Friday, July 8, 2016

let's talk about the bread @ Reynard

80 Wythe Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211

A few weekends ago I had the unrivaled pleasure of enjoying brunch across the table from an old friend at Reynard. As Shaw says, there is no sincerer love than the love of food, especially if that food is baked eggs with house cured bacon and shiitake mushrooms (there were cubes of bacon! CUBES!), and even more so if it was ordered by a woman you've known for a decade and admire deeply, who happens to be willing to share.

I love Reynard on a late Sunday morning because it is bright and brunchy without being loud or excessive, in any sense of those words. Aptly surrounded by the habitual visual elements of the Williamsburg brunch scene—beautiful unfussy babies, hexagonal mosaic tile, permanently golden dust-speckled light—we feasted on food that was warm and good and not fastidious. I had a frittata with silky ricotta and hunks of chunky broccoli (update: in an act of seasonal sensitivity the broccoli in this dish has now been replaced with green and gold zucchini summer squash and basil, which I imagine is equally lovely).

But we are not here to talk about baked eggs, frittatas, or magically well-behaved infants in upscale hotel restaurants. We are here to talk about bread, something that Reynard does exceptionally well.

Bread at Reynard is only provided upon request, it is a menu item, and it set us back a whole $4. It arrived awkwardly halfway through our meal, because we ordered it only upon realizing that we desperately needed something to sop up all that smokey bacon juice (proof that this was a pragmatic decision and not just the caprice of two glutenites). Two slices of sprouted spelt bread presented modestly on a porcelain dish, boasting nothing, much less their merit as a separate item on the menu that must be paid for in addition to a meal, are rarely anything but signs of a persnickety kitchen lacking the graciousness of a good host. But these are not that. First of all, the bread was buttered on both sides, an arcane practice that I will now replicate with enthusiasm. Secondly, it was toasted in a wood oven in a cast iron skillet and I don't have to tell you what happens when bread meets animal fat meets velvety cast iron. Lastly and very significantly, it was served alongside more butter.

The bread, I learned, is from She Wolf Bakery,  a wood oven bread experiment turned Greenpoint bakery started in 2009 by Reynard's owner (and general Brooklyn restauranteur) Andrew Tarlow. Years later and to the delight of every hedonistic New Yorker, all of Tarlow's restaurants and many others across the city source their bread from She Wolf. They're revered for their sourdough, another Reynard toast option that, I should mention, was not offered to us. This is more than okay, as we were thrilled with our spelt, and seduced by the mere fact of not having to make a choice at all, another Sunday indulgence.


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