Raves for OctoberFeast’s dense multi-grain bread.
Ethnic Treat: Loafing Around
Mention “European bread” or “the breads of Europe,” and what comes to mind?
The fluffy stuff. The stretchy stuff. The soft stuff. The spongey stuff. Those golden-crusted rounds, braids, bars, and baguettes that, torn asunder, yield pillowy white poufs perforated with countless air pockets, all of them exhaling the sunny, floury perfumes that make you think of Paris, say. Or Rome, or Mykonos.
But another kind of bread was born in the ovens Over There. It bespeaks an ancient heritage predating fancy city stuff such as de-germed, de-branned wheat, and sifted flour. Such bread—heavy, hearty, and stalwartly sour—evokes the fairy-tale forest hut, the ancient hearth, the heavy slice as not just an airy snack or something on the side to soak up soup or sauce but sustenance.
Such bread enjoys pride of place at OctoberFeast, located midway down the downtown Berkeley block that I have dubbed Gourmet Gulch because it also includes Slow, Chocolatier Blue, and the Brazil Cafe. Munich-born proprietor Dieter Heise, who also sells his baked goods at various local farmers markets, drew upon his Teutonic roots and adapted centuries-old traditional recipes to produce the protein-packed multi-grain loaf that is this bakery’s bestseller. Crafted mainly of oats, flaxseeds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds, this compact brick weighs well over a pound and is (for many, mercifully) wheat-free. Heise recommends slicing it thinly—no more than half an inch high—and topping the slices with meat, cheese, seafood, and/or pickles for Danish-style smorrebrod.
OctoberFeast, 1954 University Ave., Berkeley, 510-207-2320. www.octoberfeast.com.