Rock Creek Park celebrates its 125th anniversary next year. We speak with two local experts with books about the history, flora, and fauna that abound in Washington's "backyard."
Guest Host: Marc Fisher
Washington never had the kind of working-class immigrant communities that brought traditional Old World bakeries to many cities. But some see a unique local bakery culture developing here nonetheless. At area farmers’ markets and retail shops you can find vegan cupcakes, artisan breads, and French pastries. Vietnamese, Ethiopian and Salvadoran bakeries offer other sweet and savory options. We explore the evolution bakeries in our region.
- Ned Atwater Owner, Atwater's
- Doron Petersan Owner, Sticky Fingers Bakery; Author, "Sticky Fingers’ Sweets! 100 Super-Secret Vegan Recipes"
- Mark Furstenberg Bread baker; Founder, Marvelous Market and the Bread Line
- Almaz Dama Owner, Dama Restaurant and Pastry (Arlington, VA)
Recipes: Doron Petersan, Sticky Fingers Bakery
Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
Yield: Makes 12 large or 24 small whoopie pies
3 cups (15 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
2 cups (14 ounces) brown sugar, packed
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups canned pumpkin
1 tablespoon egg replacer (recommended: Ener-G)
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Cream cheese frosting, recipe to follow
Preheat the oven to 350° F.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and allspice.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together brown sugar and oil with the paddle attachment until well combined.
Add pumpkin puree and mix until combined.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg replacer and water.
Add egg replacer and vanilla to the pumpkin mixture and mix until well combined.
Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture, about a cup at a time, and mix until fully incorporated.
Using a small ice cream scoop with a release mechanism, drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart.
Transfer to oven and bake until cookies are just starting to crack on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of each cookie comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely on pan.
Cream Cheese Frosting
1/3 cup non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening (recommended: Earth Balance)
4 ounces non-dairy cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 to 2 drops of lemon oil
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the shortening until smooth.
Add cream cheese and beat until well combined.
Add confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, lemon juice and lemon oil and beat just until smooth. (Frosting can be made in advance. Cover and refrigerate, but let stand at room temperature to soften before using.)
Transfer filling to a pastry bag. When cookies have cooled completely, pipe a large dollop of filling on the flat side of half of the cookies. Top with the remaining cookies, pressing down slightly so that the filling spreads to the edge of the cookies.
Credit: “Sticky Fingers’ Sweets: 100 Super-Secret Vegan Recipes” by Doron Petersan. Copyright 2012 by Doron Petersan. Reprinted here by permission of Penguin/Avery. All rights reserved.
Recipes: Mark Furstenberg, Marvelous Market and the Bread Line
Barley whole wheat bread and breakfast vegetable spread:
MR. MARC FISHERFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your community with the world. I'm Marc Fisher sitting in for Kojo. Coming up this hour, the corner bakery, like the neighborhood butcher, is a tradition that's disappeared from many cities. But it's a tradition that, well, to be honest, never really blossomed in Washington. Now, a few local bakeries have come along to fulfill the growing desire for local artisanal bread.
MR. MARC FISHERMuch of it's sold at farmers' markets around the city. We do have a plentiful supply of certain kinds of bakeries. People line up, of course, for gourmet cupcakes, and there's even enough demand to keep a vegan bakery in business. Immigrant communities have brought their own baking traditions to town, so there are bakers specializing in the French baguettes used, for example, in Vietnamese bun mee sandwiches or the tangy, spongy injera bread of Ethiopian cuisine.
MR. MARC FISHERSo if you think Washington lacks a bakery culture, we've got some folks you will want to meet. First, Mark Furstenberg is a bread baker and founder of Marvelous Market and the Bread Line. He's writing a book called "Cranky Chef," which has nothing to do with his own personality, I'm sure, and he's organizing a new retail bakery. Doron Petersan is owner of Sticky Fingers Bakery in Columbia Heights and author of "Sticky Fingers' Sweets! 100 Super-Secret Vegan Recipes."
MR. MARC FISHERAnd Ned Atwater is the owner and founder of Atwater's, a bakery in Baltimore, which sells at retail shops and farmers' markets across the region. And, of course, we'd like to hear from you about whether you have a favorite bakery. Do you buy bread at the supermarket, farmers' market or a local bakery? And tell us about the best bread you've ever tasted. You can give us a call at 1-800-433-8850.
MR. MARC FISHERAnd, Mark Furstenberg, obviously, the sort of great cities of literary tradition and history are -- there's always a bakery in the scene somewhere, and Washington never really had quite that same tradition. Why?
MR. MARK FURSTENBERGWell, let's go back a little bit. Washington didn't have the tradition because bread in this country was not -- did not serve the function that it served in older countries. It wasn't the cheap filler, the cheap source of carbohydrates needed by poor people in traditional cultures. We did have a vague baking tradition that started in the mid-19th century and continued into the 20th century when immigrants from those countries, countries like Italy, Germany, came to this country and established bakeries.
