Asked the ridiculous “last meal” question that every famous, and not so famous, food person must endure, Jacques Pepin came up with a good answer: “the best bread with the best butter.” The 80-something Pepin, a true cultural hero, has made a career out of teaching French technique on public television and publishing companion books while charming the pants off his audience, which he was doing during a sold out talk with Daniel Patterson of Coi at a City Arts & Lectures event last week.
His bread remark made me hungry for bread, so when fortuitously I happened to be walking by Tartine Bakery at 5 p.m. last Saturday, I attempted to get my hands on a loaf. Tartine’s country bread has developed into something magnificent over the years that baker Chad Robertson has been working on it. He started out baking bread in a primitive wood fired oven in Pt. Reyes Station, but when he and his pastry chef/wife Elisabeth Prueitt opened Tartine in the city, he switched to a gas masonry oven. At first, I thought his bread was too sticky inside, better eaten the second day. Now after ten years of baking in the City, his bread has achieved an ethereal texture, with a thin, crunchy, craggy, dark crust and a soft, elastic, hole riddled interior with a complex, sweet, if fermented, flavor.
This bread is best appreciated by itself–not in a sandwich–with unsalted fresh butter and sea salt. I was ravenous for it that day and would have ripped off hunks to eat naked, except that a line stretched out Tartine’s door on that sunny Saturday.
You should know that the bread is available for sale at 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, and I have actually scored a loaf then without much trouble. You can order a bread for pick up no less than three days in advance by phone, pay for it with a credit card, and go right to the counter to pick it up–without waiting in line.
600 Guerrero, San Francisco 415 487-6200