So, the Sunday Sangak Survey.
Well-fortified with delicious Cream Pan cafe
and petit dejeuner
, we embarked.
The briefest of background is all that's needed: Sangak is a Persian flatbread, large and stretched, seeded, obviously a naan relative but not baked in a tandoor. It is yum.
We had three targets to compare: Wholesome Choice, Super Irvine (both in, yes, Irvine), and my beloved Mission Ranch Market in Mission Viejo, which recently took over the Persian bakery in its center..
First up, the farthest point, Wholesome Choice
. Waiting in line was anticipated, and came true, but was not onerous and not one person tried to cut or placehold for a "relative," as I'd read about on Chowhound. There were signs warning against these exact behaviors -- I suppose such signs MIGHT cut down on the problems they specifically address, in some alternate universe. I must say I've never known a sign to really cure anything. At any rate, we spent our time in line unimpeded. The waiting gives the chance to watch the bakers at work, which is of interest to me but I realize not to everyone. The rotating oven floor appears to be stone, as Professor Salt
mentioned on Chowhound.
Absolutely typical OC disparately multi-culti clientele in the bread line, in the whole store... again I hasten to point out that this is something we might take for granted but is just not found elsewhere. OC is beautifully unsegregated.
Almost every single person ordered his limit of 2 hot-from-the-oven sangaks, + one of the thicker flatbreads that our checker called peshari, but for which I think barbari is another name. The peshari/barbari gets cut into 6 big squares and bagged, the hot sangak folded gently in brown paper, making a large, warm, good-smelling sheaf.
Pretty good bread. Excellent purchasing experience.
Next an easy drive up Culver to Super Irvine
, hard by the 5 freeway, just past Walnut. The drive might have been easy, but oh my goodness the parking lot was decidedly NOT. Wholesome Choice has the (well-deserved) reputation for crazy crowded parking, but it ain't a patch on Super Irvine, whose lot is truly nightmarish. We always park far away anyways, but oh my goodness.
Inside, a small line, just 2 ladies, in fact. And hard-working bakers in there, stretching and flipping dough onto the rotating oven floor, metal here. After a long few moments, one of the 2 ladies turns and advises us, "just so we know," that that OTHER lady over there, WAY over there, perusing the cheese case, the one with the curly hair, is actually in line HERE, amazingly enough right in front of us.
We were a bit taken aback after steeling ourselves for similar at the infamous Wholesome Choice line but encountering nothing but polite line behavior. After a long while, after one of the ladies in front of us had gotten her folded sheaf of sangaks, the aforementioned curly-haired lady cruised up, advising us that she had her "little baby waiting at home" and she'd "put her basket there" (pointing to yet a third position far away from the bread line). and this somehow entitled her to get in front of us. The baby juke might have worked if she hadn't been like 60 -- I'd advise her to try a different tack in future. Seeing all this, the baker tried to intervene on our behalf, as he'd watched us standing there like lemons for long minutes, but we said it's OK, sincerely, GO AHEAD. We considered it part of the Sangak Survey tariff. However, we would SO not be getting the George Carlinian Line of the Year, would we?
But not too too long and we had our bread, which upon initial tasting we thought very good, very wheaty, and a nice stretchy activated-gluten texture. Pretty good bread, a little cloud over the purchasing experience, not unrecoverable.
On to Mission Ranch Market
, familiar and beloved, but whose bakery was terra nova.
The guy expertly and assiduously pressing out the dough added lots of water as he shaped... it's a very wet dough anyways, but a lot of water got added at this point, contributing eventually to a beautiful glassy, chewy exterior. Rotating oven deck is metal, like SI, but different... more textured, seemed like. The baker's gear was a little different too... wet dough shaped on the convex side of a slightlly curved metal peel after applying much water and some sesame seed.
I like how everything is right there and I can SEE everything. Because I am nosy. One thing I saw, besides the giant bucket of sesame seeds, very appetizing, was a jar of what I suspected was nigella seed (charnuska, kalonji)... had that singular coal-black color. Asked the guy about it and he indicated I could have it on my bread w/the sesame if I wanted, which in fact I did, didn't I.
So can you see where this is going? Our best bread of the day was right here at (practically) home, Mission Ranch! AND 30 cents less, besides.
Ain't nothing wrong with Wholesome Choice's sangak... I'd buy it any time in need of flatbread. Also am keeping in mind their rustic-looking rye bread we saw, to be matched up with the no-junk-added herring we espied in their Eastern European fish delicacies department and the decadently thick Middle Eastern cultured cream. And just a lot a lot a lot of other useful stuff there too, of course. (Found a very nice Sicilian olive oil in a tin, for instance, very green and fresh without overly aggressive pepperyness, a good thing. I also bought ground lamb here this day, just $2.59/lb. ... used to paying $4.59/lb. at MRM.)
Super Irvine is so difficult to park, so chaotic and unclean inside, and has such an ungood range of groceries, that I don't know why anyone would shop there except if it was within walking distance. I guess it would be lots faster than WC if one needed a flatbread in haste, so there's that, and Professor Salt prefers their bread to WC's, I think he said.
But truly, WC and MRM put it to shame, grocery-wise, just in feta alone, and I must say ONLY little MRM among the three had my double-cream Bulgarian feta. (All had regular Bulgarian, which ain't nothin' to sneeze at, but for some things I like the double-cream.)