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Vancouver's Fife Bakery is the place to beat

Food notes: Delicious levain breads make this bakery top pick.

Felix Yau is the baker and owner of Fife Bakery.

Abby Wiseman/Metro

Felix Yau is the baker and owner of Fife Bakery.

I’ve been waiting for Fife Bakery to open for quite some time now and I’m pleased to kick off the new year sampling their fantastic old world bread – even though I swore off bread for January.

I arrived at Fife (64 E. 3rd Ave.) right when baker Felix Yau was turning the open sign, but I wasn’t even his first customer. A line quickly formed behind me as he walked me through the two breads available – brioche bread ($8) and country loaf ($6). The small bakery isn’t in a residential area, so my fellow bread enthusiasts must have come from all over to buy a loaf.

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Fife’s bread is proper old style levain bread, meaning they use a fermented mixture of flour and water, allowing it to culture with yeast and bacteria. This boosts the flavour big time.

The country loaf is an authentic levain bread that is crusty on the outside and perfectly soft on the inside.

Abby Wiseman/Metro

The country loaf is an authentic levain bread that is crusty on the outside and perfectly soft on the inside.

I bought the two loaves, plus a couple chocolate chip cookies – if you’re going to break your wheat fast, you might as well go all the way – and decided that the best way to examine if this bread is authentic is to share it with a European friend.

The country loaf – made with organic red fife flour and fermented for three days– had a proper crusty exterior and a bouncy interior that gave it a very substantial texture.

Fife breads are left to ferment over time.

Abby Wiseman/Metro

Fife breads are left to ferment over time.

I sliced a piece for my friend who just emigrated from the Czech Republic and examined his facial expressions closely. The first bite he closed his eyes, took two steps back and said, “oh yes! this is just like bread at home, you don’t even need butter,” in his thick accent. He then proceeded to wolf down two more slices, so I gave him the loaf to share with his children.

Apparently it lasted all but five minutes once home.

I brought home the brioche loaf and sliced a piece with a chopping knife. I thought it would be destroyed with my poor choice in knife – one day I’ll buy a bread knife – but it slid through perfectly. The bread was fluffy and a little astringent, but also a little sweet. My European friend may not have required butter on his country loaf, but this bread was made for cheese. I proceeded to make a grilled cheese with sharp cheddar, which I also swore off (if I’m being honest, I made two grilled cheese sandwiches).

In my bread/cheese stupor, I decided that Fife is the new bakery to beat.