A hotel restaurant might not be the first place that comes to mind when you’re looking for a quality bread to take home. But at the Standard East Village, locals and tourists alike can get their hands on naturally leavened loaves, which are made using flours sourced from the Northeast. The same bread served on dishes at Narcissa, the hotel’s restaurant, is likewise available to those who want to swing by and grab a loaf or two after work.
Max Blachman-Gentile, who spearheaded the program at the Standard, spent most of 2018 trying to find a place where he could retail bread. In New York, Blachman-Gentile’s bread rose to popularity when he gained a loyal following by selling loaves from Tørst, a Danish beer bar in Greenpoint. He made about an extra 10 loaves per day that he’d sell via Instagram. People picked up their orders from Blachman-Gentile at the bar or from McCarren Park in Williamsburg. While that method created a robust group of devotees and garnered praise from Bloomberg as the best bread in New York, he wished to find a more sustainable selling process, one that he could expand.
“After searching for a while, Angela Dimayuga, creative director of food and culture at the Standard, reached out and told me about the changes they were making at the Standard, East Village,” he says. “I thought that a retail bread program could be a great addition to their plan. I can’t think of many, if any, hotels that have this type of program.”
With this program, Blachman-Gentile is offering much more than the run-of-the-mill loaves you might find from chain grocery store bakeries (and, in my opinion, even the high-end ones). He says that the majority of the flour used comes from Small Valley Milling in Pennsylvania, Farmer Ground in upstate New York, Maine Grains in Maine and Four Star Farms in Massachusetts.
“We’re able to make sure that the grain is either milled fresh to order or has been milled very recently, within two to three months at the most,” he says. “This gives us much more interesting mineral and vegetal flavors in the bread, as well as a more active fermentation. That’s what helps get a nice sour tang and an open crumb, among other factors.”
Grocery store bread tends to be made in about an hour or so, so it doesn’t generate as much in the way of health benefits. By using a slow, natural fermentation process, where the flour is mixed into water for two or three days until it’s baked, Blachman-Gentile is offering bread that’s not only more delicious but is also easier to digest. The higher percentage of whole grains means that the loaves are nutrient dense, too. With the slower and more thoughtful technique, Blachman-Gentile is debunking the notion that bread is bad for your health.
One of his most distinguished naturally fermented sourdough loaves offered at the Standard is inspired by kasha varnishkes, an Ashkenazi Jewish pasta dish cooked with rendered chicken fat, slow-cooked onions and roasted buckwheat groats. To make this loaf, Blachman-Gentile prepares a porridge with the flavor profile of kasha varnishkes and adds it into the dough once it cools down. The briny umami from the chicken fat pairs well with a B.L.A.T. (bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomato sandwich), he says. Honestly, I think it’s excellent on its own.
Read more: How Fermentation Saved One Woman’s Stomach
Blachman-Gentile also hopes to get folks hooked on rugbrød, a Danish rye bread packed with sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds and steel-cut oats. He loves that rugbrød originated from resourceful people living in frigid temperatures.
“It’s just bread that people are not that familiar with, you know? For me, it’s this really interesting story of what people have done historically to survive,” he says. “In Northern Europe, where the climate is colder, wheat doesn’t grow well but rye does. Even though this doesn’t have as much gluten, and it isn’t the light loaf of bread that people are used to, they created this. It’s so nutrient rich. It’s basically like a power bar.”
The rugbrød can be enjoyed at home simply as toast that’s used to mop up a runny yolk from over-easy or poached eggs. If toasted enough, the hearty, textured bread can also be made into crackers for a cheese board.
In addition to the rugbrød and kasha varnishkes-inspired sourdough, the Standard is selling a baguette, a malted milk bread, traditional sourdough and a high-extraction miche. The breads are available daily from 1 to 9 p.m. in the Standard Café. The day’s loaves typically come out of the oven right around noon, so in the evening, the bread is still very fresh.