January 28, 2010

Best Bread in Brooklyn?

On Saturday I found myself in Brighton Beach with time to kill. Hungry, I cruised by Georgian Bread on Neptune Ave and sidled in behind a burly Russian man in a fur hat.

Places like these sometimes make you feel as if the USSR hasn't dissolved, only replanted itself in the Borough of Kings. Inside, Russian was the clear lingua franca, which could have been intimidating, but I'd been there before and knew what I wanted.

And what did I want?

The bread.

Oh, the bread.

I had to wait, as it was still baking inside the enormous, beehive-shaped oven that takes up the floor in the front corner of the store, just behind the counter. Much larger than a tandoor, it seems to function on a similar principle—hot coals at the bottom, breads slapped on the sides to cook.

When the counterman finally bagged a hot, burnished loaf for me, it was all I could do not to tear into it right then and there. But I managed to wait until I got outside.

And wow! Tender yet crisp crust, chewy and slightly custardy crumb, straightforward wheat flavor. A loaf of bread from this place, hot out of the oven, may have no equal in Brooklyn—or even perhaps the whole city.

To accompany the loaf I chose two from their array of delicious Georgian spreads:

The one on top is eggplant, slightly smoky and mixed with walnut and something tangy—sour plum, perhaps? The one on bottom is spinach, laced through with chopped onion and so much garlic I could ward off vampires for a week.

Georgian bread also sells delicious khachapuri, a cheese-filled round bread baked in the same beehive oven.

Oh, Brooklyn, how I do love thee!

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