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Adieu, Parisian Sourdough

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#1 Squeat Mungry

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Posted 20 August 2005 - 07:47 PM

San Francisco's Parisian sourdough bread bakery closed yesterday after baking from the original starter for 149 years.

Parisian was one of the most visible of San Francisco sourdough brands. It was the bread served at many old-time San Francisco restaurants, including the 156-year-old Tadich Grill on California Street, the oldest restaurant in the West. Parisian also was featured at the Cliff House and at most Fisherman's Wharf restaurants. French bread with cracked crab produced a meal that, when washed down with California Chardonnay, was said to be the quintessential San Francisco dish.

In many San Franciscans' opinion this was the "tourist sourdough". It is the bread in the familiar red-and-blue packaging ubiquitous at Fisherman's Wharf and SFO. The bread millions of visitors grabbed on the way to their planes as a souvenir.

Though in my opinion Parisian was not among the very best San Francisco sourdoughs, it wasn't bad and was always consistent, and it's sad to see the tradition go.

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It is a pretty poem, Mr. Pope, but you must not call it Homer. -- Richard Bentley

#2 Cathy


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Posted 21 August 2005 - 02:28 AM

In the days when I was there a lot, Boudin's was the best.
You're only as good as your grease.

When working with high heat, the first contact between the cooking surface and the food must be respected.

-- Francis Mallman

#3 Farid


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Posted 21 August 2005 - 03:51 AM

Parisian sourdough? :lol:

#4 Gary Soup

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Posted 23 August 2005 - 04:13 AM

Back in my salad days (no, sourdough bread days) there were four big players in the SF sourdough market: Boudin, Larraburu, Venetian, and Parisian. There were also at couple of small North Beach bakeries, Italian-French and Malvina, which made a whole wheat sourdough loaf on Satudays only. I thought Boudin and Larraburu were the best of the biggies, though Venetian had a warm spot in my heart because it was in North Beach and a couple of their hot-out-of the oven sandwich rolls did wonders soaking up the alcohol from all-night carousing at the crack of dawn. Parisian didn't show up much on my radar.

In retrospect, I theorize that Boudin and Larraburu were the best because their plants were located in the foggy Richmond District, and it's well known that the sourdough "mother" is sensitive to microclimates. Venetian, which was in the flat (original) part of North Beach, close to Fisherman's Wharf, also got kisses from the fog fairies, while Parisian had to make the best of being in what the realtors liked to call the "sunny Mission District."

Be that as it may, it's sad to see Parisian be the third of the Big Four to bite the dust. Long live Boudin!

#5 Max


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Posted 23 August 2005 - 06:23 PM

I remember these brands too.

Across the bay, upstart small bakeries began circa 1970 making baguette and other bread with glutinous flours in a more intense, "French" style. The Cheeseboard was one -- their production was small, and purchases explicitly limited. In 1983 a young couple named Sullivan, Berkeley grads as I recall and with connection and blessings from Chez Panisse, set up a bakery, Acme, supplying breads of comparable quality in volume to the public and restaurants (even if the baguette crusts lacked a micropoise of crunch compared to Cheeseboard's). Others followed such as Semifreddi's. Nowadays I see Acme cited online as influential to a subsequent artisanal bakery trend in the US.

-- Max

PS: Micropoise = one millionth of a poise (the metric unit of viscosity.)

#6 fentona


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Posted 23 August 2005 - 08:29 PM

Be that as it may, it's sad to see Parisian be the third of the Big Four to bite the dust.  Long live  Boudin!

Word to that. Back when I was a kid and we'd fly down to SF to visit the relatives, we'd bring an extra suitcase, just to load up on Boudin, then freeze it and carefully ration out the bread over the course of the next year...
Andrew Fenton