Not Just Bread at Bread Alone Café & Restaurant
By Kathryn Matthews
For over a decade, discerning carb lovers have been able to get their fix of artisan breads, from French sourdough (levain) and whole wheat sourdough (miche) to baguettes, challah and peasant bread—all made with organic flours—at Bread Alone Bakery in Rhinebeck village. Pastries, too, like croissants, danishes, muffins and scones ($2.75-$3), made fresh daily, arrive from the main Boiceville bakery across the river.
Named one of the Top 10 Bakers in America by Dessert Professional last fall (2010), Daniel Leader, a certified organic baker, is the founder of Bread Alone. His newest book Simply Great Breads (Taunton Press, 2011), published in March, has also received glowing reviews.
Leader has come a long way since opening his first Catskills bakery in 1983, which featured just five types of bread. Today, the bakery produces two dozen traditional-style breads, as well as pastries and desserts. Bread Alone, which Leader co-owns with his wife Sharon Burns-Leader, now has three locations: Boiceville, its home base; Woodstock; and Rhinebeck. It is also a fixture at farmers’ markets throughout the Hudson Valley and in New York City.
Three years ago, Bread Alone in Rhinebeck expanded its bakery café, adding a restaurant-dining room in the back, with courtyard seating in clement weather.
On a recent Sunday, my husband and I arrived just before noon. The main dining room, a sunlit space with cheery tangerine walls, adorned with posters of loaves of bread, was bustling. Happily, we snagged the last window side table.
Describing itself as “European-style café,” Bread Alone gets basics, like eggs, soups, salads and sandwiches, right. Very right.
For starters, there’s the coffee. Bread Alone now partners with Counter Culture Coffee, a small Durham, N.C.-based, sustainable-minded roaster that specializes in single-origin beans (beans grown on a single farm), sourced from growers worldwide. We proclaimed the drip-brewed house coffee ($2) and my single shot of espresso ($1.75) pleasantly “fruity”.
For breakfast, you can start with a multigrain house-made oatmeal of rolled oats, flaxseed and dried fruit cooked with fresh-squeezed orange juice ($5.75). Other classic favorites get a whole-grain twist, such as the house-made, whole-grain granola ($4.25) or whole-grain pancakes ($7.50).
My husband debated among a nice selection of egg-themed dishes—the eggs are local, from Featherridge Farms. These include a Huevos Benedicto, two poached eggs with saffron hollandaise on a corn muffin ($9), and a rich-sounding “Country Scramble” of three eggs, smoked ham, scallions and Old Chatham camembert ($9). He finally settled on the “Bread Alone Omelet” ($8.50). When it arrived, accompanied by roasted potatoes and a four-slice stack of French sourdough toast, we admired its bright yellow (thanks to the local eggs), compact form, dotted with pretty green spots that oozed its delicious spinach and goat cheese filling once pierced with a fork.
More in a lunch frame of mind, I contemplated the salads, paninis, tartines and sandwiches. I’d heard good things about the salads ($4 to $6), so I started with one. Since I’ve had “salads” that were practically thimble-sized, I was delighted with what arrived: grilled slices of Portobello mushroom on a generous mound of organic mixed greens, tossed in balsamic vinaigrette and garnished with thin shavings of parmigiano reggiano ($6). The still warm mushrooms gave meaty heft to the fresh-tasting, delicate greens, dressed in a tasty vinaigrette that was neither too acidic or too salty.
Though the smoked turkey club ($9) with applewood bacon, avocado and greens on organic whole wheat sourdough is a failsafe choice, I nearly ordered the roast beef and cheddar sandwich, with horseradish crème fraiche and romaine, on organic mixed grain bread ($9). At the last minute, I switched to an open-faced tartine. I had enjoyed the poached salmon tartine ($10) before here, so I could not resist the Portobello mushroom tartine ($8). Yes, it was a double dose of Portobello in the same meal, but what a delicious revelation. A long, thin slice of grilled organic whole wheat sourdough, smeared with a thin layer of crumbled goat cheese and topped with grilled Portobello mushroom and caramelized onions, it was crowned with a lovely spray of micro greens. The grilled bread, still slightly crispy, had soaked up the juices of the mushrooms and onions. Savory, with a touch of sweetness—a killer tartine.
We found the service to be friendly and obliging: I asked a lot of questions; all were answered, without attitude. Note to vegetarians: there are soymilk, grilled tofu and a vegan lentil burger options. While not cutting edge or fancy, Bread Alone offers pleasing—and reasonably priced—bread-centric fare that satisfies.
Bread Alone Bakery
45 East Market Street
Café (bakery counter): Open daily, 7a.m. - 6 p.m.
Dining Room: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. - 3 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday: 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.