Open a great bakery and the people will come – and have they ever !! Since opening at the end of last year, Lodge Bread has attracted a growing and steady stream of enthusiastic followers, plus some deservedly favorable reviews that have increased the demand for their artisan breads, cakes and irresistible menu items.
Lodge Bread is located at 11918 Washington Boulevard in Culver City, an up and coming Los Angeles neighborhood. Presently their neighboring tenants are inexpensive motels. a few apartments, chiropractors, dentists, clairvoyants and light industry – mediocre urban sprawl that does not fit the desired requirement for a successful business of “location, location, location”.
Last November, along this unremarkable section of Washington Boulevard, a simple sign went up on one of the storefronts that read “LODGE BREAD” and the arrival of the Bakery is beginning to change the dormancy of the neighborhood. Good bread has a way of being a people magnet and when this happens, other vendors move in and follow on their coattails. . Word is out, that some of the best bread in Los Angeles is available right here at what the owners describe as a “humble bakery”.
The idea for the bakery happened organically when Or Amselam and Alex Phaneuf, both Chefs working in the same Los Angeles, restaurant, began experimenting with baking bread in the restaurant kitchen. It was offered on the menu and received a positive response – who can resist freshly baked homemade bread !!. News of this delicious bread spread and Chefs from local Restaurants also began placing orders. Both Or Amsalam and Alex Phaneuf were Culinary School graduates and had excellent bios as well as good contacts in the Restaurant business that helped them in their new vocation.
The “Bakers” recognized an opportunity to get into the Artisan Bread business that has been slow to take off in Los Angeles They took a leap of faith, gave up their regular jobs and moved their nascent bread company to a Garage at Alex Phaneuf’s home in Culver City that became their “Test Kitchen”. Devoting themselves full time to their baking, they were able to experiment and improve their technique and recipes as well as finding sources for the best organic ingredients. When ready to launch the bakery they secured a nine hundred and forty square foot space in Culver City that required renovating, on a street with a high traffic count. To open the Bakery, extra manpower was required. Alan Craig, an experienced pastry Chef, was invited to join the other two Bakers to set up the Bakery, participate in the baking, get it open and make sure it runs smoothly..
A Bassanini Deck Oven with steam injection that had been recommended to them by Michael Symon of Food Network fame was installed in the Bakery. It is able to bake seventy two loaves at a time. The steam injection gives the bread a crisp crust with a moist interior and the bread baked at Lodge Bread is baked dark almost burnt in the European tradition. Another mentor who is given credit for his help and encouragement is the San Francisco Bread expert Josey Baker. whose cookbooks are visible on a shelf in the bakery.
The Shop is long and narrow, with an equally narrow street frontage A section of the space was dedicated to the ovens and the rest was given a counter with six seats at the bar and along the other wall, a bench was built with facing rectangular tables and chairs.
All the yeast products are made with the same“starter” or levain that was developed about eighteen months ago when they began baking. It is continually “fed” to keep it going with regular additions of flour and water, fermenting over several days. During this process a lot the gluten is “eaten” as it ferments leaving the main flavors intact. It is totally natural and needs no commercial yeast, preservatives or other additives that are used in commercial baking. This fermentation is the process that is essential to sourdough bread to have a texture that is full of holes, with a springy crust.
At Lodge Bread, organic flour with low gluten content is used. This includes a variety of heritage wheat that is carefully chosen for flavor, texture and terroir with the emphasis on sustainability. Much of it is 85% wholewheat as all the grains are ground into the flour giving it good texture and flavor. The Challah, Chocolate Babke and H U G E Cinnamon buns are 75% wholewheat and are more “white” in appearance.
The basic selection of breads available are: wholewheat, seeded, red quinoa, spelt and rye bread made with sprouted rye. This may vary with the seasons as the bakers creatively introduce seasonal ingredients.
The non yeast assortment varies by day, but includes, coffee cakes, muffins, fruit crumbles, peanut butter cookies and brownies, banana and ginger breads.
