It’s OK to fill up on the bread after a trip to Wave Hill
About a year ago, I was in Texas visiting a friend. He is a barbecue fanatic and spends umpteen hours poking at various cuts of meat on his home smoker. The shortest time I have ever seen him make barbecue was eight hours when he stared down a mess of ribs.
As we chatted he got more and more enthused about a place that served “the best brisket you have ever eaten.” I got excited, too, and we jumped in his car. After a day and a half, we were still rather far from our destination. In Texas, when they tell you something is close, don’t believe it.
There are many reasons to love Connecticut, but few people brag about how small it is. Granted, compared to Rhode Island we are practically sprawled out, but you can travel our state end to end, top to bottom in half a day. On a national map it’s laughable, the rhomboid-shaped squished thing near the Atlantic Ocean.
Most people here love to go on destination drives in the summer or in the fall, but let me put in a good word for being adventurous in deep winter or “mud season.”
In deep winter our state stands still, sometimes literally frozen. There is no vacation bustle or holiday traffic clogging the roads. I often feel like I have the whole state to myself.
And something interesting also happens to me this time of year. My culinary pleasures are easily satiated. I don’t need a deluxe shore dinner or an enormous wood oven pizza to be happy.
What I crave is to get in my car and find a place that makes real hot chocolate with a cloud of whipped cream on top. Then with one hand on the wheel and one on my travel mug I cruise along in search of the simplest of pleasures: a loaf of good bread.
Happily, we are living in a bread renaissance. It wasn’t too long ago when the best bread around was a crusty loaf of semolina bread from the deli. Then the tides shifted and chefs all over the country began to take this “throw away” part of the meal seriously.
Within a few years we could find artisanal baguettes like you get in France or plump golden challah as good as any in Israel. I remember my mother many years ago saying “don’t fill up on bread” when we went out to eat. These days, sometimes going out to eat is to luxuriate in a gorgeous bread basket. Yes, filling up on bread is exactly what I suggest you do.
Not just any old bread, but bread worth a drive and the calories. I am speaking of Wave Hill Breads in Norwalk.
Wave Hill bread was founded in 2005 in Wilton by Margaret Sapir and Mitch Rapoport. As bread visionaries they interned under Gerard Rubaud, a master baker from France, learning the secrets and techniques to make bread as good as any on the planet.
Wave Hill Bread
30 High St., Norwalk
You can find Wave Hill Bread in some grocery stores in Connecticut and at a few Farmers Markets. However, my personal favorite is to drive 30 minutes from my house to the bakery and see what has just come out of the oven.
I will warn you that not every type of bread is available every day, but I have never poked around Wave Hill and come away disappointed.
I drove there under a gray, gloomy sky. I walked into the bakery and there were all of my favorites. The chocolate croissants are to die for, and so is the wintertime Italian bread, panettone.
And with room in my coat pockets I bought four small, crusty rolls straight from the oven and “wore them home.”
The yeasty smell perfumed the car and I felt like I was carrying four warm puppies snuggling in my coat.
Once home I would save the panettone French bread for later. I just wanted the rolls. I had a hunk of Plugra unsalted butter in the fridge and with a glass of merlot, a better meal was never eaten.
I learned this humble, almost monastic style of eating from a famous food writer who lived in Sonoma, Calif. I was scared of meeting her for the first time because she was my idol, and I was also nervous that whatever she served would be so intricate that I would not know what fork to use.
I became good friends with this wonderful woman and I will always remember my first meal with her. Bread, butter and wine. That was it! We sat and talked and shivered at the sound of the rugged crust breaking.
Now that holiday feasting has subsided, please try the simplest pleasures around, a good loaf of bread from Wave Hill.
Jane Stern, a Ridgefield resident, co-authored the popular “Roadfood” guidebook series.