Worlds collide in layers at the new Moxie Bread Company in Louisville.
Cut out all but the top display shelf at the entrance of the store and you’re in a patisserie somewhere in northwest France. There are fig and chocolate croissants, egg pastries and bubbling-over muffin crumbles. Each piece looks so ornate with so many variable ingredients that it’s a marvel to look at each one and wonder how. These are serious pastries, but the reproduction of each many times over on the stack of trays behind the counter make them look effortless.
As you pull back to the bottom row, you see beautiful loaves of bread piled together like the smooth dark rocks on the shores of the Cote d’Azur. From left to right, there are loaves of ciabatta, Jewish rye, Algerian and Farmhouse breads. Behind the display sit several loaves of focaccia, baked with various herbs and vegetables and drizzled in olive oil.
And pull back once more to regard the shop and you’re suddenly in the idyllic American farmhouse. It so expertly effects a feeling of general, cultural nostalgia that it’s almost too romantic to be real. A used banjo and steel guitar hang on the walls next to the old, beige upright grand piano. On top of the piano are well-read books about French and Italian pastry and bread cooking. There’s an old 1950s white refrigerator with the steel pull handle in the corner, and the tables are made of smoothed wood and cut asymmetrically. There are mish-mashed rocking chairs and the drapes are straight from someone’s grandmother’s house. The wood floors creak as you walk across squares of sunlight whose dimensions slowly change throughout the morning. The door is open and the charming bustle of downtown Louisville has never been displayed better.
On Friday nights, there is live music and pizza, but on a recent mid-morning, it was bluegrass on the speakers and a whole lot of pastries and breads.
First came a slice of focaccia with caramelized onions, olive oil, garlic and rosemary. It was served on a wood slab. The bread was crispy and dense toward the edge, and soft and moist near the middle, where the olive oil and onions huddled together. The olive oil was bright, aided by some salt, and the onions were subdued and worked wonderfully with the rosemary.
Also on the first plate was a “king egg.” It was essentially a small popover filled with cheese, pepper, scrambled egg and herbs. It’s like a French breakfast sandwich if the French ever bucked up and embraced American breakfast inventions. There was a joke made of its calorie count at the counter, but if you’re ordering this, you’re not concerned about its health attributes — you’re looking to have an awesome start to your day.
Next was a pastrami and manchego cheese sandwich on a bialy — a polish roll that’s sort of like a cross between an everything bagel and a Kaiser roll. The pastrami was cut into long strips, like bacon, and it was a fresher, lighter take on the deli standard. The tomatoes on this thing were robust, and the arugula and olive oil balanced the whole thing out. Manchego is also the perfect cheese for cured meats as its sharp and the slightest bit funky, but ultimately amenable to salty, powerful meat. It was a phenomenal sandwich.
Then there were pastries. There was the house specialty, kouign-amman, a pastry typical of Bretagne, France, and whose name translates to butter cake in the old Breton dialect. Mine was filled with nutty, moist fig and the relatively dense layers of the small pastry made it exceptional to eat with a hot cup of coffee. The other pastry was the peach Bretagne, essentially a golden brown cook’s hat of a treat that had the consistency of a dense croissant. Mine was filled with Palisade peaches and ginger, and I could’ve eaten a ton of those things.
Most exciting, and what I think has inspired Moxie to make immediate regulars of dozens of people, is the price. Pastries and breads are mostly available for less than $5. It’s what would typically be considered a high-end Euro-style bakery in the U.S., turned casual and authentic. It has made accessible to Boulder County eaters some really high-quality food.