Firehook ExteriorAsk any DC transplant from New York, New Jersey or Philadelphia and they’ll tell you – in no uncertain terms – that you just can’t get good bread in Washington.  It’s the water, they say.  Whether it’s the crust, the crumb or the taste, something is always just a little off.

The folks at Firehook would politely disagree.  That’s just how they are.  Since 1992, Firehook Bakeries have been turning out bread from natural steam ovens that makes the argument for Washington.

Along the way, they’ve built up quite the following.  Whether you visit them in Old Town, Dupont Circle or Cleveland Park, you’ll find a selection of breads, but you’ll also find cookies, pastries and even sandwiches and salads.  On Capitol Hill, there are more than a few offices that rely on Firehook for their regular meeting sustenance.

Beyond the baguettes after the jump.

Firehook CounterFirehook’s bread and butter is, of course, their loaves.  Walk into any of their locations, and you’ll find an array of fresh-baked breads on pretty much every available surface.  The variety is impressive: 7-grain loaves are sliced for sandwiches, sourdough comes in several forms including batards and levain, and the classic french baguette is available daily.  For those whose tastes run to the more exotic, you can find specialty breads like Russian black bread and Bavarian rye that are baked on specific days of the week.

One of the things that makes Firehook’s breads so appealing is their lack of preservatives and other artificial ingredients.  A quick look at their website reveals the following five ingredients in their classic baguette: organic white flour, wheat germ, wheat bran, sea salt and water.  Shocking, right?  What about the components of an Italian semolina loaf: sesame seeds, semolina flour, organic white flour, sea salt.  That’s it.

copyright Firehook Bakery

copyright Firehook Bakery

Firehook takes the process of making the bread seriously, as well.  They operate on a two-day schedule to make their breads, shaping the dough by hand and then letting it rest, or proof, until it’s ready to hit the oven and develop that crisp, bubbly crust.  The finished product has a crumb (interior) that’s a bit more airy than some people prefer, but the lighter texture makes it a perfect sandwich vehicle.

Not in the mood for bread – or looking to put together a selection of sweets for your conference room table?  Firehook’s repertoire is deep.  On any given day you’ll find at least half a dozen different cookies available, each one soft and chewy in the middle and crisp around the edges.  The flavors run from chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin to unique offerings like Lemon Cooler and Chocolate Espresso Chew.  Muffins and pastries abound, though they’re far more enjoyable first thing in the morning (when they’re at the peak of freshness) than they are toward the end of the day.

Panini of a sortAnd if you’re in the market for something even more substantial at lunchtime, Firehook can deliver with soups, salads and sandwiches made on site.  For a real treat, check out a panini made on Firehook’s thick, rustic bread.  The pressed, heated sandwiches deliver big flavor in tasty combinations – in my most recent case, turkey, cheddar and tomatoes with a garlicky pesto spread.  Pair it with a soup and you’ve got a filling lunch for less than $10.

It’s easy to fall into a rut and go back to the same shop over and over again for office lunches and coffee breaks.  Thankfully, Firehook offers enough options to keep things fresh regardless of how often you order.  Whether you’re ordering wraps and salads, muffins and croissants, or cookies and brownies, Firehook Bakery can give you something new every time.  And their local pedigree makes it that much easier to feel good about ordering!

Firehook Bakery
215 Pennsylvania Ave., SE
Washington, DC
Firehook Bakery & Coffee House on Urbanspoon

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