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Friday, January 14, 2011

No. 87: Outerlands' Levain Bread

Posted By on Fri, Jan 14, 2011 at 4:02 PM

Looks like sandwich bread, tastes like a rustic pain de campagne. - JONATHAN KAUFFMAN
  • Jonathan Kauffman
  • Looks like sandwich bread, tastes like a rustic pain de campagne.
SFoodie's countdown of the 92 best things to eat and drink in San Francisco, 2011 edition.

The levain at Outerlands isn't just great bread, it's the heart of the restaurant, the centerpiece of much of its food: Dave Muller and Lana Porcello's cafe is famous for its fried-egg brunch sandwiches, grilled cheese, slabs with soup, even toast served on the side at dinner. Muller learned to bake from Tartine's Chad Robertson, and he's featured in the Robertson's Tartine Bread book and its promo video.

But as Robertson credits Muller in the book, Outerlands' bread has become something altogether different than Tartine's (exquisite) country loaf. Muller's bread is the perfect midpoint of rustic French breads and square-cornered sandwich loaves.

The crust, which varies in tone from golden to mahogany, is a couple millimeters thick, and becomes shatteringly crisp when reheated. Its inner crumb is airy and tender, yet unlike many traditional country breads, it's solid enough to build a sandwich on. When you press your nose to the loaf ― and, admit it, you've done it, too ― you're greeted by that familiar San Francisco sourness, followed by the subtler grassy smell of whole wheat. But when you begin eating the bread, the tang has the mellow brassiness of a French horn rather than a piercing, echoing cornet. Muller sells excess loaves of the bread for $5, and it's a wonder that some are still available in the afternoon. 

Outerlands: 4001 Judah (at 45th Ave.), 661-6140.

Dishes in our series so far:
92: Goat tacos from El Norteño
91: Faux shark's fin soup at Benu
90: Esperpento's alcachofas a la plancha
89: Poco Dolce's olive oil chocolate bar
88: Decantr's chicken-liver mousseline

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie. Follow me at @JonKauffman.
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