Contributed by Dani Brown, our lovely contributor offering a unique perspective of the Okanagan from a senior’s point of view. You will most likely find Dani knitting and enjoying local nature.
You know the feeling when you walk into a café and instantly know you’ve found a new home? That this is a place you’d bring your best girlfriend to sit and chat over a hot drink and a delicious handmade treat? Visit True Grain Bakery & Café in Summerland and I think you’ll find this is that place – and more.
My family and I moved to West Kelowna two years ago after living in the Lower Mainland our whole lives. I was missing my friends, routines, and fave spots to hang out, when I wandered into True Grain while exploring Summerland. Right away I knew I’d found something very special.
Best-Kept Secret in Summerland
This bakery/café has resided on Summerland’s Main Street since 2012, when owner Todd Laidlaw teamed up with college buddy Bruce Stewart to open a branch in the Okanagan (there are also outlets in Cowichan Bay and Courtenay on Vancouver Island). Over the years they’ve linked with local farmers and hunted worldwide to find bakers trained in old European baking traditions. These elements have been blended together to create a unique field-to-café table infrastructure.
An Award-Winning Destination Bakery
Trip Advisor rates the Summerland cafe #1 of 31 bakeries in the Okanagan Valley, while Huff Post called it one of Canada’s Top 20 Bakeries – and it’s right here in the Okanagan! This is more than just a place to get coffee and a cinnamon bun. When you walk in the door, your eye is caught by shelves filled with brown bags (fully compostable after use) of flour and grain, pasta and porridge for sale, with names like Einkorn and Emmer, Khorasan and Spelt, and heritage wheat like Canadian Red Fife. These ancient grains have been organically grown by small, literally grassroots local farmers who are passionate about preserving quickly vanishing heritage varieties.
Grain of Truth
But why should we care how old a grain is? These old varieties are more nutrient-rich and contribute history, diversity and stories to our plates and to the planet. People with sensitive digestion often find they’re more easily digestible than today’s heavily hybridized and processed, often herbicide-laden commercial wheat flour.
I sat down with True Grain’s Marketing Coordinator (or “Deliciousness Expert” as she prefers to be called) Sophia Jackson over tea and one of their amazing almond/hazelnut Copenhagen Swirls. She explained how they have embraced the German concept of gemütlichkeit, a feeling of coziness, warmth, well being and friendliness that perfectly describes the Summerland café’s atmosphere and products.
Our Daily Bread
Sophia is especially passionate about True Grain’s bread. “In many parts of the world, bread is still a sacred thing, as it has been for hundreds of years, but in fast-paced North America, we’ve forgotten that,” she says. “Bread is still sacred here at True Grain. When we hand a customer a loaf of bread, we feel like we’re handing over one of our children.”
That’s because every loaf is produced by hand. The grain is harvested and sent to James the Miller (really!) who stone grinds it (check out a video here) as it’s been done for centuries. True Grain bakers then scratch-bake the flour into loaves using European-style recipes and techniques, and slow rise them using wild yeasts. The resulting bread has superior flavour, more nutrients, and no sugar, dairy, eggs, shortening, preservatives, or artificial flavouring or colour. From field to loaf, every step of the process has been 100% local/BC sourced and created. “We’re all passionate about providing people the same access to organic, healthy grain as they have to fresh vegetables and fruit at their local farmer’s markets,” Sophia says.
Sourdough Nerds Unite!
The bakery’s band of self-professed “sourdough nerds” each has a special passion they love to share. Their head baker swears by sourdough, while another staffer loves English-style baking (do I smell scones in True Grain’s future?). They produce their fragrant focaccia bread as fast as they can, supplying it to local restaurants and food trucks, but demand still outstrips their production capabilities. Fall is all about their multigrain loaf – perfect for healthy and filling school day sandwiches.
Top Five Favourites
Here are my recommendations for the best True Grain has to offer. You’ll of course create your own list once you’ve visited this Summerland café!
- Red Fife Sourdough Bread – Soft yet chewy, with a delicious nutty, mildly sour flavour, it’ll take a simple tomato soup/grilled cheese meal to the next level.
- Cookies – Roasted Almond Chocolate Chip (my husband’s fave) or Ginger Spelt (my go-to cookie) are the perfect treat with your coffee (no fancy frappuccinos here, just good locally ground coffee and locally blended tea – see, what’d I say about all local?).
- Salted Pecan Spelt Brownies – Fudgy, deep chocolate flavour, one of the best brownies I’ve had.
- Pizza Buns – Like a cinnamon bun but with tomatoes, herbs and loads of cheese rolled up inside.
- Sharing Loaf Centrepiece – a circle of buns with various toppings, perfect for “breaking bread” with friends and family during the holiday season. Contact them in advance to reserve yours.
As I drove home from my most recent visit to the Summerland café, the fragrance of still-warm bread rode shotgun. Hmmm, maybe a grilled organic sharp cheddar and tomato sandwich sprinkled with basil from the garden? The possibilities are endless!
True Grain Bread
10108 Main Street, Summerland, BC
It’s only a 25-minute drive from West Kelowna, and worth every minute.
I suggest checking their website for seasonal hours before you visit: www.truegrain.ca