Making bread the old fashioned way, means it has to be made long and slow. Walk into the bakery and huge buckets of fermenting bread dough can be seen slowly fermenting and bubbling on the counter. Kneading the dough and forming it into unbaked loaves is a “performance” that takes place in the shop and customers love to watch the bakers “performing”. I observed as Or Amsalam removed a ball of dough from the bucket that he divided into individual size loaves, then kneaded them lightly with more flour, allowing them to proof and rise before going into the oven to bake . This entire process can take anywhere from twelve to twenty four hours of fermentation and proofing from start to finish. When the bread is baked, it is removed from the oven, tapped for sound to be sure it is baked, then taken out with a long peel and left to cool.
Keeping to the artisan tradition, the butter that is used in the bakery, is churned in-house and served with the breads. They make a variety of homemade nut butters and prepare homemade jams from seasonal fruits sourced from the farmer’s markets, to serve on toast. Sitting at the bar, one is confronted by “pillars” of bread that have been pre-sliced and stacked vertically, ready for the orders that will come in to make sandwiches or toast.
.One of the most requested items is the avocado toast, that starts with a hefty slice of bread, toasted and smeared with organic avocados that are delivered fresh from a grower in Ojai where they are cultivated. The avocado is topped with finely sliced radishes and a dash of oil. It tastes as good as it looks and is enough for a meal.
A more substantial plate of food is Shaksuka, a Middle Eastern dish, made from farm fresh stewed organic tomatoes, seasoned with fresh herbs. It is served piping hot, , straight out of the oven on an iron skillet with a poached egg in the center and finished with fresh green onions and dill. This is accompanied by a selection of sliced baked breads. It is tasty, organic, healthy food, that is both nourishing and satisfying. There is a choice of coffee from the espresso machine, and the coffee is supplied by La Paz Coffee Roaster.
All the servings are presented on handmade stoneware made by Tim McMullen a local potter, who also made the coffee mugs and the sconces above the bar. The presentation of the food is “five star” restaurant worthy and the handmade plates add a rustic touch to the food, as well as visually elevating it to a higher level – so much more attractive than the usual restaurant plates.
Sunday night only is Pizza night at Lodge Bread. From 5.00 p.m. – 8.00 p,m, pizza is available . The base is a variation of their wholewheat dough and very special, seasonal toppings are created that may include homemade organic tomato sauce, roasted seasonal vegetables, flavored oils, aged manchego and parmesan cheeses, special olives and fresh herbs. These are original recipes, assembled at the counter where the customers can watch the fun of the bakers preparing and baking the pizzas.
A recent exciting addition is the newly acquired Bread Truck. An old truck, suitable for bread delivery was found on Craig’s List and overhauled to carry bread to Farmer’s Markets. It has been painted with the logo and can be found at the Beverly Hills Farmer’s Market, Playa Vista and the Arts District Farmer’s Market. Their license allows Lodge Bread to sell bread from the truck anywhere in Los Angeles and resonates back to the days when Helms Bakery in Culver City used to deliver bread from a truck.
By the end of 2016, Lodge Bread will double the size of their shop when they take over the space next door and remove the dividing wall. There will be an open patio and a wood fired oven will be installed to bake pizzas that will be included on the daily menu as well as other wood fired snacks served with beer and wine.
Lodge Bread is baking healthy, tasty, artisan bread from a “humble bakery” in Culver City. However there is nothing humble about the way this company has grown since its beginnings in November 2015. The loaves coming out of the ovens are made with love and devotion by creative bakers using the finest quality organic ingredients,
What do they still want to achieve ? I am told the partner’s would like to mill their own flour. The way Lodge Bread has forged ahead, nothing is impossible.
LODGE BREAD COMPANY
11918 Washington Boulevard,
Culver City, CA 90066
House:Mon – Sat 8.00 a.m.- 4.00 p.m.
Sunday: Pizza Night 5.00 p.m. – 8.00 p.m.