Sourdough on the Endangered List

Classic, artisanal San Francisco sourdough bread, "the stuff every supermarket used to have 25 varieties of, like Boudin still makes for old-school restaurants like Tadich and Sam's," has become endangered, says Robert Lauriston. "I knew this stuff was nearly extinct, but I didn't know things had gone this far."

Specifically, we're talking about bread that's "more assertive/sour, denser (not an airy bread) and the crust can literally cut your mouth, it's tough and chewy," says ML8000.

The consensus seems to be that the best old-school sourdough loaves found in the city these days originate at Bordenave's Bakery in San Rafael. Bordenave's extra-sour dark-bake loaves can be found at Spenger's fish market, where they're delivered fresh daily. But, although the batards and rounds sold there are both supposed to be sour, it's only the rounds that are true to the old-fashioned ideal.

"Bread Garden has the absolute best sourdough I've had in a long, long time," says rworange. "Opening the bag I was overcome with the wonderful sour tangy aroma. The crust nicely chewy, the crumb classic." It goes great with the crab salad from Sea Breeze Market (a little sweet-talkin' is needed to get the counterpeople to sell it apart from a green salad or a sandwich). Unfortunately, Bread Garden is considering closing its doors sometime in 2010.

"When I think of this type of bread it brings to mind an almost black very sharp crust with a pronounced sour taste," says cakebaker. While Tartine's sourdough has the right crust, Acme's Italian loaf tastes closest to what SF sourdough should be, cakebaker says.

Thorough Bread, a retail outlet of the San Francisco Baking Institute, makes a sourdough that's a great loaf of bread, but different from its ancestors, says Mick Ruthven. He loves the crust, but it's thinner and not as hard as the real thing; the interior isn't as dense; and, while it has a nice sour flavor, it's not quite sour enough.

Wedemeyer's loaf, available at the Grocery Outlets in Berkeley and Oakland at least, looks and smells right, Robert Lauriston says, down to those little bumps on the bottom. "Still not totally it, but probably my favorite of the old companies still producing bread," says sugartoof.

Bordenave's Bakery [Marin County]
1512 Fourth Street, San Rafael
415-453-2957

Spenger's Fresh Fish Grotto [East Bay]
1919 Fourth Street, Berkeley
510-845-7771

Bread Garden [East Bay]
2912 Domingo Avenue, Berkeley
510-548-3122

Sea Breeze Market & Deli [East Bay]
598 University Avenue, Berkeley
510-486-0802

Tartine Bakery [Mission]
600 Guerrero Street, San Francisco
415-487-2600

Acme Bread [Embarcadero]
Ferry Slip, San Francisco
415-288-2978

Tadich Grill
240 California Street, San Francisco
415-391-1849

Thorough Bread and Pastry [Duboce Triangle]
248 Church Street, San Francisco
415-558-0690

Grocery Outlet [East Bay]
2001 Fourth Street, Berkeley
510-666-0670

Grocery Outlet [East Bay]
2900 Broadway, Oakland
510-465-5649

Discuss: Old-school sourdough bread?