Please Don’t Hate Our Food

Last week we had a joint meeting of the apprentices and staff.

“Staff,” you might ask?  We are a couple of months away from opening but we do have staff.   Not yet on payroll, still in their current jobs – but committed to coming to Bread Furst.

With all that is happening with permits and construction, with the leaky roof and wall, I haven’t forgotten – none of us has – that the purpose of all this is to be there everyday with good breads, desserts, and foods for you.  It does seem a little odd, therefore, that I have written about architects and the D.C. government, airplane trips to buy ovens, and demolition of the space, but have not written about food.

We talked about that the other day.

Our discussion was led by Maiya Lay.  She is one of the apprentices and in real life is sous chef of Doi Moi, the new and popular Southeast Asian restaurant on Fourteen Street, the latest production of Mark Kuller who earlier opened Proof and Estadio.  Maiya’s ambition, her hope, is to open sometime a Cambodian restaurant or food store.

Maiy

She’s very young and I am not; and I am aware all the time that as I am old now, this will be my final business.  So I am immersed in menu development as I want even more than in the past to offer breads, foods, and pastries that I love.

Maiya is drawn to southeast Asian flavors, of course, and Michael, another of the apprentices, is half Moroccan; Michelle is Korean; Violeta is Argentinian.  So all brought to the discussion some of the cultural richness that we’d like to have in the foods we offer to you.

Of course, we’ll make croissants and Danish for breakfast, but I want to offer some foods a bit more out of the mainstream like egg sandwiches with vegetables, a non-sweet coffee cake, some porridges with savory additions.

Don’t be alarmed.  We are going to make scones and donuts too.

Anyway, we talked that day about the breads we will make and the pastries.  We talked about spreads for bread.   We ruminated about soups, sandwiches and salads for lunch and dinner foods for take-away.

We think our new neighbors will stop by in the morning as you walk to the Van Ness Metro stop.  Indeed, as we have 20 parking spaces off the alley in the rear of the store and think some auto commuters will stop by too.

Everyone except me thinks you will come for lunch too, and so we talked about soups, salads, and sandwiches.   Peanut soup.  Minted pea soup.   A chicken and chopped liver sandwich.  A salad of bulgur wheat, dates, almonds, olives, fennel.

I am determined to offer breads, desserts, and foods with character.  I really dislike bland food.

It’s a tradeoff.  We are going to make foods that you from time to time won’t care for.  That’s the way it is with foods of character.

I just don’t know how else to be in the food business.  If I try to imagine foods my customers will like, I get lost.  If I make foods that I like, I can be proud of them and learn what my customers like.

I am particularly committed to cooking foods with character for take-out in the evening.  I never buy foods offered by markets to customers who want prepared foods for their dinners at home. (How many potato wedges can a man eat?)

Of course, we discussed desserts and other sweets, our ice cream and chocolates and our soda fountain.

A soda fountain?  A little odd, perhaps, to put into a bakery.  But what a wonderful treat for the neighborhood.

Finally, the breads – whole grains, ancient grains, baguettes baked every four hours, Palladin’s bread that I have made for 25 years ever since Jean Louis invited me to make a special bread for him.

We’ve launched into recipe testing and that will continue for the duration.  As we are starting with soups, I made a large pot of chicken stock and one of vegetable stock so that staff and apprentices have stocks for testing their recipes.

Does all this sound like fun?  It really is especially since all the rest of my time is given to getting a permit to build, waiting for Pepco to help us with our electrical upgrades, and all the other vital tasks of construction.

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20 thoughts on “Please Don’t Hate Our Food

  1. Mark,
    Make no mistake. Van Ness is a food desert at lunch time. We have Subway, the Italian Pizza Kitchen, Potbelly, and Epicurean. I have had food poisoning at Italian Pizza Kitchen and several people in my office got food poisoning from Epicurean. Things brightened a bit when Pho14 opened.

    WAMU recently moved into the hood and the 75 people in my office pray for food trucks to grace us with their presence. I believe you will have a very nice lunch business. Looking forward to it!!!

