If Angelenos know Calimesa at all, it’s as the small city off I-10 where day tourists fuel up either before or after a trip to the apple orchards in nearby Oak Glen. But there’s another reason to stop in town, and that’s Village Bread, a tiny bakery that has brought the small-batch, local-produce, artisan-bread lifestyle to the Inland Empire for the past 2½ years.
From a tired shopping plaza, the wife-and-husband team of Amanda and Kevin Alexander bake European classics — chewy bâtards and flaky croissants and a kouign amann that’s essentially fried caramel. The couple buy all their whole grains and a bunch of their other flours from Pasadena-based Grist & Toll, and source as many of the rest of their ingredients from across the Inland Empire — honey and egg from Arnott Farms in Mentone, chocolate for their fabulous pain au chocolate from Redlands’ Parliament, coffee beans from Hearthwood Coffee Roasters in Yucaipa and fruit from a bunch of small farms.
But what draws retirees and hipsters alike are Village Bakery’s whole loaves — crusty sourdough, for sure, but also potato breads and pillowy, cinnamon-touched brioches. Even better are the daily specials: sweetish challah on Friday or a three-grain molasses on Tuesday, for instance. Regardless of choice, they’re massive and fine for sandwiches or simple toasts alike.
Then there’s the Volkornbrot — a German-style whole-rye bread so dense that you can probably smash a windshield with it. The Alexanders bake only four of them a week, but they almost never make it to the floor because people request them ahead of time.
Keeping things in stock is perhaps Village Bread’s only problem. In a county rich with farming traditions, places like this bakery remain maddeningly rare (the newish Cheesecake Factory in Temecula still has an hour-plus wait on weekends), so they count on a loyal customer who doesn’t blink at driving an hour. So do like the natives: call ahead and reserve. And load up on the svelte, Swabian-style pretzels — chewy, salty bliss.