The first time my lips locked onto the crispy crust, teeth sinking into the pillowy like pain de campagne bread loaf, I melted like butter on warm bread. How’s that for an up close and personal introduction to Wave Hill Breads.
Many Connecticut locals are familiar with these iconic bread makers, whether they’ve stumbled upon them through the local farmers market, or sampled then quickly purchased a loaf at Whole Foods Market, or were regulars from their previous location in Wilton. There’s no denying the constant craving you’ll develop for this delicious carbohydrate. All the breads are handmade by the traditional techniques in small-batches that are long-fermented and blended with wheat, spelt and organic rye flours. It’s the inspiration that has driven the talented duo Margaret Sapir and Mitch Rapoport to begin making bread.
With the opening of their new location at 30 High Street in Norwalk, Connecticut and the growing appetite for their artisanal fare, they’ve added two new and impressive culinary talents. Seasoning the café menu with his culinary talents is Mike Devlin, (formerly Executive Pastry Chef at Universal Studios and the Dressing Room) who also manages the catering. While pastry chef Matt Kirshner, (formerly at The Essex House Hotel and Russian Tea Room in NYC), creates visions of the most exquisite sweets.
I spent the afternoon at the new café with my in-laws, eating and sampling much of the menu. We lunched on Leek, Potato and Ham Soup, coupled with several sandwiches that were piled high, like the Tuna with Capers and Lemony Fennel layered atop of Multigrain Bread, a Grilled Poblano with Cheese on Three Grain French Bread, and a Smoked Turkey, Avocado and Bacon on a Bun with Balsamic Caramelized Onions. Our lunch was pure heaven. We sampled Bread Pudding, Almond and Chocolate Croissants and stocked up on bread, desserts and the French Energy Muffins to fill our pantries at home. I personally devoured the Triple–Nut Glazed Brownie, though I recommend buying two, you may, like me be eating one for dinner as well. Though, the Coconut Meringue Clouds are quite dreamy, too.
While we were lunching I had the pleasure of getting to know Margaret, which is what inspired this interview today…
GC: Give us a brief bio, where you are from and how you started Wave Hill Breads?
WHB: My husband and I were in Stowe, Vermont having dinner at the Blue Moon Cafe about 10 years ago and loved their bread. We found out where we could buy it in the area and did so for a year or so. Then, we tracked down the baker, Gerard Rubaud, and visited him in the middle of the night, when he came down from his apartment above the bakery to begin baking. We talked a long time about bread, baking, philosophy of baking bread… Soon after, we trained with him. We went to Vermont, sometimes with our middle school-aged son, to learn from scratch the steps to making traditional French bread. We would then go home and practice until the next session, often calling with questions in between. When we were making consistently good loaves, we brought them to nearby stores to see if they would carry our bread. The Village Market in Wilton and other stores wanted it immediately. (That was the extent of our market research, perhaps a thin sampling for two MBAs.) We set about to find a location. It wasn’t easy. Ridgefield Health Department wouldn’t let us use wooden implements, which we had been trained to use – wooden proofing boards and wooden cooling racks. Our home is in Wilton and we were lucky to find a place there. By the way, the name “Wave Hill Breads” comes from Wave Hill, a botanical garden in The Bronx, on the Hudson River, (in Riverdale) where my husband and I were married over 30 years ago.
GC: What inspired you to open a Bakery?
WHB: My husband wanted his own business and we thought that Fairfield County needed good, French bread. After five years of making only one type of dough, we are now making several excellent varieties. We deliver to around 17 restaurants and 30 stores and participate in 20 farmers’ markets in New York and Connecticut. We recently opened our Bakery Cafe and Local Food Market.
GC: What’s your idea of the perfect meal?
WHB: I like variety and foods from many cultures like, Vietnamese, Middle Eastern, Indian… as well as a Wave Hill Breads baguette with some great cheese. I’ll never turn down good pasta dish, of course.
GC: If you could apprentice with any baker, who would that be?
WHB: I am very glad we apprenticed with Gerard Rubaud. I never really had a mentor in all my years in business and now I feel I do. In addition to being a meticulous baker, he has a lot of business experience. (He ran Roussignol Skis in the U.S. for many years and has the tenacity of the athlete he was.)
GC: Describe Wave Hill Breads in 5 words?
WHB: Excellence, great team, enthusiastic fans.
GC: Lastly, any words of advice for aspiring bakers?
WHB: In order to be successful, you have to make the best product you can. With bread, it’s not just the recipe, but also the time, the temperature, and the touch. It’s a challenge to make a business out of the art and science of making bread. You have to think about the costs of production, and the timing, and distribution. We are now running several businesses at once: wholesale bread and pastries, retail bread and pastries, cafe (with soups, salads, sandwiches, pizzas). Our challenge is to market each business successfully.
The secret is out… I think Wave Hill Breads is the next best thing since sliced bread.
To find out hours of operation, rotating menu selection and catering needs visit the website at Wave Hill Breads 30 High Street, Norwalk, CT (203) 762 9595
A great big Thank you to Pamela Einarsen who is a fine art portrait photographer that seeks to capture the essence of a person and their places. You can see the more of her collection on Wave Hill Bread: A Slice of Life at Pamela’s site.