November 3 is celebrated as National Sandwich Day. While the invention of the sandwich is unknown in terms of who came up with the idea and why, the name is believed to have come from John Montagu. Montagu was the 4th Earl of Sandwich, a town in southeast England. Montagu was a gambler and asked his chef to cook him a meal which wouldn’t interfere with him gambling for 24 hours straight. The chef gave him sliced meat between two pieces of toast, allowing him to have one hand for gambling and one hand for eating.
As November 3 was Montagu’s birthday, the day is observed as National Sandwich Day. This article on sourdough bread is the first in a series of articles about the best ingredients to use in your sandwich: bread, cold cuts, cheese, and condiments. The B and 3 C’s. I’m starting with this baked delight as a sandwich can be completely ruined by bad bread.
Today’s modern bread ranges in problems from containing high fructose corn syrup and many chemical ingredients to the wheat in it being sprayed with various pesticides. Traditionally bread has been fermented into what’s known as sourdough. While bread in the Standard American Diet is loaded with many chemical ingredients, sourdough typically has only four or five ingredients: starter culture, water, flour, salt, and sometimes olive oil.
Sourdough uses wild yeast while conventional bread uses baker’s yeast, which is a single strain of yeast from a wild yeast culture. Baker’s yeast made it faster and cheaper to produce bread, but also removed a lot of the nutritional value.
Sourdough is healthier and easier to digest than regular bread for a number of reasons. It has a lower glycemic index than other breads. Sourdough is much lower in phytates due to the lactic acid bacteria in it. The fermentation process creates prebiotics and probiotics. Some people with gluten sensitivities can even handle sourdough.
But not all sourdoughs are created equally. Even with sourdough, it’s important to use organic flour. Many sourdough bakers take a shortcut and use conventional flour thinking people will eat it just because it’s sourdough. Weston A. Price founder and president Sally Fallon says she has a hard time finding organic sourdough and encouraged chapter leaders to find organic sourdough for their local resource lists. As I set out on my journey to find organic sourdough in Los Angeles, I ended up coming with way more than I thought I would. And the amount has expanded every year. There are now so many that I had to divide it up into two articles. First, here are the sourdough bakers with brick and mortars, their stories, and where you can find them in the greater Los Angeles area.
In alphabetical order, here are the 14 best organic sourdough bakeries:
Black Forest Bakery
Location: Los Feliz
Djo Maurer is a queer and trans baker originally from the Black Forest who named their bakery from where they grew up. While in Germany, Djo took daily trips to the bakery with their mother and has wonderful memories of the fresh bread every morning. Black Forest Bakery was born when Djo moved to the United States 15 years ago. They felt consumers had lost connection with where their bread came from due to the mass production of it. So Djo practiced crafting the perfect sourdough bread. They centered on the basic ingredients of flour, water, and salt as well as using the purest organic sources to bake a handcrafted artisanal sourdough bread.
Bub & Grandma’s
Location: Glassel Park
Bub & Grandma’s founder Andy Kadin had written for advertising and television before shifting into the world of food. Andy wanted to open a sandwich shop. But first gain experience, he worked at other restaurants. He first dabbled into baking with ciabatta bread, wrongly thinking it would be the easiest style. It ended up taking over his whole house. While trying to find commercial space, a friend of his working for the restaurant Dune introduced his bread to the owner. The owner preferred the ciabatta to what they were serving and got Andy to bake it for them. After several years of baking bread for various restaurants and selling it at the Hollywood Farmers Market, the Bub & Grandma’s sandwich shop and bakery debuted in 2022.
In 1990, two brother-in-laws found Cadoro Bakery to bake bread for the La Scala restaurants. Soon after, other local restaurants and retailers were interested in selling their bread. Then in 1999, hospitality expert Chris Ryan took over the daily operations and became a partner at Cadoro. Only shortly after, Chris’ son Nash Ryan joined the company and helped expand it, eventually opening a newer and larger bakery in Inglewood. Cadoro also started baking sourdough bread with organic flour and other ingredients and operating a booth at the Santa Monica Farmers Market. And finally in 2022, the Cafe Window opened for customers to order and pick up bread.
Locations: Echo Park, Larchmont, Brentwood
After having learned the bread making craft in Portland bakeries, working in traditional stone ground bakeries in his wife’s home country of Sweden, and being an assistant baker for organic farm Kenter Canyon, Zack Hall decided to venture on his own out of his West Hollywood apartment. He first delivered his bread to restaurants and shops and then opened the brick and mortar Clark Street Bread in the Grand Central Market in 2014. He opened two additional locations in Echo Park at the end of last year.
Friends & Family
Friends & Family is run by pastry chef/baker Roxana Jullapat and chef Daniel Mattern. The two have been long time supporters of cooking with real produce. They spent over 15 years working at a number of the top restaurants in Los Angeles before starting Friends & Family. Their artisan breads are hand made and consist of locally sourced heirloom grains.
Marc Lory along with chefs from Compagnons du Devoir, a French organization of craftsmen and artisans, created Frogs Bakery almost 10 years ago in Tucson, AZ to fulfill the tradition and art of making bread the way our ancestors did. The same sourdough starter they grew to make their bread is being used in every loaf made today. After three years in Arizona, they decided to move to Los Angeles. Their breads are certified organic and non-gmo verified.
