Tanya Henry of the Marin Independet Journal reviews the Fourth Street store, concluding
Fresh-baked breads, pastries and pizza are all on the menu at this latest outpost of Arizmendi, a cooperative bakery, part of Berkeley's Cheese Board. Quality ingredients and inspired offerings have made this longtime bakery an instant hit in Marin.
Arizmendi has lots to offer, sweet and savory
By Tanya Henry
From the Marin Independent Journal
Many of us have moved to Marin from elsewhere, and distant memories of our favorite late-night spot for Chinese, cheap manicures and unforgettable flaky fruit-filled scones now haunt us. Lucky for us transplants, the much-beloved Cheese Board Cooperative that began selling bread in 1967 out of its Vine Street store in Berkeley (now on Shattuck Avenue) and then opened another outlet in San Francisco has arrived in downtown San Rafael. Happily, piping-hot berry-filled scones are no longer a wistful memory from my past life.
Arizmendi, the fifth outpost of this unique bakery collective, opened its doors last month on Fourth Street. Most recently occupied by the short-lived A Taste of Rome (there is another one in Sausalito), the glass-sided building opens out on to a courtyard with several tables and chairs. There is nominal seating inside at two large communal tables, but it's really all about the rolling racks filled with an assortment of savory and sweet baked goodies.
Though the origins of this cooperative began with cheese and bread, it has since expanded to include pizza. The bakery is known for its sourdough breads and pizza dough, and its "pizza of the day" offering.
Seasonal toppings include everything from roasted fennel and smoked mozzarella with garlic oil, to shiitake, portobello and button mushrooms with a sesame-ginger-garlic-vinaigrette. You can buy it by the slice for $2.50, half-pizza for $9 and a whole pizza for $18.
Eugene deChristopher, one of the 11 members of the coop who opened the San Rafael outpost, describes the democratically run model as having advantages and disadvantages. "There is no boss, so we all have to think as managers and employees at the same time," he says. A production committee determines the menu, and pizza toppings are based on seasonality. DeChristopher, who founded the Boboli company and sold it to General Foods, is a dough maker and clearly brings years of experience to his role.
Cleverly named offerings such as wolverines, kookie brittle and a chocolate thing are intriguing.
A dense and enormous rectangle of focaccia ($3.25) brimmed with artichoke hearts and garlic oil and was hearty and satisfying. Likewise, a slice of gorgonzola, tomato and rosemary oil pizza ($2.50) had a tangy sweetness to it. Mostly organic ingredients are used, and the bakery sources fruits and vegetables as locally as possible. Breads range about $2.50 to $4.25 a loaf and include such delectable combinations as fig-fennel sourdough, corn-cheddar-jalapeno and provolone olive. You can also find straightforward multigrain loaves, challah and a honey whole wheat.
Conveniently the bakery's website lists the daily pizza offering and a weekly schedule of the different baked options is also available in the store. For dessert and pastry lovers, the pecan roll ($2.50) is a gooey, deliciously nutty delight that goes perfectly with the locally made Equator coffee, also available at Arizmendi. The kookie brittle ($2) might be my favorite; a chewy mass of peanuts and chunks of dark chocolate that melt in your mouth.
Arizmendi is a welcome addition to Marin. Whether picking up a pizza to go, grabbing a loaf of bread for dinner or enjoying a morning pastry with coffee, this bakery has it covered. And it's nice to know this cooperative is run by people who are committed to a philosophy of preparing good, healthy food that everyone benefits from.
Address: 1002 Fourth St., San Rafael
Cuisine: Bakery, pizza
Service: Counter service
Noise level: Moderate
Liquor selection: None
Heart-healthy and vegetarian selections: Vegan cookies and muffins
Wheelchair access: Yes
Hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays to Fridays; 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays; 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays; Closed Mondays.
Credit cards: All major
Summary: Fresh-baked breads, pastries and pizza are all on the menu at this latest outpost of Arizmendi, a cooperative bakery, part of Berkeley's Cheese Board. Quality ingredients and inspired offerings have made this longtime bakery an instant hit in Marin.
Tanya Henry, the former senior food editor at cooking.com and a judge at the James Beard Foundation journalism awards, has degrees in culinary arts and nutrition and lives in Marin. Contact her at email@example.com. The IJ invites readers to post their own opinions and experiences about the restaurants featured in Wednesday's dining reviews. Enter your comments at the bottom of this story online at www.marinij.com.