Some trends start like applause, erupting out of relative silence as if everyone had the same idea all at once – this is how we ended up abruptly swamped in cupcakes and poké. Other trends come on much more slowly. This seems to be true of artisanal bread bakeries. What once was a landscape filled with industrial, mass-production bakeries has slowly given way to several smaller craft bread bakers across the city. There is Lodge Bread and Gjusta to the west, Bread Lounge and Clark Street downtown, the venerable La Brea Bakery in Mid-City, Grist & Toll flour mill in Pasadena and several others. And now there's Seed Bakery in north Pasadena.
The new bakery, run by longtime farmers market baker Joseph Abrakjian, is in a small storefront on Washington just east of Lake, technically still Pasadena but only barely. When you walk in, you're greeted by a chalkboard explaining Seed’s governing principles. They mill their flour in-house from whole grains, many of them ancient or unusual ones such as spelt or farro, as well as extra dark rye or red Sonoran wheat. The bread undergoes a 12-hour fermentation process, which gives it just a hint of tang and breaks down some of the gluten, making it easier to digest. The resulting loaves are carefully stacked in a display case up front with little tags explaining their ingredients.
Making this bread is a long process, but Seed's product lives up to the care afforded it; the loaves are phenomenal, whether you opt for the rustic country or olive loaf, the walnut whole wheat or one of the rotating selections made with more obscure grains. The crumb is, as promised, springy and just a little tart in a fabulous way, with a thin, firm crust. It is moist and a little denser than most, hearty and satisfyingly chewy without being heavy or tough. A thick slice holds up perfectly under a healthy smear of jam, but it is also flavorful and interesting enough to be a pleasure on its own.
Visiting Seed feels a lot like visiting a production bakery. The space is not so much airy or artsy as it is functional, with bags of grain piled off to one side and a handful of tables set out around the room. A chalkboard menu of breakfast items and sandwiches sits high above the register and the display case. It’s not an uncomfortable place, exactly, but it isn’t the sort of environment that makes you want to linger for hours over a coffee and a loaf.
The menu is pretty straightforward, with a couple of toasts (yes, avocado among them) and several sandwiches, as well as some egg options for breakfast and a couple of versions of things in a bowl. There is real thought put into the dishes, from the pomegranate seeds, lemon and spice blend sprinkled onto the avocado toast to house-made meatloaf inside one of the sandwiches.
If you're looking to pick up a loaf, come early. The bread disappears fast, and you don't want to endure the anguish of watching the last loaf of whole wheat walnut be carried home in someone else’s arms.
Seed Bakery, 942 E. Washington Blvd., Pasadena; seedbakerypasadena.com