I used to dine 2~3 times a week at an Italian restaurant in the San Francisco bay area called Piacere. A very nice Kurd man who quickly became a good friend ran it. I worked nearby at a lucrative consulting position with a local high tech firm. The bread his place was outstanding and so was their garlic-basil and balsamic dip that was redolent with the perfume of fresh cold-pressed unfiltered green olive oil. After several years, much to my surprise, the restaurant started making their own mediocre focaccia and ditched their splendid garlic-basil and balsamic dip. As it turned out, the bread and dip was SO OUTSTANDING, patrons would fill up on it. Dessert sales went up 23% after the stopped offering the great bread, and frankly, as good as the desserts were; I sure missed the bread and dip.
Moving out of the Bay area to North Carolina was a real experience. French and Italian breads here are hardly represented in the super market. Softer breads, cornbreads and biscuits are more readily available. For the baker, artisanal flour made from hard spring and winter wheats that characterize chewy European and Italian loaves is scarce as hens’ teeth. The Old Red Mill on Highway 68 does turn out decent hi-gluten flour that makes a loaf of French bread but it lacks the chew of Italian flour.
I am avidly looking at the North Carolina Organic BreadFlour Project with the hopes that great flour and breads flourish here as well as they have elsewhere in the nation. On their blog spot, I read of the Annual Asheville Bread Festival where several of the recent competitions have also been instructors at the San Francisco Baking Institute and continue to be highly respected teachers, consultants, and writers. Asheville, NC even looks like it grew up in San Francisco.
Is Making Bread at Home Hard?