Within two minutes of arriving back at SFR HQ with a bag of Jacob Brenner's bread, folks were shook. I brought out a beautiful sourdough baby boule ($6) and a square of focaccia topped with green olives and preserved lemon ($4) which were quickly devoured with smiles and compliments.
The focaccia was the star: Briney olive danced on the tongue with acidic lemon before giving way to a hint of sweetness and the hearty bread base. Everyone was excited and generally in a much better mood than before the bread arrived. It's hard to add on to their shining review, but I'll do my best.
I had just finished chatting with bread artisan Brenner that morning at his new bakery, the simply and aptly named Bread Shop(1708 Lena St. Ste. 101; 231-7426; breadshopsf.com), which had been in business a total of four days prior to our interview. Brenner's been passionate about bread for much longer than that, though. He was raised here in Santa Fe but just returned from a 10-year stint in Portland, Oregon, cooking at Italian restaurant Ava Gene's. Upon his return, he took a job at Paloma before transitioning into his own bread bakery full-time.
The small shop on Lena Street, formerly the home of ice cream shop La Lecheria, is the perfect scale for a one-person bread operation. The space is airy, facing the east and full of light, with a small bar and seats lining the walls.
"I want it to be, as small as it is, a place where people could come hang out, a mini community space," Brenner says.
His bread ovens are electric and the whole building runs on solar, so it's also sustainable.
Brenner makes his breads from mostly organic grains milled in southern Colorado, Arizona and Utah. Pointing to the shelf of boules, he explains, "I think what sets this apart from other bread in town is that I bake it a little darker, a little more caramelized than other bakeries. I like super crusty bread to get as much flavor as I can, and super moist on the inside."
His description is spot on—the crust is a bit crunchy and slightly sweet, which complements the mild sourness of the inside. He uses natural, ambient yeasts and longer fermentation times, which produces a local sour flavor that isn't as strong as other sourdoughs. On its own, it's a whole flavor experience, but it also lends itself perfectly to being dipped in a light oil or used in a sandwich.
On top of the boules, Bread Shop also offers baguettes ($4) and a hearty rye and spelt loaf that's packed with seeds ($11), besides a plain ($3.50), tomato, and olive lemon focaccia ($4).
Since he uses local yeast, I ask Brenner about using local grains from New Mexican farmers, which spawned a whole conversation about his values around local agriculture, human connection and climate change.
"I'd really like to support New Mexican agriculture as much as I can," he says. "When you're working with a small farmer, it's hard to find people who are… also milling [grain], or have a connection to a mill. I'm talking to this guy who's growing it and can mill a bit for me, but I'm trying to find that missing link—the mill."
A farmer in Los Luceros grows a "delicious and fantastic" grain, according to Brenner, and he can grind a bit of it on his own, but the supply chain in other places is more reliable than what exists in New Mexico just now.
"In southern Colorado, the grain economy there is a little more established and the infrastructure is there…but I'll pay the price if I find someone growing cool stuff and being able to mill it here," he adds.
If you could be Brenner's dream miller, hit him up because he'd love to make bread with your product.
One major draw he's already seen is from vegan customers following a post in the Santa Fe Vegan Facebook group.
"This style of bread doesn't usually have any animal products to begin with," Brenner says.
Within minutes of the shop opening for the day, I meet Stephanie Ariel, who found out about it through the Facebook group and now, having visited twice, is soon to be a regular.
"My mom is a huge bread fanatic, and we had the baguette last week and she had the tomato focaccia," Ariel says, "so she sent me by after yoga to grab some more for dinner tonight."
So, in case my word and that of the SFR office isn't good enough for you, take it from Ariel: "It's definitely a winner."