MR. MARK FURSTENBERGBut our country being perpetually upwardly mobile didn't want to rely on cheap sources of nutrition. We wanted the good stuff -- the meat, the poultry, the sweets -- so bakeries never really took hold in most cities of the country. And in those cities in which bakeries did take hold, the tradition began to die out between World War I and World War II and then really diminished in World War II, except in a few cities, to some extent Philadelphia, very much in New York, very much in San Francisco for different reasons but never in Washington.
MR. MARK FURSTENBERGWashington never had an urban working class. Washington never had an industrial working class. Washington never had bakeries. There were a few -- Ottenberg's -- and then bread was brought from Baltimore, from the German bakeries in Baltimore. But Washington never had it.
FISHERWell, speaking of Baltimore, Ned Atwater, obviously, Baltimore does have a different tradition, a different background, does have some of that -- more of that urban ethnic mix and industrial history, which gave it some more bakeries than perhaps Washington had. So as a Baltimore baker, do you feel that you're sort of exporting this to a desert to your south?
MR. NED ATWATERWell, I think Baltimore, being much more industrial working class and a lot of ethnic neighborhoods, had that tradition well into when I was a kid -- so this is late '50s, early '60s -- and in my small town, which is now a suburb of Baltimore, we had three bakeries. And I can remember as a kid walking to all three of them on different occasions. One would be for the fancier pastries and cakes, and one would be for breads and things like that.
MR. NED ATWATERBut now, I think it's -- all that is coming back. Farmers' markets have led all this renaissance in this sort of food, this sort of artisan sort of food. And now, there are probably half a dozen bakeries in Baltimore and hopefully soon half a dozen in D.C., if not already.
FISHERAnd, Doron Petersan, when you decided to start up Sticky Fingers Bakery in Columbia Heights, did you have in mind the fact that Washington was kind of a backwater for bakeries? Did that make you nervous? Did it make it more difficult to come up with a business plan?
MS. DORON PETERSANI think that we were really aiming for a different market at the time, so, while we were trying to make sure that we were introducing a product that was delicious for everyone to enjoy, it was from the angle of the void of having vegan options in this city, which has also been a long time coming. It's been a dry city for vegans and for vegetarians and for healthy-minded people, so we were really going at it from that angle. But what we found is, once we opened the doors and turned on the ovens, people started flooding in regardless of what their food choices were.
FISHERWell, whenever I'm privileged to come and join "The Kojo Show," I do often ask guests to bring whatever it is that they make, and so we have this great plate full of pumpkin whoopie pies and wholegrain sourdough and country white bread here. And so if you hear any munching noises along the hour, that's what going on here. Mark Furstenberg, the -- as founder of Marvelous Market and the Bread Line, you have tried to instill a bread culture in this city. How successful have you been at it, and does it -- are you disappointed that it hasn't blossomed more than it has?
FURSTENBERGI'm disappointed, very disappointed, and I think I understand why it didn't take hold. When Marvelous Market opened in 1990, I really do think that, because it was such an immense hit so quickly that bread bakeries would begin to open in Washington. And they did. Marvelous Market had six stores. Uptown Bakers followed six months after Marvelous Market and opened two stores.
FURSTENBERGFirehook followed a year or so later with two stores and couple more in Falls Church. And then over the next 10 years, it simply died, and Uptown Bakers got out of the retail business. Marvelous Market stopped producing bread. Firehook went to a central bakery with distribution to stores. And the bread -- the neighborhood bakery did not take hold in Washington.
FISHERAnd is that an economic story? Is that -- or high rents a factor there? Or is it simply a matter of people's daily habits now? They move around.
FURSTENBERGIt's more the latter than the two former. In 1991, Fresh Fields opened in Washington and started Washington on the road toward upscale supermarkets. By 1996, just after five years, Fresh Fields had 22 stores, and then Whole Foods began its Sherman-esque march to both seas and gobbled up Whole Foods as it -- I mean, gobbled up Fresh Fields as it gobbled up Mrs. Gooch's in Los Angeles and Bread & Circus in Boston and the good supermarkets in many cities.
FURSTENBERGAnd Fresh Fields didn't -- Whole Foods adopted a policy of not buying bread from local bakeries, and so the local bakeries couldn't sustain themselves because of the shopping patterns of Washingtonians, which were not to walk from small purveyor to small purveyor but to do all of their shopping in their -- by their automobiles in supermarkets. People simply didn't want to make a special stop for a really good loaf of bread when they could get a fair loaf of bread at Fresh Field or at Whole Foods or even a poor loaf of bread at Whole Foods that was made to look like good bread.
FISHERBut despite this experience and this disappointment, you are undaunted, and you're going to try again.
FURSTENBERGI'm an old man, Marc.
FURSTENBERGI'm an old man, and I want to -- I don't want to quit without trying once more to establish a neighborhood bakery in Washington.
FISHERAnd where will that be?
FURSTENBERGIt has to be in an area that has walking traffic because that's -- because people will buy bread if they're walking by, and it has to be in a neighborhood that has enough economic means to sustain a bakery that might do 1,000 customers a day if we're lucky, or fewer than that if we choose badly.
FISHERAnd so have you found such a location or you're just not telling us?
FURSTENBERGI'm just not telling you.
FISHEROK. You have a date yet?
FURSTENBERGI think that we'll be in business by the end of the first quarter of next year.
