(all photos courtesy of Frank Simpson)
Three in the morning in the heart of historic downtown Petaluma’s boutique shopping district and the whole world is seemingly at rest. Victorian-style street lamps cast a gentle glow of suffused light along the sidewalk on Kentucky Street, illuminating empty cast iron benches. Amidst this misty scene of still silence, a soft light emerges from the windows of a classic iron front store – number 23. Bovine Bakery awakes.
Unlike most any other business, the heartbeat of a traditional bakery begins its daily climb from routine stroll to a full throttle running pace before the first customer steps inside for an oven-warm daily offering.
It is these early morning hours when alchemy occurs – the transforming of wholesome, hearty ingredients into Bovine Bakery’s legendary morning buns, chocolate croissants, blueberry scones, bear claws, breads, tarts, pies, soups, quiche and pizza.
Owner Bridget Devlin and Petaluma Manager Carolyn Williams combine time-honored methods of the great, traditional French patisseries with Bovine’s signature blend of legendary rustic charm, taste and texture beloved by thousands of customers over the years at the bakery’s long-time Point Reyes Station mother site.
Who in the region hasn’t pulled over in Point Reyes for a Bovine morning bun, warm from the oven, piping hot cup of coffee to go, when heading out West to the coast? Rolling her sleeves up for what is now an epic regional role model for women in business, Devlin opened the doors to her compact, famous first locale back in 1990. Mainly serving Point Reyes locals in the early days, the bakery has become synonymous with the region’s trademark quality artisan foods, blazing a trail for small bakeries in the greater Bay Area to follow suit in their own way.
Opening a second store after two decades of successful sole trade in West Marin was a long time coming. “I love Petaluma,” explains Devlin. “I’ve always loved coming into town and I’m so excited about what’s happening here.”
Considering the quality of friendly competition in Petaluma – since several other lauded artisan bread, pie and baked goods purveyors operate in her store front’s nearby locale, Devlin responds with customary aplomb: “We all do something entirely different.”
A tight-knit, impassioned team operates the Petaluma bakery and storefront, rising before the larks in the wee hours to measure and mix, knead and roll, crank up the ovens, cut, shape and bake a variety of old favorites and new, daily treats.
“Our Point Reyes bakery has been truly multigenerational,” says Devlin, with vivid recall of a current teenage counter staff member being carried into the store as a babe-in-arms during the early 90s. With its standard for staffing longevity and customer loyalty, the Bovine philosophy offers a sustainable role model in the region.
Bovine’s bread baking history has evolved in good company, with next-door neighbor Brickmaiden Breads flying off the bakery’s shelves like “gold dust,” especially on weekends. Enjoying a close to cult following of the brick oven-baked bread, Bovine has become the biggest retailer of this wholesome, capacity product in Point Reyes. Today, Bovine’s Petaluma storefront is the sole purveyor of Brickmaiden Bread in Sonoma County, providing an additional draw to the Kentucky Street locale for Brick Maiden’s rustic sourdough, wheat levain, whole wheat sesame and daily breads such as salted potato.
“Brickmaiden breads are incredibly good for several days after purchase and longer when toasted,” says Devlin. “Loaves are available any day but Mondays and Wednesday in our Petaluma store” (though any remaining loaves from Sunday’s order are snapped up Monday mornings at half price).
Organic ingredients are sourced from the Bay Area’s Veritable Vegetable and locally raised, bakery-roasted Rosie chicken from Petaluma Poultry for Bovine’s two fresh, daily soups, such as vegetable chili, clam chowder, chicken tortilla and split pea, always providing a tasty vegetarian and/or vegan offering.
Williams and staff make fresh pizza dough daily, employing an array of seasonal combination toppings for by-the-slice appetites. Similarly, Bovine quiche comes in all sorts of tantalizing combos, depending upon the time of year.
No fuss coffee offerings stick to the straight and narrow with straight-up, organic, fair trade beans ground and brewed from north coast Thanksgiving Coffee Company, in keeping with simplistic traditions of the Point Reyes store. “We’ve considered expanding coffee options to include espresso drinks,” says Devlin, but for the time being, coffee option confusion remains at a minimum with cup size, decaf or regular providing a perfectly fine accompaniment to the morning bun.
For the non-coffee drinker and lunchtime, afternoon customers, Bovine offers Forestville’s Chai Baba Chai, as well as iced tea, Odwalla juices and hot chocolate. Savvy consumers pick up half price pastries in the late afternoons. Williams and Devlin are hoping to secure a spot at Petaluma’s seasonal Saturday Farmer’s Market.
Bar stool seating is available inside the Petaluma bakery and customers are welcome to request the use of foldout chairs for small group gatherings. Cast iron benches that sit so alone in the dark hours outside are filled with mothers and toddlers, dads and kids out on bike rides around town, teenage hipsters, neighboring store assistant, hair stylists, business men and women on smart phones. Come the weekend, westward-bound cyclists swarm the sidewalks in colorful outfits, fueling their rides with coffee and muffins.
Devlin mentions an emerging idea for a Bovine-to-Bovine sponsored bike ride, Petaluma to Point Reyes Station, uniting many of the bakery’s biggest fans from throughout the region. All good news for downtown Petaluma and its growing reputation as gateway to some of the best artisan food and wine country in the land.
Bovine Bakery is located at 23 Kentucky Street, Petaluma, CA 94952. Telephone 707 789 9556.
(This article originated on sister site, Southern Sonoma Country Life as an advertorial in support of Independent Journalism. Contact West Petaluma Living for information on featuring your Petaluma business on our sites)