Bread that makes a meal

Connecticut Post (Sunday) - - Sunday Arts & Style - Jane Stern, a Ridge­field res­i­dent, co- au­thored the pop­u­lar “Road­food” guide­book se­ries.

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.

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.

THINGS TO DO D3 PUZ­ZLES D7

Con­trib­uted photo

Wave Hill panet­tone is a sea­sonal fa­vorite and per­fect for French toast. Be­low, a cus­tomer fills up a bag with loaves of bread.

Erik Trautmann / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Wave Hill Bread 50 High St., Nor­walk

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