I’ll Take This Kind of Pain Every Day
Wave Hill Breads, Wilton
Wave Hill Breads has moved from Wilton to Norwalk, where you can can still visit the bakery and buy great stuff.
As if I don’t divulge enough about my personal life on CTMQ, here’s another: Top-notch freshly baked bread is my favorite food in the world. Oh sure, I like a nice chunk of chocolate or a perfect paella, but I’m a simple bloke. And I love good bread.
I never really knew what good bread was until Hoang and I went to France in 2004. There I learned how and why French people seem to be satisfied with a bagette and some cheese for lunch. No matter where we went – corner bakeries in Provence or roadside stands in the mountains, French French bread was always superior to anything I’ve ever had in the States. Bubbly, crusty, buttery, soft… Incredible.
When I saw Wave Hill Breads’ pain de Campagne on the “500 Things to Eat Before It’s Too Late” list by the Roadfooders, I couldn’t wait to get out to Wilton and grab a loaf. As it happened, we’d be meeting another Smith-Magenis child from Wilton on a trip back from Delaware. As excited as we were to meet another family with a unique child like ours, don’t tell Hoang but I was almost as eager for the bread.
By the way, the “Wave Hill” in the name is not in Wilton – or even Connecticut. It’s where the owners got married across the Hudson in New York. These guys are committed: They started their bakery after more than 20 years in corporate life. They apprenticed to the Stowe, VT baker, Gerard Rubaud, and adapted his recipes. They learned how to make pain de campagne (country bread) in stages, practicing at home in between lessons.
Of course, this was before many more former corporate workers in Wilton began looking for creative new careers. (AIG had a large, infamous office in Wilton where the multi multi-millionaires worked and lived it up before, y’know, they couldn’t.) The bakers bought a 3000-pound oven and had it installed in the former office space off of Route 7 and kept willy-nilly hours at the outset in Wilton.
The artisan ethic is evident in every corner of the bakery. The little store/bakery is filled with true craftsmen art:
Yves Labbe, of Norristown, Pennsylvania, made our wooden racks and traditional proofing troughs and Roger Adkins, who made our signature display baskets from saplings on his land. You can find “WAVE HILL BREADS”, hand-stenciled by Margaret on the cement floor, polished and stained by Ed Winslow as you enter the bakery.
But their best accomplishment may be the following, “We enjoy seeing Europeans smile when they taste WAVE HILL bread for the first time and say that it reminds them of the bread in their home country.” Let’s get to it.
Hail Mitchell Rapoport and Margaret Sapir! They have brought good bread to southern Connecticut. Admittedly, I am a bread fanatic — I could live on it, and did so one full week a few years ago in Paris — and there is no complaint I voice more relentlessly than my belief that so much bread is mediocre. In this category I include nearly all New York bagels and delicatessen rye, for which there can be no excuse, not to mention all the sub-par Italian rolls on which hero sandwiches are made hereabouts.
The three-grain pain de campagne that Mitch and Margaret make in their little bakery off Route 7 in Wilton shuts me up good. It is a gorgeous loaf with a rugged, muscular crust and dense insides that provide just the right tooth resistance for complete bread enjoyment. It is great with cheeses or as the basis for a sandwich or simply spread with soft butter; and there are plenty of times, coming home from the bakery with a hot loaf, that I eat half of it a capella, with no companion other than water.
According to the bag in which it’s packed, the loaf is made from flour, water, spelt and rye berries, sea salt, and yeast. The spelt and rye berries (organic, of course) are stone-ground daily on premises; and loaves are baked each morning (except Tuesday). They are available here at the bakery as well as several local markets.
Note: the Wave Hill repertoire has recently expanded to croutons — huge, gnarled, crusty things that make any salad deluxe — and an item called “just crust,” which is a buff chip available plain or infused with curry or hot pepper.
The CTMQ Experience:
The bakery was fortunately still open when we drove by and happened to have a few loaves left. (I was only interested in the pain de campagne, although I’m sure their newer items are awesome too.)
We tore into the loaf before even hitting the road again – to the Ridgefield Ice Cream Shop – so yeah, we had bread and ice cream for lunch… We were ending a vacation in style. Damian loved it and I slowly chewed my chewy hunk while driving up the terribly choked Route 7.
The endless traffic and congestion didn’t matter to me, for I was enjoying plain, warm bread. The bread has giant bubble holes all throughout it; bigger than any you’ve probably ever seen. This is rustic bread, made with very few ingredients and with traditional methods. I loved it.
Once home, we enjoyed it with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Perhaps a little brie? Oh yeah, I’ve found part of my perfect Connecticut meal.