FURSTENBERGI'm sure that we will, actually.
FISHERDoron, Sticky Fingers is not only a pioneer in terms of being a vegan bakery but a pioneer in an urban sense in that you went into Columbia Heights at its very beginning as a gentrified neighborhood, a place that is not terribly affluent, a place that did not previously have much of a walking retail culture. So tell us about being a pioneer in that sense and how you've had to, in essence, train consumers to make that daily or several-time-a-week stop.
PETERSANYeah. Training the customers, that's always -- that's the key. That's the trick. What we started -- we opened our doors in Adams Morgan initially as a bakery, just a sweets bakery. And after, I guess, less than three years later, we needed to expand. And Columbia Heights we knew was developing, and we decided to move up there. It was really close to the Metro. We have quite a few people that come to us.
PETERSANWe're a niche. We're a destination, but we also wanted to be a neighborhood bakery. And having the possibility of being a part of this development and going in early where we're part of the actual landscape was really inviting to us, really to be able to become the neighborhood bakery and a sit-down place to grab a really great cup of organic coffee and your morning muffin on your way into work or on your way back from home grabbing a sandwich, it was really important for us to get in there early.
FISHERAnd, Ned Atwater, in addition to these kinds of retail bakeries, obviously another big change in the marketplace in recent years has been the blossoming of farmers' markets, and that's where you're hawking a lot of your wares in the Washington area. Is that a sustainable business, and how profitable is -- can that be?
ATWATERWell, going back to what Mark said about the retail and what Doron is probably going to get to is that the retail bakery business is a very hard business to sustain. It is not a high check average. It's a very low margin. It's very labor intensive. So there are a lot of pressures on it. The farmers' market system, for us and perhaps like for small farmers, allows us to then take a crew to bake for our retail outlet and then take some to farmers' markets so it basically doubles, triples our retail ability.
ATWATERTherefore we can make a profit. Our bakery location that we moved to three years ago itself has yet to make a profit, just that part of our business. If it weren't for the markets, we wouldn't be there. And if it weren't, you know, for our stores, we wouldn't be where we are either but -- so it's a combination, and they both work well together for us.
FISHERMore on farmers' markets, and we'll also -- joining our conversation will be the owner of an Ethiopian bakery in Arlington when we come back after a break. You can join us by calling 1-800-433-8850 or email us at kojo -- K-O-J-O -- @wamu.org. I'm Marc Fisher, and this is "The Kojo Nnamdi Show."
FISHERWelcome back. I'm Marc Fisher of The Washington Post, sitting in for Kojo Nnamdi, and we are talking about bakeries. You can join our conversation by calling 1-800-433-8850. Our guests are Mark Furstenberg, the founder of Marvelous Market and the Bread Line, Doron Petersan is owner of Sticky Fingers Bakery in Columbia Heights, and Ned Atwater is the owner of Atwater's, a bakery in Baltimore that sells at retail shops and farmers' markets across the region.
FISHERAnd joining us by phone now is Almaz Dama, owner of Dama Restaurant and Pastry in Arlington, Va. And Almaz Dama is an Ethiopian baker who opened up a shop. Ethiopian breads are a little bit different from what our other guests may have in their operations. What -- tell us about injera bread and its market. Is it purely Ethiopians or are you -- do you have lots of other customers these days?
MS. ALMAZ DAMAThank you. First of all, thank you for giving me this opportunity to talk about injera on NPR. And just to make some corrections, Dama is not only owned by me. It's only -- it's a family business. It's owned by sister, brothers, cousins and sister-in-law. And to come to your question, when we talk about injera, how to bake injera, to -- by now, by 2012, it seems so easy because the abundance of teff made it easy for us to make injera.
MS. ALMAZ DAMAI mean, if you ask me how you make injera, it's -- I mean, one thing you have to do is mix teff, water and yeast, cover it up and leave it outside for a few days to get fermented. Voila, you have injera. You can use a grill or a pancake grill to make injera. But where I came -- when we came -- for those of us who came in 1970, it was a whole different story. There was not teff. There was no injera for us. We came a long, long way to make injera available this way.
FISHERAnd now that you've been here these years, you've kind of branched out from baking Ethiopian, and now you're -- you've learned about French pastry and other baking, and you've began to combine recipes. So how have you brought in these other traditions? And has that broadened your consumer base as well?
DAMAOK. When we opened this bakery -- actually, it's not only a bakery. It's a restaurant, grocery, diner, and we serve a lot of authentic basic Ethiopian foods. When we opened the bakery, we were -- Ethiopian bakery by then. Then we decided to have -- what, you know, having our own style Ethiopian bakery in the Washington, D.C. area. So basically what we were serving was -- it was similar to whatever the other speakers were having.
DAMABut a lot of our customers were Ethiopians, so the demand was different. They were asking us, why don't you make us bombolone instead of doughnuts? Why don't you make us pastry instead of croissant? And the cakes we were making is a little bit overpowered by sugar and cream (unintelligible) amount. It was a whole different client demands that we're were getting, so we have to adapt to the -- our clients. We have to listen to them.