  2. as a former seattle/san francisco/paris resident & bread lover, i can’t tell you how much i am looking forward to your breads! your food ideas sound wonderful. if you ever need an outside taster, etc. let me know. i have recently retired & have time to help!

  3. Mark,

    Your latest blog post is enticing and I wholeheartedly support your interest in providing foods that YOU like to eat and that reflect the varied interests of your staff. And believe me, I will be ecstatic just to have quality baguettes available on a daily basis. Obviously a bakery can’t be all things to all people. But since you have raised the topic of other ‘foods’ I have a couple of questions. What, if anything, do you plan to do with coffee? Espresso, cappuccino to go along with those morning pastries (I understand your indoor seating will be limited)? And does your taste include much in the way of strictly vegetarian fare? Regardless, I eagerly await your opening this spring!

  4. What a wonderfully appetizing report Mark. It offers such a hopeful vision, especially for someone destined eventually for a return to DC, tho for now wintering on Cape Cod, where nearly every eatery is shut tight against the ice and snow till Spring, save Dunkin Donuts.

  5. Mark,
    I know that you would be wise not to offer the soup I suggest (I’m sure you remember my suggestion to offer borscht at Breadline), but I’d love to try mulligatawny at your place. Can’t wait to visit; wish you were in Penn Quarter.

  6. Hi Mark,
    Glad to hear you’ll be back doing what you do so well. Fred and I (the two oversized black men) who used to frequent the Breadline for breakfast, lunch and anytime we had time off from our jobs are really looking forward to your opening. Fred was the photographer from Johnson Publications and I was the lawyer from the FDIC. We’re no longer in downtown DC but when you open your new place we’ll make a point of indulging in your peanut soup and lentil salad.
    Wishing you the best,
    Chris

  7. I live a block away from Bread Furst and eagerly await its opening. I always liked the cheese and the olive breads at MM and am looking forward to the whole and ancient grains breads. Maybe there will be a loaf of Spelt on the shelf. The bulgar salad sounds really good. I was wondering if being next to the car wash would create some problems for construction. Best wishes for great success.

    • Thank you very much. We will do an olive loaf and certainly we will use a lot of spelt, einkorn, and kamut, older varieties of wheat that haven’t been tampered with.

      As for problems from the carwash, we did an elaborate waterproofing of that wall with a drainage system underneath it to protect us from the leakage that apparently has been going on for a long time.

      Mark

  8. Mark, Thanks for the reply. This evening, I read the article you wrote related to the assassination of President Kennedy. That was serious writing and captured the time in a way for many ages of readers to learn and understand what happened that day and the days that followed from a very personal perspective. Moving to a different topic, I read with enthusiasm a suggestion for offering Kouign Amman. I discovered KA in Key West, Florida at a pastry shop/cafe on Duval St called Le Croissant Francais about 13 years ago. The shop is still there and you have to arrive early to purchase the KA. I tried to make it at home once, but it was an utter failure. I don’t think I had the right flour and have often thought of buying flour from King Arthur Flour to try again, but I could never decide which flour to buy, Artisan Bread flour, unbleached or organic high gluten flour, or unbleached pastry flour? If it’s made at BreadFurst, I won’t have to try again, but it would be great to know from an expert which kind of flour is used to make the most amazing concoction of butter, sugar, yeast, and flour.

  9. Mark, you will probably not remember this, but we spoke once at G Street Food (what a great concept, by the way) about Farinata, the chickpea flour delicacy from Genoa (also known as Soca in Southern France). It is delicious, and I hope you can introduce it to the neighborhood and the city. Your recipe was authentic and very well executed (and no, you don’t need to add anything on top – it’s great just by itself..) And it may not be very well known over here but I can guarantee that you would have at least one customer… 😉

  10. Mark,
    I know just what you mean about providing “foods with character.” It seems to be a permanent struggle in the food business — and I am only talking about our experience with the very beginning of food: growing it and selling it. In fact, we find over and over that people have a very wide band of desire for comfort foods and a narrow capacity for the interesting and new stuff. But we don’t give up on widening the definition of comfort food. And neither do you. We are glad you are back in the business.

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