Bakers have a great terror of trying to bake at altitude. Books have been written about the complications, volumes of secret lore passed down through generations of bakers and patissiers, all dealing with adjustments in measure, in time, in how to make the magic of flour, water, butter and eggs work at any elevation above six feet over sea level.
Many bakers — the kind of lock-jawed purists who claim that no round of boiled dough not made in or around Park Slope can be called a bagel and no bread can be properly baked even on a second floor — never even consider operating a mile high. To them, anyone foolish enough to attempt living 5,000 feet above the natural domain of humans deserves to live without bread, without bagels, without pastry of any kind.
But fuck those people, because if they'd make just one trip to Avon Bakery in Avon, take one taste of the impossibly delicate, criminally buttery croissants made here (at 7,420 feet, no less), they would see exactly how wrong they are. I swear that these croissants are not just the greatest I've had at altitude; they may well be the best I've had anywhere — perfectly light and flaky, subtly sweet, and so rich they seem to sweat butter through their gleaming, golden-brown skins.
25 Hurd Lane, Avon
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If only for the croissant alone, I would recommend Avon to anyone making a trip up to Eagle County. But the fact is, this crazy-busy little bakery just off the main drag also does some other stuff incredibly well. It offers bagels that are thick and chewy, if a bit light for my tastes; a full spread of sandwiches (which, not for nothing, are a bit heavy on the sprouts and veggies for an unhealthy carnivore like me); soups du jour and breads that are just this side of legendary —- partially thanks to the certified organic flour that is used exclusively by the boulangers, partially thanks to the screw-the-altitude skills evinced by said boulangers, and partially thanks to the big, steam-injected Italian hearth ovens they use to create their masterpieces.
Not only are the loaves delicious, they're also photogenic — like centerfold spreads. Which really just goes to prove my long-held conviction that while cooks and chefs are merely tradesmen, bakers are true artists in the flesh.
Every week in Second Helping, Jason Sheehan visits a restaurant that deserves extra attention. Contact him at email@example.com.