DAMAAnd as you know, Ethiopia is a multi-ethnic and multi-religion country, and the Christians, especially the Coptic Christians, there was a demand for vegan cakes because we abstain from animal product almost 265 days in a year. So we have to come up with a lot of different vegan cakes. And for our Muslim brothers and sisters, they needed some cakes with no alcohol of any type. So we have to come up with that kind of recipes again. And there was a lot of demand for diabetic, and we came with sugar-free cakes.
DAMAAnd for people who have gluten problem, we started baking a gluten-free cake. So when we started to sell it, it was a whole different story. Now, we are adapting to the demand of the Ethiopian community. And, thanks to God, it's a very popular spot. And we do have a lot of clients. It's not only Ethiopians. We do have Americans. Especially, the vegan community is very, very happy with what we bake out here.
FISHERGreat. Almaz Dama is owner of Dama Restaurant and Pastry in Arlington, Va. Thanks very much for joining us.
DAMAOK. Thank you.
FISHERGreat. Here's Eileen in Washington. Eileen, it's your turn.
EILEENThank you so much for this discussion. I am taking down notes on everything I hear. I take baking and bakeries very seriously. Thank you so much for this. In the history of bakeries, though, in D.C., I want to credit somebody who kind of never gets mentioned in this whole discussion whenever I hear it on the radio. And I've been here for 40 years. Back in the '70s when Julia Child came on and was sort of informing everybody about the world of good bread, there was a gentleman here in D.C., and he's still here.
EILEENHis name is Sammy Uston, (sp?) and he was Turkish immigrant. He is the guy who went and got a baker from France and brought the baker from France and his whole family over here, found them a place to live and founded the bakery called Vie De France which we all, of course, just lived by. We got our Vie De France bread every single day in the '70s, '80s. And then he went on to found the Baker's Place, and there were several Baker's Places around in the area. He is now out of the bakers business.
EILEENBut I think that credit should be given to him because he's the first guy that I can recall in D.C. history who actually made this, you know, started this whole trend.
FISHERWhat -- OK. Thanks very much, Eileen. Mark Furstenberg, what role did Vie De France play, and what -- to make us gingerly, what do you do when you have people who think they know great bread and maybe don't?
FURSTENBERGSammy's a lovely man, and he made a huge contribution when he started Vie de France in Washington. And Vie de France was the only game in the city for a while. And as it grew, it did what bakeries inevitably do when they grow. It began to do things that were simply contrary to the interests of -- well, to the traditions of bakery. For example, it packaged croissant, and they sat on the grocery store shelves. And its baguettes -- it then began to produce frozen baguettes.
FURSTENBERGWell, they're still were the best things available in Washington, but that's not really what croissant and baguette are supposed to be. So Sammy deserves credit for having had this remarkable insight.
FISHEROK. And, Doron Petersan, there was some discussion when Almaz was joining us about the vegan products that they have out there in Arlington. Is that -- do you get some of that ethnic consumer base coming to your shop, and are you -- do you cater to them at all with particular products from different traditions?
PETERSANWe do somewhat. But what we find is that people have certain religions or of, like, especially with the Ethiopian community, really stick to the Ethiopian bakeries, and that's the flavors that they're looking for. It's the traditional desserts they're looking for. We've had kind of the same experience with Indian bakeries also and with Korean. But there is kind of this open-mindedness coming around to try some other options.
PETERSANSo as far catering to those communities, we're here, and we're available for everyone. And we make sure that we really do stay true to the type of desserts that we're doing that are really -- they're American-style desserts. They're fun. They're kind of the desserts that you remember from being a kid with cupcakes and cookies and cakes. And while we do experiment and have a great time with some traditional recipes during holidays, we're really all about the fun American fare.
FISHERAnd for those of us who are vegan-ignorant, can you just start off with what is vegan baking and how much of a hurdle is it for you to get passed the word for those consumers who are not vegans but who just wanted to come in and try something that's different?
PETERSANYeah. Well, vegan baking essentially is baking without the use of eggs or dairy. It's not difficult. It's baking science, first and foremost. And it's about cooking and about using food chemistry to get to the end product that you're looking for. And there's already so many products that you can make that have never -- they never required eggs or dairy or butter in their recipes to begin with. So there are definitely recipes that are more difficult than others. But, for the most part, it's baking science, first and foremost.
PETERSANAs far as expanding the line of items that we're doing and getting over the hurdle of the vegan word, the V word, now, especially, more than ever, it's a word that is not nearly as scary as it used to be and especially here in D.C. where it's been more of a traditional style of eating. If you go to other cities on the West Coast or to New York, you'll see vegan in the signs and vegan in their names. And we never did that at all for a reason. We don't want to scare the people away.
PETERSANIt wasn't until our book came out last year and after we were on "Cupcake Wars" that the word vegan really started to get attributed to who we are. So if people were vegan or they were allergic to eggs or dairy, they were definitely coming to us. But we didn't really get branded in the mainstream as vegan until recently. And so it's been really interesting to see the new faces that are walking in our doors and the questions that we're getting.
FISHERWell, if you'd like to have a recipe from Sticky Fingers, the recipe for pumpkin whoopee pies is available on our website at kojo.org. (sic) And, Ned Atwater, as you look at the kinds of people who come to the farmers' markets and buy your breads in Washington, is that farmers' market base really a kind of an elite, affluent base, or are you seeing any broadening of that group of people who come to farmers' markets?
