Sonoma County members of Slow Food, their families and friends, are fortunate to have several very good bakeries making very good breads locally. The newest member of the tribe of first class bakeries, or boulangeries, as the French would say, is Goguette, which is located in central Santa Rosa, near Rosso Pizzeria and Wine Bar, and a few doors away, Zoftig Eatery. All three are in the Creekside Medical Plaza, which was once a culinary desert and is now a culinary destination.
Goguette is open Wednesdays through Saturdays, 1:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. There’s often a line of people waiting to buy breads; sometimes Goguette runs out of a particular kind of bread. Customers can phone their orders and pick them up. Many of Goguette’s fans buy two and three breads at a time.
There are 23 different breads to choose from, including pain de ville, pain de campagne, baguette, pavé, cheese fougasse, and brioche provençale. They are all made from organic flour; ingredients are locally sourced, as much as possible, the whole place is so clean you could eat off the floor and not get sick, and the employees are happy to work there and to learn the art and the craft of bread making.
Their teacher is Nas Salamati, who owns and operates Goguette along with his wife Najine Shariat. They both speak fluent French and fluent English, though they were both born in Iran and are of Persian descent. They left Iran before the 1979 revolution that toppled the monarchy and created an Islamic Republic.
It was in France that they came to appreciate a good baguette and a well-made croissant, and where they also discovered the joys of French food. Najine is a great believer in pairing bread with starters, entrees and salads. Behind the practice of pairing, there’s a philosophy, which tells her and Nas that “bread is the most elemental of foods and a compliment to everyday meals, special occasions and celebrations of moments in life.”
Their Sonoma County customers view the whole concept as something strange, though they have heard of, know something about, paring food and wine. Here are some of Najines suggestions: Pain aux olives with Greek Salad; pain de ville with chicken and potatoes; pain de campagne with coq au vin; pain de champagne with spaghetti marinara; rye bread with cold smoked salmon.
In addition to organic flour, filtered water and French gray sea salt, Goguette breads are made with a levain, which is a natural starter, and not with yeast or sour dough.
The lactic acid present in the levain removes phytic acid and makes it easier for the gastrointestinal tract to absorb calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron. The fermentation process is slow; sometimes up to 24 hours. Each and every loaf is shaped by hand. Oven temperatures are measured in centigrade and vary, depending on the kind of bread. Some of the milling of the grain happens at the back of the bakery itself.
Goguette’s levain-based breads slow down the release of sugars in the blood stream and help lower a body’s glycemic index. They aren’t perfect for people who are overweight and/or have diabetes, but they can and do help.
Are the breads expensive? That’s subjective. A small baguette is $3.50, a large baguette is $7.50, a brioche provençale is $4.75 and a cheese fougasse is $7.75. A not-too-sweet chocolate bread is sold by the kilo and the gram. The pave which is suitable for slicing, and lends itself nicely for sandwiches, is also sold by weight; $1 for every 100 grams.
Some customers practice their French with Nas and Najine. Conversations go beyond “Bonjour, madam” and “Au revoir, madam.” Others customers stick to English and enjoy the samples. The line can be long, but it moves quickly. No one goes home empty handed, or without a sense that a vital connection has been made to an ancient art that has been revived and reinvented for the present day.