Sourdough Home

Thank you Mike, your site has given me so much help. It is clear, intelligent and most importantly, not scary. Your site pushed me to take the plunge into pain au levain. I cannot tell you how much enjoyment I get out of the magic of baking bread.

— -comment from a website visitor

Saturday May 19, 2007 - Camp Bread, Day 0 

Day zero? Yeah, it was the last setup day and the day the instructors were given their orientation classes. Beth and I got up bright and early and moved from the Homewood Suites to the Embassy Suites. The move wasn't all that suite. We took the Homewood Suites courtesy van to the airport and then looked for the Embassy Suites courtesy van to get to the Embassy Suites. A taxi driver asked if we needed a ride. When he heard what we were waiting for, he suggested we call the hotel.

A quick phone call later, we found out that the next van would not be at the airport for over an hour. If we wanted, we could take a taxi and the hotel would reimburse us for a taxi trip. We thought few seconds and jumped into a cab. While the thermometer said it was considerably warmer than at home, between the wind and humidity, we felt quite cold. The taxi driver had NO idea where the hotel was. However, that didn't stop him from taking off at 90 miles an hour. As the taxi meter was reaching $22.00, and we had seen and pointed to our hotel several times, which always seemed to prompt him to go in another direction, the driver stunned us. He turned off the meter, called someone on his cell phone, and after talking in an unknown language for a while drove back to the airport. As the point where he could have gone into the airport, he turned left, and re-started the meter. When it hit $8.05, we were there. We tipped him well and thanked him. The hotel staff was amazed at the low fare.

Sadly, the Embassy Suites is not as nice a hotel as the $50.00 a night cheaper Homewood Suites. It is in need of - and getting - an overhaul, but that's not the real issue. We had lunch at the hotel's restaurant. I have rarely had such an uninspired sandwich or such limp fries. Beth asked for a Reuben on marbled rye, and the bread was falling apart. At a rather high price.

When it was time to use their Internet connection, I found it was $9.99 a day, and not as good as the free connection at the Homewood Suites. Both hotels are owned by the Hilton chain. The difference is surprising. However, the Embassy Suites does have a complementary happy hour every day of the week, which is not true of the Homewood Suites. Still, for the difference in price, I can afford to buy my own booze.....

It was time to head over the San Francisco Baking Institute for an instructor orientation. And that's where my day really took a turn for the better. I finally got to meet a number of people who were only names on email messages, or a voice on the phone.

When I walked through the door, the smell of GOOD bread was such a welcome A Bread Display at SFBI, 2007thing, I just felt at home. In the lobby was a display of breads that I think were made by students of SFBI. The picture is a bit washed out, and the breads were even more lovely than the picture shows. As always, you can enlarge the picture by clicking on it. I'll probably edit the picture when I get back home so it looks more like what I saw... but this is a quick stream of consciousness thing.

A few minutes later, I had met Abe Faber, Gina Piccolino, Monica Lanzack, and Craig Ponsford. A few minutes later, I'd met Kiko Denzer. ALL are such nice people. It was very odd, but even though I have never been to the SFBI office, and even though I had never met those people before, I felt like I was home.

Shortly after that Brian Wood, one of the SFBI instructors, took us on a tour. Here he is showing us one of the SFBI ovens. Brian kept apologizing because Brian showing us an SFBI mixerthere were so many different varieties of equipment at SFBI. I felt it might have come about because the people at SFBI had been buying what they could get at a reasonable price, but that it was a good thing since it would give students a broad base of experience, and an ability to handle a wide variety of equipment.Brian showing us an oven

After we saw the ovens, it was off to the mixers, of which there were many, and then to the sheeters. If you haven't run accross sheeters yet, they are a device that turns a blob of dough into a sheet of dough. They can be, but usually aren't, used to develop dough. They are used in pastry making to roll out dough to help create the laminated layers of butter and dough. They are also used to make crackers such as lavash crackers, and pizza dough in pizzerias that don't toss their dough by hand.

Brian showing us an SFBI sheeterDuring the orientation, a woman caught my eye. I kept looking at her thinking, "Damn, where do I know her from?" She must have noticed my looking at her, and she is a more forthright person than I am as she came over, stuck out her hand to be shaken and said, "I'm Melina!" I gave her my name and shook her hand and we chatted a few minutes. I still have no idea who she reminds me of - I'm pretty sure that I had never met, or seen, her before. *SIGH* A senior moment. Ya gotta love 'em. Anyway, Melina was a teaching assistant at Camp Bread and very helpful during - and after - Camp Bread.

After the orientation, Abe asked, "You're a computer guy, aren't you? Could you check out the computer projectors before you go?" So, I spent sometime making sure people could use their PC's and MAC's to show slide shows.

That put us into reception time. Last time the BBGA had a Camp Bread, the Boudin Bakery in San Francisco hosted a reception for the guild. They did it again this year. And it was very, very nice. An open bar is always a delightful thing. There was a wonderful buffet of their breads, incredible cheeses, crudites, fresh fruit and more. Another buffet had a great assortment of seafood. And then they brought out desserts. I'll have to do some serious walking tomorrow!

But the best part of the reception was a chance to talk to many, many more people. Too many to name, too many to remember, and worse, I don't have pictures. I was just having too much fun to even remember I had a camera with me. Well... tomorrow I teach about the baking business as a part of the Artisan 101 class. I need to get some sleep so I can try to be sage, witty, convincing and engaging. So, tomorrow, I'll teach, then I'll take more pictures and post more tomorrow night.

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