S.B. News-Press: Santa Barbara Public Market, part five


(this is a reprint from May 22, 2014)


Sometimes the craziest ideas in life turn out to be the most inspiring. Just ask Rossell Studer , founder and owner of Crazy Good Bread Co., who wanted to turn her love of bread into an art form.

When Ms. Studer decided to start a mail-order bread business in Long Beach in December 2012, the humble loaf quickly became her canvas and Ms. Studer set about creating a variety of outlandish flavor combinations such as Fig Masala, Orange Chocolate and Lavender Walnut.

Having relocated the company to Carpinteria in January of last year, Ms. Studer subsequently decided to give her crazy good bread a public face, opening retail outlets in Carpinteria and Santa Barbara. The bread soon started selling itself.

Entering the Santa Barbara Public Market, patrons are seduced by the intoxicating scent of freshly baked bread, drawing them to the samples on the storefront counter.

“It’s the best advertising money can buy, isn’t it?” Ms. Studer said to the News-Press while seated at a table in the market’s common area, the aroma of fresh bread and pastries filling the air. “I knew a retail presence would help the mail-order side of things take off because once people smelled and tasted the bread, I knew they would come back for more.”

It was the more-ish nature of good bread that initially inspired Ms. Studer to start Crazy Good Bread Co.

“I love bread and when I was living in Long Beach, I couldn’t find a lot of really good bread,” Ms. Studer, 43, explained. “A friend of mine is a baker and we started playing around with making bread, and I came up with the crazy idea of playing around with flavor in bread.”

The inspiration for the flavored bread came via Ms. Studer’s obsession with lavender.

“I just love lavender,” she said. “Lavender shortbread cookies are one of my favorite things and I had a lavender martini a few years ago that just blew me away, so the Lavender Country Loaf was the very first flavored loaf we made. That then led us on a journey of discovery, trying all sorts of different things.”

“We made a Pumpkin Spice Pecan Loaf,” she continued. “When you eat it with butter or cheese or any sort of fat, it pulls the flavor out of the bread. I had some Pumpkin Spice Pecan Loaf with a slice of brie and glass of red wine and I was in heaven.”

The base bread Ms. Studer uses is a country loaf based on a sourdough process. Crazy Good Bread Co.’s founding partner and original baker, Doug Weinstein, then crafted a variety of flavor options based around the country loaf.

After using a commercial kitchen in Los Angeles, Ms. Studer found a kitchen that offered a steam injection oven large enough for her needs in Carpinteria and relocated the business. The steam is essential to producing the crisp yet hearty crust her loaves so deliciously exhibit.

Adding to the craziness, a few months after moving the business to Carpinteria, Mr. Weinstein decided the Central Coast wasn’t for him and left the company.

“That caused quite a lot of soul-searching,” Ms. Studer said. “He was such a great baker, so I was wondering if I should keep going with the business. Call me crazy, but I really believed in the concept and decided this is what I really wanted to do, so I found a fabulous new baker, John Alexander, in Los Angeles and brought him up here to take over.”

Ms. Studer has come up with around 20 flavors to date. The company has seven standard flavors that it supplements with a rotating selection of specialty options. The current specialty flavor is Lavender Walnut while a Lemon Dill loaf is also in the works. The company will also have specialty flavors to celebrate the seasons and holidays. It even offers a unique loaf with three flavors in one, allowing patrons to pull off each section to get a sample of each taste.

Crazy Good Bread Co.’s loaves sell in two sizes: the Original Country Loaf is $6 for a 1-pound loaf and $10 for a 2-pound loaf while the flavored varieties sell for $7 and $12, respectively. Varietal samplers, containing the fusion of three different flavors, are $14.

Ms. Studer’s mother, Bettie Miller, has partnered with her in the business and the two have some crazy plans in the works. As her daughter comes up with more and more bread creations, Ms. Miller is devising dishes to serve with the bread.

“Eventually, we’re going to put out the Crazy Good Bread cookbook,” Ms. Studer said. “It’s not as crazy as it sounds.”

Crazy Good Bread Co.: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; 770-2953 orwww.crazygoodbread.com


It’s not only ice cream that comes in a cone at the Santa Barbara Public Market. A closer inspection of the funnel-like objects patrons are clasping as they wander the market reveals a selection of freshly sliced cheeses or meats.

This is fast food to go, The Culture Counter Co. style.

“The idea came from a store at the Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco,” said Dana Blaudeau, 34, who manages the store with her husband, Frédéric, 37 (it is owned by Santa Barbara Public Market founder Marge Cafarelli). “There’s a meat shop there and although they don’t do cheese, they offer different meats in a cone. We thought it was a fun idea for cheese, too, so we introduced it here and it has really taken off. It’s a great little snack and a fun way to try different cheeses.”

Prior to The Culture Counter Co. opening, Mrs. Blaudeau owned and operated a local catering company called L’Apéro. For the past two years, she has specialized in gourmet cheese and charcuterie plates for customers to enjoy at their favorite wine tasting room, at a park or on the beach, or at parties and private events.

“It actually started with wine tasting rooms,” Mrs. Blaudeau said. “Because the wineries in town aren’t permitted to prepare food in their establishments, I worked out of a commercial kitchen and prepared plates and platters that they could offer to their customers. The business then turned into events and catering. When the opportunity to run The Culture Counter Co. came up, it was the right fit because we are still doing the catering, but now we work out of the shop.”

Fine cheese has long been a passion for the Blaudeaus, something that is readily apparent in The Culture Counter Co.’s considerable selection. Available by both the block or slice, all of the cheeses are sold by weight. The offerings, which they source from Los Angeles-based specialty wholesaler LA & SF Specialty, span the globe.

