<body><script type="text/javascript"> function setAttributeOnload(object, attribute, val) { if(window.addEventListener) { window.addEventListener('load', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }, false); } else { window.attachEvent('onload', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }); } } </script> <div id="navbar-iframe-container"></div> <script type="text/javascript" src="https://apis.google.com/js/plusone.js"></script> <script type="text/javascript"> gapi.load("gapi.iframes:gapi.iframes.style.bubble", function() { if (gapi.iframes && gapi.iframes.getContext) { gapi.iframes.getContext().openChild({ url: 'https://www.blogger.com/navbar.g?targetBlogID\0757793856\46blogName\75Orangette\46publishMode\75PUBLISH_MODE_BLOGSPOT\46navbarType\75BLACK\46layoutType\75CLASSIC\46searchRoot\75http://orangette.blogspot.com/search\46blogLocale\75en\46v\0752\46homepageUrl\75http://orangette.blogspot.com/\46vt\75-5071095333567389549', where: document.getElementById("navbar-iframe-container"), id: "navbar-iframe" }); } }); </script>

3.10.2006

Best final resting place for a walnut

I am a creature of habit. Each morning finds me hunched over the same homely but delicious breakfast; each noontime finds me eating a variation on the same formulaic lunch; and each evening brings a cold glass of milk, a couple of graham crackers, and at least a few squares of chocolate. These tidy details are already well documented, but there’s one more that’s long past due for its day in the sun. Nearly every Sunday morning, I climb in the car and trek twenty minutes south to Columbia City Bakery, and to the same loaf of bread: walnut levain, a crisp, craggy-crusted thing boasting more than a handful of big, buttery nuts. It’s the sort of thing I could curl up with and nibble at from now until nightfall—if not, frankly, forever. If I were a walnut, I’d give anything—my shell, even myself—to be associated with a thing of such beauty. It is, I dare say, the best final resting place for a walnut.

Thank goodness for the 2006 Independent Food Festival and Awards, because I now have an excuse to tell you about it.

Columbia City Bakery opened its doors only last October, but its bakers were already veterans. Evan Andres and Andrew Meltzer are alumni of Seattle celebrity chef Tom Douglas’s Dahlia Bakery, and I had heard rumors of their prodigious talent for months prior to the opening, when they sold their wares wholesale and at the Columbia City Farmers’ Market. From the moment that I first peered through the big windows of the bright red storefront on Rainier Avenue, I knew that what I’d find inside would be more than ample proof. It doesn’t hurt, certainly, that the workings of the bakery are on full display only feet behind the counter—bakers flouring couches, giant mixers mixing—but the items for sale speak for themselves. There is a certain something that emanates from good bread, something written in flour and scrawled into the slight sheen of a hard, crackly crust. Columbia City Bakery has that something in spades.

Its breads bear thick, crisp crusts—the kind that, when cut, shoot shards and splinters across the counter—with slashes showing a web of skinny, delicate threads, evidence of the gentle stretching of gluten. Inside waits a moist, chewy crumb, full of evenly spaced air holes that shine ever so slightly at their edges. The first to win my devotion was their pain de campagne, my Platonic ideal of bread: now-crunchy, now-chewy, and rustic, with a faint whisper of sweetness. But what makes this place worth a weekly trip is the walnut levain, a sturdy, flour-dusted torpedo that has lodged itself dangerously close to my heart.

I can think of no better foil for the rugged, lightly sour flavor of levain than a smattering of sweet, still-intact walnut halves. With a crumb tinged pale purple and slices each sporting a toasty walnut or two, this stuff has quickly leapt to the top of my list. Nothing is better next to a good blue cheese, under a sliver of cave-aged something, or smeared with butter, sprinkled with salt, and eaten while sitting on the kitchen counter. For a proper feast, I cap a slice or two with a lightly broiled crottin and a drizzle of honey, and serve it alongside a simple green salad. Every walnut should leave the world this way.

[No recipe today: instead, a very good reason to visit Seattle!]

