Monday, December 28, 2009

Shock Waves Through the Culinary World

We missed the entrance to Simply Bread on our first drive past the store in Phoenix.

We found our way into the parking lot on our second try and headed to the building on the left. It turns out this building is the corporate headquarters for the business. The retail store for the company is in the building next door, but the company's breads are sold in several AJ's Fine Foods and Whole Foods stores in the Phoenix area. In addition, several restaurants purchase their breads.

From the street, this small sign is easily missed, but the baking that goes on behind the simplicity of the business name is world famous.

After 25 years in real estate, Harold Back took a class early in 2005 at the San Francisco Baking Institute where his instructor was Jeffrey Yankellow. Back convinced Yankellow to join his business he was planning to start in Phoenix.

Yankellow agreed, but before he could become immersed in the business, his career took a major leap forward.

In April 2005, Yankellow, with the Bread Bakers Guild Team USA, won first place at the Olympics of bread baking, the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie, upsetting the historically-winning European teams and "sending shock waves through the culinary world."

Yankellow is obsessive about his ingredients--green olives from Greece, organic walnut halves from California, flour from specialty millers, and desert wildflower honey from a beekeeper in Flagstaff. And no preservatives and no flavor additives. Simply Bread's products are certified by the Orthodox Union--the highest Kosher standard in the world.

We considered the baguette, a seeded rye, the focaccia, and the white sandwich breads, but we decided on (clockwise from top left) a green olive loaf, ciabatta, crunchy sesame, crusty white, hoagie roll, and some dinner rolls. Somehow, we forgot to put the challah--which, by the way, makes the best French toast--in the photograph.

We started with the crusty white loaf and some olive oil. The flavor of this bread, the enticing crunch of the crust, and the substantial chew provide one with the satisfaction of a full meal.

But bread this wonderful could also be joined by some cold cuts. So we stopped by Andreoli--Italian Grocer. Giovanni Scorzo, chef and proprietor, was born in Calabria, and grew up in Liguria, in the Northwestern part of Italy. Like his mother, whose maiden name was Andreoli, he became a chef. Scorzo worked in a variety of Italian regions, Liguria, Tuscany and Calabria, until moving to the U.S. in 1985.

The glass deli counter is filled with meats, cheeses, marinated olives, and tiny fish imported from Calabria. Scorzo is a world class butcher, so the sausage and salami are homemade.

Mozzarella made by Scorzo and imported prosciutto also caught our eye.

Andreoli's is a deli in which you could spend hours just taking in the fresh aroma of real Italian food. There are a few tables at which diners were enjoying Italian antipasto, traditional Italian salads, and sandwiches, such as saporito (prosciiutto, fresh mozzarella, avacado, fresh tomatoes, and oregano), bocca di rosa (eggplant, mossarella, tomato sauce, and parmigiano) and the bastardo (salame, pecorino and roasted pepper).

We opted for making our own sandwiches using (clockwise from top left) homemade sopressata, fontina, red and green marinated peppers, fresh mozzarella, prosciutto di Parma, and mortadella.

One of the appliances that we bought specifically for the RV was a combination grill, griddle, and panini press. So, combining the deli ingredients between two slices of ciabatta with olive oil spread on the top and bottom produced a panini for each of us.

Simple items + complex flavors = truly fine eating.

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