The Jenkins Prescription

I didn’t get as many ideas from Steve Jenkins as I had hoped. Zanne Stewart, the former food editor of Gourmet Magazine and one of my favorite people, wrote, “

I’ll be eager to learn what Steve has to say. He’s one of my favorites and, possibly, the most entertaining of all…”

 Me too.

We didn’t have to wait long: Steve wrote that it is obvious what we ought to do:

            “You absolutely MUST offer a half-dozen or so early-harvest monocultivar olive oils. Preferably all in dark bottles so as to protect them from the doubtless harsh shop’s light.

            “Early-harvest monocultivar olive oils are the ones that offer that fabulous adult bitterness and pungency. ‘Fruity’ olive oils (late-harvest) are unworthy of anyone’s attention; they offer no pungency or bitterness, an indication of low polyphenol levels. High polyphenol levels are the raison d’etre of olive oil.

            “I would also offer the best line of fruit preserves you can muster… Jams and olive oils. Nothing else.”

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            But I don’t think that’s right. We have so much shelving and I want to make use of it. Olive oils to be sure. Jam, yes indeed, and we have begun to make our own.

We are also making crackers, croutons, lavash, crisps, and four-packs of our English muffins. Caramels and brittle and soon bags of wonderful shortbread. And now that summer is upon us we are making pickled vegetables.   They too will be on the shelves starting this week.

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And next week finally the huge refrigerated case we imprudently ordered from Italy, the one that arrived not working, will finally be made to work. And then we’ll be able to offer soups and salads and a great diversity of spreads for bread (hummos, pimento cheese, olive tapenade, and the like) all of which I have been thinking about.

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We’ll follow Steve’s advice although I am dubious about Washington’s appetite for monocultivar olive oils.

So then what? I haven’t gotten enough guidance about the uses of our shelving.

Bread Furst is a bakery but I am learning yet again that appetites here for breads and pastry are not great enough to make us prosper so I am groping for the answers to other foods customers might want us to sell.

We don’t have the answers yet.

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10 thoughts on “The Jenkins Prescription

  1. “Bread Furst is a bakery but I am learning yet again that appetites here for breads and pastry are not great enough to make us prosper…”

    Isn’t it still early days to come to that conclusion? I’m not sure that the word is sufficiently out yet.

    I wonder what sorts of breads people “here” are looking for? Personally I’d love to find a replacement for my favorite Marvelous Market bread, their “Pane Bello,” which I thought was the best regularly-available Italian-style bread I’ve had in this country.

    “‘Fruity’ olive oils (late-harvest) are unworthy of anyone’s attention…”

    That’s awfully dogmatic.

      • Thanks, I’ll try the Palladin again – the one I had was very different from the Pane Bello.

        As long as I’m throwing wishes out there: I remember rolls called Rosette from our time in Rome years ago. Fantastic mostly-hollow, crunchy-outsite rolls, great for sandwiches. I’ve seen them referred to online as “popovers” but I wouldn’t really call them that. I’ve never seen them in the US.

  2. Mark, i’m trying to keep you from tying up $! If you listen to me you can do that AND establish the shop as the local authority for the sexiest commodity there is. Evoo and bread are the most felicitous of companions. All that other stuff is just a distraction. Great Bread Furst evoo would create a profit center and an impressive commitment to ‘the best’. The other stuff would be just an errant intrusion. This is not a boutique-y gourmet shop. This is a world-class bakery. Ask yourself: What would lionel poilane do? He would do exactly as i recommend, mark.

    >

  3. Dear Mark,

    Please let me say your bakery is the finest I have seen anywhere in the world. Thank you for giving this bakery to the DC community.

    I find your blog delightful. I don’t read any other blogs. Somehow the adventure of opening your own business chronicled along with these wonderful food ideas, keeps me hungry to read it every month you send.

    A little panic button went off when you said the bread/pastry business was not enough to survive on as a store. My immediate reaction is to give you ideas that might help. So here are my two cents:

    1- Sell pizza. You can make a “2 Amy’s” like dough. I would be happy with just Margarita pizza, but I think other topping options would also be popular. 2-Sell more salad options to accompany pizzas or stand alone. I am a petite person and can’t eat much bread or sugar. Salads would get me into your shop more often. My husband indulges in bread and sugar every day. There would be more for both of us at your place with increased salad options. 3-Gelato may be over the top, but I just returned from Croatia where the marscapone, fig, almond gelato was impossible to resist. 4-Honey from different areas with different tastes might go well with the jams on your shelves 5- Can you sell at the local markets? Your bread options and the quality of your pastries are unique in DC.

    I don’t have anything more to add than these five ideas. I hope you thrive and enjoy the process.

    Your Bread Furst fan,

    Susan

  4. I have to echo what Philippe said in your prior post. It’s been hard (at least for me) to see what types of breakfast pastries are available (and for what price) at the counter and under glass because people in line are blocking the view. When I finally get a clear view, I’m being asked to order, and then I feel like if I linger on my decision I am making others wait behind me. I’d like to easily see the pastries before I get in line (or while I’m in line) so I can see which one (or two) really grabs me that morning.

    I will say that the pastries I’ve had were all very tasty, and the baguettes and challah have been standouts, too.

  5. Steve Jenkins was on to something when he wrote:
    “Jams and olive oils. Nothing else.”

    Keep it simple. The focus should stay on artisanal breads.

    However, it would be nice if you could also sell more honey. The Tuscan honey I purchased on my very first visit to the bakery 6 weeks ago was excellent. It reminded me of the honey I had purchased in Siena, Italy on a visit a few years back. It would be great if you could sell several varieties of honey: lavender, rosemary, sage…If you can’t get it from Tuscany, how about getting it from award-winning honey producers in Croatia? Last summer, I made a stop in the town of Jelsa (on the island of Hvar) and purchased honey and olive oil from a gentleman named Juraj Rubin, who has won several awards in Croatia for his honey. Pictures of his olive trees and beehives are at: http://www.smoki.hr/rubin/Photo/page.html. It was some of the best honey (and olive oil) I’ve ever had.

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