Columbia City Bakery
4865 Rainier Avenue South
Seattle, WA 98118
206.723.6023
Wednesday - Saturday: 7 am – 2 pm
Sunday: 8 am – 2 pm

30 Comments:

Anonymous bea at La tartine gourmande said...

Ah yes, Seattle has been on the places-to-visit list for a while now....

5:48 AM, March 10, 2006  
Anonymous Jessie said...

Horrah! Thank you so much for telling us of a fantastic bakery! I will go there next week!

8:17 AM, March 10, 2006  
Blogger megan said...

I'm always on the lookout for a good artisan bakery - thanks for the tip. Have you been to Ken's Artisan Bakery in Portland? He makes an outstanding walnut levain too. Not to mention the best croissant I've ever tasted (domestically speaking).

9:04 AM, March 10, 2006  
Blogger Dana said...

Evan just brought a tasting of breads to the restaurant I work at yesterday. It was the best bread I have tasted in a very long time. I must have eaten 4 slices of the walnut in a row. I should have been working, but it was so good I couldn't stop. I suspect they will be in the bread baskets at many seattle restaurants soon, including ours.

9:43 AM, March 10, 2006  
Blogger Dana said...

PS... I gave my award to a place just a few blocks north of columbia city, italian meat shop Da Pino. If you haven't tried it yet, stop by on your next sunday pilgramige and get something to go with the bread!!

9:46 AM, March 10, 2006  
Blogger Carol said...

Mmm..yum..since I'm in San Francisco, my walnut levain usually is from Acme Bakery, also a very fine loaf!

10:02 AM, March 10, 2006  
Blogger Shauna said...

Oh dear, if only Columbia City would start making a gluten-free loaf.

I don't normally miss bread -- there is so much great food to be eaten in the world -- but this makes me keen for it.

Hurrah, my dear. That's your writing at work.

11:15 AM, March 10, 2006  
Blogger foodiechickie said...

Darn that place opened up only after my visit. Molly would you know if the the boat that travels to Victoria also goes to Vancouver? Or the only way to Vancouver is to drive or fly from Seattle of course? Thanks!

11:16 AM, March 10, 2006  
Anonymous chika said...

Hi Molly, thanks for indeed a great reason to visit Seattle! I'm a huge fan of walnut levain myself, and your suggestion to serve the crusty goodness with crottin and honey sounds heavenly, although I'd be totally happy with some slices solo, as well.

12:12 PM, March 10, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oooh, I was just in there yesterday with my 3 year old daughter who was heartily enjoying a little morning brioche. Since I live in the neighborhood, I'll be going back for the Walnut levain - haven't tried that one yet...for shame!
Kiki Eats

1:55 PM, March 10, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I absolutely LOVE your blog, but I just can't read it anymore. The white text on a black background gives me nasty headaches. I've been reading your blog for quite some time now and I really do enjoy it. I was just wondering if it'd be possible to update your design.

2:58 PM, March 10, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

Bea, you're a wise woman.

Jessie, you're very welcome! Yes, yes, try the walnut levain, and the pain de campagne too. The babka - cinnamon with walnuts, I think - is also heavenly, and I hear great things about the bear claws, pretzel rolls, pistachio snails, croissants, and and and...

Megan, I haven't been to Ken's, but I have been hearing about it for a while now. What's worse, I have NEVER been to Portland! Shameful, I know. It seems that when I travel, I go somewhere far, far away - never to the great cities nearby. But road trips to Portland and Vancouver, B.C. are a high priority for this summer.

Dana, I'm so glad to meet a fellow Seattlite who finds Columbia City's walnut levain as distractingly good as I do! Work can wait, I think: first, walnut levain. And as for Da Pino, yes, I saw your post and am so glad to hear of another place in town for handmade Italian meats! Thank you for such excellent reportage! I was just at Salumi for lunch today, so my taste memories are fresh for a comparison to Da Pino. You can bet I'll get over there as soon as I can...

Carol, "very fine loaf" is an understatement! Acme's walnut levain is delicious. And their pain au levain is the standard by which I judge all others! Ah, Acme. But I dare say that Columbia City is catching up fast...

