When it comes to food and those who seek deliciousness, location is very important. Two of my good friends are buying a house just paces from where they are renting. Their criteria? The house needs to be equidistant to Delfina and Tartine as their apartment had been.

Although I did not pick my new flat in accordance with these stringent laws I was very lucky to have found a home ten minutes walking distance from The Cheeseboard Collective. And I have recently discovered their daily whole grain bread schedule. The Wednesday Sesame Sunflower is my favorite, but I have not been disappointed yet.

If you have ever baked your own bread, spent time in the kitchen where bread was being baked, or were merely the very lucky person to eat the first slice of bread still warm from the oven, you know that what we buy in the supermarket tastes nothing like this. Similarly, if you have ever had the sensuous pleasure of picking an apple on a chilly day or tasted honeycomb thieved from the buzzing creatures themselves, you know there is a specific indescribable flavor inherent in absolute freshness. This je ne sais quois is completely decimated when bread is produced on a large scale.

It is my “Golden Apple of Eternal Desire” this flavor chase. And I’m not talking about the $5-10 dollar loaf of artisinally crafted levain or pugliese, I am speaking here only to the plain wallflower of a girl, the whole wheat loaf for slicing, toasting and hippie sandwich making. Sometimes simple is the most difficult, or in the Bay Area, the hardest to find.

Because The Cheeseboard Collective treats themselves fairly they are closed on Sunday and Monday. On Saturdays the energy is high with people stocking up for the weekend. Although the clientele is predominantly comfortable shoe-wearers who seem to have made the thirty nine year old shop their town square, the atmosphere is welcoming to new people finding their way. Homemade signs list all the ingredients of the various sweet and savory breads, and custom built shelves house bakery tissue and various sizes of brown bags to to grab bread and whisk loaves away in. Some items are sold by the each, others by the pound. At the end of the day if there’s anything left you can get a very good deal.

Bread made daily whose ingredient list does not include words we cannot pronounce means that I usually come home and slice and freeze said purchases. It’s also because I have the perfect toaster oven. It has a “frozen toast” setting. Currently appearing in my freezer are the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday whole grain breads, a small dense loaf of an interesting spelt bread with farro (makes a very crunchy toast crust if you like this sort of thing), and a shiny-crusted holey sourdough.

Even though I have enough bread to tide me over until May I like walking over for the occasional fresh brioche knot. In the bread and pastry making world, word on the street is that a bread maker makes bready pastries and a pastry maker makes sweeter richer breads. The ingredient list for The Cheeseboard’s brioche reads:

organic white flour, water, butter, eggs, buttermilk, cream, sugar, golden raisins, brown sugar, cinnamon, yeast, salt.

Obviously there is no short supply of fat here, but this bread is definately bread: chewy, dense strands wound tight with a shimmery sheen of sugar on the perfectly colored exterior and a whisper-hint of cinnamon hidden in the elbows of the internal twists.

The Cheeseboard Collective’s offerings are a quirky ecclectic collection of breads cheesy, sour, sweet and healthful. Having moved “to the other side” as someone recently said, I am compiling my new local sources for daily nibbles. Stay tuned for more delicious findings from the East Bay.

The Cheeseboard Collective
1504 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, California
ph# 510. 549.3183

  • Ivonne

    Shuna,

    Thanks so much for this post! I was in Berkeley this past summer and hoped to visit The Cheeseboard Collective, but we arrived too late. We were only there for the evening.

    Next time, I will be on time! But your description confirms what I suspected. That it’s a great place to buy bread!

  • but no vino…

    muchos gracias ~ just what I needed to start the day !! Better than fresh Tartine bread? I couldn’t help but notice the Fish and Loaves theme- ha ! and I think we actually are closer to both AND Bi-Rite….a little slice of heaven…We have been cooking cooking cooking with our big daddy DCS- boudin is thawing in the fridge- let me know what night….

  • Jennifer

    Oh Shuna, this is the place I miss the absolute most about Berkeley. The Cheeseboard was a daily stop before, and sometimes after, work. I now spend many hours and countless pounds of butter trying to reproduce their Chocolate Things from their cookbook. Thanks for rekindling the memories.

Author

Shuna Fish Lydon

Shuna fish Lydon was whisked and baked in San Francisco but served and eaten in New York City. She's had a 16 year tumultuous love affair with professional cooking and has BFA in photography from CCAC.

Working with and for some of the best chefs in NYC and California, Shuna's resume reads like the who's who of cooking today. She identifies as a fruit-inspired pastry chef and calls the many local farmers' markets her muse.

Currently "at large," Shuna spends her time teaching baking and knife skills classes, consulting at local restaurants and writing for a number of outlets about deliciousness.

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