Food-o-File

Austin cannot live on Bread Alone, alone, in this week's "Food-o-File."


Bread News

Recent correspondence from a reader concerned about changes at his favorite local bakery put me on the trail of this week's column. A longtime fan of the brick-oven-baked artisan breads at Schlotzsky's Bread Alone Bakery (218 S. Lamar, 477-5858) wrote to say he was dismayed to find that the company had forsaken its own bread production and was now selling breads from the La Brea Bakery in Los Angeles. This story proved easy to track down, as several local chefs and members of the food media were invited to the Schlotzsky's flagship store a few weeks ago to meet famed Los Angeles artisan bread baker Nancy Silverton, founder of the La Brea Bakery. Silverton was in town to plug her newest book, Nancy Silverton's Sandwich Book (Knopf, $24.95), and to celebrate her company's new association with the homegrown national sandwich chain outfit. Silverton's breads and her sandwiches are remarkable.

This is the second time in the past decade that Schlotzsky's owner John Wooley has entered into ventures with nationally known artisan bakers in an effort to create an upper echelon of bakery-cafes within the Schlotzsky's brand. In the mid-Nineties Schlotzsky's formed a joint venture with Dan Leader, founder of the Bread Alone Bakery in upstate New York, and opened a handful of Schlotzsky's Bread Alone stores, including the flagship training facility here in Austin. The stores were equipped with hand-hewn European brick ovens and featured a line of hearth-baked breads developed by Leader, as well as an elegant line of pastries created by corporate pastry chef Rebecca Rather. Plans were announced to roll out as many as 30 of the upscale bakery/cafes around the country, but years passed and only the original four or five were ever built due to the high costs and vagaries of artisan bread production.

During the intervening years, Nancy Silverton had developed a process whereby her stellar line of La Brea Bakery breads could be partially baked, flash frozen, and shipped to stores ready to thaw, bake, and serve. She now has production facilities in Los Angeles and New Jersey, and her breads are distributed in 32 states. Wooley and his associates discovered Silverton's breads and realized that they'd found the solution to the bread-production cost problem that had stymied their bakery-cafe rollout in its infancy. Starting this month, the Schlotzsky's flagship store features 14 of Silverton's excellent breads and continues to bake at least one of their own original loaves each day, such as Challah and Jalapeño Cheese Bread on Fridays, baguettes on Tuesday, etc. The partnership with Silverton is a smart business move for Schlotzsky's, providing them with a very consistent, high-quality bread product at a much lower labor cost. Plans for the 30 new bakery-cafes are back on the drawing board. We predict that most Bread Alone customers will readily embrace the La Brea breads, just like the customers at Grape Vine Market (the first area store to carry Silverton's breads).

Bocaditos

Join the folks at Asti Trattoria & Wine Bar (43rd & Duval, 451-1218) for a Farm to Table Dinner on Tuesday evening, Dec. 10, at 7pm. The $35-per-person, four-course menu will feature produce from Boggy Creek Farm. Dinner paired with wines will cost $55. Reservations are necessary... Chronicle wine writer Wes Marshall will be busy signing copies of his fast-selling new book, The Wine Roads of Texas, during the upcoming week. He'll be at Rose-Hill Manor near Stonewall on Saturday, Dec. 7, from 2 to 5pm, where they'll be pouring wines from Alamosa Cellars and Pillar Bluff Winery. Look for Wes at Spicewood Vineyards from 1 to 4pm on Sunday, Dec., 8, and at Texas Hills Vineyards, from 2 to 5pm on Dec. 14.

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