Shauna, I think that a bowl of truffle-salted popcorn might make a very fine consolation prize... xo

Foodiechickie, I am not the best authority on transportation to the areas around Seattle, but as far as I know, there is no Seattle - Vancouver, B.C. ferry. You could, in theory, take a ferry from Seattle to Victoria Island, and then from Victoria to Vancouver, I think. Otherwise, you could drive, fly, or take the bus or train from Seattle up north. Might a trip be in your future?

Chika, you're most welcome. This stuff is crusty goodness, indeed.

Kiki Eats, there will be ample time, I'll bet, for you and your daughter to sample all the delights that they have to offer. I'm very jealous of your proximity to so many buttery, yeasty, crusty, tempting things...

Anonymous, thank you so much for letting me know. I have had one or two other people mention that they had difficulty with the white-on-black type, and although I have yet to decide how to address the situation, I have been planning for a while now to do some sort of redesign, reconceptualization, or spiff-up. I am in the process of looking for a web designer to help with the task, since my knowledge of html is way, waaaaay too limited. If anyone knows of a designer who might be interested - and who might be familiar enough with Orangette to understand its feel and help me rework it within a similar vibe - please do let me know. You can e-mail me at the address listed in my profile in the right-hand sidebar.

6:35 PM, March 10, 2006  
Anonymous stephanie crocker said...

I totally concur! Columbia City Bakery is my new favorite bakery in Seattle (besides my own). THey make the BEST BREAD IN TOWN! And their macaroons are fantasic as well. You can definitely feel the passion they have for their work, and every bite tastes like love.

6:48 PM, March 10, 2006  
Blogger s'kat said...

You know, between my cousins living there, and your intoxicating descriptions of Seattle's many goods, it's only a matter of time. Le sigh.

To sleep, perchance to dream, of good, crusty bread...

7:50 PM, March 10, 2006  
Blogger mamster said...

I'm also completely addicted to the walnut levain. I could quite easily sit down and eat the whole thing, but usually I just keep going back into the kitchen and tearing off hunks until there's half a loaf left. Then I have to hide it.

8:20 PM, March 11, 2006  
Anonymous Joe said...

Picked up the walnut levain today and it is outstanding. Thanks for the tip.
I recommend a smear of Trader Joe's chocolate hazelnut spread( like nutella but without the trans fats). It'll make your knees buckle.

4:59 PM, March 12, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

Amen to that, Stephanie. Best bread in town, without a doubt! And thank you for the macaroon tip. Yet another reason to head to Columbia City!

S'kat, ain't no time like the present. To sleep, perchance to come to Seattle...

Mamster, I should have guessed that you'd be a fan. Excellent taste, as usual...

And Joe, I'm so glad to hear it. Three cheers for walnut levain! And thank you for the Trader Joe's tip. How can it possibly be that I haven't tasted that stuff? Must rectify that mistake very, very soon.

9:35 AM, March 13, 2006  
Blogger Lisa said...

Hey, for those of you who have trouble reading the black background, copy and paste the text into a side document for easy reading. I find the black background to be an added visual advantage to the look of Orangette. I mean, another option would be bright green text on orange - now how would THAT read? Anonymous, take control of your technology!

11:14 AM, March 13, 2006  
Blogger foodiechickie said...

To Vancouver definetly. Just thought we could squeeze a side trip back to Seattle. We had been to Seattle and Victoria previously. Maybe this time Vancouver and Portland. Although I miss Seattle alot.

1:24 PM, March 13, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the person having trouble reading your blog they can change a setting in Internet Explorer so that they can read your blog more easily.

Go to Tools
then Internet Options
click on the Accessibility Button
and click the check box next to "Ignore colors specified on web pages."

This should be a bit easier than copying and pasting.

I hope this helps!

10:13 AM, March 14, 2006  
Blogger darlamay said...

I will have to check out that bakery the next time I'm in the area! Thanks for the pointer to your granola, I made a similar version after reading about it and posted it.

