By David Minsky
By Jen Mangham
By Bill Wisser
By Laine Doss
By Bill Wisser
By Dana De Greff
By Laine Doss
By Zachary Fagenson
But a trip to A Slice of Heaven Bread Shop, a homey bakery/café that specializes in handmade breads, is less WYSIWYG and more Magical Mystery Tour. The glossy brochure shows, indeed, a bread schedule, listing the roughly half-dozen specific breads supposedly crafted each day (with no preservatives and unbleached flour or, for the wheat-intolerant, gluten-free substitutes). But first-time visitors should not make the trek on a Monday expecting to buy what reads like a tantalizing pepperoni-and-cheese bread special scheduled for that day. And the pumpernickel I found instead, albeit appealingly chewy, soft, and tasty (though I wish my server had mentioned it contained raisins), was mentioned nowhere on the menu.
According to the two friendly women in charge, the menu, sort of a souvenir from the eatery's opening a couple of years ago, should be considered more suggestive than specific. See something you like? Call a day or two in advance, says owner Darlyn Cardenas, and any bread you want, any day, will be yours. True, spontaneity is lost (I'd prefer a nonglossy modernized menu), but there is an advantage. You can customize. Her suggestion to make my pepperoni/cheese loaf with whole wheat instead of white was inspired; the nuttier flavor went well with the sharp cheddar and spicy cold-cut bits spiraled into the dough. Noncarnivores can try a garlic/cheese bread. Its only drawback: It fell apart along the spirals upon slicing, making sandwiches problematic.
White or plain whole-wheat loaves are better choices for sandwiches. Soft inside but crusty outside (far more so than equivalents from supermarket bakeries), both were heartening versions of near-extinct American classics. A sourdough loaf was less satisfying. Don't expect the hefty artisan peasant bread pictured on a wall poster touting "European breads by American bakers"; the pleasant but bland and soft-crusted stuff is superior to Publix's, but marginally. Those craving crackly crusts and assertively tangy interiors should instead grab a truly French-style baguette or, even better, a chewy Italian ciabatta. And a cranberry scone, whose crumb was moist rather than the sawdust so often encountered, was fit for royalty.
There is also an assortment of housemade fare for light luncheon on the go, including sandwiches, croquetas (creamy bacalao being especially good), and empanadas with various fillings (beef was good, but the spinach was overcooked to a downright nasty bitterness). And, naturally, there are pastries, including large cookies that, for a change, boast more than size, and "brownie bites" mini cupcakes perfect for parties (or snacking in the car). But the must-not-miss sweets are the shop's generously caramelized pecan-topped sticky buns, perfect even without a speck of butter. Are they better than Knaus Berry Farm's famous buns? They are better than Angelina Jolie's.