Visit Culver City's new Lodge Bread artisanal bakery and you're likely to see one of the partners, Or Amsalam and Alexander Phaneuf, rotating loaves in the oven with a long peel or rapping their knuckles against the bottom of a loaf, checking if it's ready to cool. You may hear those loaves referred to as "real bread," a term that has been used by those in the industry to differentiate their craft (not unlike "real ale" in the beer industry).
To the untrained eye, Lodge's dark loaves look almost burnt. The exterior is hard and chestnut-colored, showcasing roasted nutty aromas and protecting the moist dough inside. Sometimes customers ask why the bread is so darkly colored; Phaneuf assures them: “This is how we do things.”
Amsalam and Phaneuf work closely with their flour supplier, Central Milling, to create the optimal moisture levels and fermentation times. (Most loaves see between 13 and 23 hours of proofing and fermentation, depending on the activity of the yeast.) With the growing movement of California heritage grains, the partners are eager to get involved with other regional growers and producers.
The two partners worked together at Goldie’s on Third Street after Amsalam brought in a yeast starter, and they also began baking at Phaneuf’s house. From the success of a few early wholesale accounts, the pair decided to go pro, investing in an Italian Bassanina oven, which mimics a wood-burning oven but with steam injection.
The artisan spirit at Lodge goes beyond the bread. Amsalam's and Phaneuf‘s fathers crafted the white tile tabletops and the steel benches that line the dining area. Ceramicist Tim McMullen created the plates and light shades. A high, wooden shelf overhead holds select baking items and cookbooks: in particular Josey Baker Bread, by San Franciscan Josey Baker, whom Amsalam and Phaneuf cite as a mentor and supporter of Lodge Bread.
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In the mornings you can grab coffee and a rye brownie from pastry chef Alan Craig — or opt for toast. Country, whole wheat and seeded breads are served toasted with toppings such as cultured butter or nut butter, seasonal preserves, cinnamon and sugar, or avocado and radish.
Four daily loaves are available to take home: country, seeded country, whole wheat and Castelvetrano olive. They range in price from $7 to $9.
11918 Washington Blvd., Culver City. (424) 384-5097; lodgebread.com.
Correction: This post and its headline have been changed to changed to reflect that Lodge Bread is not the only brick-and-mortar bakery in L.A. that's devoted to artisanal bread.