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Friday, May 7, 2010

Acme's Pain au Levain

Posted By on Fri, May 7, 2010 at 2:20 PM

click to enlarge The ghost of 30-year-old grape-mash starter haunts every loaf. - JOHN BIRDSALL
  • John Birdsall
  • The ghost of 30-year-old grape-mash starter haunts every loaf.
As a daily windup to the Weekly's Best of S.F. 2010 on May 19, we've teased out 92 of our favorite local dishes that taste like here. All the tasty details after the jump.

Number 8: Pain au Levain from Acme Bread Company In 1982, a young guy from Berkeley was on his honeymoon in France. Steve Sullivan ― a passionate bread hobbyist ― had worked as a waiter, a busser, even a dishwasher at Chez Panisse, and it was Alice who hooked him up with the Peyrauds, owners of the Domaine Tempier winery in Provence. "Wonderful things happened there," Sullivan says. "In the course of a long dinner, we talked about congruences between California and southern French food and climate and culture, and the question of bread making and wine making came up. At which point one of the Peyraud sons said to me, 'Why don't you make a yeast out of wine grapes?'" Back home in California, Sullivan snagged wine grapes from his dad's tiny backyard vineyard, crushed them and mixed them into slurry of flour and water, let it ferment, and ― voila ― the ancestor of the natural leaven that still feeds the thousands of loaves Sullivan's company turns out daily from four baking facilities around the bay. Acme's pain au levain is a wonder, a sourdough just shy of sour, its crumb shot through with irregular cavities, and with a floury crust whose surface slashes spread in the oven like peony petals. Buy it fresh from one of Acme's retail bakeries (either at the Ferry Building or in North Berkeley), and the texture is yielding and elastic. And unlike a baguette, which can go stale in a matter of hours, a loaf of levain stays reasonably resilient for days. Like many other households, ours feels incomplete without at least a partial loaf of Acme levain in the cupboard. Sullivan says that's the most gratifying part about his bread with roots in a backyard vineyard ― that the levain itself has become rooted in local kitchens. "It has a life to it," he says. Acme Bread Company 1 Ferry Building #15 (at the Embarcadero), 288-2978; and 1601 San Pablo (at Cedar), Berkeley, (510) 524-1327 Hungry for more? Click on the links in our countdown so far:

No. 92: Cracked Half Dungeness from Swan Oyster Depot
No. 91: Pastrami Sandwich from Orson

No. 90: Coconut Bun from Out the Door on Bush
No. 89: Brown Sugar-Black Pepper Biscuits from Little Skillet
No. 88: Spit-Roasted Porchetta Sandwich from Il Cane Rosso
No. 87: Indian Pizza from Zante
No. 86: Tamales from All-Star
No. 85: Chilaquiles from Nopalito
No. 84: Poc Chuc from Poc-Chuc
No. 83: Chocolate Beignet from Arlequin Cafe
No. 82: Scallop Crêpe from Ti Couz
No. 81: Gin and Tonic from Pizzaiolo/Boot and Shoe Service
No. 80: Quesadilla from Rico Pan
No. 79: Turkey Kati Rolls from Kasa
No. 78: Emperor's Pancake from Suppenküche
No. 77: Lasagna from Zuppa
No. 76: Chicharrones from 4505 Meats
No. 75: Langka Ice Cream from Mitchell's
No. 74: Bacon Potato Chips from Who's Your Daddy
No. 73: Lamb Dumplings from Kingdom of Dumpling
No. 72: Chile-Braised Carnitas Sandwich from Bento 415
No. 71: Chili from Mission Burger
No. 70: Croissants from La Farine
No. 69: Xiu Mai Banh Mi from Saigon Sandwich
No. 68: Creme Brulee from Sweet.
No. 67: Limon Cebiche from Limon
No. 66: Chicken and Waffles from Brown Sugar Kitchen
No. 65: Brioche Bread Pudding from Tartine Bakery
No. 64: Turkish Salad from Old Jerusalem
No. 63: Ribs from Bruno's
No. 62: Prupisceddu in Umidu (Stewed Octopus) from La Ciccia
No. 61: Hot and Spicy Beef Jerky from Marin Sun Farms
No. 60: Pozole from Chilango
No. 59: Lobster Roll from Sam's ChowderMobile
No. 58: Dry-Fried Chicken Wings from San Tung
No. 57: John Campbell's Scones from Lovejoy's Tea Room
No. 56: Prahok from Angkor Borei
No. 55: The Garden-Fresh Pie from Pizzetta 211
No. 54: Pata Negra Ham from Contigo
No. 53: Stone Bowl Bibimbap at Han Il Kwan
No. 52: Green Papaya Salad from Green Papaya Deli
No. 51: Egg Puffs from Shanghai Dumpling King
No. 50: Cactus Tortillas from La Palma
No 49: Thai Barbecue Chicken from Manivanh
No. 48: Salt and Pepper Crab from R&G Lounge
No. 47: Aztec Chocolate Cupcakes from Mission Minis
No. 46: Octopus Tostada from Mariscos La Costa
No. 45: Pan con Chicharron from El Perol
No. 44: Burmese Chicken-Noodle Soup at Yamo
No. 43: Roast Duck from Cheung Hing
No. 42: Rotisserie Bird from Goood Frickin' Chicken
No. 41: Franklin's Teleme Cheese
No. 40: Pho Dac Biet from Turtle Tower
No. 39: Sea Salted Dark Chocolate Caramels from Hooker's
No. 38: Dottie's Famous Pancakes from Dottie's True Blue Cafe
No. 37: XXX Chocolate Cake from Baker and Banker
No. 36: Carnitas Burrito from La Taqueria
No. 35: Little Fried Fish from Nopa
No. 34: Marlowe's Burger
No. 33: Crispy Pata from Patio Filipino
No. 32: Jam Thumbprints from Piccino Coffee Bar
No. 31: Slow-Cooked Egg from Commis
No. 30: Pulled Lamb Sandwich from Wexler's
No. 29: Cornmeal-Cherry-Rosemary Doughnut from Dynamo
No. 28: The Rising Sun from 15 Romolo
No. 27: The Cholle Bhature from Vik's Chaat Corner
No. 26: Plant Burger from The Plant Café Organic
No. 25: Stuffed Pasta from Flour + Water
No. 24: Potato Vareniki from Katia's Russian Tea Room
No. 23: Tokyo Ramen from Suzu Noodle House
No. 22: Margherita Pizza from Tony's Pizza Napoletana
No. 21: PB&J from Mission Street Food
No. 20: Sam's Sundae from Bi-Rite Creamery
No. 19: Timballo di Maccheroni from Quince
No. 18: New Orleans Iced Coffee from Blue Bottle
No. 17: Xiao Long Bao at Yank Sing
No. 16: Tacos from Taqueria Vallarta
No. 15: Caribeño Cocktail at Smuggler's Cove
No. 14: House-Cured Anchovies at Zuni Cafe
No. 13: Rabbit Pot Pie from Mission Beach Cafe
No. 12: Cappuccino It's-It
No. 11: Death & Taxes from Moonlight Brewing
No. 10: Pork Belly from The Alembic
No. 9: Saltado de Pollo from Mi Lindo Peru

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