Breakfast at Sub Rosa Wood Fired Bakery in Historic Church Hill Neighborhood of Richmond, Virginia

A directory of what we have termed “Craft Bakeries” was recently added to this website.   The decision to include information on bakeries making hand-crafted baked goods, with a focus on using freshly stone-ground flours (made from carefully sourced and often organic, heirloom grains) and baking delicious bread,  which relies on “natural leavening,” was prompted by a simple breakfast at Sub Rosa Wood Fired Bakery, a very special neighborhood bakery in the Church Hill section of Richmond, Virginia.  No surprise that bakeries with this focus also carefully source fruit and other ingredients used in their savory goods.

Richmond, the capital of Virginia, is proud of its Capitol building designed by Thomas Jefferson, the first public building in the New World constructed in the monumental Classical style, and which has served as a prototype for state capitols (though not the Gothic Revival/Romanesque mishmash of the New York State Capitol in my hometown of Albany), courthouses, and municipal buildings for more than 200 years.   A tourist to Richmond also will ordinarily be sure to visit St. John’s Church, the original location of Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death” speech.  This National Historic Landmark, which is an important stop on Viriginia’s Road to Revolution Heritage Trail, is in the historic Church Hill neighborhood of Richmond (also known as the St. John’s Church historic district) on the eastern end of Broad Street (which runs through the heart of downtown Richmond).  After a stimulating visit to the historic church and graveyard, breakfast at Sub Rosa Wood Fired Bakery in the Church Hill neighborhood was the icing on the cake.

With Ella Fitzgerald’s jazzy voice softly singing, I lucked out as I opened the door to the homey corner bakery to hear timeless music and to find space available at the counter overlooking the front of the shop.  With only three tables and six seats at the window counter, on a busy Sunday morning, I was fortunate to find a spot to enjoy the wonderful offerings.

Although the croissants ($3.20), pain aux raisins ($3.75), pain au chocolate ($3.75), and slice of quiche ($5.00) were very tempting, I opted for a greens and feta tart ($5.00).  This buttery pastry with its peppery spinach greens was the perfect choice.  (On other occasions, the  greens might have been swiss chard or kale depending on seasonal availability.)  A satisfying cup of smooth, medium roast coffee made with Lamplighter coffee beans (a small coffee roaster with three shops in the Richmond area, which places value on establishing “more direct trade relationship with farmers that use sustainable methods”) provided the jolt of java to get the wheels turning on a lazy Sunday morning.

And I really lucked out, when a little before 10:00AM, other customers began arriving at Sub Rosa Wood Fired Bakery and began to line up for one of the loaves of bread, which would soon be coming out of the wood fired oven at 10:00AM according to Mike, the friendly fellow behind the counter taking orders. Hmmmm.  Better queue up and see (and enjoy) the cause for this line early on a Sunday morning: a hot loaf of polenta bread ($8.50 for the large 36 oz or 1kg loaf, $4.25 for the half loaf), which according to a prominent sign listing the bakery’s breads, was available on Fridays and Sundays.   The ingredients clearly noted on Sub Rosa’s website are “turkey” red wheat, ‘Bloody Butcher’ corn (described as a Virginia native, this corn emanates sweet richness through a light creamy interior), filtered water, cultured wheat, sea salt.  As a bread lover, who has baked his honey oat bread for decades (three loaves at a time), I have some credibility to back up my opinion that this polenta bread was “off the charts” wonderful.  My decision to purchase the large loaf was a very wise decision.

This remarkable wood fired bakery and stone-milling operation offers 5 other breads: (1) flatbread-classic & pide (same dough as classic but baked fast and hot and topped with olive oil, sesame, and nigella seeds (black caraway seeds) or alternately rosemary and sea salt flakes); (2) miller’s wheat, (3) light rye (sesame rye), (4) whole rye and (5) HomeSlice (signature pan loaves with light rye and other whole grain options varying from week to week.  The bakery’s website includes detailed information on the ingredients of each of its breads.

On Sub Rosa’s website, the bakery also notes that “The wheat, corn & rye that we freshly stone-mill in house is also organic and we strive to use locally grown, heirloom varieties.”  With its commitment to “the timeless craft of bread and pastry,” the monthly pizza suppers must be something very special for those fortunate Virginians aware of this outstanding neighborhood spot.  If only Richmond wasn’t a half day’s drive from home, I’d be queuing up regularly at Sub Rosa.

Sub Rosa Wood Fired Bakery, 620 N. 25th Street (historic Church Hill neighborhood), 804.788.7672, Baked goods, espresso & coffee, tea: (Bakery hours) Tues-Fri 7:00AM-6:00PM, Sat & Sun 8:30AM-5:00PM, Pizza suppers: Monthly dates, click on bakery’s website for info:

(Frank W. Barrie 4/10/15)

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