My encounter with the dubious edibles of Bread Star Bakery left me wondering if the dining halls commission their food from them — and I don’t mean Berkeley.
While Bread Star, which opened last Wednesday on Wall Street next to Naples Pizza, may be good for a quick cup of hazelnut coffee or perhaps a cinnamon chip scone, I would balk at telling anyone to forego even JE food for one of their turkey lettuce wraps ($5.95). The composition of said sandwiches and wraps, while imaginative, was slightly off, and the consistency of many of the baked goods raised questions as to whether the proprietors had arbitrarily chosen an (Easy-Bake) oven temperature. The service was quick and friendly, but sometimes even affirmation of the kindness of our fellow man can fail to make up for a mushy low-fat blueberry muffin.
I started off my survey of Bread Star’s organic offerings with one of the two soups, the tomato basil. But this insipid concoction met my needs only in terms of temperature; my thirst for a fuller taste and substance went unquenched. The pleasantly spicy tingle only partially made up for the wateriness of the soup and the unwelcome crunchiness of the tomatoes. At $4.25 a cup, the soup comes with a few slices of fresh bread, but I’ll get to the actual merits of that proposition later.
Bread Star offers a more extensive selection of sandwiches and wraps. For breakfast, eggs and cheese with ham or bacon come on bagels or bread for under $2.25. Also served warm are grilled sandwiches in varieties like American cheese with tomatoes, onions and olives, or Swiss cheese with ham, tomatoes and onion.
There is a wider range of cold sandwiches and wraps. Bread Star’s chalkboards advertise its reasonably special takes on conventional fare, serving up Black Forest Ham with Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and pesto mayonnaise on your choice of five organic, all-natural breads — ranging from white to Five-Grain — all baked in Bread Star’s ovens. The pesto mayo added a subtle but pervasive undertone to the abundant lettuce and ham, all of which worked well with my choice of whole wheat bread. The turkey, baby greens, cucumber, wasabi and mayo wrap, on the other hand, gave me the sensation that I was chomping on weeds — too many sharp-tasting baby greens and not enough meat, even though the wrapper itself was one of the better that I’ve had.
The salads offered by Bread Star include dill chicken, lemon pepper tuna, garden and chicken Caesar. Opting for the dill chicken ($4.95), I enjoyed the light taste of dill and the tenderness of the chicken, but found it otherwise a very ordinary salad replete with greens, tomato, and cucumber.
Coming at last to the baked goods, I discovered that my ability to break off pieces with my fingers ranged from extreme ease (aided by the muffin’s position in the purgatory between solid and liquid) to extreme difficulty (e.g. industrial chocolate chip cookies). The blueberry and lemon-raspberry muffins were notable for their moistness, and the corn and raisin bran for their dryness. I did enjoy the sweet tanginess of the lemon-raspberry, which was a good change from a typical muffin selection and reasonable at $1.59.
The scones fared better in my assessment, achieving a more standard texture and moisture. I was a big fan of the cinnamon chip scone ($1.25), which served up succulent bursts of the sweet spice. I next examined the cranberry scone but was puzzled — where were the cranberries? At first glance, the confection in my hand appeared to be devoid of any of the offending fruit. Upon further inspection, I came across perhaps three shriveled berries.
Bread Star unfortunately failed to live up to my expectations with regards to its name’s impressive claims of being a shining beacon in the world of bread. It features about ten varieties of loaf sandwich breads, which are solidly constructed but decidedly boring. Bread Star could greatly elevate its menu by adding an assortment of fancier breads, such as baguettes and circular loaves. They may also want to try making cakes or tarts to really achieve a level of cosmopolitanism that is currently lacking.
Essentially, Bread Star is more of a café or a coffee shop than a bakery. It may be best to treat it as a nice place to take a break between classes to savor a cheap cup of coffee ($1.25). Bread Star’s large glass windows provide a pleasant vista for people-watching as well as decanting a lot of natural light into the whimsically painted, red and gold shop. When it comes to venturing farther into the menu, though, I advise caution: you would really be better off with a meal plan, sustainable food project or not.