ATWATERWell, it's definitely not an elite base, and it's a very broad base. And when we first start our business 14 years ago, I had been a customer at farmers' markets long before that. And one of my dreams was to then have a stand at a farmers' market. When we first opened our stand, it wasn't the, you know, the fancy dining crowd. What it was was the 75- and 80-year-old, first generation Europeans that came to our stand.
ATWATERI had learned my bread-making from a French-Canadian. He had learned his from a old bakers in Holland and Germany and France. So those were the customers that came first. Those are the ones that gave us the most positive feedback and said, oh, I love the crust, I love the whole grain, I like the sour finish. Those are the people that really gave us the, you know, they gave us the most positive feedback. Then other bakeries do a similar type of bread.
ATWATERIt's get -- it gets written about. It's more available. And then more and more customers are not afraid of seeds in their bread, not afraid to sour their bread, not afraid of a chewy crust. You know, breads in the '60s were all plastic-bagged and soft, and now, you know, having a crusty bread is not a bad thing. So, no, it's the opposite. Our customers were the old, you know, old first generation Europeans that said, hey, this is really good bread. Then we kept going.
FISHERAnd, Mark Furstenberg, this farmers' market obviously do very well, but when you move up to a retail setting, that's a different kind of scale. Is that necessary to success, to sort of spreading the bread culture you're talking about, to move it up to the retail level?
FURSTENBERGWell, Marc, it's not only a different scale, but it's a different character. I don't -- I go to two farmers' markets on the weekends, Bloomingdale and U Street, and I appreciate what I can get. I also occasionally go to the Dupont Circle market. I did on Sunday, and I bought two pears and three apples. And the price of two pears and three apples was $8.75.
FURSTENBERGThis is not an experience for the every person. This is an experience for the elite buyer who can afford to pay the prices required by local farmers who have to charge high prices because they're trying to make a living plus the markup of the farmers market. The bread sold in farmers markets is a great step forward for a city like Washington that has so few retail bakeries and none which produces on site.
FURSTENBERGBut it's not what I want to do. The bread brought to farmers markets is 10 hours old, 12 hours old, 17 hours old. And although that's perfectly fine for dark breads, breads that have heavy grains, breads that are grainy, breads that have high proportions of rye and whole wheat and other grains, it doesn't do very well for white breads. It defeats the purpose of a white bread. When I -- I'm going to be a purist about this.
FURSTENBERGWhen I open a new bakery, it isn't going to do wholesale, and it's going to bake baguettes every four hours. And that's what a baguette is supposed to be, a young bread, a fresh bread. I just want to do it in what I think of as the right way one time.
FISHERBut your stores in the past, although obviously acclaimed for their quality, were not exactly cheap.
FURSTENBERGNo, they are not cheap. And my new bakery will not be cheap. And Ned's cannot be cheap because he appropriately said it's very hard to make a go of a retail bakery. That's absolutely right.
FISHERSo that distinction...
FURSTENBERGThey'll be cheaper than $8.75 for five pieces of fruit however.
ATWATERAnd there's also, you know, when you do, you know, our bakery use all certified organic breads for our flours, and there is a balance that you have to strike between things like, you know, Doron may do some wholesale to -- for her model to work. You know, we do farmers markets and not wholesale for our model to work. Mark is going to choose to do strictly fresh bread made.
ATWATERBut when we go to farmers markets, our bread -- all of our bakeries work an overnight shift. So our bread is -- are last breads that come out of the oven are warm when they hit the back of the truck. We can't even close the back of the truck up too soon because the breads will sweat on the way down to D.C. So I do have to take issue. We aren't, you know, eight or 12 or 17 hours old. Now, granted if you're baking in the oven in the shop and the customer is waiting in line, certainly there's a premium to that. And it's well worth it. I have to agree to that, but...
FURSTENBERGI did it, Ned. I -- at The Breadline, we sold bread to restaurants, and I tried to talk them out of taking baguettes. And when I couldn't talk them out of taking baguettes, the bread that was served to customers at eight o'clock for dinner had been baked by us at three or four in the morning.
FURSTENBERGIt's old bread.
ATWATERSome -- and like you said, some types are older. Some types have longer shelf life than others.
FISHERWell, if you want to try some of Mark's breads, have them be new breads, you can try some of Mark's recipes that are on our website. He's got recipes for barley whole wheat bread and a breakfast vegetable spread that are both at kojo.org. And you can join our conversations at 1-800-433-8850. Let's hear from Suzanna in Arlington. Suzanna, it's your turn.
SUZANNAHi. Great show today.
SUZANNAMy son and I have to avoid wheat, and, to be honest, we've always felt a little cheated with the wheat-free options available 'cause they just never quite were as good. And we were thrilled to discover some amazing gluten-free baked goods and breads, and even pastas, at Willow Restaurant on Fairfax Drive in Ballston.
SUZANNAAnd their new line of wheat-free breads and baked goods are not only offered at the restaurant, but they've now set up at the Thursday Ballston Farmers' Market. And we found that Willow has really been able to maintain the artisan quality and incorporate that into their -- into the wheat-less baked goods.
