surveyof bread in San Francisco ― the baked
and the steamed, the artisan and the novelty.
Producer: Aroma's Hamati Breads
Source: 22nd & Irving Market, 2101 Irving (at 22nd Ave.), 681-5212; spotted also at Bi-Rite
Price: $4.99 for four 8-inch rounds
Aroma's Hamati Breads is a small bakery in San Bruno whose Middle Eastern breads can be found at markets around the city ― giant, pebbly rings of dough covered in sesame seeds, smaller seed-flecked rolls the size of a 3-year-old's fist, these herb-flecked pitas.
The only place in San Francisco where I've seen similar breads is Goood Frikin' Chicken in Bernal Heights. There, crisp-edged and liberally oiled, the pitas come with every order ― and often disappear faster than the roast chicken. GFC owner Nabeel Yousef, whose crew make the breads in house, explains, "Za'atar is the Middle Eastern thyme, which is in the oregano family, but it can also refer to the blend of thyme, sesame, and a little sumac. Normally, for breakfast you eat the pita hot, with a bowl of olive oil and a bowl of za'atar for dipping, along with hot tea."
All bread is best when it comes straight from the heat, so compared to GFC's freshly re-grilled za'atar bread, Aroma's tastes a little blander, a little softer, without that fresh smell of yeast and olive oil. However, the prepackaged breads are convenient to pick up for the next morning's meal ― and a few minutes in the oven improves their flavor (given the way the rounds shed seeds and herbs, you probably don't want to shove them into a toaster). The heat brings out the toastiness of the sesame seeds and browns the edges of the bread. A little coarse salt sprinkled over top, a little olive oil for dipping, and warm za'atar bread makes a fine breakfast.