Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Bakery Review: Bread Furst - A Bread Temple

You know Bread Furst is a temple of bread the second you walk in the door and the overpowering - in a good way - aroma of whole grain breads embraces you. Then you see the kitchen to your left and ahead, with gleaming subway tiles on the way, beautiful breads, not scored in an artful way, but with a look of quintessential hardiness. 

It gets better. 

I chose loaves of whole wheat and ancient grain (teff and rye) boules. Delicious. As good as my own. Maybe better. Jealous that I lack the bakery oven that produced the thick, dark crusts. (Perhaps I should be baking my loaves longer.) I resisted the temptation to purchase a regular or a whole wheat challah; I could not stand to taste a true competitor. We all have our limits. 

I do not know if commercial yeast is used and the website makes no definitive declaration. 

There are also croissants, a muffin or two, and a few pastry selections, I believe, though I was so focused on the bread that I did not pay much attention. There is quite a bit of non-baked food as well and I had a tasty red lentil salad. Also for sale are some jams and cookbooks.

There's also ham, which seems weird when you notice that all of the staff are wearing head coverings more than vaguely reminiscent of Bukharan kippot (quite a different shape than traditional yarmelkes or even the crocheted ones.)

Not a total groupie
Much as Bread Furst smells divine, the look is a bit upscale in keeping with the neighborhood. Nicer than Le Pan Quotidian and not as spacious, but reminiscent of that. After all, this is not Coney Island Ave. in Brooklyn. But one thing beyond the aroma did remind me of my New York childhood; the owner, Mark Furstenberg walks around with a perpetual scowl on his face, as though nothing is ever quite good enough. He looks like a waiter at the old Lower East Side (New York) restaurant Ratners. 

If you were lucky enough to frequent that now deceased establishment, may it rest in peace, if you remember the waiters, they had standards of their own and the customer was not always right. Mr. Furstenberg had the same look. This and the fact that he is a bread rock star, bread royalty really, made me way too intimidated and shy to approach him. Plus, he seemed as if the quality of the bread, the cleanliness of the tables and chairs, were way more important than idle conversation.

On the way out, I stared at the mixer and the dough being mixed. I stared at the couches and I sighed. One should be in awe at a temple. One should feel moved. Here, bread is holy.

I will have to return on a weekend to try the bialys. 

One comment, please
Okay, one small criticism. Small cookies should be added to the Bread Furst mix, if only to give 
away one at a time to the little children who come in. Just one tiny step to perfection. 

A plea
I trekked to Bread Furst all the way around the Red Line as if on a pilgrimage on one of my few days off. I built my day around the visit. Dear Mr. Furstenberg, Please open another storefront in Takoma or in Silver Spring. We need this bread, not in my house because I make my own, but all over there are people who are deprived of the delights of your bakery, a real bakery, a bakery that makes one feel nearer to the wheat and grains as they grow out of the ground. 

DC visitors
Forget the monuments; forget the museums; forget the halls of government. When you visit DC, take the Metro Red Line up to Van Ness, walk two blocks and eat at Bread Furst. 

(Also, all vistors should try some Ethiopian food. There is a large Ethiopian community in the DC area and some good restaurants in Silver Spring and on 9th and U.) 

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