FISHEROK. Thank you, Suzanna. Doron, are you seeing much demand for gluten-free goods?
PETERSANIt's a huge demand, lots of gluten issues or intolerances and also people that are looking to reduce it in the diet. But really what you have to pay attention to is the quality of the wheat. If you're not gluten insensitive -- or if you're not -- if you don't have a gluten sensitivity or if you're just looking to avoid it, it's looking at the quality of the wheat. It's looking for whole grains, looking to organics rather than simply trying to cut them out. A lot of the issues that we're having as a population in -- with the wheat ingredients are really due to the GMO.
PETERSANSo while we're getting a lot of requests for gluten-free, we do some gluten-free at the shop. We definitely have cakes and cupcakes available, as well as cookies. As far as breads, we try and stay away from it. We -- we're really not comfortable with the quality of especially vegan gluten-free breads that are out there because it's not bread. It's made with rice flour and potato flour. Things like tortillas are really great. Crackers are really fun. But as far as calling gluten-free bread bread, I think that there are some people that may take issue with that here.
FISHERWell, I'm glad to hear that. Let's hear from Adam in Warrenton, Va. Adam, it's your turn.
ADAMHey, thank you for having me. Hey, I own a small catering company, and I don't like to use, you know, mainstream suppliers like Cisco and things like that, and I tend to get my breads, you know, from local bakeries. And, you know, my meats come from a -- actually, I get it off of a farmer who raises the cattle. Just, you know, I like to have a higher quality product. And it's so hard to find a place that has bread that's fresh.
ADAMI buy day of. I don't like to buy the day before because it, you know, it does go stale. And it's like -- it's almost impossible to find a store that can, you know, supply my need for bread. You know, I do one or two jobs a week, and it's -- I've been through three bakeries in the past two months. Two of them had closed, and one of them just wasn't able to meet my needs. I just wanted to say that and…
FISHERDo you -- and, Adam, do you think they're closing for lack of demand, or are these just particular issues with those particular businesses?
ADAMI think it's kind of a combination of both, to be honest with you. One of them was in a tough location in Warrenton. I don't want to say any names, but one of them was in a tough location in Warrenton that wasn't really visible, and that was kind of understandable why that one might not have done so well. The other one I was buying from was visible, and there was a lot of customers. It just didn't -- I'm not really sure why they went under.
ADAMI don't know if there's not enough money to be made in the business. You know, I heard you talking earlier about, you know, some of the, you know, the tribulations of owning a bread company. I just wanted to know if you have any suggestions of where I can get good bread. Farmers' markets are great, but they're only, you know, once or twice a week, and you can't get fresh bread on demand from a farmers market, unfortunately. I actually want to use it that day.
FISHEROK. Ned Atwater, any suggestions?
ATWATERWell, I can speak to our experience with wholesale. We started our bakery in a small warehouse. We bought some equipment at auction. It was a -- not a retail site, and we did farmers markets and wholesale for five years. At the end of those five years, we sat down, and we were back to square one. The wholesale business, whether you're a restaurant or a grocery store or a caterer, your structure is to pay less than the bread, what it takes to make the bread in some cases.
ATWATERAnd then, of course, there's the issue about the bakery getting paid for the product, whether it sells or not. So our experience wasn't a great one. I do feel for you because I know you want to serve good bread at your events. But I would suggest you find a baker you like and go to him and pay cash on the barrel for the bread. That's the arrangement the bakery is going to like, not necessarily for them to make it -- deliver it to you at half price because that's the issue. That's always been the issue for us.
ATWATERWe do very, very little wholesale now, and when we do, we're very careful who we sell to. Not that we don't want to sell and make more bread, but it's not a good business arrangement for us.
FURSTENBERGNed is so right. If -- it's not realistic for a relatively small user or someone who's not necessarily small, but is sporadic, like a catering company, to ask a bakery to deliver because the costs of delivery are so high. But I would suggest that the caller get in touch with Baguette Republic in Chantilly or Upper Crust Bakery in College Park and make arrangements with either of those. They may deliver near to -- near his location, or he can make arrangements to buy bread from them by picking it up.
FISHERMark Furstenberg is the founder of Marvelous Market and the Bread Line. Doron Petersan is owner of Sticky Fingers Bakery in Columbia Heights. And Ned Atwater is the owner of Atwater's, the bakery in Baltimore. And thanks, Adam, for the call. We'll have more of your calls when we return after a short break. You're listening to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show." I'm Marc Fisher.
FISHERWelcome back. I'm Marc Fisher of The Washington Post, sitting in for Kojo Nnamdi, and we are talking about bakeries in the Washington area. If you'd like to join us, you can call 1-800-433-8850. And I'm just finishing a bite of the pumpkin whoopie pie from Sticky Fingers in Columbia Heights. It has a nice ginger feel to it. It's really excellent, and Doron Petersan is the creator of it and owner of Sticky Fingers.
