A toasted sesame sourdough loaf made in the home kitchen of a photographer's loft in East Village.
On Thursday night, a few minutes before sunset, I found a parking spot at 13th and G Streets in East Village, and called upstairs to let them know I had arrived. From the sidewalk I could see a rope and pulley system rigged outside a third story window, with a basket attached. Within moments, a masked figure appeared in the window to place a pair of cardboard boxes in the basket, then lower it to the street. As the basket descended, I could start to make out the sign fastened to it: Izola. When it reaches me, I pick out my boxes, which contain croissants and a loaf of sourdough bread.
Sidewalk signs for Izola Bakery are a clue to look up for the basket hanging out a third story window.
Izola Bakery is the work of Jeffrey Lamont Brown, a local photographer who for the past couple decades has pieced together a notable career in fashion photography, photojournalism, videography, and portraiture. Most of those years, he’s lived and worked out of his Studio 710, a loft right here on the third floor of 710 13th Street.
Boxes containing Izola sourdough and croissants
When the pandemic disrupted his photography business, Brown decided to pursue another interest to make ends meet: baking. When San Diego shutdown in March, he was traveling in Paris, cruising boulangeries in search of his ideal croissant. When he returned to San Diego, he quickly applied for a cottage kitchen license, and within a few weeks had his loft kitchen up, and and he was running a home bakery.
A pair of flaky chocolate croissants
Since late spring, Izola — named after Brown’s grandmother — has found customers largely by word of mouth, and with street-level sandwich board signs courting walk-in traffic up to his studio. However, the need for curbside pickup option led to the pulley and rope system. Customers order and pay for their baked goods online, which are ready to lower by basket about a half hour later.
The photographer's studio at Izola Bakery
Unlike most bakeries, which open in the early morning, Izola operates on afternoons only: Wednesday through Friday from 3-6pm. Brown spends his days baking a variety of rustic loaves from the same sourdough starters. Options — which happen to be vegan — may include olive loaf ($11), cranberry black walnut ($12), and my choice, a simple toasted sesame ($11), in any case with the name Izola baked into its side.
In his little prep room, Brown prepares the sourdough at higher temperatures, then lowers the temperature intermittently to prepare ultra-buttery croissants. Available plain ($5), or with a chocolate center ($6), these things boast crispy crusts with soft, flaky layers within.
Izola Bakery basket
In other words, there’s more to recommend these baked goods than the fact they drop from the sky.