After nearly three decades, Bread Alone continues its organic rise.
A passion for yeast, flour and water — and a desire for a healthier lifestyle — inspired Dan Leader, a CIA alum with a resume that included cooking at top Manhattan restaurants, to move his family in 1983 from the Big Apple to the Catskills mountain town of Boiceville.
There he opened Bread Alone Bakery, producing just five types of bread. Today, Bread Alone is a retail bakery and café offering two dozen traditional-style breads, as well as pastries and desserts at three locations: Boiceville (the official bread-baking headquarters), Woodstock and Rhinebeck. [Next summer, Leader intends to open a 26,000-square-foot Bread Alone bakery and café in Lake Katrine.]
French sourdough (levain). Peasant bread. Whole wheat sourdough (miche). Challah. Leader’s breads –made with organic flours and baked in wood-fired brick oven –have artisanal Old World appeal. When the Rhinebeck bakery-cafe added a restaurant dining room extension in 2008, it was a welcome venue to enjoy a full-service breakfast and lunch.
On a recent Sunday, my husband, Christopher, and I arrived at Bread Alone shortly after noon. The dining room, adorned with posters of fresh loaves on its pale yellow walls, was lively and bustling. The vibe is casual and laid back, but the service is attentive. Bread Alone attracts a diverse crowd, from the woman (70 years young) who nibbled on croissants and coffee while thumbing through the New York Times to a large group of 20somethings digging into brunch with abandon.
The widespread appeal of Bread Alone is food that is simple, wholesome, thoughtfully sourced — and affordable. Not everything is organic or local, only where it counts: eggs from Feather Ridge Farm, dairy products in pastries from Boice Bros. Dairy and Hudson Valley Fresh, local fruits in season, organic flours ground by regional millers.
The coffee ($2.50) and espresso ($2.25), which my husband and I ordered straightaway, is a highlight. The roaster is Counter Culture Coffee, a small, sustainable-minded outfit based in Durham, N.C., specializing in single-origin beans sourced from growers worldwide.
You could ostensibly create your own a la carte breakfast with pastries — muffins, croissants, Danishes ($2.75 to $3.25) — or sides, like eggs, morning meats and potatoes ($2 to $4.25). But we like what’s offered. Brisk fall days trigger cravings for classic breakfast comfort foods, and we debated whether to get brioche French toast ($9), whole-grain pancakes ($8.50), or the house-made multi-grain oatmeal ($5.75), all served with organic Spruceton Valley maple syrup.
In the end, we opted for eggs, in large part because we’re fans of Feather Ridge Farm. I ordered a bacon and mushroom omelet with Sprout Creek Farm Bogart cheese (an aged, semi-firm raw cow’s milk cheese). “Would you mind substituting mixed greens for my morning potatoes?” I asked our server Kathy. “Sure, no problem, we’re flexible here,” she said. My omelet arrived, fluffy yellow and cooked just right, with greens and still-warm organic sourdough toast already buttered. Simple and delicious.
Christopher had the huevos rancheros ($9.50): two sunnyside eggs, garnished with salsa verde and a light scatter of chopped red onion, tomato, cilantro and queso fresco, served up on two lightly crisped tortillas on a bed of white bean mash. Plus, a side of morning potatoes. The effect was both attractive and tasty. And the combination of textures and flavors — soft, savory crispy, piquant and starchy — appealed to my husband, whose silence during breakfast told all.
Lunch doesn’t disappoint either. Another day found us contemplating tartines, sandwiches, pressed sandwiches and salads. Vegan and vegetarian-friendly options include salads, of course, as well as roasted vegetables and arugula ($8), or hummus ($8), both on organic 9-mixed grain; or a lentil burger ($9) or wild rice burger ($8.50) on a roll.
One of my go-to favorites is the baby spinach salad, a heap of greens stacked with meaty-tasting slices of Portobello mushroom and thinly shaved Grana Padano cheese with a balsamic vinaigrette ($6.50). Another is the poached salmon and avocado tartine on grilled whole wheat sourdough, served with crème fraiche ($10): it’s pretty and delicious.
In a rare instance of craving the exact same thing, Christopher and I both ordered the smoked turkey club: thin slices of turkey breast, layered with apple wood smoked bacon, lettuce and tomato jam between two thick slices of organic whole wheat sourdough slathered with avocado mayonnaise ($9).
If only school lunches could serve up a basic sandwich this good, every kid would be cleaning their plate. (We did!).
45 East Market Street
Café (bakery counter): Daily, 7am-6pm
Dining Room: Mon.-Fri., 8am-3pm; Sat.-Sun., 8am-4pm