survey of bread in San Francisco ― the baked
and the steamed, the artisan and the novelty.
Producer: Firebrand Artisan Breads, (510) 594-9213
Source: Rainbow Grocery Co-op, 1745 Folsom (at Division), 863-0620; and Bi-Rite Market,3639 18th St. (at Dolores), 241-9760.
Matt and Mary Kreutz started out selling at the farmers' markets a few years ago, but they've had to drop their public appearances. A few too many restaurants started demanding their breads: Magnolia, Contigo, Moss Room, Fifth Floor, Masa's, Michael Mina ― in short, a holy-shit! client list. They deliver to only two retail stores in the Mission, though: Rainbow Grocery and Bi-Rite.
Working in a warehouse in the shadow of the 80-880-580 knot, the Kreutzes bake their sourdough breads in a wood-fired brick oven, finding the perfect synthesis of the rustic and the polished. The thick, craggy-cracked crust of their walnut bread smells faintly of wood smoke. The crumb is dense but soft, with a tang that reaches all the way to the back of your palate, and the flavor of roast walnuts permeates every bite. (Another loaf, the wide, flat rye bread, tastes even more distinctive, as if you were threshing grain on a hot September day and smelled a barn burning in the distance.) Firebrand's walnut bread is too small to be a good toasting bread, but if you cut it thin, brush it with a little extra-virgin olive oil, and bake it, it makes the perfect base for a smear of Franklin's Teleme
or a creamy sheep's milk cheese. Which is how most of my loaf disappeared.