Dear Mr. Restaurateur: The Details Count!
I live and dine in the San Francisco Bay Area, the birthplace of artisan bread in America.
When Alice Waters started her revolution in the seventies, she grabbed a local baker and dragged him with her. The resulting company, Acme Bakery, still makes some of the best bread in Northern Cal, if not the country. These days, you can even buy their chewy baguettes and pain au levain at Costco. Perhaps I’m a bread snob, having been spoiled by the riches of living within a square mile of Tartine, Arizmendi, and Noe Valley Bakery, but my point is that this is a bread-loving place. As a result, you don’t have to stumble too far to find a world-class loaf.
So how, then, do I forgive fine restaurants in the area that serve shitty bread? There is simply no excuse! Just last night I ate at a self-proclaimed “interpretive Italian and seasonally-inspired” Roman restaurant. The hospitality was warm from the minute I walked in the door and was greeted by the silver-haired owner.
The menu read like food porn (click here to see my blog post on sex + food), the atmosphere was authentically rustic, the air appropriately stinky from the aging wheels of Italian cheese downstairs. I didn’t love my entrée, but I blame myself for ordering wrong. I should have known a pasta dish with tuna, pancetta, and mushrooms would be a mess. But the single most disappointing thing was the room temperature, ordinary bread. No sourness. No warm interior. No seeds. No flavor. I wanted to grab the owner by the mane and scream: heat the bread! Spend another dollar a loaf! Put some love into it.
If I’m going to spend $27 dollars on an entrée I want special bread to make the price seem worthwhile. And if you don’t value bread enough to make your bread service special, don’t serve it. Or charge me for it. I’d rather pay for an amazing bread basked than be disappointed in a lame giveaway.