Call of the Wild
Freestone's Wild Flour Bread stops weekend drivers in their tracks.
Faced with the alluringly curvy, untrafficked back roads of western Sonoma, what could make Porsche drivers gunning down the Bodega Highway put it in park? “Our wives made us pull over,” claims a lawyer from Menlo Park, sliding his bright yellow Turbo next to five other Porsches outside Wild Flour Bread in the tiny town of Freestone. An easy excuse, but the crowd of locals (and tipped-off tourists) sharing irresistibly gooey loaves of sticky-bun bread at the bakery’s long communal table knows that this bakery is a destination unto itself. And the busy show is half the fun. Watching as his staff gracefully tends to the crush—weaving from one end of the counter to the other to pluck out a plump loaf of pecan-orange Bohemian bread, offering tastes of “green goat” fougasse with chévre and scallions—owner and self-taught baker Jed Wallach laughs, “It’s the Freestone ballet!”
It’s a performance that celebrates a successful 10-year run in November. In the airy, barn-size bakery (built out of a derelict auto body shop and a burger joint), a dozen different naturally leavened breads go into the wood-burning brick oven each day, from picnic-perfect potato-rosemary-cheese loaves to hand-shaped whole-grain rounds studded with sunflower, pumpkin, and poppy seeds. “I want to meet, thank, and have a relationship with everyone buying our bread,” says Wallach, explaining why he sells his products only on-site. When customers moan over a craggy chocolate and strawberry scone, made with whipping cream from Marin’s organic Straus dairy, “everyone here feels the response. The work’s way too difficult to just let it go into a truck.” In the adjoining garden, the bakery’s youngest customers giggle down meandering paths that lead everywhere and nowhere, ducking under sunflowers and snatching raspberries. “If this place doesn’t slow you down, nothing will,” says Wallach as the Porsche drivers, bags in hand, nose back onto the road.