In 2014, the Gjelina Group opened Gjusta as a commissary kitchen to supply bread and other products for their restaurants. Soon after, Gjusta turned into a bakery, deli, cafe, and store influenced by Parisian bakeries, east coast delis, and European markets. They shop at five farmers markets throughout the week to source the majority of their produce, meat, and seafood. Gjusta also uses organic flours in all of its baked goods, such as its sourdough French loaf and baguette.
Location: Long Beach
In 2013, Gusto founders Arturo Enciso and Ana Belen Salatino had moved into their new home in downtown Long Beach. It was here that they discovered an earth oven in their garden. Arturo felt it was his destiny to learn how to use it. He soon began chopping wood, firing up the oven, fermenting wild yeast starters, milling organic whole grains, and mixing the dough by hand. He then visited bakeries all over the world from the Bay Area to the East Coast to Mexico to Spain. In 2017, Arturo returned to Long Beach to set up his cottage bakery while selling their bread at farmers markets and to local cafes and restaurants. At the same, he and Ana began working on obtaining a storefront for the business. They’ve been able to work through the pandemic and opened their new location last year. Their loaves include yecora rojo wheat, sunflower/pumpkin/poppy seed, rye/spelt/wheat, and durum.
Le Pain Quotidien
Location: Glendale, Studio City, Encino, Larchmont, Beverly Hills, Westwood, Marina Del Rey, Manhattan Beach, Claremont
Chef Alain Coumont began baking when he was a little kid. On Sundays, he and his aunt would bake loaves, boules, and tarts. In addition, his father was trained as a chef and his maternal grandparents owned a restaurant in Belgium. After going to the same school his father attended, Alain felt it was time to make it on his own. While working as a chef in Brussels, he had a hard time finding bread which perfectly captured his memories of what he and his aunt made. Alain soon realized the only way to achieve this was to make it himself, so he opened Le Pain Quotidien in 1990. Seven years later, LPQ expanded to the United States with a bakery on Madison Ave. in New York City. Le Pain Quotidien now has over 260 locations around the world. In addition to bread and a bakery, they have a full menu of entrees made with organic and quality ingredients.
Location: Culver City, Woodland Hills, Pico
Or Amsalam and Alexander Phaneuf started the Lodge Bread Company by saying to each other “I dare you to do it.” They began working on the business at the end of 2014 and opened the physical bakery a year later. They mill the flour themselves and have various types of sourdough breads, including ones using whole grains, hard red wheat, spelt, and rye. Their bakeries also have a menu of items to order and provide classes on how to make your own sourdough.
Random Acts of Breadness
Random Acts of Breadness founder Randall Michael Tobin never planned on making sourdough for a living. He originally just wondered if he could make sourdough bread. About a month later, Randall felt he found the right ingredients, process, and tools to make bread. And then he began giving his bread to people he knew. One person described it as the best bread they ever had. A few years later, the demand grew to people now wanting to buy Randall’s sourdough. He knew he couldn’t sell it without a cottage industry license and obtaining one would limit the other foods he wanted to produce and sell. So he came up with the idea of anybody interested in his bread leaving tips. This concept led to Randall branding it Random Acts of Breadness and creating a website for it. With the success of his new branding and concept, Randall was then able to open a brick and mortar for Breadness. In addition to sourdough, Random Acts of Breadness also sells cutting boards. As Randall’s worked in the music industry as a composer, songwriter, producer, and engineer; this includes boards shaped like guitars.
Where to Buy: Burbank bakery
California family farm Kenter Canyon is known mainly for its lettuce, herbs, and leafy greens, but avocadoes, oranges, lemons, and tomatoes are among other crops they grow. And in 2013, they began a grain program, Roan Mills, with the heritage wheat varieties of sonora, glenn, and red fyfe. All of their flour is milled in house. Roan Mills’ sourdough starter is fed every 12 hours to ensure that the microorganisms are healthy and thriving.
SEED Bakery founder Joseph Abrakjian went from selling his breads at farmers markets to opening his own bakery. Joseph knows all about the ancient tradition of milling, fermenting, and baking bread. He mills intact whole grains on a stone mill only a few hour before baking. The SEED bread then goes through a 12 hour fermentation process. Joseph makes breads out of many heritage grains, such as einkorn, farro, and kamut.
Topanga Grain Company (Coming Soon)
Location: Woodland Hills
Topanga Grain Company founder Lisa McCullough Roark was raised by a family of great bakers and cooks where everything was homemade. Her father’s side of the family also followed a branch based off of the Amish and her cousins milled their own flour. She then began learning about the dangers of white flour while working many years for a health practitioner. Growing up in the south, Lisa had a love of good food. She decided to buy her own mill and see if she could make food which was both healthy and tasted great. To learn how to cook better, she enrolled in the San Francisco Baking Institute. In 2018, she opened the Topanga Grain Company. For her business, she still mills the grains herself and hand mixes the flour and water to make her wide range of sourdough breads.