Best Baguette - 2012
Ran Zimon, owner and baker at downtown's newish bakery Bread Lounge, is something of a minimalist. His bakery is designed like the lofts that surround it, and his spare menu is built around his stunning breads, with a small list of pastries and sandwiches and house-made drinks. No Coke. No cupcakes. But his baguettes best exemplify his ideology, which has its roots in his native Israel and maybe a bit in Suzanne Goin's kitchens, where Zimon baked before opening his own place. Stacked like firewood on the countertop and on the racks in the open kitchen, these baguettes are a deep golden brown, burnished to a very dark bronze at the pointed ends — not the anemic pale colors of too many baguettes in this country. Which is to say that they've been properly baked. Made with natural levain (no yeast, only flour and salt and water) and fired in a 500-degree MIWE deck oven from Germany, they are the actual definition of artisan bread, in that each batch requires between 16 and 24 hours to make. Very slightly sour, with gorgeous crumb and a crisp carapace, these are real baguettes — the kind that make you want to buy a few extra, just so you can bike home with them in your basket. 700 S. Santa Fe Ave., dwntwn. (213) 327-0782, no website.