If I had to identify a signature dish coming out of my kitchen this summer, it would be food on toast.

I take produce fresh from the garden, maybe add some cheese, and I’ve got a meal. Sautéed zucchini with feta, slices of stone fruits with ricotta, or ripe juicy tomatoes with basil and balsamic; layered on a slice of bread.

bread at Red Bird BakeryBut not any bread will do. I need a hearty country loaf, one that I can cut into thick slices, to take on the weight of my ingredients. And lately, I’m really loving the bread from Red Bird Bakery.

I had first picked up a loaf of their rustic white from Oliver’s, and with a limited ingredient list of organic flour, culture, water and salt, I was sold. It’s crunchy and fluffy and delicious – all the things an artisan bread should be. It became a regular addition to my shopping list to supply me with the toast portion of my food with toast meals. Then one day, while waiting in line, the women in front of me noticed my cart and said she loved their bread, and asked if I had been to the bakery yet. I didn’t know they had a store front.

sandwich board I had been wanting to try the chai whole wheat with apricots and walnuts loaf, as listed as an option on the bread bag, but I had never seen it on the Oliver’s shelf. I was sure I would be able to get it from the bakery, so the next time I needed bread, I headed out to the south end of Santa Rosa, in the industrial area on Dutton Avenue, to seek out the elusive chia and apricot bread.

I stopped by on a Monday, and as I later learned, they don’t sell bread on Mondays to give the bread baker and owner, Isaac Cermak, a day off. But the trip was not a waste, because they also sell pastries. This was a complete and pleasant surprise to me, as I thought they only produced bread. I choose a cheese, spinach and tomato croissant from the selection of muffins, scones, and sticky buns. They also make cookies, cakes, and have a selection of sandwiches to-go. My croissant was amazing, and it was devoured before I even made it back on the freeway. I prefer my pastries on the savory side, and really loved the cheese and tomatoes combined with the buttery croissant.

sweet pastriesThe pastries are made by Linda Cermak, the other half of the owner/baker duo. She went though the culinary program at Contra Costa College, before transitioning to baking full time, and was previously the head pastry chef for Della Fattoria, in Petaluma. Her husband, Issac, in charge of the bread, went through the baking program at the Santa Rosa JC and continued his learning tough a variety of places, including Model Bakery in Napa and Della Fattoria. They opened Red Bird Bakery in March of last year. They are producing about 3,000 pieces of delicious pastries and treats a week, and about 250 to 400 loafs of bread daily.

When I asked Linda what her favorite item is that she’s baking right now, she replied, “I love to make anything rustic with the outcome of deliciousness, which can only be accomplished if you bake with your whole heart and soul. We love pulling from farmers markets and making delicious baked goods, desserts, breads.”

savory crossiantsAnd they are certainly achieving that outcome of deliciousness. I returned the following week, and was able to get my sought-after chai whole wheat loaf. This also, was perfect, and I enjoyed it not in a toast meal, but just in simple slices, lightly toasted, topped with butter. I love the giant chunks of apricots, and will be sure to return for it again. And most likely another pastry. Or two.

In addition to selling at the store front and at Oliver’s Market, you can find their breads at local farmer’s markets, which they have posted on a chalkboard outside their door.

3279 Dutton Ave., Santa Rosa
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