Calling all bread connoisseurs and those alike (aka the people who just like bread), this is the piece that you’ve all been waiting for. We aren’t just talking about bread here — we are talking about baguettes: a long, narrow loaf of French bread that can be seen almost everywhere. At first glance, you’d think that they’re all the same — but that’s where you’re wrong. Sure, you could just pick one up from any old grocery store, but it’s simply not the same as picking up a fresh loaf from a bakery. With so many bakeries in town, how do you know which one’s the best?
As a self-proclaimed bread connoisseur myself (I own “I love bread” socks, which basically declares my expertise in bread), I’d like to say that I’ve made my way around town (eating bread of course). I’ve tried many different baguettes and believe it’s safe to say that there are some key components to a good baguette: the crust, coloring on the inside and outside and the smell. This is a science, so please pay attention.
Here’s a quick crash course on baguettes:
Crust: You’re looking for a crunchy crust when it comes to a good baguette. If I may reference a scene in the most iconic film of the century, “Ratatouille”: Colette explains to Linguini that one can tell if a baguette is good by gently squeezing the baguette and hearing the crust crackle. And you better believe I do the same thing when I see a baguette.
Exterior: On the outside, you want the crust to be different shades of brown and yellow to indicate caramelization.
Interior: You want the interior to be cream-colored with irregularly sized holes, both big and small.
Scent: As for the smell, it should be rich with many aromas. I know this one seems a little far-fetched, but trust me on this one.
With these in mind, here are some of my favorite spots to pick up a fresh baguette in Berkeley!
6323 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618
Located on the border of Oakland and Berkeley sits one of my favorite bakeries, La Farine. Known for its amazing pastries and phenomenal cakes, La Farine also serves a killer loaf. Although the white and light blue baguette sleeve can be a little deceiving, La Farine means business when it comes to its bread. Growing up, I came to La Farine a lot to pick up fruit tarts and baguettes, so every time I walk in, I can’t help but feel a little nostalgic. If you’re ever in the area and are in need of a solid baguette, this is the place to be! Important side note: don’t sleep on the morning buns!
The Cheese Board Collective
1504 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, CA 94709
Chances are that you’ve probably heard about Cheese Board before but probably for its delicious pizza. To many people’s surprise, there’s a bakery right next door to the pizzeria. The bakery serves a large assortment of cheeses and pastries, as well as breads (really good bread at that). The baguettes here have a crispier crust but a super soft inside, creating the perfect contrast for your bread-loving taste buds. While you’re there, be sure to sample some cheese, and maybe even take some home to eat with your baguette!
Acme Bread Company
1601 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, CA 94702
A Bay Area favorite, Acme is not here to play any games. With a shop located right next to Bartavelle, this small shop packs a punch with its large assortment and expertise in all things bread. Lots of restaurants and cafes serve Acme bread, but its baguette is on another level. Crispy on the outside but soft and chewy on the inside, Acme delivers the ultimate satisfaction to your wine and cheese plate, dinner or simply to your love for bread. I grew up eating this bread as a Bay Area local, and let me just say that nothing beats the satisfying bite of Acme bread. And I really do mean nothing.
Offered at multiple locations
Semifreddi’s bread is something we had a lot of in my household growing up and is a local favorite. Although the actual bakery is north of Berkeley in Kensington, Semifreddi’s is offered at many retailers around Berkeley, such as Berkeley Bowl, Whole Foods and even Safeway. This is my go-to baguette when I don’t have time to run to a bakery, because I can easily stop by any grocery store and pick it up. Now let me just say that convenience doesn’t compromise for the quality of bread. Although it might not be like buying these baguettes right from the bakery, Semifreddi’s delivers these fresh loaves of love every day, which one could argue is the equivalent of going straight to a bakery.
2912 Domingo Ave., Berkeley, CA 94705
I stumbled upon this place after having brunch at Rick and Ann’s, and boy, was it a good surprise. Fournée Bakery offers an assortment of baked goods, such as mouth-watering morning buns, amazing almond croissants and even better baguettes. I’m talking a chewy center with a crust that’s not overly crunchy, making it the perfect bite. Although my love for Fournée is rather new, I can already tell that it is long-lasting.
Nothing speaks to me more than a good baguette — and that’s the truth. Swing by any of these places for a baguette, and maybe even pick up a couple of their other goodies too! Whatever you do, I hope these places offer you the opportunity to form some great memories of breaking bread with those around you as they did for me!