Best Bread: Celebrate the yeast feast

bread.jpgIt’s been said that there’s something magical in the air around San Francisco that makes for our special sourdough. But it’s not just sourdough. The natural yeasts that have wisely settled in the North Bay make for truly great artisan bread, something that Bread Father Peter Reinhart of Brother Juniper’s knew well. The legendary baker who launched his bread business in Sonoma County (and has since moved onto national fame), set the stage for the dense, chewy, hearth and brick-baked breads that continue to grace our tables.

Throughout the county (and beyond), all you need to do is follow your nose early in the morning to find a fresh-baked loaf of Italian ciabatta, hearty wheat, French baguettes, Scandinavian smorrebrod and of course, our native sourdough, warm and ready to eat.

Wild Flour Bread
Make the pilgrimage to this funky Freestone bakery that’s become a must-stop for the bicyclists and the beach-bound. Follow your nose to where weekenders congregate around a communal table with steaming plates of sticky buns and fruit-studded scones or chase children through the garden. Don’t leave without tucking away a dense, seeded boule and an extra fougasse stuffed with savory cheese and veggies straight from the brick oven. There’s a catch, however: The bakery is only open Friday through Monday, they don’t take credit cards and speed isn’t a virtue here, so sometimes there’s a wait. Which only heightens the pleasure of finally getting that first bite. 140 Bohemian Hwy, Freestone, (707) 874-2938.

Full Circle Baking
The secret to this Penngrove bakery’s amazing bread is the flour. Owner Keith Giusto uses organic grains milled to his specifications for his coveted loaves, along with a nearly 20-year-old Zinfandel-grape starter. Sourdough is the bakery’s trademark, though fans also go nuts for their sprouted wheat. 10151 Main, Penngrove, (707) 794-9445 and at Santa Rosa farm markets.


wildflour.jpgDella Fattoria
Man cannot live on bread alone. But you know, add a little cheese, some crème fraiche, maybe a slice or two of jambon, and a person could survive in quasi-Parisian bliss for, gosh, days. Petaluma’s cozy Euro-style Della Fattoria Cafe is the best spot for quaffing espresso with thick slices of Meyer lemon rosemary campagne, baguettes and ciabatta served in top Bay Area restaurants. 141 Petaluma Boulevard N., Petaluma, (707) 763-0161.

Costeaux French Bakery
Healdsburg’s original boulangerie recently relocated its ovens down the street, which means no more sweet smell of baking bread — but a lot more room to eat it. The bakery has been transformed into a sprawling sit-down cafe all the better to pour over a morning coffee walnut sourdough baguette. Lunchtime’s sweet-savory Monte Cristo (turkey, ham and Jarlsberg cheese on cinnamon raisin bread) is a classic.417 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg, (707) 433-1913.

Bennett Valley Baking
A high-end grocery staple, Bennett Valley Bread and Pastry are the masters of taste-bud busting breads including Garlic Jack, Kalamata Olive, and their award-winning Walnut Gorganzola. Available at G&G Market and Pacific Market.

Chloe’s Café
Expect serious French breads, breakfast pastries and desserts from this secret culinary hideout. Located in a medical office park, Chloe’s isn’t easy to find, but Marc, Alain and Renee Pisan consistently create some of the best cafe cuisine in the North Bay. Alain mans the patisserie, baking up airy croissants, crispy palmiers, ganache pastry and of course, baguettes each day. 3883 Airway drive Suite 145, Santa Rosa, (707) 528-3095.

Village Bakery
A touch of Scandinavia in Wine Country, including the acquired taste of dark rye smørrebrød, along with house made sourdoughs and baguettes. While you’re there, pick up a triple berry pie as well — they’re the best in Sonoma. 1445 Town and Country Dr., Santa Rosa, (707) 527-7654.

Downtown Bakery and Creamery
Healdsburgers know this is the best breakfast spot in town. Pull up a spot on the bench outside, sip your latte and munch on a pizzetta while the rest of Wine Country wakes up around you. 308 A Center Street, Healdsburg, (707) 431-2719.

Restaurants with in-house bakeries
The gold standard for bread in Wine Country Wine Country’s two toniest restaurants, Healdsburg’s Cyrus and Yountville’s French Laundry, both have their own bread bakers. Sadly, Cyrus is not offering a retail outlet for their carefully crafted breads yet, though The French Laundry’s Bouchon Bakery has everything from French baguettes to their signature shortbread available without a reservation. 6528 Washington Street, Yountville, (707) 944-2253.

Eat their homework
My secret source for tasting morning pastries and bread is the Santa Rosa Junior College Cafe and Bakery. The fun part is never really knowing what you’ll get — a rustic wheat boule on day, olive oily foccaccia the next. Re-opens June 24. Corner of 7th and B Streets in downtown Santa Rosa, (707) 576-0279

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Author: biteclub

Food Dining and Restaurants in Sonoma County and beyond, BiteClubEats.com is Wine Country dining with Drive-Thru Sensibility.

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23 Comments

  1. I wish there was a solo nice bakery in rohnert park. Olivers is great but I do miss my childhood days of going into a bakery that has everything from donuts, cakes, pies, bread, rollls, pastries, etc.

