Ernest Hemingway spent much of the roaring twenties in Paris, a city whose own liberal attitudes attracted poets, painters and writers from throughout the world. Paris was a vibrant city which drew many expats from the so-called “lost generation” of cynical young people disillusioned with the materialism and individualism prevalent in society at the time. As a young writer penning “A Moveable Feast,” Hemingway observed: “You got very hungry when you did not eat enough in Paris,” because all the bakery shops had such good things in the windows and people ate outside at tables on the sidewalk so that you saw and smelled the food.”
An avid outdoorsman, Ernest Hemingway, was a Sun Valley habitué even before establishing a permanent residence in Ketchum two years before his death in 1961. One of Hemingway’s favorite watering holes was The Sawtooth Club, a decidedly masculine appointed establishment where he would have been right at home. While enjoying breakfast at Bigwood Bread about a mile north of The Sawtooth Club, I wondered to myself if Hemingway would have enjoyed that bread. Surely after having experienced Paris and its incomparable boulangeries, he would have become addicted to bread. Alas, Bigwood Bread, the premiere small batch artisan bakery in Idaho didn’t launch until 1997, decades after Hemingway’s passing.
After enjoying Bigwood’s baguettes during dinner at The Sawtooth Club, we knew we wouldn’t be passing up the opportunity to have more of that bread over breakfast at Ketchum’s most expansive and popular bakery-cafe. Bigwood–and Ketchum itself–present an interesting dichotomy. With two distinct “tourist” seasons (ski season and summer) compounded by a population that includes a significant percentage of “second home, part-time dwellers” Ketchum’s businesses struggle to make it through “slack” times. On a “slow” week, Bigwood goes through ten-thousand pounds of organic flour every week. During peak season, that number doubles. Bigwood has weathered these challenges for three decades.
Since its inception Bigwood Bakery has been producing handmade artisan-style breads, bagels, pastries and par-baked products as well as distributing them to quality restaurants, gourmet restaurants and hotels throughout Idaho. Bigwood’s “starter was brought to Idaho from France, and it’s been nurtured for more than 25 years,” another indication Hemingway would probably have enjoyed the bread. Breads are hand-made using “the highest quality, sustainable and all natural grains from family famers in the Pacific Northwest.” Products contain no artificial ingredients or high fructose corn syrup and are free of genetically modified organisms, pesticides and preservatives. Even Bigwood Bread’s building is eco-conscious.
Bigwood Bread Bakery’s dog-friendly patio is one of the most commodious we’ve seen. Several four-legged guests frolicked on that patio while others preferred the shade provided by large umbrellas or nearby shade trees. Our Dude mostly enjoyed the adulation of his “peeps” though while he was being admired by guests at an adjacent table he did reach over for some bacon that had been left unattended. That would have resulted in a slap for me, but offers of more bacon for our debonair dachshund.
Bigwood Bread Cafe has a wonderful menu that includes surprisingly good coffee. Breakfast is served from 8AM through 11:30AM. Fresh bread choices are sourdough, honey wheat, vita-grain, bagels and mountain rye while meat offerings are .applewood smoked bacon, housemade sausage, chorizo and black forest ham. Breakfast is mostly of the comfort food variety with several of the entrees showcasing the bakery’s breads. Locals swear by the granola (rolled oats, Bigwood Bread local honey, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, almonds, coconut, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg and cloves) available in three flavors: original, cranberry and blueberry.
Growing up in the Chicago area, my Kim frequented an abundance of breakfast restaurants with her family. In the suburbs, most of the breakfast restaurants tended to serve mostly “traditional” American fare though some Greek items were available at some of her favorite restaurants. What still appeals to her most for the “most important meal of the day” is the classic American breakfast of eggs, bacon and toast–what those of us with chile flowing in our veins might consider bland and boring (although it is sacrilege to consider bacon boring). The bacon along with four half slices of sourdough bread toast served with a housemade cherry jelly were the highlights of her Sun Valley Breakfast. Sliced thin, the sourdough was San Francisco-worthy and that cherry jelly was fabulous.
While the menu does include a breakfast burrito (scrambled eggs, Cheddar cheese, tomatoes, green onion, and choice of ham, bacon, chorizo or sausage rolled in a warm flour tortilla served with roasted potatoes), if you’re a New Mexican it’s hard to trust what constitutes a breakfast burrito in other parts of the country. What you can nearly always trust is sourdough French toast (sourdough bread soaked in housemade custard, topped with fresh berries and powdered sugar). Bigwood Bread’s version is terrific! Its reminiscent of a butter enriched bread pudding, custardy on the inside with crispy, golden edges. It’s tailor-made for dousing in maple syrup. Fresh strawberries provide a nice counterbalance to the sweetness of the syrup.
Bigwood Bread Cafe
271 Northwood Way
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LATEST VISIT: 9 June 2023
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: Mocha, Sourdough French Toast, Sun Valley Breakfast, Chocolate Chip Cookies