10:33 AM, March 14, 2006  
Blogger margrocks said...

and i'm gonna! can't wait!

1:36 PM, March 14, 2006  
Blogger Tea said...

You are a girl after my own heart, Molly! I am addicted to the walnut bread from Bay Breads here in SF--have you tried it? They make a walnut baguette that is divine with cambozola and sliced pears. If I want to take this bread as a gift when invited to a friend's house for dinner, I've learned that I must pick it up on the way to their house. If I buy it in the morning it never survives the day.

4:07 PM, March 14, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfair! Is this some cruel hoax? You tantalize with walnut levain at a fabulous bakery but then give an incorrect address. It's at 4865 Rainier Ave S NOT 865. Poor me - wandering up and down, circling and lurking, google map in hand and nearly faint with hunger and desire.

12:05 AM, March 15, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

Lisa, thank you for the helpful suggestions for better readability. I hate to make anyone go to extra trouble to comfortably read Orangette - hell, I'm happy that people even remember to stop by! - but for now, pending another solution, it's a good one.

Foodiechickie, Vancouver is rumored to be a food lover's paradise, so you can't go wrong, Seattle or no...

Anonymous, thank you for the IE tip! What a great trick to know! I learn something new every day around here.

Darlamay, you're very welcome! I'm so glad to hear that you gave the Rancho La Puerta granola a go. And your addition of coconut sounds wonderful. I just might have to try it myself...

Margrocks, it'll be waiting for you.

Tea, I'm sorry to report that I haven't - YET - tried the walnut bread from Bay Breads. That's the same company that does Boulangerie de Polk, Cole, Pine, etc., right? And Chez Nous on Fillmore? Those people know how it's done! I have officially added the walnut baguette to my Bay Area must-do list, for whenever that next trip rolls around.

And Anonymous, I hardly know what to say. Please accept my apologies. I am usually pretty ruthless with typos, but of all places to miss one, this was a terrible spot. I cut and pasted the address from one of the local newspapers' websites, and I'm afraid that I must have simply missed the first digit. An easy mistake, but one that resulted in much undue stress - and hunger, to boot! My apologies. Please note the corrected address above.

12:44 PM, March 15, 2006  
Blogger Tea said...

Yep, Bay Breads is the mini empire of Pascal Rigo, which incldes bakeries Boulange de Pine, Polk, Cole, and restaurants Chez Nous, Rigolo, Galette Brittany, etc. We in SF will be eternally grateful to this man for his breads, cannele, and more.

And if you ever need a walnut bread tasting partner here in SF, just let me know. I live within walking distance of one of the bakeries--a delicious but dangerous thing!

11:26 PM, March 16, 2006  
Anonymous keiko said...

Molly, this bread must taste as great as it looks - I love nutty bread, I just can't resist them... thank you for the great post.

9:48 AM, March 18, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

Tea, oh MY - that is dangerous! The next time I'm in SF, I may have to come, err, protect you from all that bread!

Keiko, you have impeccable taste, my dear. If you ever decide to make a trip to Seattle and Columbia City Bakery, don't be shy...

1:52 PM, March 18, 2006  
Anonymous Mary Luz said...

Mmmmmm- nothing better than out-of-the-oven bread. What you've written about sounds like a most worthy specimen. I live in Toronto, Ontario- another garden of edible eden in North America. I hope you get a chance to stop by my fair city- if you do- I can set you up with a culinary tour or two-bread included! Gracias to you for the tantalizing treats Molly!

9:51 AM, March 23, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

My pleasure, Mary Luz! You know, my father was from Toronto! He was born and raised there, and came south to the States only after finishing medical school. I'm headed to Toronto next week, actually, to celebrate his cousin's husband's 95th birthday. Unfortunately, we'll only be in town for about 24 hours, just long enough for the birthday party and a good night's sleep! The next time I'm headed your way, though, I will take you up on that very generous - and awfully tempting - offer...

9:28 PM, March 23, 2006  

Post a Comment

<< Home