SCRATCHbread, Brooklyn, NY
SCRATCHbread is a brand that I’ve been aware of over the past two years, thanks to the great video my friend Liza of Food. Curated. created. Eventually, I met Matt at a few local food events over the years, ate his delicious breads and food stuffs, and flirted with the idea of schlepping to Brooklyn – except I haven’t until yesterday. I know. It’s an overdue visit that I regret not making earlier.
SCRATCHbread is essentially a bakery based in Bed-Stuy started by its proprietor/head baker Matthew Tilden. You shouldn’t call SCRATCHbread this bakery as the confectionery pâtissere at all. In my eyes, it’s a boulangerie (a bakery specializes in bread) with an avante garde streak to bake incredibly creative loaves of bread (like their Mutt loaf – a blend of three different bread dough rolled in a spice mix) but Tilden prefers to call it a “food workshop.”
Proprietor Matthew Tilden is the passionate chef, who was trained at Culinary Institute of America, based his brand from baking bread. It started from bread as he sees bread as the soul and backbone of his workshop. As of the past year or so, he expanded it slightly into delicious, robustly flavored sustenance like salads and sandwiches that rotates on a seasonal or even daily basis. It’s healthy food but it doesn’t taste remotely like it.
Arriving to SCRATCHbread around 12:30 on a Saturday afternoon, I was surprised by two things. It’s a takeout operation with a long wooden bar beside it to eat and there’s a line. Thankfully, the wait was about 20 minutes or so before I would have passed out from hunger and my relative grogginess as it was a Saturday.
I ended up started with a cup of tonic juice ($4), as I was informed that it changes daily with a cup of hearty Anson Mills grits that was topped with everything they had that day ($3 for plain grits, $1 each additional topping). The tonic juice was a blend of carrot, celery and a touch of cucumber with a squeeze of lime and basil to top it all off. Refreshing almost revitalizing as it tasted and felt clean.
The small bowl (that’s creatively served in a biodegradable planter’s cup lined in parchment paper) of grits was closest to decadence as you can get. The thick, creamy grits were topped with a perfect soft boiled egg that its yolk was still oozing, thick cut bacon, and four salsas (sweet green tomato jam, kale pesto, creamy avocado, and Sicilian salsa verde).
The Scenario ($5) is essentially oatmeal that’s densely packed with toppings. The creamy vanilla bean Greek yogurt, pumpkin seed-dense granola, fresh fruits of diced tart green apple, sweet-tart plum, banana, and a heaping pile of vinegared blueberries. The latter gives it unexpected bites of acidic brightness beyond the typical blueberries’ natural tartness.
The open faced tiger shrimp on pizza bread ($6) was incredibly tasty. Pillowy, soft focaccia bread topped with large sweet shrimp, cheese curds and smearing of fresh tomato sauce tasted fresh and herbaceous. The hot mustard potatoes were wonderfully spicy and had an inherent smoky flavor from roasting inside their 600-degree oven. The pizza bread ($3) is the pizza topped focaccia of my dreams.
I’ve had his chai sticky bun ($2) before and it’s still as good as ever. Balanced with sweet and salty, subtly crunchy with the crushed cacao beans, and wonderfully sticky. The V Button ($3) cookie is a gluten-free, dairy-free cookie that’s primarily a hazelnut, coconut oil and coconut-based cookie with fennel seeds to add a savory twist. It’s then topped with currants and blueberries and a sprinkling fennel seeds to round out the cookie and emphasize the herbaceous elements. The shortbread cookie ($2) is the shortbread cookie of my dreams. Thick, dense, moist, not too sweet, and incredibly buttery in the best way.
I managed to get a peek into this narrow kitchen, filled with kitchen tools, a large mixer, various spices, and benches, and a very cool, coal brick oven with hip-hop playing in the background.
Since I had great meal (or should I say feast?), I can’t help but bring some bread back home and share with friends. The Mutt (on top; $5) is a hybrid of three breads – a fluffy focaccia, whole wheat and rye topped with caraway seeds and whole black peppercorns. The Parma Roll ($2.50, lower right) were fluffy, addictive Parmesan cheese flecked rolls, and the Simple Wheat (lower left, $5), a crusty, hearty wheat bread with leftover juice pulp from the tonic juice I had earlier, brown rice, and sprout spelt. The latter is an usual filling but it’s quite glorious from the bits of the vegetable pulp subtly giving it sweetness.
The stuffed hollow ($6) was a flavorful yet healthy pita-like pocket bread that’s stuffed with spicy mustard crusted firm tofu, diced avocado, collard greens, and green tomato jam. The barley salad ($5) is a wood roasted mushroom, charred jalapeño, Sicilian salsa verde that I wish I could have this as my daily weekday lunch. The baba ghanoush that I saw parts of the process at their kitchen earlier, was the most wonderfully spiced, smoky eggplant spread that I’ve eaten in a long time.
To cap off this carb fest of sorts, the buttercream brownies ($3 each). This is the brownie of my dreams. Rich bars of dense, moist bittersweet chocolate brownie that is barely sweet, sandwiched in creamy, light chocolate buttercream. As rich as it sounds, in the mouth, it felt and tasted like a bittersweet chocolate cloud. I almost passed out from how amazing it is and approaching food coma.
To view more of my photos of this visit, please scroll through the slideshow below (or click through my Flickr set):