S.F. Rising: Noe Valley Bakery's Fig Bread
|Practically a Fig Newton.|
Source: Noe Valley Bakery, 4073 24th St. (at Castro), 550-1405, www.noevalleybakery.com.
Toast-appropriateness: depends on how you're toasting it
For most of the 15 years of the bakery's existence, Michael Gassen's fig bread has been its signature loaf. It's a nobby, oblong little thing, and it had been so long since I'd bought the bread that I looked askance at my purchase. I sliced in, and found the crumb dotted with dried black figs. The further in I sliced, the more closely the black circles swarmed. By the time I got to the center, I wondered that the loaf held together.
While the dense, dry-crumbed fig bread can take any amount of salted butter you want to slather on it ― I kept adding more, and I punked out before the bread did ― I found it really wanted to be sliced thin, drizzled with a fruity olive oil, toasted in a high-heat oven. Then it called out for cheese. Not an aged cheddar, whose brashness would have clashed with the dried fruit. More like a creamy blue (have you had the Australian Roaring Forties Blue?), a runny, barnyard-smelling cow's milk cheese such as Robiola or Reblochon ― or best yet, a semisoft, aged goat cheese like Humboldt Fog, with enough creaminess to moisten up the bread and just enough tanginess to make the figs taste even sweeter. A few slices of of that, and you've had lunch, snack, and dessert for the day.