I got back from Seattle dead tired from the flight. I know, I know, it’s just 2½ hours, but I was seated in front of a family traveling with at least four screaming kids. (And I was unlucky enough to have been on the same flight with them going out as well!)
I was starving. I set down my bags and pulled out the loaf of bread I’d bought at Sitka & Spruce, which my friend Roberta claimed was the best in the city. Must be, because the four of us devoured an entire loaf before dinner at her house. And now I was in possession of the second, plus a big block of farm butter I’d bought at Bob’s Quality Meats, a neighborhood butcher shop in Columbia City. Pulled the cork on a bottle of Rioja. Heaven.
Let me backtrack a little. Sitka & Spruce started out in a strip mall and that’s where chef-owner Matt Dillon first came to national attention. Since then, he’s opened the Corson Building, also in Seattle, and two years ago moved Sitka & Spruce into the then-new food hall Melrose Market. He has a little pantry in front where he sells superlative baguettes from Columbia City Bakery, along with herbs and spices, special salts, etc. And lately, he’s been baking round country loaves in the Corson Building’s outdoor wood-fired oven. Made from just water, flour, yeast and sea salt, the round 2-pound loaves come out after 2 p.m., just in time for shoppers to pick up at Sitka & Spruce in the Melrose Market on their way home for dinner.
I love the charred crust, the tweedy interior — sour, but not too sour, so good you just want to rip the loaf apart with your bare hands. I could just have this with that sweet country butter for supper.
The clincher is in the airport I ran into Seattle Times food writer Nancy Leson (who debuts a new column in the paper’s Sunday magazine in September). When I pulled out my loaf to show her, she knew immediately whose it was. “Matt’s?”
“Is that not the best bread you have ever had in your life?”