Bread can be the foundation on which you build your sandwich, a hunk to dunk into your soup or a snack to savor on its own, maybe with a smear of Rose Valley butter or a slice of Oregon cheese. And lucky us. It's easy to find fine, flavorful bread fresh out of a local oven. Fill your picnic basket with a hearty multi-grain loaf from Red Fox Bakery or a seed-filled Dakota round from Great Harvest. Grab some Tillamook cheese and a French-style baguette from Carlton Bakery as you head out on a round of winetasting. Tuck your favorite sandwich fillings between slices of cheddar jalapeño bread from Sandwich Express or buttermilk potato bread from the Crescent Café so you can enjoy lunch in the park or at your desk. Harvest Fresh and local chain supermarkets also offer a wide selection of breads these days, often baked — although not mixed — on site. Flavored with herbs, olives or asiago cheese, they also make a fine addition to a picnic or dinner party. Here are some vendors to consider when you're looking for your next lovely loaf.
Red Fox Bakery A fixture of downtown McMinnville, Red Fox offers European-style breads made from scratch. Starting well in advance, its bakers allows baguettes and loaves a long, slow rise before sliding them into a hot oven, producing a crusty exterior and fluffy interior, according to owner Christina "Chrissy" Buck. Buck, who worked at Red Fox for seven years before purchasing the business last June, said the bakery uses no preservatives or artificial sweeteners. Except for the popular buttermilk golden raisin and some seasonal loaves, its breads contain no dairy products, either. In addition to the raisin bread, Red Fox's daily offerings include oblong multi-grain loaves and baguettes and batards made from the same dough. Specials include rye, ciabatta or sourdough. Multi-grain is most popular, Buck said. In addition to selling loaves, the bakery slices them to serve with its soups or salads. The array of breads also is available as sandwiches. Loaves often sell out, so get there early for the best selection. Prices range from $1.65 for a demi baguette or $3 for a full baguette into the $5 to $6 range for specialty loaves. The bakery has a special four-deck oven with different heat levels, depending on where loaves are placed. Bakers watch the breads, add steam and rotate them within the oven to produce the perfect crust, Buck said. "There's an art to it," she said. "Every baker's bread is a reflection of them — the texture, the look, depends on their personality." Buck said Red Fox employees start mixing "flour, yeast, water and love" a full day early to allow time for the protracted rising. The first baker arrives at 2 a.m. to start shaping and baking loaves. Other bakers arrive a few hours later to keep the bread production cycle going and begin making pastries. Buck shapes loaves and does some of the baking. She enjoys it. "Each dough has a different texture," she said. "It's fun to see it come out of the oven, so beautiful." Red Fox, located at 328 N.E. Evans St., is open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. The bakery recently started offering breakfast, as well, from 8 to 10:30 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
Sandwich Express Sandwich Express, located at 711 N.E. Highway 99W, has been baking its own bread to use in-house for sandwiches and soup bowls for two decades. Two years ago, founder and owner Matthew Primbs added loaves to take home, along with a selection of pastries. Honey wheat, white, rye, sourdough and cheddar jalapeño loaves are available daily. Seasonal favorites, such as cinnamon chip, appear on the menu from time to time. While Primbs favors the sourdough, honey wheat and cheddar jalapeno are the most popular with customers. Many people stop by just to buy bread, while others pick up a loaf after having breakfast or lunch. The pan breads, shaped for slicing to make sandwiches, run $2.99 to $3.49. An array of cookies, brownies, scones and other items also is available. All the pastries and breads, including loaves of bread used for the shop's sandwiches, are made from scratch daily. Primbs, a former teacher, developed his own recipes using fresh, natural ingredients. "Good bread is so important," he said. "With sandwiches, it's the first thing you bite into. "We do our own so it will be fresh, taste good and be consistent. That shows the dedication of our bakers." Primbs said his bread baker starts in the middle of the night in order to make enough fresh dough for loaves ready when the restaurant opens. Other bakers work on pastries. McMinnville's Sandwich Express is open from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. There's also a location in Newberg.