Sunday, October 11, 2009

Bakery by the Lake

Bakery by the Lake
314 N. 3rd St., Cd’A, (208) 209-3129
601 E. Front St. Suite 104, Cd’A (208) 415-0681

"Remember, man does not live on bread alone: sometimes he needs a little buttering up." ~ John C. Maxwell

Different varieties of bread have been a staple in the diet of virtually every culture since man first decided to smear lizard jelly across a chewy hunk of unleavened barley flat cake during the New Stone Age. Over the years, the act of mixing ground-up grains and water with whatever else is handy has resulted in countless varieties, from Persian lavashs and Ethiopian injera, to Mexican tortillas and North American johnnycakes. Egyptians were the first to add yeast into the mix and it has often been speculated that Cleopatra herself used to accompany her vessels of Star of Horus wine with mashed-up balls of Wonder Bread.

It was during the Middle Ages in Europe that the bakery as we know it today was established, a concept most fully embraced by the French, who to this day don’t blanche at the rather unappetizing act of toting fresh baguettes to and fro tucked under unwashed armpits. It is this style of boulangerie that most contemporary urban American bread makers model their shops after, including Coeur d’Alene’s own Bakery by the Lake.

I used to drop into their flagship operation on 3rd street occasionally during times of poverty, buying bags of their day-old but still delicious iced scones for only a few dollars. These were quite dense in composition and along with cheap 40-ounce bottles of malt liquor they kept me full and happy for an entire day. Well, maybe the malt liquor was the main reason for the happy part.

Obviously, back then, carbohydrate intake was no concern of mine. I’ve since given up the strong lager and am much more conscious about carbs, so I had some trepidation recently about checking out the new Bakery by the Lake store located on the main floor of the 20-story Parkside Tower building downtown.

For the most part, I was able to control myself. I came in to track down a spot of lunch and quickly located a deli cooler stocked with pre-prepared cold sandwiches, pasta salads, green salads and fresh fruit cups. I dug around in the pile of neatly-packaged sandwiches, selecting a nice roast beef and pepper jack cheese. I grabbed a container of the pasta salad and a bottle of flavored energy water and eased on over to the cash register.

I suppose twelve dollars isn’t a completely outrageous amount to spend on a quick lunch, but considering my overall satisfaction level, I felt it was a smidge on the steep side. Certainly the food was quite edible, but was about as interesting as watching a chess marathon on TV.

The roast beef was quality, the tomatoes tasted nice and bright and the lettuce leaves were fresh and crisp. The cheese was mild and performed its job just fine. However, the whole affair was dangerously close to something one might pick up at any grocery store deli zone.

Just like a pre-packaged Albertsons sandwich, it came with one lonely packet each of mayonnaise and mustard, and I’m big on condiments so I had to ask for several more. They ought to consider providing a better solution for in-store diners; squeezing the life out of those little buggers can be a messy hassle. The excellent multi-grain bread was the only touch of personality, and it really served to save the whole thing from being merely average. I would recommend using thicker bread slices; it barely held together in my hands and fell apart as I was eating.

Nothing could cure the pasta salad from inducing snores. The right ingredients were there: corkscrew pasta, broccoli crowns, carrot slices, red beans and garbanzos. However, the Italian dressing was bland and nearly non-existent. Obviously, the primary focus of Bakery by the Lake is creating all the wonderful baked goods, but if they’re going to delve into the lunch market, they ought to find a way to offer something with more jazz. I didn’t notice the sign on the wall behind the counter touting homemade soup and grilled Paninis until it was too late, but I suspect these are probably a bit more enthralling and I’m looking forward to sampling them on my next visit.

The staff at Bakery by the Lake was genuinely friendly and welcoming. Also delightful is their fantastic selection of guilt-inducing, calorie-rich items. There are scones, bagels, cinnamon rolls, pastries, muffins, croissants, and a variety of cakes along with a selection of fine artisan breads. After finishing my lunch, I opted to cheat on my diet with a big cowboy cookie and a rich Caffe Umbria mocha latte.

I tried to have dessert up on the building’s supposedly public third-floor deck, but when I got up there, the access door was locked. So I ate my cookie while sitting on the floor of the main lobby, ignoring the condo owners’ questioning looks and relishing all the calories and carbs in every last crumb.


Anonymous said...

You should win an award for the number of abstruse, esoteric words you managed to cram into the opening paragraph or two. I almost lost interest before reaching anything informative. =)

Patrick J. said...

Anon. - I'm not sure a)if that was meant as a compliment or snark and b) which words you could have possibly found so "abstruse" and "esoteric". Unleavened? Lavashs, Injera, or Johnnycakes? Boulangerie?

Vocabulary is cool, don't you think?

And isn't it rather abstruse and esoteric of you to use words like "abstruse" and "esoteric"? Those are pretty out there even for me...

Anonymous said...

It was sort of a snarky joke, and yes, I picked those words just to be abstruse & esoteric... but really, Injera? Lavashs? Boulangerie??

I DO think vocabulary is cool, and yet, my eyes are glazing over...

BTW, who authors all these reviews?
I've seen your signature and also "OrangeTV". Are there multiple contributors?

Anonymous said...

Isn't this the way a 12 dollar lunch is supposed to taste?

It always amazes me how people with money will pay a lot for cardboard flavored food as long as the establishment is upscale and a place to be seen.

Give me real food with flavor anytime and let the atmosphere or social standing of the establishment be damned.

Patrick J. said...

Anon., Well, those are the only words I know of to describe those different types of breads. Blame wikipedia, I guess. Also, "boulangerie" is French for bakery (you probably knew that) and the word is printed right in their logo (see illustration above). I try not to confuse anyone with weird words, but sometimes "c'est la vie". Also, I'm the only contributor. "OrangeTV' was my log in name here for a while but I changed it a while back...