Featured Bakery: Great Harvest Bread Company
I’m cheap. I admit it. I choose generic over brand name items, make my own lunches, and don’t eat out nearly as much as I used to. Yet when it comes to great bread I can’t help but splurge, and I’ve found no better place to do so than at Great Harvest Bread Co. in Columbia, Maryland.
Great Harvest is actually a national chain with locations throughout the country, with the first store opening up in Great Falls, Montana during the mid 1970s. Boasting of the healthful benefits of whole grains and the ‘less is more’ approach of five simple ingredients, this is definitely a company that takes pride in the lost art of ‘made from scratch’ bread baking. The Columbia, MD location opened in 2003 and has been baking a multitude of different breads since then, as well as offering a selection of sandwiches and soups to go along with various sweets and coffees.
Perhaps the best part of any visit to Great Harvest is the free samples upon arrival. There is a counter set out with the day’s bread choices that patrons can freely choose from, with generous slices being cut without discretion by a warm and upbeat staff. The over sized Onion Dill Rye slice I sampled was literally one of the best slices of bread I have ever had in my life. The texture was just amazing. Saying this bread was moist does not do it justice, as it came out of oven and onto the cutting board with sublime-like qualities. The dill flavor was just right and not too overpowering, while the onion gave the bread a subtle sweetness that complimented the texture masterfully. Notes of nutty poppy seed not only balanced the slice’s soft texture, but provided a burst of flavor in conjunction with the natural rye flour. If I was expecting something overly “herby” I would have been sorely disappointed, but fortunately this bread strikes an amazing balance between savory and sweet.
Meanwhile, the Honey Whole Wheat bread was baked just perfectly. Moist, flavorful, and nutty, this bread gets its subtle, but ideal, sweetness from real honey and nothing else. There is a strong but not grainy wheat flavor upon first bite, one which slowly gives way to the balanced nuttiness and sweetness from the honey. This is a bread that is best enjoyed slowly, as it has that moist and “chewy fresh” texture which really makes you salivate upon eating. I’m not one to normally drum up the supposed superiority of the ‘all natural’ approach, but in this case I have to say it works. ‘Fresh’ is not just a marketing buzz word at a place like this; but rather a tried and true method that starts with grinding down whole wheat kernels into flour on a daily basis. What ensures is an incredibly high quality flour which only needs the benefit of water, yeast, honey and salt to achieve a nearly platonic taste and texture. The fact that you can see the staff making the bread in the back of the store only adds to this freshly baked bread nirvana, which was enough to move even an “I :heart: additives” consumer like myself. Let’s not mince words here. This is Grandma’s fresh baked bread made better, and Grandma herself will be the first to tell you that.
I’ve always felt that exceptionally baked bread should be eaten plain, and in this case my feelings were spot on. Hold the butter, jam, or cream cheese, because this bread has everything you need baked right inside, and makes the perfect snack or breakfast just as is. At $5.00-7.50 a loaf it may not be your supermarket bakery price, but it sure as heck delivers in terms of taste and quality, which ultimately are the most important things. To sum it all up, Great Harvest is what the Panera’s and Atlanta Breads of the world wish they could be. With an incredible variety of moist and flavorful breads the franchise gives new meaning to the concept of a national bakery serving up only the highest quality product, while the local flavor of the staff keeps the small-town bakery feel alive and well.
- Recommendations: Honey Whole Wheat Bread (Available Daily), Onion Dill Rye Bread (Available on Tuesdays), Cinnamon Swirl Bread (Available on Saturdays).
- Food: 9.75/10
- Menu Variety: 8.50/10
- Atmosphere: Bakery/Cafe/Take-Out
- Price: $-Inexpensive= $7 or less
- GrubGrade: 9.25 (Exceptional)
Check them out:
http://www.greatharvest.com/ (National website)
http://www.greatharvestcolumbia.com/ (Columbia, MD location)
Full Menu of Great Harvest Breads with Nutrition (Please contact your local bakery for weekly baking schedule)