would be my guess.

                        2. Spenger's take out is a good suggestion to try. I was going to say that Boudin is the only one I can think of but not in the east bay of course. However, when I was cutting up Acme Italian last week for stuffing I had a flashback to the taste of the sourdough rounds that used to be on every supermarket shelf that are no more. I was surprised as I hadn't had it for some time that it was so familiar. I know what you is a little sad to see those loaves wrapped in plastic. We have such an abundance of bread in the bay area I forget how special those loaves were.