New Bakery, Traditional Breads

Rise Above

By Marykate Smith Despres, Photos by Dominic Perri

When people think of rye bread, they often think of deli rye. The deli rye I grew up with, even when bought bagged from the grocery store, yielded rounded, half-moon, gray-brown slices that stood (a bit stiffly) in stark contrast to the floppy, bleached white squares of typical sandwich bread. The bread I remember likely had very little actual rye flour, but what it did have—and what kept me from eating it—was caraway seeds.

Brian Meunier, head baker and owner of Rise Above bakery, which opened in downtown Greenfield this June, uses a lot of rye flour, which, he says “adds a slight nuance” of flavor to breads and pastries. It’s caraway, not rye, Meunier says, that “has ruined rye for most people.”

“I’m trying to set that straight. I want people to know that rye and caraway are not the same thing. If you don’t like caraway,” he says, “you can still like rye.”

In the absence of caraway seeds, it’s color (Meunier describes it as a “deep brown or reddish hue”) that signals a bread with a lot of rye flour. Another clue can be weight, as in a dense Roggenbrot—one of many Eastern European rye breads you’ll find at Rise Above-one of many breads with a story.

“People who grew up with this bread, it really means something special to them,” Meunier says. He’s seen it in the way people’s faces light up when they see these traditional breads on the rack at the bakery, the recognition upon feeling the weight of a full kilo of bread in hand. The remembering that happens, and the ways in which that remembering becomes stories shared over a loaf of bread—a Latvian woman at a record store in Somerville transported back to her childhood, a man returning to the bakery with an armful of German and Austrian cookbooks and an offer to translate, a woman sharing her experience learning to bake Roggenbrot under master baker Jeffery Hamelman in Brattleboro in the ’80s—becomes what Meunier describes as “a religious experience.”

“I love that I can connect with people in ways beyond that it tastes good,” he says. “I fell in love with the bread and then fell in love with all these people’s connection to it.”

Rye isn’t the only way Meunier connects with the community. He bakes other well-loved staple breads including baguette, brioche, and challah, plus bagels, muffins, cookies, and a host of pastries that often feature fruits from local farms like Clarkdale just down the road in Deerfield.

And while patrons sit and enjoy local coffee (or kombucha) with their baked goods and their little ones pop in and out of the puppet theater, the bakers work in an open kitchen with café-facing ovens so that people can “see it, hear it, smell it.”

“We’re back there making a mess, flour all over. We make noise. We listen to rock ’n’ roll,” Meunier says. He doesn’t want to hide or separate the process from the product, or from the people tearing pieces and taking bites of that product straight from the bag. “I want you to know that everything’s happening right here.”

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Telling the Story of Sourdough

Hungry Ghost Bread

By Marykate Smith Despres, Photos by Dominic Perri

It’s not an art,” Jonathan Stevens says of baking bread, rolling his eyes. “It’s a craft.” Stevens has been baking bread for 25 years, 15 at Hungry Ghost Bread in Northampton with partner and co-owner Cheryl Maffei. “Craft is an expression of material and tradition. Art is an expression of the artist. [You need to have] a sense of humility in the face of 10,000 years of bread baking.”

But by that definition, Stevens’ impassioned explanations and interpretations of the process and of bread itself put him somewhere in between artisan and artist, into the realm of storyteller. “There are different ways to understand bread,” says Stevens, the son of a chemist and a psychologist. “Scientifically—that’s just not my thing.”

The story of bread has become, quite literally, ingrained in him, finding its way into song lyrics and poems penned on the back of bread schedules, into the annual Bread Festival puppet-and-brass-band parade through town, into the ways in which he thinks about the history of civilization—from Persephone (the goddess of harvest), to cats in ancient Egypt (whose sacredness came from their ability to guard the grain), to the agricultural industrial revolution—and the ways in which bakeries serve and sustain their communities. Clearly, unscientific does not mean uninformed.

Hungry Ghost breads are sourdough, meaning each loaf begins as a live, fermented culture. Stevens believes that often, a sensitivity to gluten is actually a sensitivity to unfermented gluten. “People need gluten to be fermented,” he says. “The body can’t access the vitamins and minerals [in unfermented wheat]. It can see them, but it can’t access them.”

