Sunday, August 29, 2010

The English Patient/An Amish Fellowship

One night, some time last year, Dan and I were going back and forth at it in bed, and well, it just wasn't happening. You know what i'm talking about right? It can be incredibly frustrating. You want to scream sometimes. You both keep trying, you go a little more slowly, try putting it out there another way, but still you just can't seem to make it happen. It's a problem every couple has at some point. Heck, it's a problem I have with my Dad all the time. It's even a problem i've had with the Yum Cha Door Lady at Zilver many-a-Sunday... 

Mis-comm-un-ic-at-i-on, yes, that's what we will be talking about today. 

Amanda: I have to get up earlier tomorrow morning
Dan: How come?
Amanda: Have to get a miche from the markets
Dan: Amish what?
Amanda: I have to get a miche
Dan: Amish. What do you mean Amish. 
Amanda: A...Miche!
Dan: How can you get Amish.
Amanda: Miche, it's a bread!
Dan: ohhh, a miche.
Dan:...What's a miche?

He clearly hadn't been initiated yet. Have you?
Beautiful, wonderous Sonoma Miche, what ever did we do without you? Are you bready, my cake and knifelings? Bready to find out what happens when artesian bakers mix white sourdough with wholemeal and malt, fire it up and finish it with a chewy, dusted crust? 
Word has been out for a while, and those of us who eat carbs (there must be at least seven of us in Sydney) are going all Lady Gaga over this delectable little large loaf. I first spied it in the Sonoma cafe at Five Ways, a Stunning sphere of baked beauty, elegant, lofty, caramel-hued and branded with rustic marks, in lovely, lagubrious lines behind a polished glass window. Generous and picturesque, biblical-driblical-the genesis my deepest desire. Baked largess in Love.
Unlike other Sonoma stellars that take their names from the grains from which they are baked, miche is a style of bread, of a French provencial nobility. It is a wheat bread, but of much more malty depth and texture than the normal sourdoughs. It's crust alone is enough to reduce you to tears. Much more than a beguiling bread upon which to spread and fill, a perfectly crafted Sonoma miche is texture Houdini. Rising and falling and weaving in dark golden, baked dough.
The texture reminds me of the opening scene from The English Patient, sinking and spinning in slow motion. Falling. This bread isn't simply a food, it's a terrain. A burning Sahara of luscious surfaces, cracked here and dusted there, glossy and thick, made for terrific tooth tussling. The kind of texture you must gnaw into and rip ravenously apart. 

And like a true desert it has something of the infinite in its voluptuous proportions. The larger size is both table art and food, so European and rustic looking. It is a wilderness in sourdough, dangerous and alive.
Glossy baked wheat within, malted and scrumptiously sour, slightly moist and shiny and divine. It tastes so warm and true and deep. Its depth carries the memories of the flames it was born in.

The first time I tried miche, I wasn't quite sure how to dissect its largess. I tried cutting it like pie, it works sometimes, sometimes it doesn't. Often I cut it in gloriously enormous cross sections of elliptical agony, thick and uneven and so moorish. New lovers are nervous and tender, but smash everything, for the mouth is an organ of fire. 

This is Sourdough Ralph Fiennes a la Almasy - and with the third degree burns to boot!
If the miche is Almasy, then Katherine Cliffton would have to be a gorgeous slab of Harmonie Organic Butter. Rich and pure and deep. Take a fresh wedge and spread it luxuriously and thickly with the soft butter. And...Sigh. Simplicity is heaven, a perfection you can become undone in. The taste is like dying. So moist and chewy, strong grain, crusty and soft against a creamy, unseemly buttery gloss. Dip the knife back into the butter, and then the hollow at the base of a woman's throat.
You'll need a strong knife in heavy silver to cut, and then some softer, lighter silver to spread. Cut and spread and sink in teeth. Seraphically simple, winged, lofty, sublime.
It is nice to reduce food, to pare it down, to take it back to what it is all about. You discover it's quintessence again. Simply, simply. Just ingredients. And just a few. 

Ingredients that are stunning and strong, that can stand alone and blend perfectly. Don't spoil this by eating it with anything. Let just the miche and the butter be the meal itself, a breakfast or a lunch or a lonely but rustically decadent dinner.
We die. We die rich with lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we've entered and swum up like rivers. Fears we've hidden in - like this wretched cave. I want all this marked on my body. Where the real countries are. Not boundaries drawn on maps with the names of powerful men. I know you'll come carry me out to the Palace of Winds. That's what I've wanted: to walk in such a place with you. With friends, on an earth without maps. The lamp has gone out and I'm writing in the darkness. 
This bread is an experience to be measured in sighs. Share it with your friends. Talk to people about it. I haven't met anyone yet who's had anything other than rapturous things to say about Little Miss Miche. Sonoma miche is baked, good and such completely honest food. There is life in it, beautiful life, and there is living in eating it and in taking it deep into your senses. Let it overcome you, think about it as you eat it. It does something to your belly and to your imagining. I promise. 
If you haven't already, please try some. Try it simply and let yourself fall. Miche is available in a smaller loaf (around$6) and a larger loaf for $10. It's available at all Sonoma outlets and at their stalls at Everleigh and Orange Grove Markets. A beautifully crafted piece that deserves to be table center at any dinner party, but with substance enough to have always on hand as a staple.

I am just a bit of toast my friend, said Almasy (seriously)!

Toast, nonetheless, Go on, Swoon, i'll catch you.


Yas (aboutthefood) said...

Miche is a God amongst bread. I love it. I love it so much.

amanda said...

miche-a-theism all round! very happy to meet another miche lover. where do you get yours?

Yas (aboutthefood) said...

When home (Sydney) it's the Glebe Sonoma all the way.
I'm in New York now... yes it's an amazing place but I haven't found my miche!

amanda said...

Hello, Yas, glebe is my sonoma local too! very jealous youre in NY. youve got to try Alices Tea Cup if you havent already while youre there. safe travels x