Going into the new year, I am at the age where I tend to just reinforce my past resolutions. More exercise, less TV, more family board games, and of course, eating healthier. When I order my Something Gud weekly delivery, it’s the result of last year’s resolution, to eat real, local food. I tend toward the The Pescatarian Box of the Week or the Paleo Box of the Week, which pushes me to create meals heavy on the organic/sustainable foods, and pushes me away from takeout and processed foods. And away from the bakery.
Baked goods have been a little too attached to these hips, so I was going at a good gluten-free pace until a couple of weeks ago, when my son got hungry. He’s 11, and because he seems to be growing an inch a week, so, yeah, he’s always hungry, but on a Saturday morning, we found ourselves in Allston, and like a good Hobbit, he wanted second breakfast. And I knew that Swissbakers was serving its fantastic brunch.
I like Swissbakers, because it’s a place that makes baked goods with quality ingredients. The Swiss family Stohr — Thomas and Helene, and their two sons — bake with organic and locally sourced ingredients in Reading as well as Allston. Thomas grew up in a Swiss bakery, and he and Helene started making bread for their young sons, who, he said, had lost the taste for bread until their parents introduced them to crunchy Swiss breads and rolls. The family opened the Reading bakery four years ago, and became favorite fixtures at area farmers markets, as well as suppliers to area markets … and Something Gud. In 2012 it received the Green Business Award.
The Allston bakery on Western Avenue looks like the former car dealership it was, except with a red cow named Lucerne on its roof, and a small children’s playground on the side. One window lists “guest-hugging” hours.
Inside, it’s all sunny windows, hightops and wooden tables that a few families have rearranged to gather for a leisurely brunch. Two clocks on the wall tell American and Swiss time. There are several stations staffed by super-friendly workers willing to get you items placed at various counters, or you can go from counter to counter to collect your meal, for takeout or table service.
The specials counter, with typical egg and bacon items as well as a Swiss-style garden salad with items such as beets and celery root. During the week are specials such as roesti and salmon with sour cream, and a vegetarian soup of the day.
Next is the bread counter, with a wide variety of freshly baked bread. There’s a sandwich station, then a baked-goods counter with rolls, croissants and quiches. Here’s where you can also choose your beverage, including coffee beans roasted by local coffee connoisseur George Howell. Finish up with the last case, filled with cakes and cookies.
“You won’t get scones here,” said Thomas. “This is a Swiss bakery.”
What’s special about this place, in addition to just how good everything is, is that everything is preservative-free, using local and organic ingredients when possible. The ingredients are whole foods, sometimes organic, with no preservatives or artificial anything. Ingredients like cage-free eggs, organic sugar and unsalted butter, sea salt, and of course, Swiss chocolate.
The food is freshly made every day. “People have to get used to total freshness, which means we sell out of things,” said Thomas. “Everything is a couple of hours old. Everything with almonds go quickly.”
The items that need reheating are done with fast ovens, not microwaves. They understand vegetarians, but don’t do gluten-free save for macaroons and salad. “Everything should be grandchild-sustainable,” he said.
On the entrance window is written “guest-hugging” hours; when asked what that meant, Thomas explained it was more of a mental rather than physical hug. “We want to say ‘Thank you,’ because we know you have a thousand options for food. We want you to feel great.”
We decided on the brunch, which was unlimited amounts of quiche, eggs, bacon, roesti (Swiss hash browns), a creamy swiss muesli with shredded apples and berries, challah French toast, ham and cheese croissants, cheese, fruit, and coffee. The food was delicious, although it did launch my ubercarb spiral into the holidays. Even this week, when I pulled into Something Gud headquarters, there was a box of Swissbakers. (Something Gud offers more than a dozen choices of Swissbakers treats.) These were soft and salty, and huge. Could. Not. Resist.
It’s resolutions time, and so I’m gearing up for a stronger Paleo/Whole 30 resolve. But it’s nice to remember that an occasional (and awesomely tasty) slip does not a failed resolution make. Or next time my family indulges at Swissbakers, I’ll just enjoy the coffee, some soup and salad perhaps. Maybe a few slabs of bacon. And try not to look at the pretzel rolls.
168 Western Ave. Allston, MA
32 Lincoln St., Reading