The crust on a loaf of bread, more specifically, the way the scoring creates sharp ridges and yawning crests, is what Stevens calls “a photograph of perfect fermentation.”

“It’s the last gasp of wild yeast. If you get it right, they die with their arms over their heads,” he says. “It’s a Vesuvian death. You want people buried mid-party.” Stevens dances around to demonstrate, throws his hands over his head and yells, “Yay!”, freezing mid-cheer in mock joy. He’s right—it’s not a scientific explanation. But it certainly makes for a better story.

Hungry Ghost Bread’s 15th annual “Wonder Not!” Bread Festival is on Sunday, September 22, 11am–5pm. The festival is free and includes a giant puppet parade through town with the Expandable Brass Band, wheat planting in the garden, live music, vendors, and lots of bread!

This Loaf for President

This bread does not boast

This bread does not need

A chief of staff

Or a press secretary

Even at its greatest,

This bread will soon get eaten

-or go moldy.

This bread won’t build walls

Drop bombs, sell fighter jets

Or make secret deals with

Shady Russians

This bread cannot lie

This bread will not exaggerate

How many people it fed

-its list of ingredients

Is astonishingly short

This bread will not play golf

Instead of sitting patiently upon your table

This bread is smarter than you think:

It will teach your tongue

About the Fertile Crescent

It will move your mouth

With a song of scythes,

Of broadcasting hands,

of the furrow on the miller’s

hands, and his stones

This bread believes in

universal health care, from the

inside out, a gut feeling

about common sense

and simple decency

This bread has a heel one can chew on

a crust you can sop up sorrows with

wings for the Angel of Victory

over every kind of hunger

Poem reprinted from Jonathan Stevens’ Bread Poems, collected and published by the author in 2019.

Southern Delights

BBQ in Hampden County

By Gina Beavers, Photos by Dan Little

It may seem like ancient history now, but a few weeks back we were celebrating spring’s hard-won victory over a rather cruel winter. As the bitter chills of winter subsided and spring stretched wide her arms to shake off her deep slumber, verdant spears of asparagus reminded us that lighter and brighter culinary fare was on the horizon. And that, eventually, those light flavors of spring would succumb to the full-throated tastes of summer.

While few would argue that the fertile soil of Western Mass yields some of the finest summer crops in the country, even fewer would deny their love for one of summer’s more delicious rites of passage: barbecue.

American barbecue is more a religion than a culinary genre, a time-honored summer tradition from coast to coast. But what makes barbecue a thing? From the diner’s perspective, it’s usually about the tender and flavorful meats dished up without the worry of beautiful plating or clean fingers. From the chef’s perspective, it’s the science.

“It’s the knowledge that it takes to make good barbecue,” says Chef Rich Daviau, owner of Damn Yankees BBQ in Holyoke. “You have to know your cuts of meat and you have to know what types of wood go with those meats. You have to know what flavor profile you’re going for.”

Of course, barbecue hasn’t always been the high art it is now; meat has been smoked and roasted since before history was recorded. Through trial, error, and inarguably gourmet touches of genius, barbecue is a global mainstay.

When we think about barbecue, however, we tend to think about the South rather than New England. And unlike Chef Daviau, most of us are far from being pit masters. The art of making fine barbecue, therefore, might be best left to those in the know. So if you haven’t mastered your grill or if it’s just too darned hot to fire up your backyard pit, check out the Southern side of the lower Pioneer Valley.

Theodore’s BBQ: Blues, Booze & BBQ

Theodore’s BBQ is a bonafide fan favorite situated in the 200 block of Worthington Street in downtown Springfield. It’s been in the same location for almost 40 years and is, at once, quaint and gritty—sweet and sour, if you will—the perfect balance. Family-friendly, the tables are covered with brown butcher paper, perfect for doodling with the crayons provided, or catching stray morsels from your relaxed Southern comfort-style meal.

