The Boston Phoenix

food & drink

Best bread artist

Don't let your friends in New York or San Francisco talk your ear off about all the great places they can get French bread or sourdough. Turn the tables. Talk their ears off about the Hi-Rise Bread Company in Cambridge. That's where baker-owner Rene Becker turns out hand-crafted loaves to rival anyone's.

And Becker's story is as fine as his store. He started out as a journalist covering business and politics, then became a food critic for Boston magazine, and finally opened up his own bakery. He painstakingly crafts breads in varieties like whole-wheat sourdough, seven-grain, potato, and yeasted corn, and he's not afraid to tackle New England brown bread. By ferreting out top-quality ingredients -- flour from Emilia-Romagna, dried blueberries from Michigan -- and being manic about a time-consuming bread-making process in which flavor develops slowly but surely, he manages to produce breads with thick crusts, deep tastes, and gorgeous chew. Best and hardest of all, he does it consistently. That's why restaurants like Lumière, the Federalist, and Aspasia ante up for his work. And it's why you should saunter over at least once a week.

Hi-Rise Bread Company, 208 Concord Avenue, Cambridge, (617) 876-8766.

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