Schenectady

At the Table: Bread so bountiful at Bountiful Bread in Schenectady, half a sandwich will probably do

Clockwise from top left: Tomato pesto soup with an Asiago breadstick; a cranberry chicken wrap with pasta salad; the classic club sandwich with rippled chips; and a slice of Neapolitan cake with vanilla buttercream frosting at Bountiful Bread in Schenectady.
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Clockwise from top left: Tomato pesto soup with an Asiago breadstick; a cranberry chicken wrap with pasta salad; the classic club sandwich with rippled chips; and a slice of Neapolitan cake with vanilla buttercream frosting at Bountiful Bread in Schenectady.

You’d expect bread to be the star of the show at Bountiful Bread, and it is. Caveat to follow.

The area’s second location in the Mill Artisan District on lower State Street in Schenectady is a stunner: With a generous footprint, it’s airy and sun-filled, mostly white with wood accents. A wall of oversized, blue glossy subway tiles on the wall behind the counter draws the eye and shimmers like currents on the surface of a lagoon.

Bistro tables on the sidewalk along State Street are on the north chillier side, but the back of the building is alive with light this time of year. This is where you want to be now, basking in the warm daylight from the tall windows that face the GE campus. Beyond, and outside, the restaurant shares a large patio with Frog Alley Brewing Company and Annabel’s Pizza, overlooked by contemporary apartments with balconies.

White pendant lights of various sizes dangle like soap bubbles over the main seating area, where you can eat at a street-facing counter, table or booth. Metal chairs and wood-topped tables are functional and stylish.

Bountiful Bread is one part of the Mill Artisan District complex, along with Frog Alley, Annabel’s and SUNY Schenectady County Community College’s Mill Lane Confections Lab, where students in the School of Hotel, Culinary Arts and Tourism learn to make chocolate from bean to bar.

Bountiful Bread is owned by White Management. Other brands include the Log Jam Restaurant in Lake George; Cold Stone Creamery in Albany and Springfield, Massachusetts; Butcher Block Steak & Seafood in Plattsburgh; and Annabel’s Pizza next door, along with quick-service restaurants such as Dunkin’.

Order at the long counter and ogle the flawless baked goods. Grab a laminated menu or study the lighted menu board, and check the daily specials.

If you’re lucky, as Virginia and I were, you’ll arrive during a lull, and have a helpful person describe each baked good and confection available for sale.

This location’s hours dictate breakfast and lunch, as the menu reflects: a breakfast section, then salads and sandwiches. You can get two eggs, choice of bread, meat and cheese for a reasonable $7. Also, there are bowls, mixes of vegetables and grains that can be topped with protein, such as the sesame salmon ($15) with a 6-ounce fillet and toasted sesame dressing.

Bountiful Bread offers avocado toast, grape toast (baguette with melted brie, sliced grapes and fresh thyme, $10) and New Orleans toast (grilled pepperjack bread with hummus, rice, shaved Cajun steak and over-easy egg, $12).

Wraps? Check. Ditto salads. Also: build-your-own from a very long list.

We put in our order and paid, took our self-serve drinks to a table, then they called Virginia’s name and lunch was ready.

I started with a cup of tomato soup with pesto ($5.25), a pureed delight with moderate basil flavor and real pine nuts. It seems pricey, but the delicious Asiago-topped breadstick made it a meal.

Virginia chose the cranberry chicken wrap ($13) with tarragon chicken salad. She declared it very good, but noted, “I’m not getting a lot of tarragon flavor,” and “that was my reason for ordering it.”

The wrap was stuffed with big pieces of white-meat chicken, cheese, spring mix and a cranberry-grape mix. Virginia commented, “The chicken is moist,” and “I like the texture of the grapes in the wrap,” which she said made it more interesting.

Excellent pickle, she also reported, and the accompanying side of lightly dressed penne pasta salad with mixed chopped vegetables was also tasty.

Here comes the “but” that follows the first paragraph: Virginia observed, “Half a sandwich and soup would have made more sense.” The classic club ($15) uses bread from an oversized loaf, and don’t forget that a club gets an extra slice; anyway, it’s all way too much bread.

Bountiful Bread uses its homemade semolina bread here. Lacking the airy interior and crisp crust of Italian or French bread, and the tang and elasticity of sourdough crumb, semolina is bulky. The slightly yellow color comes from the semolina flour, ideal for making pasta and couscous.

All of this is to say that the Bountiful Bread’s semolina bread is lovely, but not to my taste. It overwhelmed the filling, and though I offloaded the middle slices, a half sandwich was still pretty imposing.

There is sliced turkey and smoky bacon, lettuce and tomato in this club, as well as sharp cheddar cheese, a nice addition. All good, not outstanding, but ably assembled and fresh. I crowded the filling into the middle of the bread and ate a reasonable-sized yet still floppy sandwich, leaving much of the crust.

The nice employee had said that all of the sandwiches can be grilled. Not the best idea for the club; there’s enough heat to wilt the lettuce but not to melt the cheese. The bread became smooth and browned, but not really toasted like the leftover piece I had the next day.

The accompanying rippled chips were terrific, by the way, and points to Bountiful Bread for having the discerning taste to provide a Daily Gazette newspaper on the counter for their customers.

We’d picked out a slice of Neapolitan cake ($5.75) first thing, a gargantuan wedge that took three of us (husband Eric pitched in later) to finish. It is a super delicious cake, and if representative of their custom cakes, they are out of this world.

Sniff and you can smell the chocolate layer. It’s deep, dark, rich chocolate cake. The pink layer was strawberry flavored, a pleasant surprise. The yellow cake was moist and delicious.

Their real white buttercream frosting collapses in your mouth, and you wonder if you can get your birthday cake from Bountiful Bread because it’s so good. We have excellent independent bakeries in our area with varying kinds of buttercream frosting, and Bountiful’s beats anyone hands down. “Not overly sweet,” said Eric.

The tab for our lunch came to a rather startling $47.35. Virginia put a few bucks in the tip jar.

Get a table in the sunshine, read the newspaper with your soup and half sandwich, and bring home a slice of cake. I’m ordering my birthday cake now.

Bountiful Bread

WHERE: 108 State St., Schenectady; (518) 387-9997; bountifulbread.com
WHEN: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily
HOW MUCH: $47.35
MORE INFO: Credit cards: Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover. Parking lot in rear, ADA compliant.

Categories: Food, Life and Arts

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