Page 3 of 6
"We live in the subtleties of life, not in the extremes," Spompinato says. "This job is nothing like any of the bakeries I've ever been at, and that was the goal."
Just after 10 p.m., the first of the night's retail customers appears, eager to pick up bread that's just out of the oven.
New Traditionalist Bread
With his tousled hair and his tattoo sleeve, Chris Glenn could be the frontman for a rock band. It was only five years ago that he was reviewing music for The Pitch. But when Glenn begins to speak in the dining room of vegan delivery service Conveniently Natural (where he's currently renting kitchen space), it's clear that the hands behind the eight-month-old New Traditionalist bakery have found a new muse.
"The best thing about bread is making bread," he says. "There is no other food that is so transformative, that can go from a pile of dust to a loaf of bread."
Just two years ago, Glenn was a talented but raw baker experimenting on the wood-burning oven in Cafe Europa. Between making pizza dough and batards, Glenn began working on an organic sourdough loaf to sell on Friday nights at the BadSeed Farmers Market.
"Once I could look people in the eye and ask them to give me money for what I was making, I knew I was ready," Glenn says.
So was the Crossroads. Glenn went from selling 30 to selling 60 loaves every night, but the real value might have come from what became a de facto food-business incubator: the back corner of 1909 McGee, where employees of Soda Vie, Oddly Correct and Green Dirt Farm would talk about how to cultivate a following. For Glenn, that meant letting his fig bread and black-pepper-and-parmesan bruschetta do the talking.
"There's just so much of him in his bread," says his wife, Cara, who tags and wraps finished loaves and often demos or delivers them alongside Glenn. "That's what people are tasting."
He left Cafe Europa in September 2011 — they still buy his bread — and opened New Traditionalist. Over the past eight months, he has added the Farmhouse, the Better Cheddar, and Nature's Own Health Market to his client list. And he's back at the BadSeed Farmers Market on Friday nights, testing out new ideas, like his raisin and fennel loaf.
"Kansas City has a chance to have a reputation as a bread-baking town like San Francisco or New York in proportion to our size," Glenn says. "And the coolest idea for me is that I can be part of that community."
Bonito Michoacan Panaderia y Reposteria Fina
1200 Minnesota Avenue
Kansas City, Kansas
Like a jewelry shop displaying its prized gems in glass cases, the nine-month-old Bonito Michoacan puts metal trays of its Mexican breads behind glass doors, the better to view them in their yeasty glory. The exhibition includes the horn-shaped cuernos, the sugar-glazed pan dulce, the sugar-mottled conchas, the crusty French rolls called bolillos, and the saucer-sized and flour-dusted telera.
Although this sleek, shiny panaderia is best-known for its layer cakes and French-inspired pastries, the selection of breads, both plain and sweet, has become a signature of this busy venue. It's open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day, making it a place of pilgrimage on Sundays, when most other bakeries are closed.
Several of Bonito Michoacan's employees don't speak English, but the bread here knows no language barrier. Just point at the bakery cases and you'll be handed a round metal tray and a pair of tongs. Load up the tray with whatever catches your eye (don't forget a couple of triangles of the tawny cheesecake known as pay de queso), which is likely to include several bolillos. Take one home and split it, toast it in the oven and slather it with butter. Add a steaming cup of cappuccino, and you have one of the most satisfying simple breakfasts any culture offers.