Nestled in the cheese chest at the front of the store you will find manchego, a semi-soft cheese made from the milk of manchego sheep in Spain, $10.85 per half pound; Prima Donna Gouda, a semi-hard cow cheese from Holland, $10 per half-pound; and Cypress Grove’s Midnight Moon, a hard goat cheese from Arcata in Northern California, $13.75 per half-pound.

“Even though my husband is from France and I’m Italian and we love cheeses from both of those places, we wanted to have offerings from all the main cheese-producing regions and what we think is the best cheese,” Mrs. Blaudeau said. “We also want to get more into locally produced cheeses. There aren’t a lot of (creameries) in California, so that is what we are currently working on.”

The couple came into the business only a few weeks before the opening of the market. In so doing, they started with a baseline of more familiar cheeses and supplemented that with interesting cheeses that customers might not have heard of or tried.

“We want customers to keep coming back and trying different things,” Mrs. Blaudeau said. “The Tete de Moine is an amazing cheese from Switzerland that we think is one of the best cheeses we carry and one not a lot of people know about.”

The cheese is cut using a scraper, which produces thinly sliced slithers that buckle and curl into florets, giving the cheese a melt-in-your mouth quality.

“A lot of people don’t realize there’s more to cheese than just the different types; there’s different ways of enjoying it, too,” Mrs. Blaudeau added. “Different cheeses are meant to be sampled and eaten different ways, and the Tete de Moine is a great example of that.”

In addition to its extensive selection of cheeses, The Culture Counter Co. – the name of which is a play on words referring to both the process of making cheese and offering cheese from around the globe – also carries cured meats, small production salami being a house specialty.

A delicious way of enjoying both cheese and meat is through the sandwich menu – selection of freshly prepared cold and hot items. The internationally themed cold menu features a jambon beurre sandwich, or type of buttered ham sandwich, called the French Culture; prosciutto y tapenade, representing the Spanish culture; and a turkey, pesto and avocado sandwich, honoring Santa Barbara culture.

The hot sandwiches feature paninis such as a Roast Beef Melt, served with thinly sliced roast beef, Red Dragon horseradish cheese, shaved red onion and fresh greens on a French roll, while the Salty & Sweet includes BelGioioso gorgonzola cheese, thinly sliced Bosc pear, truffle oil and arugula, also served on a French roll. All of the sandwiches are $8.50 and the bread comes from the market’s Crazy Good Bread Co.

“We don’t want to go too far into the deli realm,” Mrs. Blaudeau said. “But we do want to be a cheese shop where you can grab something for lunch.”

The Culture Counter Co.: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; 770-7778 or www.culturecountersb.com


Wine + Beer might be a simple equation, but it is definitely a varied addition to the Santa Barbara Public Market. Lining the shelves of the stylish wine and beer bar is a selection of local and imported wine and craft beers unlike any other. You just need to browse the blackboards on either side of the taps for an insight into the breadth of the bar’s impressive stash.

The blackboards list the wine and beer available on tap or by bottle that can be enjoyed at one of the store-bar’s communal tables. Wines are listed on the left, while beers are outlined on the right. But read the boards carefully because chances are the offerings have changed since your last visit.

“That’s the great thing about having our menu on blackboards,” said Wine + Beer’s manager, Betty Dunbar. “We can make changes from day to day. It’s also the great thing about having so many great wines and beers here. It gives us a lot of options.”

The tapped beer ranges from a La Grisette Wheat Farmhouse Ale, $6 for a 12-ounce glass, by Agoura Hills-based Ladyface Alehouse & Brasserie to Gavroche French Red Ale, $10, from France’s Brasserie de Saint-Sylvestre while the wine on tap spans Tangent Winery’s Albarino, $6 for a 6-ounce glass, to Melville Pinot Noir, $12.

“Wine on tap is something that really started becoming popular about three or four years ago,” Ms. Dunbar, 52, said. “It’s a very cost-effective way to serve wine by the glass. We can buy it in larger quantities and it doesn’t oxidize like an opened bottle does.”

The store is owned by Santa Barbara Public Market founder Marge Cafarelli and managed by Ms. Dunbar, who previously owned and operated Vinalia Imports, a Camarillo-based import and wholesale wine company that represented French winemakers in the Loire, Burgundy, Rhone and Languedoc regions.

With 35 years of experience in the wine industry, Ms. Dunbar has created the perfect environment to sit and enjoy a glass or bottle. Customers are also welcome to enjoy food purchased from the market vendors with a house beverage.

The blackboards tell only part of the Wine + Beer story. The retail side of the operation includes a wine selection that features a 50/50 mix of domestics and imports and a selection of craft beers from around the world.

“I have stepped up the imports a little bit from Marge’s original vision,” Ms. Dunbar said. “I had to push it up a little bit because of my background in imports and because there are so many great things going on in wine globally. But whether it’s local or imported, for a wine to be here, it has to have a sense of place and soul.”

The eye-catching walls of the elegant space feature shelf upon shelf of bottled wine. The store’s extensive local holdings is complemented by sections devoted to specific regions around the world. There is a wide variety of styles, too, encompassing everything from whites and zinfandels to muscats and ports.

For those wanting something a little special, Ms. Dunbar recommends Jonata’s locally produced 2006 El Alma de Jonata, $128.99, which she said is considered to be the best cabernet franc produced in California. Perfect for the warm weather, she also recommends Cleto Chiarli’s sparkling red Lambrusco del Fondatore, $16.99. Tempted? You can even select and purchase a bottle from the shelf to enjoy right then and there.

Wine + Beer: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday; 770-7701 or www.wine+beer.com (coming soon)