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Red Bread: Food Empowerment Baked Daily

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I'll be honest; it's easy to roll your eyes at Red Bread. The $12 half gallon cartons of raw milk, the fancy sea salt provided in a little dish (for an extra charge) in lieu of simple shakers on the table, the manifestos artfully spelled out in chalk all over the walls ... it can all be a little much.

But I keep going back, and the reason is twofold: proprietors Rose and Dave Lawrence are the real deal when it comes to keeping it local and sustainable, and the food is doggone delicious.

The self-described "local, sustainable, bicycle-powered, social justice organic kitchen and e-grocer" got started in early 2012, specializing in wild yeasted sourdough breads and pastries, which they delivered door-to-door in certain lucky westside neighborhoods via nifty-looking electric cargo bikes. The company has since expanded -- in large part with the help of Kickstarter -- to operate a homey brick-and-mortar in Culver City, and they're also a mainstay at the big Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers Market.

Red Bread has temporarily suspended its delivery service as they develop a new service dubbed the Magical Grocery Tour (not yet available to the general public), but fortunately, the Culver City location is a destination in its own right. Tucked behind an unassuming storefront on a busy stretch of Washington Boulevard, the space feels like a little slice of Brooklyn, or perhaps Berkeley, on L.A.'s westside.

Blackboard walls are covered with the day's menu, along with fanciful drawings, all expertly sketched by a talented chalk artist. Various items are offered for sale around the perimeter of the shop, including those cartons of raw milk, fruits and veggies from nearby farms, frozen yoghurt-and-jam popsicles, homemade pickles and preserves ... you get the idea. The menu of freshly made sweets and savories varies from day to day and may include panzanella and other assorted salads made with seasonal ingredients, sandwiches crafted on that famed wild yeasted sourdough, freshly baked pies and biscuits, and something called a cracked cookie that is approximately as addictive as crack itself (one imagines).

The only seating is at an appropriately rustic-looking communal wooden table. And one of those cool-looking cargo bikes is usually parked out front. Two to three people are usually food crafting in the small workspace just behind the counter, and the service is unhurried, creating an atmosphere that feels simultaneously lively and laid back, inviting patrons to stay awhile and soak it all in.

As delightful as the bakery is, you might be tempted to save some dough (so to speak) by learning how to make some of their delicacies in the comfort of your own home; the skill will come in handy when you get a hankering for their sourdough on a Tuesday, and then remember the café is only open Thursday through Sunday. To that end, the good folks at Red Bread offer classes in bread making, fermentation, jam making and more. It's a one-stop food-nerd stop.

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