On my birthday this year a friend and I stopped in at the Ballard Great Harvest Bread Company. I think one of the friendly, pleasant counter persons offered us a slice of the Sun-dried Tomato Pesto Bread, which was so good that I bought a loaf a moments later.
It was super-delicious, with large chunks of juicy, tangy, mouth-watering sun-dried tomatoes and swirls of pesto in light, almost flaky wheat-grain.
A month later I went back and got another loaf. This time I could barely taste the tomato. In fact, after finishing it, I asked myself: Why does this taste so different from the first loaf I had had of it? Then I recalled that something to be missing. After further rumination, I "hit" on it: the missing something were the juicy chunks of sun-dried tomatoes that burst open with flavor and combined with the swirls of pesto made it SO memorable.
The fact that the bread had been sitting around in a plastic bag also made the crust not much of a crust at all. It seemed more like a loaf of "Wonderbread" (sandwich bread).
In fact, I couldn't recall at all that there were any chunks of sun-dried tomato. I called them and explained my disappointment. I think the owner/baker explained that sometimes a loaf may not get very much of a particular ingredient (my paraphrase of his words) and that THAT is a rare event. He offered to let me try another loaf of the same, saying they stood by their breads.
Two weeks later, I stopped in and got a replacement loaf. This time I had the store clerk place it in a paper bag (they bag the loaves around 5:00 pm, I guess. I got there at least a couple of hours before they started to do this).
This time there definitely were some pieces of sun-dried tomatoes, but they were mostly "flakes," rather than chunks. It didn't have the richness and burst of flavor of the first loaf.
Nonetheless I do appreciate this establishment's sincere attempts to remedy the situation. I generally like breads that are either chewier and/or have some sort of crust. One would do best to get their breads --they bake once a day according to their staff--by early afternoon, when they are at their optimal freshness and are still sitting on racks (not bagged).
And they have a schedule of the different breads they do different days, which certainly makes for variety.
As an occasional change from the "hard-crust" breads of Macrina, or other artisan breads that can be purchased at PCC, etc., this can be a welcome change.
In fact, though this is not the kind of bread I would eat with cheese, it makes a nice accompaniment (spelt or honey wheat) with butter to spaghetti and other hearty meals. The bread reminds me the of the delicious home-made buns we used to in our school cafeteria decades ago when I was in elementary school.
There is a small, nice sit-down area in front (they serve coffee, etc.) and a few chairs outside. I have always enjoyed Ballard for its unpretentious, relaxed, close-to-the-Locks atmosphere. So I will undoubtedly occasionally drop in here again...
As I recall, the local supermarkets do not carry Great Harvest Bread. Hence, you have to go to one of the bakery/store outlets on Sandpoint Way, in Ballard, or in West Seattle. These are all franchises...