Best of Denver 2009: Bread alert

The 25th annual Best of Denver issue officially hits the streets (and this site) on March 26, and now that the hundred-plus food awards have been decided, I'm revisiting some of my favorite tales from this year's always-weird awards process.  Kinda like encounter therapy, and cheaper than going to a shrink.

Besides, people always have questions after the Best of Denver comes out regarding how, exactly, I managed to arrive at my picks.  They usually frame their curiosity in the form of a direct and pointed comment, something along the lines of: "Seriously, jackass?  Steuben's again? Your [sic] a douche."

These posts will, I hope, pre-emptively shed a little light on the process.  And if not, at least they should be good for a laugh.  So let's begin with...


Award in question:  Best Bread

Possible winners:  Be Le Sandwich, Parallel Seventeen, a few other places whose names I can't recall right now.

Appearing in this year's issue?  No.

Why:  Because the bread in question--a beautiful, Saigon-style rice-flour baguette--is no longer being made. It was being made about six months ago, the last time I visited Parallel Seventeen and wrote a note reminding myself that the heel of bread served with my Hanoi curry was possibly the best piece of bread I'd ever tasted. It came from Ba Le Sandwich's bakery, and it was (I thought) still being made as recently as a few weeks ago -- the last time I went to Ba Le and had what I could've sworn was the exact same bread. At first bite.

See, for years Ba Le (along with a couple of other Asian bakeries in town) produced this wonderful rice-flour bread that was used not just in its own sandwiches, but all over the city. And almost everywhere these loaves showed up on a table, people would say, "Man, that's just the best bread I've ever had." But as it turns out, a few months ago the Saigon-style rice-flour baguette vanished and bakeries like Ba Le went back to producing a traditional French baguette. I wasn't able to find any explanation as to why the rice-flour baguettes were no longer being made, only that they weren't. The new ones were good, but they weren't as good.

Parallel Seventeen now uses the new Ba Le bread, and it's still best employed for mopping up the dregs of a Hanoi curry -- but even I wasn't going to give an award that obscure. And Best Frenchy-Vietnamese Mystery-Flour Bread That I Ate Six Months Ago would have been too big to fit on the plaques that we give to all the winners.

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