Back in the 1980s, the Bay Area led the renaissance of artisanal baking, and you can still sense that depth of experience in every complimentary bread plate, every $8 sandwich, and every grocery store in San Francisco. We take good bread for granted, no longer pausing to tear open each fresh slice to meditate on the lacy inner crumb or savor the way the crust cracks each time we torque it.
5. Baguettes from Acme Bread Company. One Ferry Building, 288-2978, San Francisco, as well as grocery stores around the city.
Being seen with a baguette sticking out of your shopping bag is no longer quite as chic as it was at the height of San Francisco's francophilia, but Steven Sullivan's classic sweet baguettes are still the standard. For as airy and white as the crumb is, its flavor is wheaty enough -- real enough -- to remind you Acme switched to organic flour before other commercial bakeries. Acme's baguettes are designed to be ripped apart and smeared through the remains of some long-cooked daube, or sliced lengthwise to stuff with ripe tomatoes and Saint Marcellin cheese. It's impossible to make it home without breaking off the heel of the baguette to snack on; the crunchiest, darkest knob rarely even makes it out of the store.