FISHERAnd you had some -- your 15 minutes of fame with the TV show "Cupcake Craze," (sic) and this is a craze that seemed to come from nowhere. Why do people stand in line for an hour for cupcakes? And what -- how are you able, or are you able, to transfer those cupcake maniacs into people who are willing to buy the other things that you offer that may be more time and attention into?
PETERSANYeah, the cupcake craze is insane. It's fun. We're really lucky and happy to be a part of it. Where it actually started from was a television show where they started having some cupcakes on -- very popular show. And it just really got out there that they were, like, sexy and fun. It was actually on "Sex and the City." And so from there was born a cupcake craze and this wonderful show, "Cupcake Wars," where they pit four bakeries against each other and have them compete to make the best, prettiest, craziest cupcakes.
PETERSANWe were lucky enough to be on, and we've won twice, which has really, again, brought more faces and more people that are willing to try our products and who maybe otherwise wouldn't. Maybe they're a fan of Food Network or cupcakes in general, and they just want to come and try...
FISHERAnd you were competing against people who were baking with eggs, butter and cream.
PETERSANYes, traditional bakeries. And so it's brought us to a, I guess, a different level as far as the way people look at our products and look at vegan products in general. And so we have to make sure that when people come in and see the cupcakes, that they see the other items that we're doing and that they also have a full understanding of what we're doing, the ingredients that we're using and what's available. So really getting our products in people's mouths is the best advertising and marketing, and...
FISHERWell, it's certainly working here in the studio.
FISHERLet's go to Dagmar (sp?) in Brooklyn. Dagmar, you're on the air.
DAGMARYes. Hi. I'm really enjoying this show.
DAGMARI just wanted to mention that I'm always looking for German bread, and it's very hard. There's so much French bread out there and different kinds of Italian bread. But the German bread, what I've found is Le Quotidien bakery.
FISHERLe Pain Quotidien?
DAGMARThey make a wonderful rye bread that is just so tasty, and it's just perfect. I just love this bread, and I wish more people would give a try to rye bread.
FISHERI'm certainly with you there. Mark?
FURSTENBERGIt's not a flavor that Americans embrace, except for Jews and Poles and Hungarians, Eastern Europeans. It's...
FURSTENBERGAnd Germans, of course. It's not a flavor that many, many Americans like because of its strong, slightly acidic, almost harsh flavor. But I have to say, a commercial that is without value, my new bakery is going to do whole grain breads, true traditional whole grain breads, one or two each day because I think those breads really need to have a fair hearing or eating in Washington.
FISHERThat's Mark Furstenberg's mystery bakery...
FISHER...in a mysterious location. Does it have a name you can tell us?
FISHERAnd what is that name?
FISHERBread First. So from Bread Line to Bread First at a location to be named later. There are quite a few of these French-style bakeries that have been opening here. The caller mentioned Le Pain Quotidien. Paul has opened some outlets in the District lately. What -- is this a fad or a real shift in tastes or a shift in business model, Ned?
ATWATERWell, I think that's just one more evolution. Those bakeries -- and Mark mentioned earlier about the commissary central kitchen. Those bakeries, I think, are -- may succeed because they have a lot of expense in labor and their lower rent commissary, and then they can -- several -- they can feed several locations at the retail level with bread that's, granted, not as fresh as what's Mark's proposing but still fresh bread.
ATWATERAnd they could tailor their line to breads that have a little bit more time on the shelf and if they're making sandwich or they want something a little heartier here anyway. But all of us are in business, and these things evolve just the way any other business does. So I think the more, the merrier, more places that are raising the bar. You know, Pain Quotidien is a good shop, right? You get a good piece of bread and a good bowl of soup and...
FISHERIt at least creates the possibility that...
FISHER...habit that Mark was talking about earlier of walking to the store for one thing.
ATWATERExactly. And more people are walking to the corner and getting a good lunch, and that gives us more incentive to do it and other people. So I think it's all good.
FISHERLet's go hear from Harry in Washington. Harry, it's your turn.
HARRYHi. Yes. OK. Good afternoon. And thank you for giving me this opportunity to express my opinion. I have a comment and a question. My comment is that I don't know how feasible it is for the baker to be successful since the culture itself in D.C. is not conducive to go to the bakery. And then (unintelligible) also, it has not been successful.
HARRYMy question is that, how can the bakery staff deliver a lot of the bread for the customer, since, for example, in certain towns in France, milk is delivered to the customer. That's my question. Are there any other options, in other words?
FISHERSo home delivery, is that completely infeasible in the American lifestyle, anybody?
PETERSANIn the way of thinking of it as a free component, it does not exist. It's impossible. Especially with gas prices as high as they are and labor costs in D.C. as high as they are, it's impossible. So we, for instance, use courier services, local and personal courier services. I have definitely delivered many a product in my own car to people's homes. But as a free courtesy, it's impossible especially in this environment.
FISHERBut there are -- certainly we've seen with the companies, like Peapod and FreshDirect, there is a new hunger for home delivery in a much larger supermarket scale. Is there any way for bakers to get a piece of that?
FURSTENBERGYes. If all of the people in the -- a neighborhood or half the people in a neighborhood or 25 percent of the people in the neighborhood all wanted to drop off, it could be done. But that just doesn't happen. And a bakery like Ned's, for example, which sells a loaf of bread for $3.25, would spend $20 dropping it off in the cost of the vehicle, the cost of the gas and the cost of the driver. It's just not feasible.