“We smoke our own pork, brisket, chicken, and ribs with apple or hickory wood. The pork and brisket can take up to 12 or 13 hours to smoke. The chicken and ribs take about six hours,” says Keith Weppler, who co-owns Theodore’s BBQ with Keith Makarowski. The process, however, is never the same, he says. “From the amount of the wood to the weight of the meat … it’s different every single day.”

As for the rest of the menu: “We make most of it from scratch including our barbecue sauce.” The extensive menu includes three types of ribs, hamburgers, and house specials like jambalaya and smoked meatloaf dinner. Theodore’s also offers vegetarian options and a vegan and gluten-free black bean burger. Upon finishing your meal, Weppler recommends one particular treat: “You … have to try our bourbon bread pudding.”

Besides good food, this downtown institution can boast great live music throughout the week. If you want to hang out for a while, they’re open until 2am on the weekend.

Theodore’s BBQ
201 Worthington St., Springfield
Monday–Friday 11am–11pm, Saturday 5pm–2am
Sunday 4pm–2am

Sun Kim Bop

Barbecue is a worldwide tradition. From the Caribbean to Korea, you can travel the globe and discover delicious meats prepared for smoking or grilling.

For Korean barbecue, or gogi-gui, there’s Sun Kim Bop in downtown Springfield. Sun Kim Bop began as a hardworking food truck in 2013. Owner Sun Kim shuttled between Amherst, Springfield, and many other towns for lunch rushes, festivals, and events.

A native of Seoul, South Korea, Kim launched the food truck to introduce the Valley to the tastes of her home. “I learned cooking from my mom,” she says. “So I make my food … from scratch.” The truck’s popularity led her to open the brick-and-mortar location in 2017.

The open and airy restaurant is part of a slowly reviving strip of businesses on Main Street across the street from the MassMutual Center and a block from Springfield’s Court Square. Kim says that in spite of the early breakfast hours, the bulk of traffic happens during lunch.

Sun Kim Bop provides tastes of Korean street food including Korean BBQ short ribs or galbi. Scored and marinated, the bone-in beef ribs are smoked and served with a side of spicy Korean BBQ sauce. The meat is smokey and tastes very different from its American cousin.

The marinade is very light. “It’s all natural,” Chief Cook Gerald Gerardo says of the marinade. “It’s soy sauce, ground garlic, ginger, onion, lemon juice, white cooking wine, and sugar.” Served with white rice (bop) and a green salad, the dish is perfect for summer.

Gerardo’s quick tip about the kicky BBQ sauce: “It’s a little on the salty side, so a little goes a long way.”

Sun Kim Bop
1244 Main St., Springfield
Monday–Wednesday 8:30am–3pm
Thursday and Friday 8:30am–8pm
Saturday 11am–2pm and 4pm–8pm


Damn Yankees BBQ & Catering

Damn Yankees sits above a stretch of the Connecticut River and just feet away from a busy section of Holyoke’s Main Street. At first sight, you might not realize there’s a restaurant inside the unassuming brick building (better known as the Waterfront Tavern), which perhaps makes Chef Rich Daviau’s joint the best-kept secret in town.

Chef Daviau says that “to get good barbecue is really hard,” but he’s been serving it for years. Daviau is an undisputed barbecue expert and learned the art of smoking meat from some of the best pit masters in the South. With over 30 years of experience in the kitchen, Daviau opened Damn Yankees in 2015 and hasn’t looked back. Inspired by Sun Kim Bop, he expanded last year, taking his BBQ on the road with a food truck.

Damn Yankees churns out a variety of 12- to 18-hour slow-cooked meats six days a week. But when asked about the perfect Damn Yankees dining experience, Chef Daviau says, “Get the brisket.”

Of course, it can’t be all meat, all the time. Daviau says he has an appreciation for sustainable agriculture and purchases his summer produce from local farms including McKinstry’s Market Garden in Chicopee, his hometown.

Damn Yankees also provides backyard barbecues with custom menus. And because it’s New England, they’ll serve up a classic clambake and raw bar, crawfish and crab boil to satisfy traditional Yankee tastes.

Damn Yankees BBQ & Catering
920 Main St., Holyoke
Tuesday–Sunday 11am–11pm

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