Friday, 25 January 2013

EAT bread

A food obsession confession. When I was deciding to head to New York from Sydney, one thing that crossed my mind was that there would be no Bourke St Bakery in New York. Gone would be my thrice (at least) weekly visits to buy a salty loaf of potato and rosemary sourdough, or a feathery muffin of sweet pear and rhubarb.

So, after a few weeks of being here, when the romanticism of the bagel had worn off, the itch for good bread was becoming really bad. And then, out of nowhere, SCRATCHbread (1069 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn) appeared into my life. I power-walked past this hole in the wall (literally) one day and noticed a long line trailing out onto the snow-filled street. So, the next day I returned, belly ready. A blackboard menu rattles off the daily items but my eyes bulged at a wall awash with caramel-coloured housemade bread. I went in for The Mutt, a dark loaf that hits the mark of rye, wholewheat and foccacia all in one and is stuffed full of roasted, fragrant caraway seeds and charged with black pepper. The flavours are robust and genuine, and the bread dense with a bit of chew, shrouded by a perfect thin crust. The BourbonWheat, a grainy sprouted spelt loaf packed with bourbon soaked currants, raisins and nuts was the first time in a long time I've felt good about having something with bourbon in it.

The bread is not the only selling point for this little Bed-Stuy gem. The stuffed hollow, a delicious puffy charred wholemeal pita, overflowing with baba ganoush, avocado, roast potato, crisp fresh kale, nutty barley and a stinging blast of jalapeno salsa, had my eyes wild, searching for acknowledgement amongst the other patrons that this was one of the best things they'd ever eaten. If you're feeling indulgent, opt for the hot cheese, the same pita stuffed full of bubbling, melted wood roasted cheese curd, pickles and kale pesto. On the weekends, the Ben, a flaky golden jalapeno muffin topped with a quivering white plume of poached egg and draped in the pungent stinky cheese sauce is naughty but so nice.  Thick hunks of dangerously addictive pizza bread have daily changing toppings like silky hand-pulled mozzarella with sweet red tomatoes and basil.

There are no bells and whistles here - there's nowhere to sit, you take your food and loiter on the street, awkwardly managing coffee in one hand, food in the other, and definitely some kind of sauce dribbling down your arm. I've got no problem with that anywhere, but especially when it's this good. The coffee is from the excellent Stumptown and there's a host of alluring sweet options that I haven't even gotten to yet. At the end of the day, it's just serious quality food, made with skill, served with a smile and eaten with greedy joy. So when your bread itch gets really bad, just scratch it in Bed-Stuy.

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