FISHERWell, it's interesting, though, there are folks around town who, through their workplace, get a box of foods or vegetables from local farmers delivered to them once a week. And imagined through -- some of the farmers' markets organizations, it might be possible to sort of...
FURSTENBERGBut what is the average sale?
PETERSANYeah. The average sale of a CSA box is anywhere from $40 to $75. And if you're getting a few loaves of bread or even in order of, you know, a dozen cupcakes, that's less than $36 if you're lucky, unless you can get everybody in your neighborhood to...
FISHERTo sign up.
PETERSAN...to place that order for 9 a.m. on a Tuesday, it's absolutely impossible.
FISHERHere is Jeanne in Silver Spring. Jeanne, you're on the air.
JEANNEGood afternoon. I just wanted to say I have bakery dreams as a person growing up in the '60s and '50s outside New York City. I love bakeries. We had French bakeries, Jewish bakeries, German bakeries and Italian bakeries. And so when we moved down here to this Washington area, it was like a shock that there wasn't very many bakeries, and a lot of the pastries and things were loaded with sugar.
JEANNESo that kind of repelled me to go back to New York sometimes and bring back some good old New York crumb cake and special kinds of cookies. But we keep on dwelling on bakeries in terms of bread and not as much on as pastries because, growing up, there were so many different types of pastries and cookies that are not showing up in the bakeries here. So I just will take my answers off the air, but thank you so much.
FISHERAnd, Mark, is there either less of a market for pastries than for bread in this area?
FURSTENBERGNo, I don't think so. I think there is a market for pastries. I share her experience. I grew up in Baltimore where there was a chain of bakeries called Silber's, and they were all over the city. And we went there and loved it. And it's really a shame that that tradition has disappeared largely from America.
FISHERMark -- Doron, you -- obviously, you do have pastries.
FISHERIs it -- is there a pent-up demand that you see as people are coming in to fulfill?
PETERSANYeah. And I think now more than ever, people are exploring more options and want more of the traditional style and things like, you know, I grew up in New York and outside of New York as well. And getting Italian-style cookies, Jewish-style desserts, everything from cannoli to tiramisu, to profiteroles to -- I mean, you name it, and it doesn't exist here. It doesn't exist in D.C.
FURSTENBERGAnd that's still true in New York, and it's true in San Francisco and...
FISHERAnd so why is it -- very quickly, why is it not happening here given the explosion of high-end restaurants, the obvious interest in food, the number of ethnic eateries?
FURSTENBERGBecause we shop in our cars.
ATWATERWell, and I think it is happening.
PETERSANIt is happening.
ATWATERIt definitely is happening.
PETERSANIt's happening slowly.
ATWATERYes, slowly. And I think there was a generation that all those traditional types of foods were made with really ingredients for these early '50s. A generation got those things made with inferior ingredients and maybe in some cases techniques. And now the -- with the farmers' market craze, the ingredients are coming back, the technique is coming back, and it's just going to get better and better.
FISHERSo in the few seconds we have left, can you name for me a favorite bakery in Washington that is not your own? Ned.
ATWATERFavorite bakery. I miss the old Bread Line, I have to say. I mean, Firehook is good with, you know, it's -- I'm not sure what they're doing these days, but I remember years -- in years past, it was a good place to go for (unintelligible).
PETERSANAs far as -- you know, I've -- I spend a lot of time in my own bakery, unfortunately.
PETERSANBut I will say that in Columbia Heights, there are two new bakeries that have just popped up. So I'm not the only neighborhood bakery there. People are starting to take risk and explore the opportunity.
FISHERAnd, Mark Furstenberg.
FURSTENBERGPraline in Bethesda. I think it's a terrific bakery.
FISHERA French bakery?
FURSTENBERGThat it's largely French, but it's an Americanized French -- owned by a Frenchman and a Korean woman.
FISHERThat's Mark Furstenberg. He's a bread baker and founder of Marvelous Market and the Bread Line. He is writing book called "Cranky Chef," and he's organizing a new retail bakery at a secret location. Doron Petersan is the owner Sticky Fingers Bakery, very public location in Columbia Heights, and she is the author of "Sticky Fingers' Sweets! 100 Super-Secret Vegan Recipes."
FISHERNed Atwater is the owner and founder of Atwater's, a bakery in Baltimore, which sells at retail shops and farmers' markets across the region. I'm Marc Fisher, sitting in on "The Kojo Nnamdi Show." Thanks so much for listening.
Most Recent Shows
The health benefits — both mental and physical — of friendships are myriad. But as we get older it becomes increasingly difficult to forge lasting bonds with new people. We consider the ways communication, emotions and our phase of life effect our relationships with friends.
We check in with three local soup kitchens on the eve of Thanksgiving to look at who they're serving and how their programs and clients have changed in recent years.
A journalist by training, Meline Toumani shocked friends and family by moving to Turkey and embarking on a journey to understand a people and a country she'd been taught were the enemy. The result is "There Was and There Was Not," part political history, part deeply personal memoir.