You see before you a loaf of bread which causes me to hope that a better day has come for bread in Pittsburgh. You may have heard me moaning about the underbaked pallor of even the best breads on offer here in town. You may have also heard me praise some rolls I had at the Cafe at the Frick, which I was told came from a place called "Mediterra", or something to that effect.
I recognized the name on the bag, and brought some home to try. This "country bread" is 50% darker than anything I've seen locally to date. It is not quite dark enough for my personal taste, but a look at the informative bag indicates that their "signature loaf", called "Mt. Athos Firebread" is very dark, better the second day, and keeps for a week. Sounds like my kind of bread. Sadly, this great sounding item was not among the selections available at the Smallman Street Deli today.
This deli, newly relocated to Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill, but keeping its Strip district name, looks like it may be promising as well. It just opened, and I haven't tried it yet, except to look around, and buy the bread. It certainly seems like my neighborhood, which has a large Jewish population, deserves a proper deli, which it has arguably not had for many years. I intend to return when its been open for a few weeks and check it out.
In any event, my loaf of "country bread" is really delicious. Quite sour, but not overboard, nice complex wheaty flavors. The texture is closer grained, with smaller holes than my favorite, more open-holed rubbery style, but this may help it last, and make for nice toast and sandwiches. They suggest that it may be frozen, and cooked for for 20 minutes at 350, after defrosting or to freshen it. I'm going to freeze half, and check that out, but I'm wary. Usually I'd rather eat bread that's a little stale, in preference to freezing it. The other half of my test loaf is going cut side down on the breadboard, and we'll see how it lasts.
This bakery seems to be located in the South Hills, outside of my reasonable bus trip range, but also sells through retailers in the city. I'm going to see about requesting that one of them stock the Mt. Athos loaves. It is clear to me that these people are capable of producing better bread than I can manage at home. That's what I've been hoping for.
Addendum of woe: I returned to the new deli today (9/28) for some more good bread, and it was nowhere to be found. I asked the person in charge when they were getting more in, and he said they probably weren't getting it again, because it didn't sell well! After being open 1 week! Is this what you have to do with a great product? Develop a market in one week- with no advertising- or you're out? No wonder everyone keeps making the same old mediocre things over and over again, with only slight variations.
I told him that I had come especially for the bread, and he said, "Oh, well," and pointed me to some rubbery mass market rye in a plastic bag. The Mediterra website names a number of other retail outlets, but none are in my neighborhood. My hopes are dashed for now, I guess. Rats.