Romania Country Bread
3680 Moncton St
I have a certain fascination for places that sell only one thing. You see this type of operation more often in other places in the world – Ramen-ya in Japan, Food stalls in South East Asia, Cheese, Yougurt, Sausage, and Ham makers all over Europe, etc. This type of specialization is quite rare here in North America where we value convenience when we shop for food.
Romania Country Bread is an extreme anomaly when you consider that this place is located in Richmond BC where strip malls, supermarkets and other types of convenience shopping abound. Romania Country Bread sells only one thing….their hearty Whole Wheat Loaf. (Well…they sell two things if you count a half-size version of this loaf.)
Nicolai, the baker, used to operate Transylvania Bakery on Broadway in the west side of Vancouver prior to moving his operation here a number of years ago. He bakes his bread in a magnificent woodfired oven that occupies nearly half the space. He lists his occupations as “baker” and “mason”…implying that he builds his brick ovens – an ideal combination of skills considering the end product. But Nicolai is also an anachronism: woodfired ovens are becoming exceedingly rare as city officials are now reluctant permit their construction due to fire-safety and air-quality concerns.
Nicolai’s bread is made from organic, stone ground whole wheat. The dough is then slowly risen using a natural sourdough leavening: strains of wild yeast, lactic acid bacteria and other such microscopic beasties. This ecosystem thriving in the dough will ultimately impart a complex, sour tang to the finished bread. The texture also changes as the dough ferments – the crumb becomes glossy, open (with large, unevenly sized bubbles) and chewy. The crust turns crispy (but not hard) and mahogany in colour under a layer of white flour as it caramelizes in the oven’s intense and even heat. The final aroma is a pleasant maltiness – a result of the complex biochemistry of this entire process.
The final loaf weighs in at $11 dollars. Is it worth $11? I personally think it is (one loaf lasts me about three days). As an avid baker myself, I know how much work and experience it takes to bake bread this good. No compromises or shortcuts were taken in the making of this bread. Nicolai does provide samples in his shop…have a taste before you decide to part with your money.