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Hamburger Buns With a Pedigree


Recognize this burger? It's Central's. The bun can be yours for only a buck. (Kathryn Norwood for The Washington Post)

When I tried the olive oil buns from Panorama Baking at the 14th and U Farmers Market last Saturday, they were truly spectacular: shiny on top, soft but sturdy, rich (almost brioche-like). Just the right size, shape and texture to hold a perfect hamburger. I knew I'd recommend them to AWCE readers as the best thing to cradle a well-made patty this weekend, the official kickoff to grilling season.

It wasn't until I talked to Panorama owner Loic Feillet a few days later, though, that I realized just how special they are. "Perhaps you are aware of the chef Michel Richard," Loic said in a phone interview, in his characteristically unassuming way. "He is the owner of Citronelle restaurant, and the restaurant Central."

Why, yes, I've heard of him, I said with a smile. Loic continued, but I'll cut to the chase: These are Michel's buns. Loic has been baking them for the chef for two years, selling them to Citronelle and then, of course, to Central. "He gave me the recipe and taught me how to make them, and I was very grateful, because this was a new product for me," Loic said.


Panorama's olive oil bun. (Joe Yonan -- The Washington Post)

I know it sounds silly to anyone who doesn't get quite as geeked out by these kinds of things as I do, but I had to catch my breath. People, do you understand what this means? You can now buy what just might be the best hamburger bun in the city, the very one that cradles one of the best burgers in the city, and you can get it for -- are you ready? -- a buck. Three for $3, to be exact. I realize that's a lot more than you'd pay for a bag o' buns from the supermarket, but these are the types of things that can truly make the difference between a pretty good burger and a sublime one. You could bake your own, or you could buy these. I know which way I'm going.

If you didn't already have reason enough to get to the 14th and U market on Saturday or the Bloomingdale market on Sunday -- the only two places that Panorama, primarily a wholesale operation, sells retail -- well, now you do.


The Parmesan buns, bigger and more expensive. (Joe Yonan -- The Washington Post)

But there's more. Loic also sells Parmesan buns that are pretty special. They're bigger than the olive oil buns and a little sturdier, like a good Pullman bread with chewy bits of grated Parmesan on top. They're more expensive, $1.50 apiece, and the cheese made me immediately imagine them as perfect for holding a veggie sandwich, such as a simple tomato and fresh mozzarella one, or perhaps the Chickpea Sandwich I wrote about recently.

Best of all, as difficult as it was for me to resist, after I ate two of these buns last weekend -- an olive oil one as soon as I got home, in the name of research, and a Parmesan one a few hours later with tomato soup -- I popped two others in the freezer, well wrapped in plastic and then foil. A week later, they thawed beautifully.

-- Joe Yonan

P.S. Happy Memorial Day. All We Can Eat is vacating, just like the rest of you, and will return on Tuesday.

By Joe Yonan  |  May 22, 2009; 2:05 PM ET
Categories:  To Market, To Market  | Tags: Joe Yonan, beef, bread, farmers markets  
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Comments

Joe,

Glad you liked them!

I also think they are the PERFECT buns for Nice's quintessential tuna salad sandwich, Pan Bagnat. I like his 9 grain rolls with toasted sunflower seeds, too.

BTW, Loic also bake his Rustique for Central, Citronelle, CityZen.... and 14&U and Bloomingdale Farmers' Markets..

Posted by: robinshuster | May 22, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse

btw,

The Bloomingdale Farmers' market is Sundays 10-2, at First and R Streets NW next to the Big Bear Cafe.

The 14&U Farmers' market is Saturdays 9-1 at the corner of 14th and U on the sidewalk of the Reeves Center.

Posted by: robinshuster | May 22, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

I also love, love, love using Ciabatta bread instead of ho-hum hamburger buns. Especially if you have the ability to make square-shaped patties, Ciabatta is an exceptional, just-chewy-enough solution that lets the burger flavor prevail. It's a crowd pleaser, too. Just cut the bread into bun-sized squares, then pre-slice it, placing your "buns" in a large bowl for self-service.

Best Buns in Shirlington makes a killer Ciabatta, but a fresh loaf from any bakery is sure to be a hit.

Posted by: KMango | May 23, 2009 10:01 PM | Report abuse

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