When Margaret and I first moved to Fairfax, our landlord was a member of the Scoma restaurant family. Phyllis was in her 80s and still worked nights at the restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf. She would bring us loaves of sourdough bread; Hana ate this bread from the time she was a baby. Hana loves good bread, but has a special taste for the particular bubbly, crispy texture and sour flavor of San Francisco sourdough. We’ve been buying our sourdough bread at Bordenave’s Bakery for over fifteen years.
The downtown San Rafael storefront is actually the outlet for an industrial bakery. This bakery produces bread for distribution to restaurants and grocers, and you’ll see a parking lot of delivery trucks up the street, and occasionally a big tanker truck will pull up to the back on E Street, pumping tons of flour into the bakery. To be honest, I had my reservations about this place: it is on the former site of a Miracle Auto Painting shop, which is certainly not the toxic foundation on which you want to build your food sources. I will say – as I do to defend some of my sketchier restaurant choices – “I haven’t gotten sick yet.”
The bread here is always fresh, with a crust that is superior to what you will buy at the grocery store. The bread is so fresh, you can save money by buying their day-old loaves, and they are almost as fresh as what you would buy at the grocery store. (Day-old loaves and bags of rolls are $1.50.)
If I go into the store alone, the woman always asks, “How are the girls?” One time – years ago – I walked in when they were getting ready to close and they sold me bread for 25¢ a loaf. I carried them around as I did business downtown, and in one store the proprietor asked me why I was carrying so much bread. When I told her Bordenave’s was selling loaves for 25¢, she closed the store early and went down to buy bread herself.
For our family, sourdough is history.
Bordenave’s Bakery, 1512 Fourth Street, San Rafael