Jeff Smith 4 p.m., Dec. 20
Super secret sourdough
The other day, my friend Emily forwarded me an email from one of her friends. It was about a new "bread CSA" that a girl had started up. She was baking three days a week and interested parties could get on the mailing list. For now, the operation is pretty simple. Kyla bakes bread three days a week in the kitchen at El Take it Easy. She transports everything on a bike so she can deliver the bread on her way home or hold it for pick-up at her place in Mission Hills. She charges $3-$4 for a loaf.
I grabbed a tradtional pain au levain and a roasted garlic loaf yesterday and I'm pleased to report that they're pretty good. They're both sourdough breads but she knows how to coax life from the starter so the crumb isn't overly dense, although the small, convection oven at the restaurant isn't ideal for bread and it doesn't seem like she is getting as much oven spring out of the loaves as she could. According to Kyla, she spent some time in France making bread and I think she has some talent to work with.
This sounds pretty cool, no? Here's the rub: I can't just give out her contact info. She's not quite ready to make more bread than she already is, which is about twelve to fifteen loaves at a time. There are loads of logistical concerns (transportation and delivery, oven capacity, etc.) that prevent expansion of the bread program at this point.
Still, this could get bigger and I'll keep tabs on Kyla and her bread production.
For a little while, a similar project called InGrained was running out of Twiggs Coffee Shop with some degree of success. Eventually, Colin (the baker) went to France to practice baking (patterns are emerging here....) and then he moved back to Colorado and InGrained was no more in San Diego. Colin was fairly successful in his endeavor, so it seems like Kyla could experience similar results with the right program and promotion.
Perhaps the most intriguing part of Kyla's operation is that she's sharing space with El Take it Easy and using the space and equipment which sits dormant for half of every day when the restaurant is closed. In theory, it makes a lot of economic sense to extract more productivity from existing structures. Temporarily vacant structures and spaces are a constant challenge to civil engineers because so many resources are tied up in not being used. Finding new uses for the things we already have, rather than erecting new structures to serve a single purpose, has come to be an important challenge in the 21st century. Of course, there are challenges. There is only so much sharing that's possible in, say, a restaurant before one business starts to negatively impact the other. Anyone who has ever tried to stake out space in a walk-in cooler for special projects knows how precious some resources are. Still, I think that's an institutional problem as much as anything else. Entrenched ways of thinking about space and time don't account for creative re-use and considerations of greater efficiency. It's only a matter of rethinking certain things and making some small accommodations that have big results.
For now, I'll keep tabs on Kyla's bread thing. Feel free to contact me through the Reader with feedback on, or interest in, shared-space stuff like this.