In my book, Acme Bread is one of the half-dozen best bread bakeries in the Bay Area, and it's the only one on that short list that's readily available at markets. You can even get a few of its breads at local branches of Costco (sour batard and olive bread last time I checked) and Trader Joe's (reportedly
house-labeled organic herb focaccia, cranberry-walnut, and Italian), though whenever possible I prefer to get it direct from one of the bakeries (1 Ferry Building in SF and 1601 San Pablo in Berkeley), since it's a few hours fresher, sometimes even hot out of the oven.
Acme's pain d'epis ($2 at the bakeries), after blind comparisons with numerous other contenders, wins my prize for best baguette in the Bay Area. OK, strictly speaking it's not a baguette, but it's made from the same dough as the rustic baguette. Of the two, I prefer the epis because it has more crust, and at dinner parties or picnics I can just toss it on the table and let guests help themselves. Both loaves have a crust that's both crunchy and chewy, a tender, elastic crumb, and a yeasty, nutty flavor. There is no better bread for most cheeses.
If you're interested in learning what makes these breads so special, watch founder / owner / baker-in-chief Steve Sullivan on the PBS show Julia Child: Lessons with Master Chefs
. There are two clips online
: in the first, he makes the dough; in the second, he makes the loaves.