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  3. Just writing in to second two votes:
    For boutique bakery, Nightengale in Forestville – hands down!
    For healthy, yummy ORGANIC nutrition every single day – Sonoma County’s own Alvarado St. Bakery. Now in Petaluma – call to see what’s on their shelves that day at bargain prices! (707-283-0300) Side note – this company is worker owned and was featured recently in “Capitalism – a Love Story” as an alternative to classic capitalistic business models….

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  4. Full Circle Bakery is now at the Petaluma Wednesday Night Farmers market. My Brother and I have a BBQ booth at the market and recently started to use The full Circle sweet french baguette for our pulled pork and brisket sandwich WOW!!! This is bread is fantastic, It’s made with sour starter and only some yeast, So it tastes more sour than most “sour dough” Soft, so soft and and squish’s down on the meat but holds together all the way to the end. Amazing Bread, People commented on the bread the first night we used it. Thank you Full Circle for your Great Bread!!!

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  5. My Brother and I do a BBQ booth at the petaluma Farmers market. Recently we started to use Full Circle Sweet french for our pulled pork and brisket sandwich WOW!!! This bread is fantastic. It’s called sweet but really has more sour taste than most ” sour ” breads and soft, so soft but holds together to the last bite. Many people commented about how good the Bread was on the first day we used it. Thank you Full Circle for your great bread.

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  6. Doesn’t anyone come out to west county and go to Raymond’s Bakery on Cazadero Hwy ?-they have the best baguette, chocolate cupcakes, fresh fruit fougasse,-every fri. night is pizza nigt-it is the best pizza in the county-(beer and wine are available_

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  7. Gotta give some props to Freestone Bakery. That place is a mecca. Most delicious bread I’ve ever had. Live in LA now and everytime I’m up I get $40 and put it in the freezer. Not as delish as fresh but it does the trick. The sticky bun never makes it back though, cant resist it enough.

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  8. Not sure about what Chloe’s uses, but La Brea is really fabulous bread. I get it at Olivers market… the have a Cafe’ in Disneyland too and the french toast made from their bread is amazing!

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  9. not sure about what Chloe’s uses, but La brea is really fabulous bread. I get it at olivers market… the have a Cafe’ in Disneyland too and the french toast made from thier bread is amazing!

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  10. I LOVE Chloe’s and their sandwiches are the best, as well as the fresh, crispy baguettes they are made on – but I THINK that the owner told me that they purchase their dough from La Brea bakery. If it IS La Brea bread, then that bread can also be had at other places. If I’m wrong about that and Cloe’s makes their bread from scratch, I’m even more sad that they close early on Friday’s now.

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  11. Alvarado Street Bakery out of Petaluma! Can’t beat the sprouted wheat.

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  12. “Any suggestions for where I could find some good “rustic italian” style sandwich rolls? I can’t seem to find them anywhere. You can order a sandwich on this kind of roll at Safeway, but they don’t sell them otherwise. I’d rather get them from a bakery anyway.”
    We like the Ciabatta rolls at Downtown Creamery in Healdsburg. They hold up great for burgers, BLT’s, etc. We also love Nightingale Bakery in Forestville – awesome bread and really nice people!

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  13. What ever happened to the Santa Rosa Bread Company? Last I knew there were located by Montgomery HS in Santa Rosa. Loved their Rye-Onion–Dill & Cherry Walnut.

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  14. Any suggestions for where I could find some good “rustic italian” style sandwich rolls? I can’t seem to find them anywhere. You can order a sandwich on this kind of roll at Safeway, but they don’t sell them otherwise. I’d rather get them from a bakery anyway.

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  15. Heather – Your list is darn near PERFECT! And one of the reasons we love living in SoCo. Della Fattoria’s Meyer Lemon Bread is THE BEST! Wild Flour? Are we the only people who take friends and family there when visiting from out of town? We also go there for holidays like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day not to mention our birthdays? The flatbread (seeded Moroccan?) they only make in summer is alone worth the trip. Anyone tasted their new sticky apricot bun? Amazing. The Ginger Biscotti is a winner too!

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  16. Nightingale Bakery in Forestville is the real deal.

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  17. when in the napa valley – check out model bakery (st. helena) & bouchon bakery (yountville) prices are not bad & the breads are fantastic!!

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  18. nightingale bakery baguette is sonoma best by far

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  19. i especially like the classic white…the way it forms a paste and sticks to the roof of my mouth.
    also, the chicks who shop at wonder thrift are hot–a whole lotta woman, if you know what i mean. ain’t nothing like 240 lbs of bread dough stuffed into walmart stretch pants.

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  20. I like the Wonder Bread Thrift Store on Sebastopol Road.

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  21. the new Nightingale Bakery in Forestville has the best French baguette (among other breads) I have had in a long time. I think they are only open Thursday through Saturday at the moment.

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  22. Good to see the SRJC bakery getting some well deserved love :)

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  23. there’s also the new nightingale bakery in downtown forestville. her hours are limited, but so worth it to get her goods. her seeded baguette is amazing.

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