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Embracing Food Justice, Community and Gluten at Red Bread

Photos courtesy  Red Bread

Photos courtesy Red Bread

If you're ready to move past bread shaming and on to a full-blown love affair with all things whole grain and yeasty, it's time to head to Red Bread.

The café/bakery/market/community gathering place is the love child of Rose and David Lawrence and was originally founded as an electric bike delivery service. Their original offerings were limited to one wild yeasted sourdough bread, sourdough bacon chocolate croissants and the now-famous (or infamous, depending on how much self control one has) cracked cookie.  

Rose explains Red Bread’s original mission: “We wanted to provide access to quality food made in a traditional manner. Bread was and remains under attack because of gluten hysteria. It was our attempt to try to educate the public on what gluten was, how it needed to be processed and how you could rejoice in eating a traditionally nourishing food. This became an analogy for everything we did.” 

Today, in addition to the brick-and-mortar store on Washington Boulevard in Culver City, Red Bread is a regular presence at Santa Monica's big Wednesday farmers market, and the food delivery service has expanded significantly in scope to become a full-blown eGrocer. When asked how Red Bread's current incarnation relates to their original hopes for the enterprise, Rose admits "It has gone beyond our wildest dreams."

If you miss her at the farmer's market, you’ll usually find Rose bustling around the small open kitchen in the rear of the cozy café space (open Thursday through Monday), along with a couple of other devoted food artisans. The fruits of their labor? Wild yeasted sourdough in an ever-changing array of varieties such as black rye, olive rosemary, roasted garlic, honey whole wheat…the list goes on. 

But lest you think Red Bread is all about the bread (not to be confused with All About the Bread on Melrose), take a gander at the beautifully hand-chalked menu on the wall to your left when you walk through the café’s doors – these busy bakers have also created an impressive menu of breakfast and lunch delicacies both familiar (bagels, biscuits, fried eggs and salads) and unexpected (Danish-style cold buttermilk soup, Tibetan roasted barley porridge). As Rose puts it, the innovative menu “reflects the collaborative efforts and food memories of our staff, every dish is a comfort food from a different area of the world that we've spent time in, and these dishes get interpreted through the bounty of California agriculture.”  

With such a fascinating array of sweets and savories to choose from, you’ll be tempted to try a little of everything. Do yourself a favor and tuck into something substantial like the llapingachos (cheese-stuffed potato pancakes) or a “Biscuit Head” sandwich with thickly cut, house-cured bacon…and then take home a few (yes, a few – no need to be dainty here) sweets for later. Cracked cookies – thick with dark chocolate chunks, oats, nuts and other good stuff -- are a must, as are “jammy newton” hand pies stuffed with sweet homemade preserves. Beyond these two staples, the ever-changing dessert menu may include carrot beet muffins, blueberry fromage blanc cheesecake, blackberry chocolate cake or plum pie – it all depends on what’s in season.

And while a seasonal menu may not be the big news now that so many LA-area restaurants are embracing the farm-to-table movement, Red Bread is more fanatical than most – in the best possible way -- about the integrity of their ingredients.  Rose explains “We are very strict about what comes into our kitchen, sourcing only from California local organic farms and building our own pantry from scratch. We spend so much time talking with our farmers about what they are excited about, what’s coming up next and what they love most about the season.” 

Red Bread also functions as an (albeit high-end) neighborhood market and eGrocer. The shop is stocked with all sorts of grab-and-go grocery items like popsicles, jugs of almond milk, farm-fresh produce, bags of freshly milled flour, and jars of housemade pickled vegetables. Rose’s husband Dave oversees the Magical Grocery Tour, a Sunday grocery delivery service available to residents of Marina del Rey, Venice, Mar Vista and Santa Monica – customers can customize their weekly order of fresh and local produce, raw milk, grass-fed meats, sourdough bread and other baked goods, preserves and pickles, and even prepared brunch and dinner items.

But what may be most impressive about Red Bread is the sense of neighborhood community you’ll find inside its doors. We visit almost on a weekly basis with the little ones and rarely leave without having struck up a conversation with someone interesting, often leaving with a new contact and a fascinating new topic to explore. This meeting of the minds comes with the café’s small space and community dining table…and is by design, of course. According to Rose, “We wanted a place that would encourage new friendships to form over good food and challenge conventional eating habits. It is a thrill to see families, new friends and strangers sit down at the table to enjoy one of the most profound things we can in this life: a shared meal.” Well said and well done!

Red Bread // 13322 Washington Blvd. Culver City 90066

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