3.03.2010

House of Bread





“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread “~ John Muir


lic, ny

A few years ago, I moved from Manhattan to Queens to be with AndrĂ¡s, kicking and screaming the whole way. I had lived in Manhattan for 9 years, was convinced that my favorite things would be too far out of reach in his borough. He lured me with love, a farmer’s market right outside our building and promises of good bread.

The farmer’s market is indeed a gem, but the bread he spoke of came from an old Greek bakery below our subway stop and was wholly unremarkable. Luckily for him though, he was right, Queens is home to some of the best bakers in town. 

On a summer bike ride around the neighborhood, I passed a truck that said Pain D’Avignon, and followed it home down the street in hopes of finding French bakers that recalled those of walled French city of Avignon. Instead I found only a wholesale operation, and the breads I could smell completely out of view behind brick and motor. Still, I rang the buzzer and met JoAnne Cortese who opened up her doors to one of the most magnificent houses of bread I’d ever seen.

Owned by three gentlemen from Yugoslavia, Pain D’Avignon’s bakers are masters of handcrafted, artisan baking, and their commitment shows in the texture and flavor of their breads. Each and every bread is mixed by Moussa Cond’e, who has been mixing the unbleached, American-raised grains since he came to Pain D’Avignon from West Africa 8 years ago {he’s pictured here in this room of white}. After Moussa mixes the dough, all the breads are hand scaled and shaped before going to rise.


Bakers work through the night to turn out some of the finest, most toothsome artisan breads in town that until recently could only be had in the bread baskets of some of the best restaurants in town, including PicholineLocande Verde and The Standard Grill.

Last week, Pain D’Avignon opened a retail shop at the Essex Market on the Lower East Side in Manhattan, home to Saxelby Cheese and Fromaggio Essex. The market is still one of New York’s best-kept secrets, and it’s worth a journey to this wondrous old-world market for the bread alone. Sadly, you won’t get to meet Moussa or the other men and women behind those hand shaped breads but you can take home their treasures to taste for yourself. 


1 comment:

Liz said...

Great photos! And so glad you got the back story. I'd read of their store opening (on list of things to do real soon!) but reading your post will make the visit all the richer.

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Sarah Copeland is a food and lifestyle expert, and the author of Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Eater and Every Appetite, and The Newlywed Cookbook. She is the Food Director at Real Simple magazine, and has appeared in numerous national publications including Saveur, Health, Fitness, Shape, Martha Stewart Living and Food & Wine magazines. As a passionate gardener, Sarah's Edible Living philosophy aims to inspire good living through growing, cooking and enjoying delicious, irresistible whole foods. She thrives on homegrown veggies, stinky cheese and chocolate cake. Sarah lives in New York with her husband and their young daughter.