The word “moxie” means “force of character, determination or nerve,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary. The breads produced at Moxie Bakery are also pretty nervy. My favorite, the Algerian, is a deep brown crusty loaf with major chew and a tender inside with sourdough tang resulting from a long, slow, sexy fermentation. This is bread that grabs you and makes you pay attention. It is everything Wonder Bread is not, including wonderful.
The star on the menu at the Louisville bakery café is unquestionably the kouign amann (QUEEN-ah-mahn), a pastry from the Brittany region of France. Imagine butter croissant dough laminated with even more high-fat butter and sugar and baked in a salted, sugared and buttered muffin tin until thoroughly caramelized. It is ridiculous, but in a good way.
The mind behind the 1-year-old Moxie is Andy Clark, a veteran of Colorado’s artisan bread movement who casually tosses around terms like “colloidal supersuspension.” He takes biodynamic and organic heirloom Turkey Hard Red Winter Wheat — delivered by family farmer from Jennings, Kansas — and grinds it on a stone mill upstairs. He supplies ciabatta to a couple of eateries but, if you want to taste Moxie’s breads, you have to come to the store.
“I dream about bread,” Clark says, as we sit in the comfy backyard at Moxie, full of stumps to sit on, a pizza oven, shade trees and a sandbox stocked with big metal trucks. That makes sense when you find out that Clark and his wife, Phillippa, have three sons: Theo, 3, Max 6, and 8-year-old Samuel.
Moxie is a big change of environment from working in large commercial bakeries.
“It’s just been awesome to have the kids around,” she says. “My son Max loves coming in to work. He’ll come early and stay late. We knew we’d have yummy stuff, but the bakery has really become a gathering spot in the past 12 months, and we see a ton of regulars. It’s wonderful to have a family scene. Moms can come here, sit in back and the kids can play in the sandbox, and they don’t have to worry about them.”
Q: What was the first thing you ever baked?
The first thing I ever baked was an artisan pizza with sesame seeds at the Glass Sailboat in Gloucester, Massachusetts. It was a summer job and the baker let me come in early unpaid to watch. One day the pizza guy didn’t come in so he had me do it.
Q: You were going to study marine biology. How did you end up in Boulder?
A: Through a series of uh, life turns I ended up in Boulder in a friend’s dorm room at CU when I was 18. I got a job working — briefly — for Michael Sclafani at Boulder Bagels near the Daily Camera. I walked into the Daily Bread Bakery (where Frasca is now) and became a barista. One day somebody didn’t show up. They said: “Punk, show up at 4 a.m.” I never missed a morning. I fell in love with everything about baking.
Q: What did you like about bread baking?
A: Bread is a science and you have to get your formula right. You can’t be sloppy. Dough is very time- and temperature-sensitive and especially with humidity. Dough loves moisture and here we are always fighting the dryness.
Q: You took a break when the Daily Bread became part of Whole Foods Market.
A: I went on a long Mexican hitchhiking adventure involving lots of mezcal, unfiltered cigarettes and trains.
Q: Afterwards you joined Whole Foods Market also.
A: It was like walking into a tornado with lots of meetings and training. I stayed 15 years, and it was really good training in quality control and managing people. Four years ago he joined Udi’s Bakery (now Izzio’s) in Colorado.
Q: Music seems as important to you as whole grains.
A: I liked being a baker because I could work by myself and listen to my music. Now the arguments in the kitchen are always about music. They want Pantera. I tell ‘em, “Let’s meet in the middle and play (bluegrass guitarist) Tony Rice.”
Q: You had instruments available to play at Moxie Bakery from the moment it opened.
A: I play guitar and sing. I’m a campfire player. I’ve gotten better in the past year because I have all these better players around. My favorite thing is our Wednesday night pizza frenzy and jam. It starts with a jam in the backyard with about a dozen people — some bluegrass, mostly Celtic and old time music. Later on the front porch we usually have some of the more professional players — ranging from roots to chamber music — it can be anything. It’s worth it when I head home at midnight and have to be back at 5 a.m.
Q: What’s coming out of the oven next?
A: We’re building a small stage in the backyard so we can have small shows, and we’ve applied for a license to sell beer and wine.
Local Food News
Calling all pie makers! Plan to enter your best crusted wonder in the pie contest at the Hay Days celebration in Hygeine on Sept. 3. I’ll be in charge of the judging for fruit, nut and gluten-free pies and a contest for kid bakers under 14. Great prizes, deep crust talk and homebaked pie will be available. Registration: hygienecommunityassociation.org.
Taste of the Week
You literally will not believe where Balistreri Winery is located as you drive with the concrete trucks toward the power plant north of Denver near I-270, but it is a very cool destination for a hot August day. Respite waits in the classy winery tasting room with John Balistreri’s quirky, ripe Colorado wines and board of olive oil, salumi, cheeses and pickles. (balistrerivineyards.com)
Words to Chew On
“The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do.” — Galileo Galilei
John Lehndorff hosts Radio Nibbles at 8:25 a.m. Thursdays on KGNU. Podcasts at: news.kgnu.org/category/features/radio-nibbles. Would you eat at a restaurant that bans cell phones? Comments to: Nibbles@BoulderWeekly.com