Having a meal with my friend Bob Page involves a discussion of the meal at hand as well as all the meals we’ve eaten and all the meals yet to come. From sausages and Lebanese food in Worcester, to Italian and Atlantic seafood in New Jersey, to Mexican food in Colorado, he’s eaten everywhere and remembers it all.
So, over our second to last meeting (coffee at Northampton Coffee), the talk turned to Ware and the surrounds. I’ve been working there on a long project and spending two or three days a week in town. I told him about the Asian restaurant I discovered on 32 (Asian Gardens). We’d covered Lazar’s subs (get the chicken kabob sub with lettuce, tomato and feta and make sure they toast it) and the Salem Cross Inn when the talk turned to Hardwick. He’s already turned me on the Robinson Farm, raw milk, beef and veal, and now cheese (Robinson Family Swiss, a specialty) when he mentioned this bakery in Gilbertville, a part of Hardwick closest to Ware. Five minutes from downtown Ware on 32 North. He said the people had been specialty bakers in California before relocating to Western Mass. We agreed to meet there for lunch.
The bakery is Rose32 Bread. I’d expected it to be housed in a converted building and to be a little funky like such things usually are. First surprise. A new building, on the site of an old garage according to Bob, it was clean and modern and new. The parking lot was paved, there were tables outside, and inside…
Well, all I can say is Bob undersold it. A bakery case filled with various cakes and tarts (peach or mixed berry tarts, coffee cake, and more). Beside it, a set of pastries (cinnamon buns, croissants, cheese or apricot Danishes, cookies, and slices of some of the cakes. Behind the register were woven baskets filled with baguettes, rye breads, levain, cibattas, and more. An espresso machine to one side and a breakfast and lunch menu.
The servers are friendly—two of them asked whether I wanted coffee while I waited for Bob. I got the chicken pot pie and a cheese Danish. Bob got the curried chicken salad sandwich. We each got a Jalisco Mandarin soda (with pure cane sugar, imported from Mexico) and sat outside in the sun. The Danish was a flaky pastry dough wrapped around a mildly sweetened ball of smooth whipped cheese. It was dusted with powdered sugar instead of glazed with an apricot jelly like it would have been in New York and instead of a yeast bread for the pastry, it used a croissant-style dough. It was crisp outside and soft and buttery inside. The cheese was adult sweet, which meant that it was sweet but tasted more of cheese than sugar. It was fantastic. Bob’s standard is the croissant, plain or chocolate, and I understand why.
My chicken pot pie was a soup bowl of white meat chicken cubes, red potatoes, carrots and peas in a gentle and creamy sauce. A disk of flaky pastry topped the dish. It was lightly seasoned, and though hot sauce, salt and pepper were available, I didn’t want to interfere with the cook’s interpretation. I eyed Bob’s sandwich, thinking I ought to at least try the chicken, but he was having none of it. For the first time I can remember, our meal revolved around what we were eating rather than everything else that was available out there.
I would have gotten some of the rye bread, but Sarah has two loaves of bakery bread at home, so I tabled that for a future visit. I took home a cheddar and green onion biscuit, a peach tart, and a slice of coffee cake for Sarah, and got some chocolate cookies to drop off for Oscar, Soren and Phoebe. Bob said the cookies were a specialty—when the owners first came to town, they used to bring the cookies to pot-lucks where they vanished before pretty much everything else. Sarah’s verdict was similar to mine. She liked the tart the best. These people are clearly professionals.
Rose32 Bread would be a hit anywhere, but in say Northampton, it would cost half again as much and you would miss that shiver you get when you find a little gem in some out of the way spot. It’s closed Monday and Tuesday and open til 3 on the weekends and it’s worth a detour. It’s that good.